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Video Asset Management Systems: How to Choose the Right One

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“If you are planning to use a MAM or a DAM you should look at your existing workflow. We did some imagination exercises about what an ideal workflow would look like,” he says. “We’re looking for a media asset management platform which essentially is a catalogue of all the stuff that can be used to create that customer-facing product.”

Oracle wants to ensure its asset management system provides a single source of information for anyone who accesses it. This includes providing access to mandated corporate public information. The company wants to find a way to transfer institutional knowledge into an easily searchable database that gives wide access to certain content, and also coordinates access to its own content and others’ content that it is licensed to use.

Half of Users Are Dissatisfied

With those three use cases providing a sense of the different needs asset management systems can address, let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

“We are constantly interviewing people who work with or deployed DAM systems,” says Theresa Regli, an analyst in the space and principal and managing partner at Real Story Group. “The quickest implementations I’ve seen are 2 to 3 months, and that’s usually a departmental installation.” Six to 10 months is a more typical time frame, depending on the size of the user-base and the types of content being stored.

According to a recent Real Story Group survey of more than 150 organizations using DAMs, asset reuse is the biggest driver of DAM purchases at 73 percent, with cost reduction a close second at 61 percent. Customer satisfaction, according to the survey, of both the product and the vendors was at about 50 percent, which suggests that using asset management software is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

In the survey, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they were just starting on multichannel or rich media use cases, and less than 30 percent rate their organization’s use of audio and video as very or reasonably mature.

The top challenges mentioned in the survey were insufficient staffing and lack of standards. More than half of the organizations surveyed do not have metrics to measure the success of their DAMs, and less than 20 percent had both financial and operational metrics.

The survey identified DAM budgets ranging from $65,000 for a small business, to $338,000 for a medium-sized business, $549,000 for a large business, and about $1.35 million for very large enterprises. But Regli says you don’t have to spend a lot to get results.

Merlin One never calls itself a MAM, but it’s very good at video indexing,” she says. “It ingests video, it does voice-to-text transcription, and then you can search the video and you can reuse parts of the video if you want. It’s basically about one-fiftieth the cost of a typical MAM system.”

And no matter how much you spend on an asset management system, don’t expect the software to be a silver bullet.

“People often think that they need to buy a system because it’s going to fix their process,” Regli says. “A lot of what happens is people acquire these systems, but they don’t understand or know what is automatable so they end up going through a learning process while they doing the implementation and that becomes really messy on a lot of levels.”

Business Processes

Whether an organization is looking to use a DAM, a MAM, or a PAM, many of the planning struggles are the same. After all, asking users to re-engineer their workflow is a complicated request.

“You need somebody to construct a taxonomy and a metadata framework by which the content is going to be indexed,” Boyll says. “Then [you need to] plan and execute a systemic ingestion exercise, which includes applying metadata to all the footage you’re ingesting.”

This means you need to create department-wide—if not companywide—standards. Boyll says there are two questions that need to be addressed first: Does your organization have a common and agreed-upon naming convention? And is there someone in your organization who not only owns taxonomy for your product but also a naming convention for files and folders and directories? For every organization there is going to be a unique set of terms that you need to structure and you need to have in your taxonomy, so you will be able to assign and find attributes to those assets in the system.

How to Start With Digital Asset Management

“One question we get is, ‘What are the industry standard metadata models that we should be using?’” says Mohan Taylor, chief product officer, North Plains Systems, whose DAM product is called Telescope. “There’s an expectation that the metadata modeling can be done by downloading a spec and implementing it. The problem is most of the specs have thousands and thousands of fields.”

The challenge, Taylor says, is to come up with a metadata model that addresses existing naming conventions and taxonomies in the organization, then consolidates them into a model that all departments can use.

“The sweet spot for me [for metadata fields] is maximum about 30,” he says. “If you end up with integration into scheduling system or integration into product information systems, then a lot of that metadata is being prepopulated. What you’re trying to get down to is how many fields does the user have to manually enter?”

The initial implementation can be a tedious task, but the rewards make it worthwhile.

“I like to think of it as the carrot and the stick when it comes to metadata. The stick is, you have to enter these five fields and they are required. If you don’t fill them in, then you cannot get your asset into the system,” Taylor says. “The carrot is, I want to enter that metadata because it will be helpful later on. If you do it all by stick, people resent it; if you do it all by carrot you get data inconsistencies.”

As with any organizational change, getting employee buy-in and input from the start is a crucial step.

“We allow people to create their own taxonomy and to create their own metadata standard,” says Lexy Spry, training specialist for Widen Enterprises. “We can show people the industry standards that they might use. We also allow users to pull in embedded metadata.”

The bottom line is that any organization looking to implement an asset management system has plenty of hard, tedious work ahead of them. “If you’re talking about, let’s just say, 100 hard drives, each of them 2TB apiece, you’re talking about a significant effort to do all that work,” Boyll says. “Once the work is done, future efforts to find footage are reduced down to virtually nothing. So that portion of your workflow cycle once a request comes in for that footage is compressed in the extreme, and you can actually start recapturing value on that footage.”

Scale: Plan for Growth

Everyone wants to know how much storage they will need, and the answer is probably going to be “more than you think.”

“We don’t know how large our MAM is going to be, but we know how large our DAM is—today we have approximately 400TB of produced media on disc that are available for self-service download by employees,” Boyll says.

“We’ve seen a really interesting phenomenon on our DAM [existing] system. It’s not only reducing the effort for the existing requests we used to get for duplication of final footage,” Boyll says, “we are fulfilling requests [for video] we never even knew existed.”

According to Boyll, Oracle Marketing Brand Creative is in a project now with its IT department to host that DAM system on a private cloud infrastructure and scale it across our global enterprise of 140,000 employees. “Today our user base consists of 7,000 users on our system, and we expect that number to double in the coming year—if not increase even further—and ultimately we’d like to be able to scale it across the entire company,” Boyll says.

Posten is facing a similar challenge at Symantec. “We have 180TB full of data,” he says. “We’re actually in the process of adding another 120TB to the pool. Currently we have about 30,000 different assets in there right now. Ninety-nine percent of it is all video.”

Posten identified the two key lessons he learned as he put his system in place 2 years ago. One is developing a metadata strategy, and the second is having an end-of-life plan for content. On the metadata strategy, he says people often go too broad and plan for 10 years out. All this does is give you an unwieldy system. You should be very prescriptive and not create a lot of excessive fields that won’t be completed anyway.

“Just because it needs to live forever, doesn’t mean it needs to live forever in your asset management system because it will just sit there and take up storage space,” Posten says. “Most modern asset management systems have ways of off-lining, to tape or to cheap disk or the cloud, and still have proxies built into the asset management system so the actual content lives off of your expensive high-speed storage.”

Success: Enjoy the Rewards

“You could take the best software in the world and put it into a business environment and it will be an utter failure,” Taylor says. And the biggest changes are business-based, not technical.

“Installing the software and starting out with the best metadata model in the world does not mean it’s going to be successful,” he says. “There are loads of asset management systems out there that are underutilized or not used properly because the business change wasn’t really taken into account or dealt with properly.”

The payoff from a properly implemented asset management system can be tremendous. Eventually, the content that today takes you many minutes or even hours to find—if you can find it at all—will show up in a matter of seconds—as long as you take the time now to plan and set up the system to best serve your business needs.

This article originally ran in the October 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “PAM, DAM, Thank You, MAM.”

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