DAM conference reveals success and failure

The IT experts charged with deploying and maintaining digital asset management (DAM) systems at the major broadcast networks and other large media companies say separating the hype from reality is the first step to implementing such systems for the repurposing of assets and the creation of new business models.

At the 12th annual Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management (DAM) Symposium in New York City this week it was clear that the industry is still grappling with issues of file logging standardization and a common metadata description dictionary. The technology to deploy a DAM system is available, but at significant cost if you are not careful.

WGBH, the PBS station in Boston, MA, has been working on its version of an enterprise-wide DAM system since 1993, according to Dave MacCarn, chief technologist and DAM architect for the station. The station spent 15 months alone working on how to input metadata with each logged file and how these large databases and digital clips will be searched and retrieved.

Operating with a capacity of 12TB of storage, WGBH uses DAM software from Artesia Digital Media Group — in tandem with a Harris automation system as well as Grass Valley Profile and Sun Solaris servers — to manage content files and get them to the people that need them most. The station also uses a Sony PetaSite to archive digital files as 50Mb/s MPEG-2 content. There’s also Avid and Apple NLE workstations and Telestream’s transcoding technology in play.

WGBH works closely with Sun Microsystems to develop its DAM systems. The pair has established an I FORCE media lab on-site at the station in Boston where DAM technology is tested and deployed for a wide variety of visitors to see. Commercial and public broadcasters are encouraged to visit and get hands-on demos of several different DAM workflows, simply by making a free appointment.

In light of all this technology, sorting out the business case for funding the DAM system has been the station’s biggest challenge and one for many of the companies presenting case studies at the Henry Stewart DAM Symposium. Executives and upper management at virtually every company in attendance said they want a fast ROI on any DAM system or it won’t get funded.

MacCarn said that in order to avoid wasting time and money, it’s important for stations to develop a workflow that replicates what is already being done and to research the various vendors that supply the required DAM systems. This groundwork is critical before implementing any type of technology platform.

Roughly 850 attendees sat through two days of sessions and industry panel discussions that highlighted the success stories and the failures that DAM customers have experienced thus far. Most of the failures were the direct result of a company implementing technology before everyone in that company had a chance to weigh in on the type of system and user interface that was most critical to their specific tasks.

Without this input, employees tend to avoid using a system that doesn’t make their job easier. If the DAM system in place is not used to its fullest by everyone involved with the production/traffic process, the system becomes a costly hurdle and often gets in the way of a streamlined workflow.

Graham Allan, director, project management, Media Technology Board at The Walt Disney Company, said the global company continues to struggle to find common interfaces and DAM software that everyone is comfortable with. This has impeded the deployment of a company-wide system and instead has led to a wide variety of projects among Disney’s various production and distribution divisions. Allan is launching a new imitative within the company to develop a universal metadata database that everyone will one day use as part of the logging and search and retrieval of digital assets.

Allan said Disney needs a company-wide DAM implementation in order to easily adjust to the new emerging delivery platforms for its content. It’s a message every broadcaster considering a DAM system needs to hear.

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