Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Spencer Harris – Men’s Wearhouse

Spencer Harris - Photo Systems Admin

According to Spencer, the ability to view a digital asset management system at both the macro and micro levels are key to a company’s long-term success with any DAM implementation.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have been involved in the art of digital asset management since 2007 with my own photography company, which today focuses on high-end, luxury wedding clients. I also currently work as the Photo System Administrator for Men’s Wearhouse, which I have been involved with digital asset management since 2012.

With my own company I am responsible for ingesting, rating, adjusting, distributing, and displaying of assets. My imagery is not only displayed to my clients, but also to their wedding guests on the wedding day, on my website, and at trade shows. Annually I generate an average of 15,000 assets.

At Men’s Wearhouse I started working at the store level in management in 2007 while going through school studying Business Management and Photography. At the beginning of 2012 I was able to move from the store level up into the corporate office and work in their photo studio. In the beginning I was responsible for working with a local developer to custom build an automated database for tracking the photography processes for the company. The project has involved the development of storage and retention policies on the companies local server. Today, not only do I provide support for the database, but am in the process of creating Scope of Work documents outlining features for our 2.0 version.

At the begging of 2014 we started working with Industrial Color’s GlobalEdit, which is a web based rating, approval, and soft proofing website to allow for our marketing department to view, rate, approve/reject, and make retouching markup notes on assets and to communicate those decisions throughout the creative team. Part of using GlobalEdit has evolved to using the site, for the time being, as a final resting place for our FRA (Final Retouched Assets) files and to share them with other departments within the organization that need to leverage the assets for different purposes.

Some of the features of GlobalEdit we have begun to use more of through the use of our automated database is their metadata panel, which we have custom made to align with the data we want to see/use. We have also used their various permissions features to limit visibility of assets depending on user types and roles. In addition to the permissions we are able to set the level of access users have to un-retouched versions of assets to only allow for a download of a low-res version that has a watermark on the asset. This is done to ensure that un-retouched versions done accidentally get sent out into live production.

In 2014 we generated approximately 80,000 digital photographs, which had to be run through our database along with proof quality previews generated for use on the web with GlobalEdit.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I explain this work to others I tell them that I am responsible and oversee the process of organizing, distributing, and storing of the companies digital assets, which commonly is photography and creative designs. Depending on their response I might provide a little bit more information about my responsibilities such as metadata, key wording, and working with our contracted developer to maintain the system and develop new features or processes to make our workflow easier and more efficient.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned the most about DAM by simply learning by doing. My knowledge expanded as I would come across situations where our processes or systems were not working efficiently or effectively. As time has gone on I have also spent time reading and learning from others. I recommend the following sources in addition to the DAM Guru:

DAM Foundation
Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos by Elizabeth Keathley
DAM Survival Guide: Digital Asset Management Initiative Planning by David Diamond
The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh
The Accidental Taxonomist by Heather Hedden.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

When looking at and understanding DAM you have to have the ability to look at the system(s) and solution(s) at both a Macro and Micro level. You need to step back and understand the big picture of how the hardware and software will work together, who and how the users will use/access the solution, and what are the various security and redundancy measures that need to be put in place. The more micro level is to understand how different user groups use different features and aspects of the solution. What will be their pain points and is there a way, either through system customization or user training to make the system easier and more intuitive to use.

It also becomes important to have patience and good communication skills to share your thoughts and ideas about processes to all users. The patience part comes in great when trying to train new users on how to maximize their time using the solution. There can and will be a lot of redundancy in the training.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Photography.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting the decision makers of the organization to see the true needs of additional support staff to effectively manage the system and the number of assets we are generating annually.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would like to have a better understanding other software solutions. What features/bells & whistles do the different vendors offer. What are the processes and solutions that other companies are using. This insight would help me to understand what things are possible with regards to customization and setup that I can use to make my system more efficient and intuitive.

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Guru Talk: Dustin Guest – Golf Channel

Dustin Guest - Senior Digital Asset Manager

What once took days, now takes hours because of the digital asset management implementation Dustin has incorporated at the Golf Channel.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

Asset management has been a primary component of my role here at Golf Channel for about 8 years now. I worked as an offsite coordinator for the Library, and that experience combined with my knowledge of Avid editing systems got me my first Asset Management job within the company as the Media Content Administrator.

From there I was promoted to the Post Supervisor role where I was responsible for both managing the Post processes as well as the media on the Digital Asset systems. From there I was promoted and started a brand new department that was tasked with operating and maintaining the DAM system that we implemented here. I oversee 15 people in the department and we operate 24/7 moving media into and out of archive for our production departments.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It’s kind of a combination of Computer Science, Library Science, and in my environment, Assistant Editing. We have to understand how all of these components fit together, so that the media that we are archiving is both usable and retrievable when a client eventually wants to find it.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I’m primarily self-taught based on the unique situation that we found ourselves in. We actually started fairly early in creating an end-to-end digital workflow, so in many cases we had to learn as we went. This meant breaking a lot of things along the way, but it also meant that I had a much better understanding of the pitfalls that you can get into when you make these kinds of migrations.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Your database and metadata are almost more important than the media itself. You can have the best media in the world, but it means absolutely nothing if you can’t find it. Computers allow you to do a lot of powerful things, but they can’t make up for good solid data.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Probably video editing or cinematography in some capacity. I still enjoy doing those tasks, even if I don’t get to very often.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Search. We tend to find that users find search in these databases to be confusing, and there’s a lot of frustration on their part. Federated search, fuzzy logic, and boolean all help, but there seems like there is still some way to go in terms of getting solid usable results for the user.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

My guess is that a lot of this is going to end up cloud based and device agnostic. It’s also likely that a lot of new features like OCR, natural language interpretation, and digital voice recognition for logging are going to become more common. I see a high likelihood that, especially for media businesses, DAM is going to become central to the overall business process, with other functions tied into and feeding information to the central DAM repository. I can see functions like programming, closed captioning, scheduling, and commercial traffic all being connected.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

We should have made a clean break from the past and leveraged our DAM system based on how it was designed. We implemented a number of processes to emulate old workflows to help try and make the transition easier for the users, but it ends up hamstringing the ability to use the system more fluidly. It wasn’t system breaking, but it means that you have to think very carefully about how you implement new workflows to make sure you aren’t going to break one of your older processes.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Our end-to-end digital workflow has been a massive success. We can now do in a few hours what used to take a day or more when retrieving material. Users can preview footage before retrieving it, saving them from headaches in edit. It was a difficult transition, but at this point I don’t think that anyone can argue in favor of the past.

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Guru Talk: Scott Smith – Invisible Fist (contract)

Scott Smith - Digital Asset Management Consultant

When a summer is at stake, Scott knows how to troubleshoot a real problem in DAM – fast.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

In the early 1990’s I was a production manager  with a real estate publisher. There were some attempts to manage digital assets with some internally developed solutions, though there weren’t very effective, due to resource constraints.

I later worked for large ad agencies in Chicago, first as a creative tech services specialist and later as an art studio manager. At the first job, I used Aldus Fetch (ancestor of the Extensis line) and thought the ability to preview and tag files was way cooler than sliced bread.

During the Dot.com era, I worked as a DAM consultant for an IT company. It was during this time, I worked with my first web content management tool—Interwoven—and thus began pondering  how WCM/DAM systems should be integrated.

That was followed by a lengthy stint as a tech services administrator for a global DAM system. That was was my first time with a global implementation.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I think everybody understands that Microsoft and Adobe desktop suites are for creating content and that there are tools to manage the files they create;  however, “digital asset management” is a rather esoteric term to most. Thus, I try to explain things in terms of “content management”  within the context of what a person, or organization, is trying to do.

But in the spirit of answering the question, here’s an attempt:

  • A digital asset is digital content that provides value in an organizational context
  • All digital assets are content, but not all content can be classified as assets
  • Digital asset management is the practice of creating, and improving organizational value of content

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

In my job in publishing we didn’t have a DAM system per say, at least not one that was in usable. However, I learned a lot about the importance of file management. I started to read about what would later become known as DAM in magazines (remember those?).

Later, I learned about DAM from the Seybold Publishing conferences, and sites like EcontentMag, The Real Story Group, and CMSWire. Now, I learn a lot from my professional learning network I’ve built through connections on Linkedin, Twitter and other social platforms.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

In addition to some of the learning resources I’ve mentioned, I would advise people to go in and get dirty. If your company has a DAM system learn as much as you can about it. If not, see if you can get up with a demo edition of some DAM system. You might even want to try downloading and installing one of the open source systems and exploring that.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Staying current is a challenge. I got back into the DAM world after a panicked phone call from a friend who was suffering from “DAMlessnes” I had been working as a SharePoint administrator in the previous few years, so when landed back in the DAM world, there was a lot of new stuff I didn’t know, and lot of old stuff I’d forgotten.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I am hoping that DAM systems become better integrated with component content management systems. I’d like to see a true single-source model where rich media are stored in a DAM-like system and expressed in the appropriate color model and resolution, in conjunction with dynamically-assembled text files.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I regret that I didn’t maintain my lobbying energy with my ad agency employers when I tried to enact DAM initiatives. In both organizations I saw that there was some understanding of the need for DAM, but since the decision-makers were far removed from the pain points experienced by production artists, illustrators, etc., it was a long, hard, slog to build a business case compelling enough to get an initiative approved. However, it wasn’t impossible, I wish that I had made more of an effort since my departments wasted so much time looking for files and often recreating them.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Several years ago, I was able to provide an alternative solution to a client request that saved thousands of hours of labor and saved my Summer.

While my manager didn’t seem to have a problem with ruining the Summer of: the DAM manager, the clients, DBAs, system administrators, etc. I had a problem with the fact that I was required to give up my own Summer. Thus I came up with something equivalent to a Hail Mary pass in football.

Long story, somewhat shorter: the request would have required the re-ordering of zillions of files on the file system. This would have be done by hand and would require metadata to be reentered. My first thought was “Oh, NO! MY SUMMER!!!!!!!”

I questioned the root of the problem, it was not the taxonomy (OK, taxonomy was bad) it was the search interface. Our DAM solutions partner had recently gone out of business so we had to source code which gave a little flexibility. I had the biggest “Aha” moment of life and voiced my plan to tackle the search interface rather than the taxonomy.

I got approval from the client and the total effort for creating requirements, Java development, site configuration, testing and deployment was less than 40 hours. My subsequent happy dance was probably a little over twice that long.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’ve worked under the hood a bit as a systems admin, but rather recently I’ve actually endeavored to learn more about software development. I have a long way to go on that front, but very interested in exploring how and old dog like me can learn some new tricks in the area of DAM/CMS systems.

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Guru Talk: Ayda Pourasad – NPR

Ayda Pourasad - Research Librarian / Audio Archivist

Ayda has worked with video and audio assets, and understands the process is always evolving.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have worked at both CNN and NPR. I have assigned metadata to raw video and audio stories. I also have made decisions on what video asset to include in the archive and what to let go. I have taken care QC of audio assets. I made sure that the audio stories and their transcripts matched, and the audio was playing correctly. I am responsible to make sure each of the story records in our database were linking to the correct audio on npr.org website.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I mostly learned digital asset management from my managers and also by simply trying out different DAM systems. There are no resources or university courses that I am aware of that would work better than training at your work place. I do however think that having an Archives degree definitely benefits a Digital Asset Manager.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

I think DAM is all about learning and understanding the needs of the organization that the system is supposed to serve. The DAM first should learn about how the organization is using those assets. So usability of the assets is the most important concept the DAM needs to keep in mind.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I would be doing research and reference services, as I am doing now. I would also consider doing production in the media field.

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Guru Talk: Lara Hiller – DAM Professional

Lara Hiller - DAM Professional

If you build it right, it can last forever. The first DAM system Lara and her team built in 1999 is still in operation and now supports over a billion assets worldwide.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

My first role as a digital archivist was at Amscan, Inc., where I organized their catalog images over a decade ago. My background is a BA in Art History. I’m currently working on a Master’s degree in Education. I was an Executive Assistant at Chanel, Inc., where I managed fine art and jewelry inventories, organized marketing content, documentation and photos. I worked across creative teams, designed a sales training module, documented workflows, and provided content management and organizational charts—useful experience in my role as a Digital Archivist, and later as Digital Asset Manager.

I’m currently an independent Digital Asset Management Consultant, and also in a graduate education program at SLC. My area of interest is Digital Literacy. It’s thrilling to work with the next generation of digital tinkerers!

About.me/larahiller

Follow me on twitter @LaraKohi.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

The digital archives in the catalog department at Amscan, in 1999, contained approximately 300,000 images in a wide variety of formats. There was no precedent, really, the term ‘Digital Archivist’ had just been coined, and so much of the organizational strategy was open territory.

For Amscan’s purposes, I attended seminars and worked closely with IT, Product and Catalog Directors to develop their digital library. For those new to DAM, I would advise to keep it simple, and read as much literature on the subject as you can before diving in. In my case, this was in terms of art inventories and libraries.

With my team, we created file naming taxonomies based on current workflow objectives. We designed surveys and hired interns, and polled the departments on their use of catalog images. Based on the surveys, we established metadata, data fields and provided trainings. We looked to automate as many processes as we could, and reviewed many vendors in this effort. DAM was just in its infancy. It didn’t have a name yet! Many of the vendors we’d looked at are no longer around today, but what’s interesting is that the central ideas of Digital Asset Management remain the same.

Amscan is an international party product manufacturer and distributor. More than 40,000 products are featured in a wide variety of contexts by more than 40,000 international retailers. They generate sales largely via catalogs.

Because the most important features were ease and speed of asset retrieval, and scalability was key, my team and I ended up implementing the simplest system possible, based on naming conventions, data fields and folder systems. The assets are accessed from multiple points across the company for multiple uses.

For ease of implementation, I would recommend considering workgroups’ learning styles. Artists learn visually, for example. Product people know their product by name or sku. The DAM should absorb these differences. We ended up building a custom solution, utilizing several out of the box or custom interface solutions.

What is your biggest mistake with regards to DAM?

I regret not becoming more involved in professional associations at that time. As it was, I had just become a mom, and was craving a change from technology. Now though, it’s possible to be at home with children and also stay involved in professional discussions, which I think is a terrific advancement for women and parenting.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I am really proud of the fact that the archiving system—the digital library that my team and I created over a decade ago—still supports corporate business. The company has grown to manage billions of images now, and perhaps I was able to contribute to that.

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Guru Talk: Jade Jourdan – Edwards Lifesciences

Jade Jourdan - Senior Digital Asset Manager

Jade understands that one of the biggest challenges with DAM is getting up to speed on a new system, so the rest of the pieces can fall into place on a successful implementation.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I currently work at Edwards Lifesciences as a Senior Digital Asset Specialist. I manage the DAM system containing source files for marketing projects, as well as product images, corporate images, video and company logos.

Before working at Edwards Lifescieces at I did some asset management with regards to design projects and advertisement designs at The Orange County Register.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Basically as a librarian for marketing materials that are kept online.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I have attended yearly DAM conferences. Particularly the Henry Stewart DAM NYC conferences have been helpful. Real Story webinars are valuable, as well as other DAM companies that have webinars.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

For me I find the importance of archiving and that nothing should be discarded. Every asset should be able to be retrieved. Old assets are often needed for historical reference.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I really love digital asset management, but if I was not in this field I would be managing a graphic design department.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

One of the greatest challenges and digital asset manager faces is the transitioning from an old system to a new system. Getting trained, training users, selling users on the new system, this all takes time and patience.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I believe it will become necessary for every company to have a DAM system. And, the systems will be improving and work more smoothly. Ease of use will be the biggest improvement I see in the next five years.

What is your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Probably would be that I had to learn a lot about DAM in a short amount of time to be productive in my position.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Getting up to speed with our DAM system. Learning about DAM, metadata, taxonomy as well as learning about the business units and products at Edwards. Very challenging first year, but learned a lot and am successful at managing the DAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I like to keep up with DAM innovations. What the trends are, where improvements can be made…what industry professionals are saying about where the industry is headed.

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Guru Talk: Eric Reber – Georgia State University

Eric Reber - Archivist

Eric Reber is an experienced digital archivist and shares some of his favorite educational resources for digital asset management.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

My background is in library science. My first positions were at the Savannah College of Art & Design: There I worked in serials were I got my early cataloging chops and then I moved into the Visual Resources Center which I consider my gateway job to DAM. There I learned image cataloging for a homegrown institutional Digital Image Database. My final position at SCAD was as a reference librarian, which has served me well when it comes to instruction for the end users of the Digital Asset Library I currently manage. Now, I am a Digital Asset Archivist at Georgia State University. Here I have established and administer a DAM system for the university’s PR and Marketing Communications Division. This system serves as both archive and distribution vehicle for the PR and Marketing assets we create for the colleges, departments and programs of the university.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Having come from a library background I joined the Visual Resources Association while I was working at SCAD and pursuing my MLIS degree at Valdosta State University. The VRA proved very valuable when I first attended their conference in Atlanta, GA. I learned of industry trends and resources there. Many DAM vendors attended so I was exposed to a broad spectrum of DAM systems. There I learned of their Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management (SEI). This was an immersive week long program at the University of New Mexico covering everything from rights management to metadata and cataloging. If you have started in libraries and are looking to make the jump to DAM, this program was the vehicle that really helped me nail the interview that got me the position at GSU. I can’t recommend it enough. Currently, I participate in our local DAM Meetup, facilitated by my friend Elizabeth Keathly, where I can stay on top of industry trends and enjoy discussions with my fellow Atlanta DAM professionals.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My biggest mistake with DAM was possibly not understanding how challenging learning to navigate and use a new system can be for the layman. Patience with your end users will ensure the best possible buy-in for a new system implementation!

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success to date is the establishment of our PR and MarComm Digital Asset Library here at GSU. I take pride that I took about 15,000 disorganized image assets dumped on a local server and migrated them into a highly organized DAM system where the collection has grown to over 100,000 assets to include images, video, and graphic files. What previously required end users to come to our offices and browse images on our in-house server now has 1133 active clients able to access, browse and download assets from anywhere they have an internet connection.

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Guru Talk: David Klee – Univision

David Klee - Director of Digital Assets

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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Guru Talk: Frank Milson – Chevron

Frank Milson - Digital Asset Manager

Frank understands that one of the hurdles in digital asset management is the speed in which a new asset can be created. Streamlining the ingest process helps to reduce costs and improve efficiencies within a company.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

One thing that I noticed about working in DAM for some time, is that I was working in DAM long before anyone knew to call it Digital Asset Management. I spent over a decade in corporate sales for CompUSA, selling the first laptops, servers, and computer equipment to Houston businesses.

One of the earliest concerns of many of my clients was how to scan, and otherwise digitize their paper processes. I was well familiar with the need for high speed scanning, high resolution imagery, and secure storage, as well as databases that made all of those assets rapidly accessible. All of this was immediately familiar to me when I came to Houston Community College (HCC) to do a job that basically, no one else wanted to do. After all – it was “just filing”!

HCC had already been using ImageNow for student documentation, and they were looking to expand that to the documentation they had been using for decades to process and track their physical inventories. My job became the process of ingesting the physical documents into a database, creating metadata for those documents (what we called “tags”), and process the physical documents for destruction. Ultimately, I was able to become the primary source for researching and delivering the electronic copies of those documents whenever they were needed, as well as using the database as a method of tracking physical inventories.

I was then offered an opportunity to work with Chevron in their Image Library project. A huge corporation such as Chevron has a ongoing need for business imagery, and they were used to accessing it directly from stock photography sources. The Chevron Image Library was created, using Telescope, to store stock images, manage licenses, and create a central database of imagery accessible to all employees. I worked as a liaison to their Information Design And Communications (IDC) in house agency, ingesting finished projects, sourcing permissions, linking images to their online originals, and creating first-level metadata.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

The most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand is that the ultimate goal is to make the results accessible to the daily business user. A scanned document is just an image, and is useless to business purposes unless it can be applied to practical purposes, just like a file in a folder is just a piece of paper until it is found and used.

The creation of metadata is as important to the access of the document as an accurate scan. It is important to understand how your users will access the data, and thus the digital asset that the data represents.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My ongoing greatest challenge with DAM is the speed, or the lack thereof, inherent in the translation process. It takes much longer to ingest and notate every single document, image, video, or audio clip than it is comfortable to discuss for budgetary purposes. Once it’s done, of course, it’s there forever, and can be accessed instantly, so the results are certainly there, and are tangible. For long periods of time, it doesn’t look like anything in particular is happening. DAM is definitely a background process.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success in regards to DAM was when I was able to use our database to help the police track and identify a large number of stolen items. Before the process, all of those documents would have to have been physically pulled from files collated, annotated, and returned to storage. I was able to create a digital file from all the documents, and deliver to investigators within a day.

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Guru Talk: Laurentia Romaniuk – Digital Asset Management Professional

Laurentia Romaniuk - Digital Asset Manager

Fresh off her internship at Apple and now managing assets for a well-known furniture company, Laurentia has learned quickly to find success it is important to understand how digital asset management is scaleable inside a company.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I suppose that I first got my feet wet with DAM at Apple as a Digital Asset Management Intern in the summer of 2013. That being said, I had used various document control and asset management tools in my role at the University of Alberta (in Canada) for three years prior to that. In mid-2014 I started working for a well-known furniture company as a (digital) Asset Manager.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

If I’m describing what I do to someone that has never been exposed to DAM before, I start by posing the problem I often try to solve as a digital asset manager.

My shtick usually goes something like this: At large companies with a strong creative marketing presence, you can easily end up with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pictures. You may only see 20 pictures of a product on a website, but to get to those 20 pictures, thousands were shot. When a photographer or creative director needs to find that one picture with the happy smiling family in South Korea with a hot air balloon flying in the background, how does the photographer find that image when they have a huge pool of images to sort through?

My job is to facilitate finding that image and manage the lifecycle of that asset from the moment it is shot to the moment it shows up on the web. That’s DAM, and it doesn’t just pertain to photos. It can be anything – legal documents, blueprints, sound files, videos – large organizations are creating all sorts of digital documents that need to be sorted somehow.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM on my feet to begin with. At the University of Alberta it was just a matter of someone needing to do the work, and the University had tools in place to help along the way. I then interned at Apple where, again, I picked up a lot on my feet. At this point, I knew I wanted to learn more, so I took an online course as part of my masters program at San Jose State University in Digital Asset Management with John Horodyski. I learned a lot.

With all that said though, by far the largest DAM resource that I feel I have is our professional network, whom I have largely met through LinkedIn, the DAM Guru Program, and most of all through the DAM Henry Stewart Conferences. Having peers to bounce ideas off of, pick up tips and tricks from, and share frustrations with, is an incredible gift. So! Jump in! Start reaching out to other DAM folks in your area!

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Wow. Tough call.

I’d say it’s important for people to understand how DAM is scalable. Sure, you may need to hire a digital asset manager if you’re a large organization or if your company finds that you really need someone to manage a large pool of digital documents. But you can do DAM in little ways too; organizing assets and information can start with even a tiny pool of assets, and having an asset management strategy early on can only help you if your business / asset pool grows.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Project managing. Working in User Experience. Working towards a PhD (it’s on my radar, someday).

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Implementation & integration across the organization (both on the technical side and human side) is always a challenge. Also, creating a tool that is effective to users! Sometimes what may seem like a smart solution really just generates more problems.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I’m still pretty new to DAM and so it’s hard for me to comment on this one. I just don’t have strong enough knowledge and experiencing using most of the DAMs out there. So from a technical side, I can’t comment on DAM. In 5 years though, I do hope DAM roles become much more common and understood for their use in various organizations.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Hmmm…. Getting caught up on flashy DAM systems. At the last Henry Stewart conference (DAM LA) I was so excited to hear about all the latest DAM technologies and to bring this information back to my work. Then, I heard a lot of asset managers talking about their experiences using these DAM systems, and it sounds like sometimes the sparkle is just that – sparkle – and it can really inhibit getting work done. I’ve since learned that simple systems, though maybe not capable of doing everything I want, can be much more useful and reliable.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Check back with me in a few years! I feel like I’m still too young in the field to be commenting on my successes just yet.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d love to get more experience in blending my love for project management with DAM.

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  Category: DGP Member Interviews
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