Another DAM podcast interview with James Chan

Another DAM podcast interview with James Chan | Listen

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • Why would an organization focused around Architecture and Planning use Digital Asset Management?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: [0:00] This is Another DAM Podca st about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with James Chan. James,
how are you?
James Chan: [0:08] I’m great. I’m very good. How are you?
Henrik: [0:11] Good. James, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Management?
James: [0:17] Firstly, I can tell you very quickly about what we do here at the
studio. We’re an architectural visualization studio. Very quickly, what that means
is that we create photorealistic images of architecture before it gets built. My
role in that is that I help the artists to produce their renderings. What happens
is that the artist will get a 3D model and do their wizardry on it, their 3D
thing, and render out a 2D image of the building. [0:46] That’s when the things
I do come into play. What they do then is, with the render, they bring it into
Photoshop and add 2D assets into that. Assets could be photographs of trees,
people, plants, you name it. Whatever you need to do in order to make the
image look photorealistic. Sometimes it’s a whole image, like a photograph of
the site where the building’s going to go, and they literally just drop the building
into that photograph.
[1:17] Other times, it’s a complete render. What they do then is just add elements,
like people and trees, into the image. What I do is I have to maintain a
library of these images, of these assets. It’s a quite crucial role within the studio.
Because time is money. To be able to produce high quality illustrations or
images that you need to be able to find exactly what you need and be able to
put it into the image straight away.
[1:43] The artist doesn’t want to waste their time looking for things. They just
want to do a quick keyword search, browse a folder or whatnot, within the asset
management system, and find exactly what they want straight away. Quite
often, we get some artists who work with other studios. They come in here, start
fresh and are absolutely overjoyed that they have a really nicely organized and
curated library of images they can just dig into and get what they need.
Henrik: [2:07] Why does an organization focused on architecture and planning
use Digital Asset Management, beyond what you just said?
James: [2:13] Architecture is a very visual discipline. Historically, designs for
buildings have started off as sketches. Even current buildings, such as Renzo
Piano’s “The Shard of Glass” which is a great big building being built in London.
It’s a very striking building. It is literally a shard of glass going into the sky. That
started out as a sketch on a napkin. [2:36] From then, it was put into a CAD
drawing. Then, we produced a photorealistic rendering from that. With architecture,
they really do communicate in images. I know that in dedicated, proper architectural
firms, they use asset management systems. Because that’s how they
communicate with each other. They have drawings. They have site photography.
[2:57] They have model shots of models they made themselves. Architecture is
awash with images. It’s crucial for an architectural firm to be able to organize
all their images very effectively. For planning, they use images as well. But it’s
more of a 3D thing. They use a lot of 3D techniques to do their work. But again,
you have to find the images first. It’s really just about finding your images. If you
can’t find them, we all know, it’s not going to be much good to anyone.
[3:33] The artists are fantastic at producing great renderings and 3D files. But
they’re terrible when it comes to the metadata. That’s where I come in. If you
don’t have good metadata, it’s going to be a nightmare to find anything. I provide
the structure and then I also provide the oversight, to make sure things are
keyworded properly and named correctly and organized in a way that makes it
very easy to find it.
[3:57] Architects often are very creative people. Quite often, organization isn’t
necessarily part of the creative process. I know a lot of architects are very well
organized. But it’s quite common for them to lose their images and to have to
come back to us, to say, “We need those images you rendered for us three
years ago,” or whatever. “Because we’re going to have to make some amendments
to it.” Or, “Planning has come around again. We can’t find them anywhere.
Please send them to us.”
[4:24] We really are able to find the images in moments. Whenever we can do
that and we send it to them, they’re overjoyed. They can’t believe how quickly
we can pull out even ancient photographs in moments. It really does help our
client relations.
Henrik: [4:41] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
James: [4:45] With the DAM professionals, the two main things I’ve been thinking
about is, understand the users and understand the business needs and
problems. Because Digital Asset Management is really just about problem solving.
You have to understand the problem that exists. Quite often, people don’t
realize that there is a problem or that there’s a better way of doing things. Think
about how to make it as easy as possible. [5:11] You do that by understanding
everything about the business and how people interact with their assets. Also,
once you understand that, you need to understand the technology. Once you
have a good understanding of the technology, you can come up with solutions,
creative solutions. It’s like Photoshop. The more you know about how to use
Photoshop, the more ways you can fix a certain problem. You can do the same
thing, address the same problem, in Photoshop, in one way, but in many different
ways.
[5:47] In an individual situation, you might need a different technique. That’s the
same for Digital Asset Management, the same for metadata. You have to know
your technology inside out, in order to get the most out of it. There are my two
tips for the DAM professional. Also, another thing is, always look for the most
simple and elegant solution. That’s really hard to do. It’s easy to make a very
complicated solution to a problem.
[6:14] Anyone can do that. [laughs] It’s trying to find the most simple, elegant
solution that, when you actually come up with it, you wonder why you haven’t
come up with that 10 days before, or a month before, or a year before. When
you have that kind of a solution, that’s when you know you’ve hit on the gold
dust. Gold dust is simplicity in all Digital Asset Management things. Anything
that makes things more complicated, more time consuming, takes more time to
teach someone, then you really have to go back to the drawing board. Because
it’s a waste of effort.
[6:46] The effort should always go into finding the most simple, elegant solutions.
As for people who want to become Digital Asset Managers, how I came
into it was that I was working in a sports photography agency. We’d be processing,
in a team of 10 people, a thousand images or so. Whether it be live images,
coming in live from the football field, or taking the orders from the photographers,
when they have a couple of hundred photographers coming through.
[7:17] The way the images would flow from the photographer, through the production
department, into the archive and onto the website got me thinking
about workflow. That got me thinking onto Digital Asset Management. That’s
where I found Peter Krogh’s book. I can’t pronounce his surname.
Henrik: [7:34] Peter Krogh, yeah.
James: [7:36] That’s the one, “The DAM Book”. I found that book. That really
inspired me to look more and more into things. That’s how I got my current job.
I found problems which I found interesting. I wanted to find solutions to that. I
did some research. I discovered a whole field called Digital Asset Management.
It’s still a very young field. I got to where I am now just by being inquisitive and
trying to understand the problems other people or organizations might have
and try to think of ways I could solve them for them. [8:09] Luckily, I found this
job here at the studio where they literally did advertise the job as a job for a
Digital Asset Manager. That was certainly easy for me to find this place. It was
a very nice fit. I went straight in there. I said some few key things, which were
metadata, control vocabulary, Digital Asset Management systems. I mentioned
a few blogs or a few people who talk about Digital Asset Management. I got the
job within the first 10 minutes.
[8:36] They’d been advertising the job for more than two months, and interviewed
over 30 or so people. I was the only person that actually understood the
job. It was a bit of a no-brainer for them, and it was a no-brainer for me. It was a
perfect match. To anyone who wants to become a Digital Asset Manager, they
have to do the research. Understand that you need to be a problem solver and
come up with creative solutions to problems.
[9:04] Also, I view my role as being a communicator between the technical side
of things and of the creative side of things. Often, the end users of Digital Asset
Management systems are creative people. Sometimes they don’t understand
technical things. So you really do need to be able to have the ability to translate
technical things into lay person speak. On that note, don’t worry if you come
across, for example on Twitter, I see a lot of people talking about pretty technical
things, things that go over the top of my head.
[9:40] It got me a little bit bothered, to think that maybe I’m at a very low level in
my career. But I got over that very quickly because I realized that you don’t need
to be an IT professional to work in Digital Asset Management. You just have to
know how the software works and can always learn. It’s a process of learning.
That’s why you have IT departments. [laughs] That’s why you have people who
are IT professionals.
[10:06] They don’t necessarily understand how the software or the technology
would work for the end user. That’s where you come in. You need to be the
translator between the IT professionals and the end users. Once you understand
how that works, you can find yourself in a very rewarding career. That’s
that. That’s me. That’s my rant. [laughs]
Henrik: [10:23] Excellent. Thanks, James. For more on this and other
Digital Asset Management topics, log onto AnotherDAMblog.com.
Another DAM Podcast is available on Audioboo, Blubrry, iTunes and the Tech
Podcast Network. Thanks again.