Whether it’s digital asset management or media asset management, David reminds us it’s always about metadata schemas.
What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?
I have been very fortunate to be able to work on DAM at organizations both large and small.
On the large side, I led an engineering group at NBC in New York called Media Software Integration. There, we worked with the Media Asset Management (MAM) system that made content available to NBC News properties including our evening newscast (Nightly News), morning news show (The Today Show), news magazine program (Dateline) and various programs on our cable news platform MSNBC. Our team focused on file-based workflows and software development to both connect internal users with the content they needed and the system itself with other platforms inside the company.
On the smaller side, I helped develop file-based workflows and asset management solutions to support an internal corporate agency for the Salt River Project, a public power and water utility in Arizona. Also in Phoenix, I had the fantastic opportunity to help design and execute file-based workflows for the Arizona Cardinals Football Team in-stadium display crew, which included getting the new University of Phoenix stadium online in 2006.
Currently, I lead a new department at Univision Communications, Inc. (UCI), working to build and support technologies for media management.
On a personal level, I also maintain an interest in time lapse photography and do my best to wrangle a collection of nearly one-million images.
How do you describe digital asset management to others?
In the broadcast industry, there’s always a very salient use case to introduce people to Digital Asset Management; the aging video tapes packing shelves in warehouses and tape libraries are now becoming digital video files. This presents a variety of challenges — all the old workflows that people were so comfortable with managing video tapes (cataloging, storage and physical logistics) now need to be re-invented to make it easy to manage, find, preserve and reuse digital video files.
But DAM is also much more than a digital library. Once you have all your eggs in one organized basket (so to speak), there are lots of opportunities to connect that basket to other systems and integrate it into your workflows. DAM is as much about the process of getting the content organized as it is about getting it connected to the people and systems who need it.
How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?
There’s really no substitute for diving in and getting some practical experience with DAM, but there are also some fantastic resources on the topic that I’ve benefited a lot from over the years. Below are some of my favorites.
For those of you in New York City, the NYC DAM Meetup Group is a fantastic group of people with meetings on interesting topics. Many recent meetings are also available for streaming online.
There are a couple of excellent conferences on the topic by Henry Stewart and Createasphere.
More for the individual, Peter Krogh had a very solid book several years ago introducing many important DAM concepts to photographers, and has followed up with some more specific tips that are particularly relevant on the Adobe stack.
For those more interested in the metadata and taxonomy side of things, Heather Hedden has lots of interesting information in her book and blog, the Accidental Taxonomist. David Riecks’ website on controlled vocabulary also shouldn’t be missed, particularly for those who lean more toward the photo side of the equation.
And no listing of DAM resources would be complete without Henrik de Gyor’s Another DAM Blog, which includes links to some valuable resources, as well as a large offering of podcasts on various DAM-related topics.
What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?
DAM isn’t really a problem to solve — it’s a process to manage. Some people seem to think that all you have to do is find the right system to manage your assets and the situation will be taken care of. The reality, as with most things, is much more complex.
Depending what kind of organization you’re in, the goal of DAM may be much more focused on managing a pipeline or supply chain of assets — often with new assets coming in all the time. Understanding and optimizing the workflows that get assets in and out of the system is an important part of the process. And in most organizations, this set of workflows is far from static; new file formats, software packages and business requirements all converge to disrupt even the most thoughtfully designed processes.
DAM is often about developing workflows and tools to build a dynamic supply chain that can adapt and grow as needs evolve. It’s more about building a framework to solve problems than about implementing one magical system that will cure all ills.
If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?
I started my career as a creative professional, and my early focuses on video production and time lapse photography very much helped frame how I approach DAM. I still enjoy sitting down with graphic design and video editing software when I can.
What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?
Managing large quantities of video and/or audio present several unique challenges to DAM. However, as with many DAM topics, metadata is key, and it can be particularly interesting to manage metadata with the addition of time.
When searching across long videos, simply locating a relevant asset in a big system is rarely enough — users often want to locate a particular moment in time. There’s very little standardization around the handling of time-based metadata in different systems (even different systems from the same vendor can model time-based metadata very differently).
The process to effectively design and implement time-based metadata schemas within the constraints of existing tools is probably the single greatest challenge I face in video and audio-based collections.
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