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Another DAM Podcast interview with Karl Jackson on Digital Asset Management

Listen to Another DAM Podcast interview with Karl Jackson on Digital Asset Management

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor:  [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Karl Jackson.

Karl, how are you?

Karl Jackson:  [0:10] I’m really well. Thank you.

Henrik:  [0:12] Karl, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Karl:  [0:15] Since 1995, I’ve been the audio and video production lead for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band here in Washington, DC. What the band does is it provides musical support to the White House, to the President of the United States and to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

[0:32] In that capacity, we perform all manner of ceremonies in and around the Washington, DC area. In addition, we have a very active public concert schedule. We typically will play at least one public performance every week. As you can imagine, we have quite an archive of wonderful audio and video recordings.

[0:52] We’ve been in existence since 1798, and we’ve been making audio recordings at least since the late 1880s. When I took over the Marine Band as the audio and video production lead, one of my primary responsibilities was to be the steward, really, of all of those audio recordings and video recordings.

[1:13] That’s how I got involved with Digital Asset Management, was first taking care of all of those analog recordings, but then increasingly digitizing those recordings and dealing with born digital recordings. Making all of those recordings available to our musicians, our musical directors and increasingly to the general public.

Henrik:  [1:33] Karl, why does a military band use Digital Asset Management?

Karl:  [1:37] It was really the late 1990s when it became clear to us that we needed to have a process for dealing with an increasing quantity of digital files. These initially were digital audio files that resided on all manner of media, from Betamax tapes to Digital Audio Tapes to compact discs.

[1:59] We had all of this media that we wanted to have ready access to. We started thinking about how could we do that, and realized that our first task was to decide what was important and to catalog that in a way that was useful to us, and then to make that all available to our musicians and directors.

[2:20] We have quite a lot of historical recordings, and all of those recordings are actively used by our video editors and by our audio editors in order to create products for historical projects and for public performances, and increasingly for web products, both on our own websites as well as YouTube websites and things like that.

[2:42] Our musical directors use the DAM quite a bit for research purposes. They need to have very quick and ready access to previous concert recordings in order to put together future events, not only at the White House but also for our public performances.

[2:58] For example, the musical director may get a call from the White House tasking us with a performance for a specific diplomat that’s going to be visiting, and the social event might have some very specific requirements. The musical director needs to be able to tap into an archive of historical and current recordings to put together that program appropriately. Our musical directors use it quite a lot.

[3:23] Our musicians are using it quite a lot as well for research purposes. For a lot of our public performances, the musicians will use search tools to find performances that have been done in the past of pieces they want to do in the future, both in order to learn how they have been performed historically, but also to get ideas for how they might make those performances their own.

[3:48] We use the DAM system and processes across the organization.

Henrik:  [3:53] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Karl:  [3:58] Initially, the first challenges that we faced were designing a system that fit who we were. What we wanted to be able to do was have a system that provided all of the information that we needed, but that wasn’t so cumbersome that it didn’t get used.

[4:13] That challenge we met by first talking deeply about who we are and how we work, and finding ways to describe our workflow and our organization using the tools of databases, schema, and finding ways to link. For example, some of our sheet music assets with some of our performances, and find ways to link those to audio recordings, so that we were able to build a web of data that’s really useful and usable rather than just having a bunch of miscellaneous metadata that might not at the end of the day be usable.

[4:56] That was the first challenge. We faced it very successfully by talking deeply about who we were, like I said. Another challenge that we’ve faced over the years as technology has progressed is finding a way to make all of that information available to our musicians in a way that they can easily use.

[5:17] Sometimes information can be overwhelming, and especially information in the kinds of quantities that we are collecting. But we needed a user experience that made it quite easy for anyone who used our systems to find what they needed in a really expeditious way.

[5:34] We did that by, again, just talking carefully with those audiences, building some use cases and figuring out what they really needed. In some cases, we were able to provide that. In other cases, we found alternative ways to find those solutions. User experience was a key aspect to getting a successful DAM system in place for us.

[5:58] Another challenge that we faced, and this is probably one that many, many DAM managers in government face, is the challenges that are implicit with implementing information systems projects around the government. There is sometimes very costly and time‑intensive systems to implement. That can be a challenge.

[6:20] The most successful way to face that challenge is through patience and perseverance. In my case, I did quite a lot of research into what the requirements were for government information systems, and I was able to figure out ways to get the job done in a way that wasn’t maybe as onerous as it could have been.

[6:38] Those are some of the challenges. We’ve been able to face those pretty successfully. We’ve got a great team, and so we’ve got a project that works quite well.

Henrik:  [6:47] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Karl:  [6:52] I’ll follow along with the team theme. Building a great team to implement a DAM is really, really key, because Digital Asset Management solutions by their very nature have a lot of different aspects to them. You have all of the specific subject matter, expertise that the content creators will have. You have specific subject matter expertise coming from the information systems side. You have expertise coming from the organizational and workflow side.

[7:24] You have to come at it from the perspective of building a great team first. I think that the processes and systems, and workflows will all come out of that. You have to start with the organization and the team, and the people that are involved first. That’s probably the thing that I’ve tried to keep people on is focus less on the technology, and more on the people that are using the technology.

[7:53] There are many, many DAM systems out there. Some are appropriate for some organizations more so than others. But at the end of the day, you need to find a system that works for your people and a set of processes that works for how they want to be working.

[8:07] Beyond that, for people who want to be involved in DAM, is just to start doing it. DAM is something that sounds very, possibly, official, and maybe even imposing, but it’s really something that all of us do all of the time.

[8:23] To be involved in DAM means just doing it increasingly well. If you manage an iTunes system for your home computer, that’s really doing DAM. If you’re interested in DAM, dig into ways of doing that even better.

[8:38] If you’re really interested, it’s crucial to get involved in the community. There are so many smart people, like yourself, out there doing DAM, and it’s crucial to be listening to what they’re saying and following what they’re talking about. Discovering new ideas and trying to bridge the gaps between areas of interest within DAM so that we can all keep getting better at it.

Henrik:  [9:02] Great point on making it people, process, technology, in that order. That’s a good point, to keep users on the forefront, that DAM is first of all about people. Thanks, Karl.

Karl:  [9:12] This has been fun. I love talking about this stuff. I sometimes feel like, coming at it from a content side, I don’t necessarily have all of the bells and whistles figured out. But I feel like some of this stuff is really important for organization, so I really enjoy it.

[9:26] I’ve got to say, I really have enjoyed your podcast.

Henrik:  [9:28] Thank you.

Karl:  [9:29] The folks you’re pulling in, it’s really neat to hear about some of the things that they’re doing. You had a gentleman on recently talking about his experiences with “Sesame Street.” That was pretty cool to hear some of the challenges that they faced. Thanks for doing that. That’s really neat.

Henrik:  [9:43] You’re welcome. Thanks again. I appreciate it, from yourself and anyone who contributes to this podcast series. There will be plenty more.

Karl:  [9:49] Great. I look forward to them.

Henrik: [9:51] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdamblog.com. Another DAM Podcast.com is available on AudioBoom and iTunes.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at AnotherDAMblog@Gmail.com. Thanks again.


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Another DAM podcast interview with Rob Schuman on Digital Asset Management

Listen to Another DAM podcast interview with Rob Schuman on Digital Asset Management

Full Transcript:
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.
Today, I’m speaking with Rob Schuman.
Rob, how are you?

Rob Schuman: [0:10] Great.

Henrik: [0:11] Rob, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [0:14] Well, I got involved about 12 years ago, which was early for Digital Asset Management. Right now, I’m a general consultant. I help people organize, choose vendors, and help them implement the big change management that comes along with any DAM system. Also, advise people on technical issues of how to set up a DAM system that works well for everyone.

[0:39] Back when I was at Sesame Workshop, which was then called Children’s Television Workshop, the Sesame Street producers asked me if there was any way they could view their library without having to go up to the library and pull cassettes and cue up cassettes and all of that. The executive producers had a problem that they were reusing the same clips over and over and over again because those were the ones that people knew in their heads, while clips that were just as good were sitting in the library idle because no one wanted to take the time to go and find them.

[1:13] We said we’d do what we could, and about a year later, we developed one of the first DAM systems for video and television. It was very early in the DAM marketplace, and we believed it was the first or one of the first video Digital Asset Management systems. It was completely homegrown. We had any number of metadata fields and attached them to both proxy video and broadcast-quality video.

[1:41] We also were one of the first to include DAM as part of their workflow. It made producing the show so much easier, got them to do segments, have the segments approved by the producer, then get them right down into the edit room to complete them. I worked for Merck, the drug manufacturing company, and right now, I’m at the New York City Ballet. I call myself “content agnostic” because ultimately every company has their content professionals.

[2:11] They don’t need me to produce content for them. They need me to organize that content and make sure everybody has access to it and make sure that their workflows are automated. They don’t really need another person on content. Really, assets are assets, whether they’re talking about drugs, dance, or Sesame Street. I laugh that I worked for Sesame Street and Dow Jones, and the work is basically the same.

Henrik: [2:45] Organizing information?

Rob: [2:46] Yup, and making sure they can find it.

Henrik: [2:49] Yeah, very key. How does an organization focused on ballet use Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [2:56] Unlike music where there’s a score, dance is really a visual medium. Back in the mid 1980s, somebody had the idea of taking a VHS camcorder and sticking it up on the front of the balcony and taping the ballets. That stayed on VHS for a very long time, updated a little bit when camcorders became digital. They have a library of about 2, 500 or more performances.

[3:26] They have some rehearsals. It’s all on VHS tape. They got a grant from a government group called “Saving America’s Treasures” to try to rescue these. The New York City Ballet has this school so that the students could study choreographers like Balanchine or Jerome Robbins. What they’ve done is built their own Digital Asset Management in just stations.

[3:53] Right now, the theater has been redone with high-definition control room and high-definition cameras. All of the ballets or most of them are recorded as files, which we then add a whole lot of metadata to and put into their asset management system for anyone to find. You can look by choreographer by, of course, the date, and the musical piece.

[4:20] You can look at, “Let’s see all the variations of ‘The Nutcracker'” or “Let’s compare this choreographer’s version to that choreographer’s version.” They’re just starting to get to the launch of this. They want to put a computer and monitor in every dance studio that they’ve got. They have, I think, nine of them, including the ones from the school, so that they can work with the students and show them exactly how it’s done. Video is the only way to capture a live performance, and that’s what they do.

Henrik: [4:50] That’s great. Rob, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [4:57] The biggest challenge is the one that almost everybody faces. People think it’s choosing a DAM system or the technology you use or the metadata schema that you use, but really, it’s making sure that your customers are happy that there’s an acceptance of workflow changes. I’ve worked at places with both.

[5:18] At Sesame Street, we never really launched the DAM system, because by the time it came for the date to launch it, everybody had it. People saw it in beta and said, “I need this. I don’t care that it’s not ready. I don’t care, I’ll report bugs, but I want to use this.” That was a big success.

[5:37] At a big company like Merck, management came down and said, “We’re going to use this Digital Asset Management system,” and there was so much resistance. People were just tossing assets in there. There was a lot of metadata management that had to go followed up and a lot of wasted time, effort and energy that if you start with getting the folks enthusiastic, and if you get as close to their current workflows as possible and come in with the attitude that this is not something that management is demanding.

[6:12] This is something that will make your work easier and make you more productive. One example of that, again going back to Sesame Street, one day a woman came into my office in tears because she realized that the DAM system would be down over the weekend for some maintenance. She needed to get something done by Monday or her boss was going to be very angry with her, and she was just so afraid of that.

[6:39] I told her I would talk to her boss and smooth things out, but we still needed to maintain the system. But later, it occurred to me that that’s exactly how a successful DAM should be working. You should be upset if you can’t use it or if the system goes down, because it’s so critical to your work.

[6:58] Some more successfully than others tried to get across that being enthusiastic about the DAM and getting people on your side early in the game is the most important thing. The usual challenge, which is getting people on board and making sure that everything works, technology is changing so rapidly. One of the biggest challenges in DAM right now is the user interfaces.

[7:28] A lot of the systems that I’ve seen are really great on the back end, but forget that there are people on the front end who really need to be coaxed along, just throwing up a series of fields for them to fill in this form. It doesn’t help unless there’s a counteraction of, well, instead of having to write this on paper, or I can find stuff later if I put metadata on it now. Of course, there’s always the ‘metadata policeman’ who has to go in and look at everything going into the system.

Henrik: [8:01] We’re all familiar with those [laughs] , since we do those tasks regularly or we have in the past.

Rob: [8:08] One thing I did at Merck was I put a sign on my cubicle there that said, I thought “DAM” was too violent a word, even though we all like using it. I said this was “Marketing Operations Management,” and I thought “MOM”. Let’s call it the “MOM” system.

Henrik: [8:28] Rob, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Rob: [8:33] Basically, the only real advice I can give is to go for it. It’s a young and growing area of computer and personal information and marketing information. I’d say study what you can. Ask questions. Learn about metadata. Learn from others. Go to the DAM meet-up to meet people and find out what they’re doing. Then, if you can, get the exposure to a DAM system.

[9:04] You don’t really need to go back to school for a full library degree to understand basic metadata. There’s a need for entry-level people to actually be the ‘metadata policemen’ and enter things into the DAM system. Generally, the person who is in charge of it doesn’t really have the time, particularly for the large systems, to go over what’s going in, to be the ‘metadata police’, so to speak, and make sure that the DAM system is loaded with all of the proper information.

[9:35] I used to advise television people, “Just go and get the exposure to it and show that you’re interested. Volunteer to do some stuff. Sure enough, when they need somebody, they’re going to turn to you, or somebody else is going to need somebody, they’re going to turn to you and get you started at a career.”

Henrik: [9:54] Well, thanks Rob.

Rob: [9:55] Rob: You’re welcome.

Henrik: [9:56] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdamblog.com. Another DAM Podcast.com is available on AudioBoom and iTunes.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at AnotherDAMblog@Gmail.com. Thanks again.

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