Media asset management – as varied and complex as the requirements may be
– is, in the long run, about solving two challenges: storing various types of
digital content in a reliable, disaster-free and future-proof way and thereafter,
accessing and retrieving what is needed, when it is needed and in the
necessary format. All other aspects of asset management – anywhere from
ingest, indexing, mass access storage in high and low resolution, through to
long-term archives – ultimately serve one or both of these goals.
Our industry is an ever-changing one but what remains a relative constant in
most areas is the continual generation of assets, the workflows that evolve
around their creation and ultimately how these assets are stored and handled.
Broadly speaking, asset management can now be categorised as either digital
asset management (DAM), a term that covers enterprise asset management
across a wide range of media types, including images and documents; media
asset management (MAM), which covers systems that emphasise video and
audio capabilities; and production asset management (PAM), a subset of MAM
systems that targets work in progress rather than long-term archival
A wide range of solutions are available, with entry level pricing from a few
thousand Rand, up through enterprise systems costing well over R10 million.
The systems at the low end of the scale tend to be out-of-the-box solutions
offering quick installation and training, while the larger deployments often
involve a high degree of customisation for a specific site’s requirements, a
project that could take years to implement.
By now, most broadcasters, as well as large and small production companies
alike, should have some kind of asset management in place. The continuing
trend of file-based acquisition, digitising of non-digital assets and subsequent
re-versioning of content for multiple platforms, has made asset management
more important than ever before.
There are about a dozen or so core functions that are important factors in the
body of today’s management systems with ingest, indexing, content
management database, search engine, high resolution storage, low resolution
storage, low resolution browsing and preview, deep archive recovery, streaming
and downloading and invoicing at the top of the list.
Improving capacity for live workflows
In today’s environment, many media asset management systems are strong on
metadata handling and archival workflows, but are less well suited to work in
progress and so we see a trend shifting towards a more live, collaborative
workflow. For instance, one needs to set up, quickly and dynamically, comment
threads around an asset, email (both automatic and manual) alerts as any new
comments are posted, and even send out links for review to new participants
who aren’t ongoing users to make them aware of any new media or changes
within the system hierarchy.
The ever increasing divide and shift from scripted and planned shows to sports
and reality means that more and more production teams have to work away
from the main broadcast facilities equipped with media asset management,
therefore the need for remote access via a common browser through a
collaborative, cloud-based application is needed.
Just as in the broadcast field, the movie industry is also seeing an accelerated
shift to small, cost-effective teams. Simply having a shared storage pool,
searchable metadata for various takes, and the ability for dailies to be reviewed
immediately by producers from a remote location, are big advantages over the
previously much relied on Fedex-based workflow.
There are literally thousands of MAM systems and applications out there, each
one providing a function and role. However, there probably isn’t a perfect
system that ticks all the boxes. Every user has different requirements so
systems that are adaptive sell better than those that are less so.
It is becoming increasingly important for those looking into MAM systems that
you really understand what you are looking for, which includes understanding
their metadata requirements. It sounds simple enough, but, done properly,
requires time and effort. People, processes and policies are important
regardless of which MAM system you use. It is also essential that you think
carefully about the selection of a MAM vendor, making sure they can support the
metadata strategy or at least support several common metadata standards and
As in so many management change scenarios, the biggest hurdle is often the
people who will be asked to use and administer a media asset management
system. Generally speaking, before the introduction of a system, they will have
developed their own ad-hoc workflows without the help of an asset
management framework. Most often, these are based on standard folder
structures and internally devised best practices for the folder organisation.
Some MAM and PAM vendors provide approaches so foreign to they fail to get
100% buy-in, resulting in wasted capital investment.
Recent MAM project failures at companies such as the BBC (who spent $150
million on a MAM project that was then shelved due to lack of use) have sent
shock waves through our industry, casting fear into the hearts of technology
leaders with the unenviable task of trying to implement a centralised MAM
A whole new approach to managing media may be required to avoid these
failures in the future, win the hearts of the creative users and ultimately ensure
the success of your business.