BEST PRACTICE: Asset Management in AV Environments

The better Digital Asset Management products keep all sorts of things in check. They organize everything into a single interface and keep track of clips, project files, scripts (as in copy!) and some even monitor available storage. Comprised of both content (or “essence” — the actual clip) and metadata (a description of the content, which includes the title, author, creation date, description and other things, such as the standards used, like the format or bit rate), the handling of an original clip can be a formidable task. Taking an original from the server, sharing it among a few workstations (capable of altering the original in an undestructible fashion) creates a new number of assets (as many as was shared) to be tracked; the more artists with their hands on the clip, the more assets to catalog.

News organizations experience reuse of digital assets, as well as consumers. Although archiving assets, many in different formats with their varying metadata, is a Herculean chore, it is made easy by today’s equipment and know-how. Much raw footage is shot for news stories and ends-up unused — the final cut being shown and then forgotten. The unused footage becomes fodder for future use by the newsroom or others, for varying purposes. These are the assets that must be kept track of and stored properly. Today, modern DAM includes its handling from its raw stages to its many incarnations, and even to its finished form(s). “This is where Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems provide the crucial, often missing component in otherwise technically sophisticated organizations,” says Karim Miteff of Niche Video Products.

Here is what we do at our facility:

1. All files need to be labeled the Job number. Example: ABCD1234 (Revised jobs would be like this: ABCD1234R1, etc..)

2. When projects are checked into the asset management system, metadata is entered to follow that. In most cases, we don’t even have time to handle entering lots of metadata. As long as that job number is there, you’re in pretty good shape. However, metadata helps so much — especially when it doesn’t involve a job number. A good example is that I can go into our DAM right now and type “Corolla Red.” I then get results for red Nissan Altima cars! Too cool!

Many assets are in different formats, making their management even trickier. Luckily, there are many companies and technologies that exist today to handle these problems. Sharing digital assets between different media platforms is easier, thanks mainly to the multitude of software available to perform this feat. There are even ways of integral DAM offsite, but still allowing instant access and use of your content. And many companies that do this.

CatDV for DAM

CatDV is another product used for DAM. According to its website, it is “the award-winning asset management tool at the heart of your workflow, managing all aspects of a complete production.” It is a logging tool, a transcoding tool and a powerful database “that meets the needs of everyone from individuals to studios and large production houses.”

This is an ever-changing industry. “What remains a relative constant in many companies in these markets,” states Miteff, “is the continual generation of assets, traditionally referred to as ‘media,’ the workflows that evolve around their creation and ultimately how these assets are stored and handled.”

Managing a digital asset management system is “a little” more work in the beginning and during jobs, but the payoff is well worth it! It is EXTREMELY important that, when managing these types of assets, that specific client footage is notated as to ownership. In some cases, footage is obviously considered “running footage.” That footage is typically distributed by auto manufacturers and is mostly unrestricted. In other cases, a client pays big money for a shoot and they own the rights to that media. BE VERY careful on how you catalog those items. Imagine the consequences of using copyrighted/owned footage for another client! You could get sued. In fact, it’s possible that the client for whom you used the footage also gets sued by your original client.

Knowing what content you have, being able to preserve it and recalling it for reuse is essential in Digital Asset Management. Purchasing the hardware and software yourself is one option, while subscribing to a company that provides a cloud-based online approach is another. The name of the game is being able to do the job at the most minimal of costs. Whichever process is right for your studio depends on many factors. But most certainly, the right person with the correct knowledge, skill and expertise to determine the method and make it happen is invaluable.

Ryan Salazar
Follow me