Karl Jackson discusses Digital Asset Management
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.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again.
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