Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Dan Piro. Dan, how are you?
Dan Piro: Good. How are you?
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Dan, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: I’m the Director of Digital Asset Archive with the National Hockey League. I oversee a team that’s responsible for ingesting video, digitization projects, metadata application, metadata integrity, and we work alongside of the post-production team here, NHL Studios to support their media needs and also the NHL Network and work together, solve problems, and help them create compelling content.
Henrik de Gyor: Dan, how does a professional ice hockey league use Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: Primarily we use it to send and receive media and to archive it. We have coming in from 30 arenas around the continent every game and you can have up to 15 a night. You get three feeds of the game from the time they press record, you’re talking four or five hours which can add up to 250-300 hours in a single night. So, you have all that material coming in and where you used to have to wait for tapes to come in by FedEx and that type of thing, now we have all the previous night’s games available for the start of the next work day. Our broadcast partners, our internal departments can use it. We get our photos coming in from photographers around the league and just bringing all this material together and having it at our fingertips in a very short timeframe allows us to like I said earlier, create compelling content, create it sooner and get it out the door.
Henrik de Gyor: Dan, what are the biggest challenges and success you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Dan Piro: Well, the biggest challenge I was cast with when I came aboard here at the NHL a little over two years ago was to digitize all the physical archives ahead of our centennial anniversary. If there’s any hockey fans listening, they would know that we got the NHL 100 branding all over the league this year. And to prepare for that, we had a very short timeframe to digitize 150,000 or so videotapes, a half a million still images, slides, negatives prints, over a million documents that our PR department had and that’s game sheets which are the scorecards that the official scorer keeps in the arenas. That dates back to the second season, so we’re talking as far back as 1918.
And statistics records back to the very beginning of the league. Back then, they kept these huge ledgers throughout the season and every goal was marked down, every assist was marked down in these huge ledgers and we had to get all that content scanned and have it all ready to go so that we could celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the league. So as you can imagine, just the logistics of moving all that physical material around from various locations to various vendors; that’s a nightmare in and of itself. But we have a great team, our archive manager is the most organized guy I think I’ve ever met in my life and his system to track all this stuff and make sure we got everything back really saved the day for us.
I had a team of 15 people working to ingest this content, QC it, verify that we’re getting a file back for everything that went out the door. It was just a massive, massive undertaking which at the same time that we were doing all this work, we were setting up a new DAM system. With the new DAM, we’re bringing all this content into the new DAM trying to dig into all of our legacy databases from our videotape database, to our scoring database and pull as much of the information that we can from there and map it to the data fields in the new DAM. Just a massive, massive project to get this thing stood up and ready to go and bring in future and current content at the same time. It was a huge challenge and I’m happy to say that from physical archive perspective, it was very successful, but going forward, there’s always new challenges and new things to tackle when you set up a system like that.
One of the other things we had to deal with in bringing all this content in, these half million images that was scanned, much of it had no data associated with it as far as who the players were, who the teams were that were pictured in these photos. This team of 15 hockey experts, subject matter experts came in and were able to look at these phots one by one and when you might not be able to tell just by looking at something, who these players are, these guys did incredible research to … if a player was shown taking a shot and he’s half-turned and you can see that his jersey number ends with either a three or an eight and his name ends with E-R, and it’s a blue jersey, who is he? And what year is it? And judging from the equipment the guy is wearing, whether they’re left-handed or right-handed, the advertisements on the boards in the background, all these things went into researching who these guys are and tagging them and giving those photos values. When you’re setting up these systems there’s no point if you don’t apply the proper metadata along with that. Kind of all one project but all these different spokes to the project were really the challenges that we faced and at the same time, some of the success that we had.
Henrik de Gyor: What advice would you like to share with young professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Dan Piro: I think we talked about this a little bit, a couple years ago when we did the podcast, and in the digital world that we’re living in now, I think everybody’s kind of a media manager. I sort of equated it to managing an iTunes library back in the day. And now with your DVR and backing up your phone and having an iCloud and all of these things that are part of everyday life and becoming more and more ubiquitous are really just a small scale of what media managers do professionally. You just have to scale that up to what the needs are in a multi-billion dollar corporation.
In terms of advice, if you’re organized with your personal media and you understand how to handle those practices, you can start to apply that at the entry level and then learn how larger companies do this type of thing. I think the interesting thing that’s happening in the DAM industry is that people are now coming out of school having studied to do this kind of work where historically, I think people from the era when I got into it were people that were industry professionals and they fell into it. Whether you were running a tape, library, or you’re a production manager and you fell into this asset management world, now these people are coming up studying how to do it. That’s great but I think that people that come in with that type of background are probably going to be very stuck in their ways a little bit. “This is how I was taught it should be done, this is how we need to apply these procedures”.
I would say that they should reach out to the many departments and people that they’ll be interacting with and learn how they work because in most cases, a DAM is a supporting role much like a supporting actor is trying to help the lead shine. That’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re finding ways to help the company shine and generate revenue off of what we’re doing. But we’re not necessarily the revenue generator. I think you need to keep that in mind and understand that you’re part of a larger team and it’s not just about the best way for you to manage assets, but the best way for the assets that you manage to serve the company that you work for.
Finally, the one thing that I beat like a dead horse to all of the more entry level people that I work with is network and don’t burn bridges. Your network is what helps you succeed in the industry. That’s how you get jobs, that’s how you meet people, that’s how you make the contacts for the job that you want. It’s very important to have your Linkedin account set up and have it up to date and make sure that you’re constantly keeping in touch with all of the people that you interacted with professionally. It’s very easy today to contact people that you’ve worked with in the past without being a pain in their butt.
I remember when I was getting in making phone calls to people that I’d run into and they just don’t have the time of day to take calls and do that type of thing. But you can easily send a message that they can get back to you at their convenience. The current era is the easiest era to network ever because you just have to search people, and use that to your advantage. Networking is really the key factor that I’ve had in my success I think.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Well, thanks Dan.
Dan Piro: Thanks.
Henrik de Gyor: For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdampodcast.com where you’ll find another 190 other episodes like this. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again.