Digital asset management (DAM) systems are at the heart of every enterprise that creates any form of digital content like videos, photos, animations, audio file and other media.
What is a digital asset?
It’s important to think about your digital media as assets as opposed to mere content. If a digital file contains the right to use it, it’s an asset. And the volume of these assets is growing exponentially as the creation, distribution and sharing of digital content keep skyrocketing.
The Benefits of DAM software
The creation of a media asset is only the first step in the lifecycle of a digital file. The longer that lifecycle is, the more value that media asset can produce! DAM systems help creators achieve exactly that by making assets easy to store, organise and access in a central location, as well as share and distribute.
Why is digital asset management important in general?
Whatever the segment we work in, as filmmakers, videographers or photographers capturing the best shots always seems to be our main goal. And from a creative point-ofview it is certainly so. But even the most spectacular video loses its value if you can’t locate it, or even worse, don’t even remember that you have it.
Digital asset management spans a huge array of software solutions; from an individual photographer’s photo catalogue containing a few thousand images to a production house organising thousands of video files from dozens of contributors all over the globe.
Whatever the size of the enterprise, DAM amplifies the benefits of the creative content that one creates and owns.
DAM is DAM important! It boosts in-house efficiency by enhancing your ability to retrieve video files and it helps sharing assets externally with collaborators.
Tags and keywords — do we really need them?
We are proud creatures. You take a great picture, capture an important scene. You copy the file to a hard drive or import it into a project and you feel certain that you’ll be able to find it later on. Okay, perhaps it’ll take you a minute or two, but you will find it. Right?
Maybe so. With a shorter and less complicated project that you’re engaged with you’ll probably know where your files it. But what do you think your chances are if you work on several projects at the same time, use video files from several cameras over an extended period of time? Or even worse, what if you need to find a shot or two from an old project?
And, worst of all, what about the media assets that you have forgotten about?
Those assets have lost their inherent value. Tags and keywords are the key to efficiency.
The three stages to digital asset management
- Creating hierarchical folder structures
For a simple, self-contained project this works pretty well.
This is the oldest method in the book. To my mind it’s a “better-than-nothing” and an “oh-please-at-least-do-this” solution. You create a top-level folder with subfolders for the different types of media assets: video, audio, music, stills, miscellaneous project files. Within those subfolders, you might again create lower-level folders for your original and your transcoded (proxy) footage, if necessary organised by cameras, dates and events.
- simplicity, no external software needed
- easy to backup and archive
- media assets cannot be cross-referenced
- media assets cannot be organised or identified – relies completely on the user’s memory
- sharing individual media assets is time-consuming
- File renaming
This method is usually combined (although in a strict sense it doesn’t have to be) with the creation of hierarchical folders and in that sense represents an additional step in traditional media management workflow. The exact ways in which this can be done is detailed in this post [link to future article about filenaming], but the most important data fields to consider including are:
- project [short code]
- Production Company [short code]
- topic / genre / event / content identification keywords progressing from generic tags to more specific ones
- camera / creator ID
- codec, resolution, LUT info
- the original number provided by the camera
The strength of this solution lies in its universality. Once you establish your naming conventions it will provide you with a systematic basis for organising your media assets in any DAM software.
- simplicity of execution (basically a few, quick batch-renames)
- file names can be searched without dedicated software
- universal solution — can be used in conjunction with any DAM system
- longevity as the filename is a permanent, system-agnostic feature
- media assets can be cross-referenced
- at least the most relevant information about the file’s content can be identified with ease
- makes files with automatically generated filenames (like _DSC1881.mp4) identifiable even when the counter resets
- without a well-defined and rigorously observed naming convention becomes chaotic
- all contributors must observe the convention
- can lead to enormously long filenames that are difficult to work with
- limit to how much useful info one can squeeze into a filename
- Tags and keywords
By far the most efficient solution and the final stage to digital asset management is using tags and keywords. It doesn’t replace the need for creating a clean folder structure on your drives and/or renaming your files. What it achieves is that it turns a merely okay system into a perfect one.
The strength of the method is its absolute flexibility. A video file can have any number of tags and with ASTODI is aided by image recognition AI that can suggest additional keywords.
Tagging your media assets is a small, incremental investment that guarantees an enormous return. The longer you do it, the greater the benefits. Your catalogue or database can contain tens or hundreds of thousands of stills and videos but as long as you have added the relevant keywords finding any and all your assets across multiple projects becomes a breeze.
[Illustration or perhaps short embedded video of adding tags and managing tags in ASTODI.]
Many content creators get very anxious about finding the perfect tagging strategy. Don’t be! As in so many walks of life, the notion of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good applies here, as well. Even if you have an enormous backlog of files, start adding keywords to them. Having a few keywords is better than having none.
And even if your backlog is messy, at least the files that you’ll be working with from now on will be organised and easy to locate.
- speed of locating assets
- flexibility of adding, modifying and managing tags
- time and therefore cost-efficient
- being locked into the DAM system you’re using by virtue of the software-specific database
Would you like to know more about using ASTODI as your digital asset management software?