Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Mike Bevans.
Mike, how are you?
Mike Bevans: I’m good. How are you doing?
Henrik de Gyor: Good. Mike, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: I’m currently the senior digital asset manager at The College Board, but I’ve been involved with large-scale digital collection since 1998 when I was a digitization specialist at Cornell’s Fine Art Museum. It was one of the first large-scale digitization efforts in the country, and it became kind of a model for subsequent digitization projects. In any one of these large-scale projects, of course, you have asset management concerns because you have your whole workflow that has to be designed. Granted, this was back before people were talking about digital workflows. It was actually kind of the birth of the thought process of digital workflows, getting from the camera through editing and creating an archive and creating derivatives, so that was actually my first exposure to asset management.
From there, I went on to work with other cultural institutions dealing with other large collections and in each one of these projects, there’s a lot of money being spent on equipment and personnel, and all of these were not-for-profits so they really had to justify their expense. The best way to justify their return on investment was through repeatability, quality, and efficiency. I think these same principals apply to asset management as well, being able to have high-quality metadata, for example, being able to apply it on a repeatable basis or on a consistent basis, and of course efficiency so that you’re not spending all of your time tagging and searching. You’re actually producing work.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Mike, how does a nonprofit organization focused around education use Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: Well, the College Board publishes materials year round to help students achieve a college degree. We maintain over 120 websites. We produce training videos for teachers and counselors. We publish all kinds of printed material from postcards, flyers, brochures, all the way up to publishing books like curriculum frameworks. We’re really constantly churning out products, let’s say. We also host several national conventions every year, national and regional conventions, so we’re producing materials for that, marketing materials. We’re also producing trade show installations, so entire conferences, entire conference halls or lecture halls. We have an archive of over 120 marketing photos, and I just checked this morning, and I think we’re around 10 to 15 terabits of video footage. All of this goes back to about 2008. Because we’re working in a cyclical environment around the school year, we’re constantly refreshing our library. We’re constantly archiving and creating new materials. I just got back from our latest photo shoot, so I’m about to once again overhaul our active collection of photographs.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: I just migrated our legacy photo library to more modern cloud-based asset management system that integrates with our production, our design production, and it was really kind of a revelation for us since I was looking at asset management tools to realize that our assets weren’t just our photographs that we were using and materials we were producing, but actually the materials we were producing are our more valuable assets. Until now, working in a design environment, we would get a task to produce a book or a flyer or something, and as soon as it was done, it went off to print. We considered that done, and the digital files would just be saved on a file server, and that’s where they would sit until next year when they would say, “Oh, we need to update this brochure, this flyer, this book.” Then we’d have to go back into the file server and find it.
We have all of our designers working in a Mac environment and our file server’s a PC, and the Macs for some reason can’t index those files, so it makes searching and finding things difficult for the designers. When we started looking at asset management systems and we saw that these could be integrated with our production, we got very excited, but that, of course, brings up what I think is the biggest challenge, which is getting users to change behavior, to adopt new systems, because you learn one way of doing things, and it may not be the most efficient way, but that’s the way you know, so when somebody comes along with a change, managing that change is actually very challenging. At the same time, the biggest success that I see in asset management is when the users actually start to adopt those changes and start to realize efficiencies and start to come up with new ways of making their work better, faster, and more efficient. On the one hand, I would say user behavior is the biggest challenge. It is also the biggest success.
Henrik de Gyor: Right. What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Mike Bevans: One of the lessons I learned was early one, back in 1998, was to establish a good foundation so that you can be flexible to try new things and not to be afraid to make mistakes. If you have a good foundation that you can fall back onto, you have a lot more freedom. For example, when I started working with College Board, just like any large collection in a production environment, the question grows kind of organically, and asset management becomes a necessity. It’s almost an afterthought. You end up with, when I came in we had multiple files with multiples of the same file with different file names, derivatives with different file names that didn’t match the originals, and then originals that were duplicated in multiple places in different sets of collections.
The first thing I had to do was bring all of the originals together and then try to find some order to them. We also had, you know, as I looked through the keyword tags, we had over 8,000 different unique keywords that were not applied consistently throughout. If you were going to search our photo library, it would be luck if you found anything. For example, we had multiple misspellings in our keywords, so we would have one keyword that had 10 different spellings, and that doesn’t help you if you have an exact match keyword search. The next thing it had to do after gathering all that data together, threw out all of the old tags and established a new hierarchical tagging system that again, this way it would be consistent throughout the entire collection. It was very efficient to apply because it was a much more limited set of terms and then basically only applied them to the derivatives that I made from the new gathered originals. Everything had to fall in line with a single naming convention.
There’s a lot of different foundational steps that went into building a good collection and then when it came time to migrate, it was actually very easy because the foundation was in place. We could spend more time working on new production techniques rather than trying to migrate messy data from one system into a new system. Again, my advice would be make a good solid foundation based upon the principles of findability, and you’ll have freedom to expand in other directions.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Well, thanks Mike.
Mike Bevans: Yeah, okay. Thank you.