Award Winning Author, Writer, Top Adobe Expert...
This week, Stephen
Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Jeff Sengstack,
award-winning author, and writer.
Amongst his many books
credits and more than 300 articles, are readers’ favorites, “Sams
Teach Yourself Adobe Premiere 6.5 in 24 Hours”, and “Sams Teach
Yourself DVD Authoring in 24 Hours.”
In his past life, Jeff
has worked as a TV news reporter and anchor, video producer, radio
station disk jockey, music publisher marketing director, and math
and science teacher. The Regional Emmy-award winning former news
reporter also achieved two Society of Professional Journalists
With his certification as
an Adobe Expert and Instructor on Premiere, he has just finished
writing a higher-education Digital Video curriculum guide for Adobe
(it should appear on Adobe.com in January) and has just wrapped up
work on “Sams Teach Yourself Adobe Premiere Pro in 24 Hours.” That
book will arrive in stores in late January.
Q: Jeff, with your long
history in all aspects of the media industry, it’s a real pleasure
having you do this interview—thank you.
A: You’re welcome.
Q: Please provide a
profile of your many careers leading to the present. What challenges
did you face with lessons learned that you can share with our
A: Big topic. The listing
at the top of this interview sums up the many career hats I’ve worn.
As for challenges, my goal always has been to do things well and to
get the story right. Anyone who’s been in TV news or in education
knows what a challenge that can be. Currently, as a school board
member, we feel pressures from all directions but my goals remain
Q: Can you comment on
your current project with Adobe?
A: Adobe’s new Video
Collection is a complete suite of digital video production tools:
Premiere Pro, After Effects 6, Photoshop CS, Audition (formerly Cool
Edit Pro 2) and Encore DVD (DVD authoring software). These tools
give video producers everything they need to create high quality
videos and DVDs. Adobe wants to get these products in the hands of
high school, college and film school students in a meaningful way.
Adobe asked me to write a Digital Video curriculum guide for higher
education as a way to help teachers. I wrote 27 modules that run the
gamut from how to shoot and edit video to how to produce motion
graphics and create – or author -- Hollywood-style DVDs.
Q: Why is your latest
book, Sams Teach Yourself DVD Authoring in 24 Hours, generating so
much ‘buzz?’ How is it unique? Why would someone want to read the
A: DVD authoring is the
next big thing. Videotapes will soon be a fading memory. DVDs give
anyone with a PC or Mac and some basic authoring software the
opportunity to put high-quality video, photos, music, documents, and
web links on a truly interactive disc that can play in your living
room, boardroom, or theatre in a standard DVD player. People are
only beginning to see the huge potential for this product. My book
is the first to take readers to any level they want to go with DVD
authoring. I explain the entire media acquisition and production
process as well as multiple levels of DVD authoring: from consumer
Q: Why did you feature
Sonic’s DVD authoring applications in the book?
A: Sonic Solutions is the
DVD authoring industry leader. No one else is even close to them in
terms of the breadth and quality of their product line. MyDVD 5 is
their entry-level program. It has all the ease-of-use you’d expect
as well as many extra features that allow you to take your DVD
authoring to much higher levels. DVDit! gives “prosumer” video
producers many more options. And Sonic’s top products like ReelDVD
and DVD Producer give professionals all the bells and whistles they
need to make Hollywood film studio quality DVDs. In fact most
Hollywood films on DVDs are authored with Sonic products. One other
aside, Adobe licensed Sonic Solution’s core DVD scripting technology
and used a team of Sonic Solutions engineers to create Encore DVD,
Adobe’s new, professional DVD authoring title.
Q: What do you need to
A: A DVD burner like the
Pioneer A06 or the Sony DRU-530 and DVD Authoring software. My book,
“Sams Teach Yourself DVD Authoring in 24 Hours,” includes a DVD with
three trial DVD authoring products from Sonic as well as video,
music and image editing products. Plenty of software to get you
Q: How about sharing tips
on acquiring images, audio, and video for your DVD projects?
A: What makes DVDs so
compelling is that you can put just about anything in a digital
format on them. So digital cameras, camcorders, tunes ripped from
CDs, narrations you make with your PC’s microphone -- all can go on
Q: How do you create
professional DVD projects?
A: How do I condense a
500+ page book? Basically, professional-level DVDs have extra
features that take more production time. Most professional DVD
authors work with programs like Photoshop and After Effects to make
static or motion menus. They build those assets knowing they have to
have certain characteristics to work well in a DVD. Those
professionally-produced DVDs also typically have a higher level of
complexity such as numerous “nested” menus (menus accessible from
other menus), special visual highlights that show up as viewers move
their remotes around the TV screen and click on buttons, extra audio
tracks with a director’s narration or foreign language dubs, as well
as sub-titles and even hidden “easter eggs” (special areas of the
DVD accessible only to those who know where and what to click).
authoring software from Sonic Solutions as well as Adobe’s Encore
DVD give DVD producers the tools to exploit those higher-end aspects
of the DVD specification.
Q: Can you provide five
additional useful tips from the book?
A: 1) Purchase ($70) or
download a trial version of MyDVD 5
(http://support.sonic.com/trial/MyDVDTrial.asp). Take it for a spin
using some photos, music and a video or two. You’ll be amazed at how
easy it is to author a DVD. If you don’t have a DVD recorder, you
can use MyDVD’s built-in software to see how your project would look
if it were on a DVD.
2) Once you create your
first DVD you’ll begin to see this technology’s potential. Start
dreaming up projects that will work well on DVDs: realtor home
tours, corporate road shows (DVDs are rapidly replacing PowerPoint
demonstrations), wedding videos (no more wading through an hour of
videotape to get to “I do”), and your kid’s soccer season complete
3) Buy a DVD recorder.
Even if you don’t burn DVDs just yet, DVD recorders play and burn
CDs just as well as CD recorders do. And you can use them to play
DVD movies on your PC.
4) Create a flowchart of
your DVD project before you begin authoring. This approach is so
intuitive some professional DVD authoring products use flowcharts to
simplify the authoring process.
5) To fully exploit DVD
authoring you need to try your hand at video editing. The best
entry-level PC video editing product is Studio 8 from Pinnacle. I
include a trial version on my book’s DVD. Pinnacle’s Web site used
to offer a trial download. I just looked for a link and couldn’t
find one. Guess you’ve got to buy my book to get it (he says
laughing). Of course, once you decide you want more in a video
editor, do consider purchasing Adobe Premiere Pro. It is the best
video editing software. Period. Adobe built this latest version from
the ground up and it really shines.
Q: Your first book on
Adobe Premiere allowed you to connect with your friends in the TV
business and is garnering great reviews. What did you learn from the
project and are there any tips you can share from the book?
A: I tapped those friends
for sidebars on their areas of expertise: the video production
business, video shooting, editing, script writing, sound recording,
and event videography. I am fortunate to have worked with such fine
As for tips: my books on
Premiere (Premiere 6.5 and Premiere Pro) have dozens – maybe
hundreds. I haven’t counted. Difficult to distill down to a few. I
guess the bottom line is to look at what you’ve created. Show it to
others. Get feedback. Be critical. Then go back and make it better.
Q: How do you see Adobe
Premiere evolving in the future?
A: Premiere Pro took a
giant step up the evolutionary ladder. It’s ease of use, attention
to detail, full complement of effects, and new focus on audio put it
several cuts above the competition. As for the future: Adobe is the
only software company I know of that makes a concerted effort to
involve the user community in product development. They listen to
our gripes and suggestions. And they respond by improving their
products. I raised a number of issues in my book on Premiere 6.5,
and Adobe fixed all of them in Premiere Pro. I’m not saying I was
the impetus, but I know they heard me, and others, saying the same
So the future for
Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Audition, and Encore DVD looks
bright. These are, and will continue to be, the tools-of-choice for
video producers. And as PCs become more powerful, expect that many
more people will get into video production and will use the Adobe
Q: Describe the best
features in Adobe’s and Sonic’s applications?
A: The Adobe Video
Collection features true integration among the five products.
Working in Photoshop, you can create a graphic with multiple layered
elements and import that file into Premiere Pro with each layer
separated, allowing for amazing video animations. You can export
Premiere Pro projects into After Effects, add some whiz-bang special
animated text or motion graphics. You then can export it back to
Premiere for more editing and pass it on to Encore DVD for
authoring. Same is true for the Premiere Pro-to-Audition workflow.
If you want truly high quality audio mixing and music creation, you
turn to Audition then export that work product into Premiere Pro.
As for Sonic Solutions
products: That firm lives and breathes the DVD specification. If you
burn a DVD using any of their authoring products you have a strong
likelihood that it will play back on virtually any DVD player, even
older ones. That’s not the case for other DVD authoring products.
Plus the company understands its market. It does an amazing amount
of usability testing and has crafted each of its products to suit a
market niche: consumer, prosumer, professional and Hollywood.
Q: How about providing
useful tidbits from the hundreds of articles you have written?
A: My articles run the
gamut from hardware and software reviews to PC games and high-tech
business reports. The list of tips would be endless. Overall, from
all the stories I’ve done, one message comes through loudly and
clearly: listen and respond to your customers.
Q: Any predications about
the future of DVD?
A: DVDs will become
ubiquitous. All TVs and PCs will have them. All PC video editing
products will offer DVD output options. DVDs will become the
standard medium for digital publishing. DVDs will help drive
high-definition TV. DVDs will shift to higher-capacity formats but
they’ll still be DVDs and you still will need some form of DVD
authoring software to create them. It’s just that DVD authoring will
begin to look less like a stand-alone product and will become more
integrated into other products.
Q: You have such a long
and successful career in media. Look into your crystal ball, who
will be future winners and losers, what new services and
technologies will become the next “killer apps?”
A: The driving force
behind improving PC technology is entertainment. We have high-speed
graphics cards, CD/DVD ROM drives, fast processors, and FireWire
connectivity, because PC games and video editing software have
pushed hardware developers to make those improvements. Entertainment
will continue to be the reason PC technology moves forward. As more
people get faster connections, we’ll see the Internet play a greater
role as an entertainment medium. It will become a ubiquitous
resource in homes, schools and businesses.
Q: What advice will you
give to businesses and IT professionals to ensure they can remain
A: I refer back to the
one thing I distilled from interviewing business people, product
developers, and technology experts: listen to your customers and
anticipate their needs.
Q: What new books can we
expect from you?
A: I plan to take a break
from writing. I’ve been at it non-stop for two years. My plan is to
make some instructional videos that will supplement my Premiere Pro
book. I plan to build a Web site – www.sengstack.com – where I will
offer those products.
I want to make Family
Tree DVDs. That concept -- putting a family history on DVD, complete
with photos, living history narratives, documents, videos, and music
– resonates with me. I think DVDs enable family historians to
present a family’s story in a way that will engage anyone from the
family. No longer will family members have to wade through a long
videotape to get to segments about a specific ancestor or family
line that interest them.
I will tackle one other
project. As a school board member, I look for ways my expertise can
help in our district. So this spring I’ll help produce DVDs for the
sixth grade graduating class. The plan is for each kid to have his
or her own menu on the DVD that accesses whatever art, music,
writing or other media they want to put on it. This should be great
Q: You must have both
interesting and funny stories to tell from your many rich
experiences—please share a few.
A: I’ve been very
fortunate. I’ve interviewed some very talented, intelligent,
engaging and prescient people. I’ve traveled far and wide. I’ve had
a wealth of exciting experiences. Of course, many stories come to
mind. Perhaps I’ll regale you over dinner sometime?
That said, there was this
one Bridge match. Playing in the finals of a team event against
world champions Bobby Goldman, Paul Soloway, Mike Passell and Bobby
Wolff was a watershed moment.
Q: Which resources do you
find the most useful?
A: On short notice, I can
come up eight.
2) The Internet.
3) My PC.
4) The telephone.
specifically Newsweek and National Geographic.
7) My car.
8) My brain.
Q: What drives you to do
what you do?
A: Without wanting to
sound high and mighty, here goes: My philosophy of life is to make
the world a better place. I try to do that incrementally, a little
here a little there. My work on the school board here is an example.
When I plan and work projects, that view of life is always a factor.
Another goal is to use my
brain. I want to keep on learning. One of the challenges when
writing a how-to book, for example, is explaining a process. Unless
you really understand something, you can’t explain it. If I don’t
fully understand something, I work on it until I do.
And that leads up to the
third thing that drives me: being accountable. It’s very
discouraging for me to see how few people, businesses and government
agencies are accountable. How few take responsibility for their
decisions and actions. So even with something as relatively
insignificant as a how-to book, I always try get it right. And I try
to take the extra step to present it so it makes sense to my
Q: What processes and
special qualities led to you to your awards?
A: See the previous
answer as to my motivations. As for the award-winning TV news
My regional Emmy was for
a story about a state child custody law with tragic consequences. It
took an immense amount of research. I had the good fortune of having
a boss who, when I told him I thought I was on to a powerful story
that would take some time to get right, simply told me to keep him
posted and let him know when I was done. Bottom line: the
legislature changed the law.
I received a Society of
Professional Journalists (SPJ) award for a story about a deadly
coalmine fire with only one survivor. Weeks after the accident,
family members of the victims began circulating horrible rumours
about why that one miner survived. He refused all interview
requests. But I researched the hows and whys of the accident and
discovered the rumours were unjustified. I presented my findings to
the survivor and he agreed to tell me his compelling and
heart-wrenching story. We ended up devoting half of a newscast to
present the entire story to truly set the record straight.
My other SPJ award was
for a series on life inside a state-operated centre for the mentally
handicapped. I chose to do those stories because most people are
uncomfortable dealing with the issues of the mentally handicapped.
But it’s a subject that needs to be discussed if society is going to
effectively meet the needs of those who require help. The SPJ judges
referred to the series as an “enlightening look at the state’s lack
of attention to the problems of the mentally retarded.” They added,
“It is truly a tragic story.”
Q: Do you have any more
comments to add?
A: I believe that my
recent “Sams Teach Yourself” books -- the just-released one on DVD
Authoring and the upcoming one on Premiere Pro – are the right books
at the right time. That anyone now can create professional-looking
videos and DVDs on a PC is a big deal. That this quality of video
production is available on a PC will change the way we see the
world. News crews now literally can put a video production studio in
Companies, small and
large, will be able to bring more of their video production and
multimedia creation in-house. And anyone can put any audio and
visual material as well as any digital files on a DVD. Not only in a
compelling, interactive format that allows for instant access but as
an archive as well. I’m hoping my books will help people take full
advantage of these exciting technologies.
Q: It was a pleasure
doing this interview with you.
A: Thank you.