Tech tips and news from the SmartForce
In the information age, where is all the information being
kept? Digital asset management systems are helping companies
manage the massive amounts of data typical in any modern company.
Enterprises such as print or video production houses have always
archived their original material for retrieval later, perhaps
for reuse or resale. Today, more and more companies that once
wouldn't have considered themselves media producers are acquiring
large amounts of digital and non-digital material through their
use of the Internet and digital technologies. Almost anyone
can make use of sound files, video, and computer-generated graphics,
or create their own, and this material is finding its way into
promotion, internal business training, and all manner of communication
methods and purposes.
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need to store this data in a place that is easy to access
and maintain has spurred the growth of digital assets management
(DAM), which can be compared with keeping books in
a central library. With a web-based DAM, files for any digital
media can be stored, accessed, updated, shared, and added
to from anywhere. These files, which are considered assets
in the sense that they have monetary value, are kept protected
as well. If necessary, strict security measures can be put
in place, restricting access to the data.
The way DAM works is simple, and in many ways like a data
warehouse. First, all the company's assets to be stored must
of course be digitized. This can be a lengthy and even daunting
process, but, once the initial work is done, it needn't be
repeated. Material could include articles, logos, designs,
taped audio, and photographs. Often, the individual pieces
of content are part of a larger project that brought together
text, captions, and many different kinds of media in different
formats that are no longer connected. The DAM solution allows
them to be brought together again if desired.
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This is possible through the use of metadata, similar to metatags
used in web sites. The prefix meta pertains to an underlying
definition or description, which is just what metadata is.
It describes the stored data and uses XML to make finding
and accessing material easier. Existing content has metadata
assigned to it, then the content is converted if necessary,
so that everything is in one usable format. This makes the
distribution of the content to multiple users for a variety
of purposes much easier. When new content is being created
and a DAM solution is already in place, the creators of the
content simply enter the descriptive metadata for it directly
into the DAM system.
Both the content and metadata can be entered into the DAM
solution either automatically as it is created or manually.
The files go to different places for storage, however. In
most cases, it's more convenient to store files such as video,
which take up a lot of memory space, in an external database.
An XML interface connects that database with the DAM solution
itself, within which the smaller files and corresponding metadata
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Managing digital assets
Security is a concern in the case of valuable or copyrighted
data and the DAM allows the enforcement of security measures
through digital rights management (DRM). This is an
application actually managed by DAM, as the parameters are
entered here first. DRM then handles rights and permissions
to the content so that strict control over who has access
to it can be maintained.
Once the content has been digitized, converted to a single
format, linked by metadata, and placed under DRM if desired,
it's ready to be distributed. The company can safely and
efficiently share or sell this material in pieces or completely
reassemble projects, either internally or with other companies.
The DAM solution is capable of interfacing with a variety
of content-management tools for distribution over cable television,
videotape, radio, cell phone, PDA, the Internet, or in print.
The success of any DAM solution depends on the manager of
the system, who chooses standards and formats, nomenclature,
and processes. The data identified in a DAM system must be
understood by the people who want to use it, so they are able
to access the material as the creator of the data intended
it to be seen or heard. In other words, a system that can
be understood and used by all parties concerned is necessary
if the data is to have any real value in a DAM solution. The
manager of the system also has to know what type of content
can integrate with what type of technology to suit the needs
of the customer.
Though a DAM solution is considered part of a company's
workflow process in moving its digital assets from production
to distribution, the solution has typically been separate
from the process. A principal target of vendors today is the
integration of the two. This is more difficult than it may
seem at first glance, because every enterprise has its own
unique workflow processes and production systems. The challenge
will be to produce a DAM product that can customize itself
according to the client's individual workflow conditions.
The vendors feel up to the challenge, it seems. According
to the Yankee
Group, DAM-related software spending will exceed $2
billion by 2003, up from $800 million today, and the number
of vendors entering the market is increasing. The DAM needs
of businesses will continue to increase as more digital media
possibilities arise with the advent of technologies such as
broadband. With so many players in the field, a common solution
is bound to be developed.
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