Here are the questions asked:
- How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
- How does a media company focused on cooking use Digital Asset Management?
- What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Andrew Mannone.
Andrew, how are you?
Andrew Mannone: [0:09] I’m good, Henrik. How are you?
Henrik: [0:11] Great. Andrew, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Andrew: [0:15] Well, that’s a great question. When I was first hired at America’s
Test Kitchen as an Imaging and Color Specialist, we were really at the beginning
stages of bringing all of our production work in-house for color correction,
proofing. We had some established processes and workflows already, but it was
all rather informal, to a certain extent. Production, my department, is kind of
like the central hub. All of the print projects that my company produces flows
through our department in one way, shape or form, sometimes twice in the life
cycle of a project. [0:54] I was given a really large degree of latitude to completely
rebuild the imaging workflow, from the ground up, which was awesome.
That’s really where I started getting involved in Digital Asset Management,
especially in how we think of it today at the company.
[1:15] Ever since then, production has established itself as the go to place for
anything that the company needs, in terms of retouching, compositing, silhouetting,
proofing, anything prepress, and, of course, Digital Asset Management.
[1:32] Since that time I have a new role at the company as the Workflow and
Asset Manager. Primarily, my goal now is to develop and support the workflows
for the existing products and publications that we have, but all the new initiatives,
the kind the business picks up, whether it be some sort of online social
media initiative or whatever.
[1:59] Like a lot of other publishers, a component of our business model revolves
around repurposing content. In America’s Test Kitchen, we’ve got some,
what I would describe as, unique challenges, one individual image of a plate of
food. That image might have, through its life cycle of going through different
products, up to six to seven output color modes, based on whatever the requirements
are for that publication it appears in.
[2:31] Our job in production is to be able to track all of those assets, where they
came from, what app that they were dragged from, where they were used, back
to the source digital negative file, whenever we need to create a new output
Henrik: [2:48] Just to clarify, when you mean outputs do you mean prints versus
web versus other?
Andrew: [2:53] Yeah, exactly. Our flagship magazine “Cook’s Illustrated” relies
heavily on duo tones. Whereas some of our other magazines or books use
quad tones in addition to standard CMYK full color images. Then of course, the
web has its own requirements. To support all of that we had to come up with a
metadata driven automated work flow that not only ties desktop applications
together, but ties together our DAM system.
Henrik: [3:21] How does a media company focused on cooking use Digital
Andrew: [3:26] We think about what it is that we do. We’ve got not only our
TV shows, our magazines, our books, and our online websites. We all generate
images and design layouts, PDFs. We need a way to track it all. We use DAM
as a two prong approach. There’s the repository quality of it, storage of our
finished assets. [3:52] There’s also a work flow component of it. That’s really my
focus on DAM. Is using DAM as work flow from the start of an asset’s life cycle
all the way to it goes into the repository side of DAM. When we started using
our DAM system we ultimately decided to go with Cumulus, put out by Canto. It
threw us for a loop at first.
[4:18] We approached it thinking it was an out of the box solution ready to go,
kind of like Adobe Bridge but with a big database backend. After a while it
was like, “Something’s not right here.” Then I started to realize that it’s not just
an out of the box solution. What we got when we chose our system was really
[4:46] That’s when the real power of what we got was fully realized. My favorite
way to explain Cumulus to people not familiar with DAM or some other departments
is to think of it like a Lego set. A Lego set for that really awesome
medieval castle, but you threw out the directions. You’ve got all the pieces
there, but you need to figure out how they fit together to build that castle.
[5:14] It will take a while but it’s a puzzle that you have to solve. Once we got the
hang of it, that’s when really good things started to happen. It falls into one of
two categories for what I’ve been trying to use our DAM systems for. Solving a
workload problem or to better communicate information to a user.
[5:35] There are some simple things that you can do on the web front ends,
tweaking the CSS to convey the company branding so it has a consistent look
and feel across all of the different other online systems that we have at our company.
Presenting information to the user in a way that makes sense. Like if you’re
searching for various recipes.
[6:00] Are the recipe elements grouped in a logical fashion? Recipe name is a
part of a book chapter, what’s the book project name? Then there’s the work
flow component. Sometimes it’s really simple things like Cumulus will capture all
of the excess information from the digital camera but it doesn’t always render it
in a completely human consumable way.
[6:25] For example, exposure mode. It renders it as an integer and in most imaging
applications, you would see something like aperture priority, or auto exposure,
but in Cumulus it shows up as zero. I wrote a really simple formula to parse
the integer into an auto exposure. It’s simple things like that that give more
context to the information that’s already there.
[6:58] It helps the user interpret what they’re seeing when they’re viewing the
various records in the DAM. When it comes to solving a work flow problem, a
lot of what I do is getting Cumulus and Photoshop to talk to each other. Most
DAMs have some sort of way or method to convert asset X format into asset Y. I
need this JPEG into a PNG. Most of the times that’s fine.
[7:28] For us, it’s not as sophisticated as we need it to be, because our publications
have some really not mainstream print outputs. Like duo tones or quad
tones. We need to harness Photoshop to get everything the way we need it for
a particular publication. I was able to use the tools that Cumulus provides and
some scripting to select images in Cumulus, route them to Photoshop, process
them based on metadata that’s embedded in the image, then save out the
result and catalog it back into Cumulus.
[8:11] That lets us track where an image has been, what other output mode it’s
come from very easily.
Henrik: [8:19] You mentioned earlier that you didn’t have the instructions for the
castle but you were able to build your own castle.
Andrew: [8:28] I’ll wager to bet that another user using the exact same DAM,
it won’t look anything like what we built here at ATK. We’ve got tons of formula
fields that pull information out of a file path to display a project name and a lot
of nomenclature that’s specific to America’s Test Kitchen. When people first
start their eyes glaze over because we have so many acronyms that we throw
around. [9:01] We joke that we can talk in complete acronyms and have it make
perfect sense to the people in the know. We’ve incorporated that into our DAM.
It’s familiar to the people who have been here. One of the other things we were
able to do is now that more than ever cross media publishing is important, it’s
just growing exponentially.
[9:28] We needed to rewrite our web CMS and our internal web development
team rewrote the CMS that drives all of our websites and we took that opportunity
to integrate our Cumulus DAM into the CMS with the web services API.
That has saved countless hours for the web editorial department. Saving off
hours from load times for each magazine content load cycle.
[10:02] That’s actually set us up to do some really great things in regards to the
cloud. I can’t get into details right now, but we’re looking to putting a lot of
assets into the cloud, using the DAM to control who can see what. It’s going to
Henrik: [10:23] Sounds like it. What advice would you like to share with DAM
professionals, and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Andrew: [10:29] I thought about this one for a little bit. It occurred to me, I’ve
been working specifically in DAM for three years, and I still feel like I’m just starting
out. I still feel like I’m in that aspiring to be a DAM professional category,
but I’ve learned a few things. [10:50] Having a natural curiosity is really one of the
requirements to do this type of work. You really need to enjoy solving puzzles,
finding a solution to a challenge, and being detail oriented.
[11:05] Once you get past that, read up on some of the industry standard
groups, like Adobe’s XMP, IPTC, Dublin Core, PRISM XML. These are all really
great resources that you can take and figure out, “What’s the best way to
structure my metadata? Can I use something that’s already existing for developing
my taxonomy, instead of having to start from scratch?”
[11:32] Then learn all you can about XML. Whatever your operating system of
choice is, learn the scripting language that’s native to that platform. We’re an all
Mac shop, so AppleScript is my goto for scripting.
[11:53] We’re doing a lot of web projects now. Cumulus has several web front ends
knew, but I’m learning a whole lot more of.
[12:09] If you can find any sort of professional organization to connect with, to
find people that are in your field, doing what you do. LinkedIn is a great resource.
If your DAM system has a user forum, get involved on that. I’ve met a
lot of great people and made some really great contacts by participating on the
user forum for Cumulus.
[12:31] Read a lot of books, blogs, whatever you can get your hands on.
[12:36] Have fun. Play with stuff. See what works, what doesn’t. The way I learn
the best is to kick it around, see how it works. Possibly break it, and then try to
put it back together. I was the guy who took apart all their toys as a kid, and it
drove my parents nuts. That’s kind of the way I approach working with DAM,
and it’s panned out so far.
Henrik: [13:02] Excellent. Thanks Andrew.
Andrew: [13:03] Thanks Henrik.
Henrik: [13:05] For more on Digital Asset Management, log on to
AnotherDAMblog.com. Thanks again.