When choosing an appropriate MAM solution, the user needs to understand that each companys MAM needs are different. While some may choose to archive locally, others may find the cloud more appropriate or even do a bit of both As counterintuitive as this may sound, to actually determine what you need in a digital asset management […]
When choosing an appropriate MAM solution, the user needs to understand that each companys MAM needs are different. While some may choose to archive locally, others may find the cloud more appropriate or even do a bit of both
As counterintuitive as this may sound, to actually determine what you need in a digital asset management system, you have to start at the end.
So in other words, the most important questions to ask when trying to determine what goes IN to your asset management system, is What are you trying to get OUT?
Lets start at the beginning which of course is really the end of the process.
What and where are you going to archive? Local, cloud or both?
One of the biggest hurdles in the move from the old method of capturing content on videotape, (and by old, I mean right now), is how you are going to archive all of your content. And just to be clear here, a hard drive might be a useful way of moving content from a record site to a post facility, but that same hard drive on a shelf does not count as a valid archive! Someday, that drive will stop spinning, at which point you will probably be out shopping at the local electronics store or more likely applying for a job there.
Are you going to archive locally on a data storage format like LTO tape or optical disk? Do you want to archive completely off-site in the cloud? Or perhaps you want to take a hybrid approach and do both? When choosing an appropriate MAM solution, the above questions must be addressed. Regardless of your take on the cloud, and despite the amount of bandwidth that you have to actually move your valuable high-res media to-and-from a distant data centre, if you choose to go the cloud route, you need to make sure that your MAM can initiate a restore request to your cloud provider directly from within the interface. Its counterproductive, inefficient and generally just annoying to find files in your MAM, and then have to find them again in a separate cloud interface. Another factor to consider when deciding to work to and from the cloud is to make sure that your restores can happen in an amount of time that you are comfortable living with, even when the entire office is busy watching cat videos on the internet.
The same goes for a locally hosted archive. Though LTO drives and automated robots are significantly cheaper than they were a few years ago, it continues to remain important to have the functionality you want be directly accessible in your MAM. Cross-referencing Excel spreadsheets is not the path to a happy asset management staff. The MAM has to control the restore process either through direct control of the LTO or via an API to a third-party storage appliance. The process should be easy to initiate and be subject to an approval process, if production staff should not be filling up your SAN with the aforementioned cat videos.
People have very strong opinions concerning edit platforms. I tend to include it in the list of topics that I do not discuss at cocktail parties, along with religion and politics. Whatever your preference, make sure that your MAM can handle the types of files that your editor works with natively. We all have accepted that transcoding is a necessary part of our lives, but it should be an exception, not the rule. The majority of your files should be in the format that your edit platform requires. Make sure that your MAM can handle these files without undo manipulation. Of course, there will be other file formats to deal with, and of course, the MAM has to account for these as well, but make sure you can successfully handle the bulk of what you need directly, without jumping through three hoops to get there.
What are users trying to find and use throughout the life cycle of your media? Make sure that the metadata that you collect along the way feeds into this smoothly. What do users look for most often? How can your MAM system make finding these things a more repeatable, reliable process working backwards to the input stage? Are users going to be on-set, entering notes live on their phones or tablets while simultaneously juggling the demands of a live shoot? Sounds like they need predefined Tags that they can just click on their small screens. Are they going to be transcribing interviews verbatim on their laptops? Then they need a simple way to do free text entry. Will they be doing this from home? That means a web-browser interface. Do all of these bits of metadata need to be timecode accurate? And does the metadata need to flow into the edit room automatically or just on-demand? Though logging may seem like a less critical piece in the scheme of things, the answers to these questions are of critical importance when considering the kind of system that you want to deploy. I would speculate that this may well be the primary interaction that many of your users have with the system, and you want them to use the tools, happily. Broadly speaking, a MAM system has to accommodate many different types of users with many different skill sets and agendas. Make sure your choices are sensitive to that reality.
Do your homework
If I havent made this clear by now, in the world of asset management there is no one-size-fits-all. Your eighth grade math teacher was right you have to do your homework. Your ultimate MAM system quite likely will be different than someone elses ultimate MAM system, even if only subtly. Therefore, it is perhaps most important to find a team that can help in specifying and configuring the required hardware, and above all ensuring that the pieces are properly integrated. This is as much about finding a company who will not only work to tailor their product to your specific environment but is willing to go that extra mile. They should be willing (dare I say, even enthusiastic) to go on-site to train personnel on how to operate and maintain the system themselves. They should be amenable to reaching out to other vendors and including them in conversations.
And while these are all essential considerations in your search for a MAM system that works for you, perhaps the most important elements in your search are finding a vendor that is actually engaged in what you are trying to accomplish and is flexible enough to grow with your ever-changing needs. Remember, it is easy to hear, but it is difficult to actually listen.
Michael Shore is Co-founder of Pronology.