MAM Best Practices – The beginning is really the end

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?’ Let’s start at the beginning, which of course is really the end…of the process.

One of the biggest hurdles in the move from the 'old' method of capturing content on videotape is how you are going to archive all your content. 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, these questions must be addressed.

Despite the amount of bandwidth that you may have to move your high-res media to-and-from a distant data centre, if you choose 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. It’s 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: 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 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 subject to an approval process.

Non-Linear Editing

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 have all accepted that transcoding is a necessity but it should be the exception, not the rule. The majority of your files should be in the format 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 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.

Logging may be the primary interaction that many users have with the MAM system


Though logging may seem like a less critical piece in the scheme of things, the answers to the following questions are of critical importance when considering deployment.

What are users trying to find and use throughout the lifecycle of your media? 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? I would speculate that logging may well be the primary interaction that many of your users have with the system. 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

In asset management there is no one size fits all. Yourultimate MAM system quite likely will be different than someone else’s 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 about finding a company who will work to tailor their product to your specific environment. They should be willing to go on-site to train personnel 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 a search for a MAM system that works for you, perhaps the most important is finding a vendor that is actually engaged in what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, it is easy to hear, but it is difficult to actually listen.

Michael Shore is co-founder of Pronology

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