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Another DAM Podcast interview with Jay O’Brien on 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 Jay O’Brien.

Jay, how are you?

Jay O’Brien:  [0:09] I’m doing great. How are you?

Henrik:  [0:10] Great. Jay, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Jay:  [0:14] In my role at the Baltimore Ravens, I’m the director of broadcasting and stadium productions. I fell into the Digital Asset Management role here. I started 11 years ago here as an intern, just logging tape, doing tape‑to‑tape editing and logging tape in the…I think it was AVID media logger.

[0:35] I got very good at Digital Asset Management in terms of typing out every single play of every single Ravens’ game. That’s how I became a stickler for asset management and also became a football fan.

[0:47] I say I fell into it, because Digital Asset Management, as I’ve advanced through the Ravens and now I’m in charge of the broadcasting department, we were faced with a situation where we basically had to make a move. The previous system we’re on was at its end of life and it was of course going to be a big investment to upgrade.

[1:06] I took on the role of learning as much as I could about all the new asset management systems that were out there. It’s pretty exciting. It’s not something I thought I would be interested in but I’ve been working with some great people at other teams, and with our consulting group that we used to implement this new system that we’re on.

[1:24] I’ve really learned a lot and there are some great people in the field like yourself who’ve been very, I guess, instrumental in helping me to learn as much as I can about this. Now, I wouldn’t in any respect call myself an expert. I’m an intermediate novice in this whole thing and learning more about it every day.

[1:38] Our primary objective here is to create great content. When we made this change, I guess more involved in automating our Digital Asset Management, helped us to get away from the tedious typing out every player’s name and to actually editing content.

Henrik:  [1:53] How does a football team use Digital Asset Management?

Jay:  [1:57] It’s pretty interesting. For an NFL team, there are actually two different video departments that are using Digital Asset Management for two completely different purposes.

[2:06] We have a coaching video department which is using Digital Asset Management to record every play from practice and every play from the games so that our coaches can then go through to analyze the plays for teaching and to get ready for future opponents and that type of thing.

[2:22] What my department does is more on the entertainment side. We create television shows that air in our local market here in Baltimore and Washington, DC, also on our team’s website and mobile app and iPad app and all that kind of good stuff. Then, we also create all the entertainment at our home games on our big screens and our ancillary video boards.

[2:47] What we’re using Digital Asset Management for is to capture all the footage that we shoot at practice, at games, off the field with our players doing work in the community and that sort of thing. We’re using Digital Asset Management to capture and tag all that media so that it’s very easily searchable for us.

[3:11] You don’t know that you need a shot until you need a shot. We were working on a feature this past season about our old national anthem singer who sang national anthem for the first 18 years of our franchise. We had logged the first game that he sang the national anthem.

[3:29] While you’re logging and tagging that asset, you’re probably thinking to yourself “When am I ever going to need this?” But you eventually do. I’m sure that the people that are for us doing a lot of loggings sometimes are thinking “Wow, they’re never going to use this clip.” Surprisingly, we often do.

[3:45] With a team that’s now in our 20th season of existence like the Baltimore Ravens, we’re getting to the point now where we’re doing a lot of look backs and in‑a‑moment‑in‑time of the most famous plays and players in our history. Without a robust Digital Asset Management system, we wouldn’t be able to create the content and the quality that our fans demand.

Henrik:  [4:06] Jay, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Jay:  [4:10] For us, the biggest challenge is, with this new system that we have, we’re utilizing the Levels Beyond Reach engine. But it gives you the chance to create as many metadata fields and as many metadata keywords as you want.

[4:24] That’s the challenge and the success of the new system. You want to be able to search by all sorts of different tags. You also don’t want to create too many that you get bogged down with it or that the tagging process takes such a long time that it becomes not very worthwhile.

[4:43] That was our big challenge with this new system. Now going back in time, before you were able to tag metadata using drop down menus and things like that, everything was manual. You were typing everything out. At least, we were.

[4:58] For example, we had someone logging for us back 10 years ago who spelt a certain player’s name wrong for the entire season and nobody caught it. That’s a big challenge because when we’re searching for that player’s name and we’re thinking, “We know this player had good plays during the year. Why aren’t any of them showing up in our asset manager?” It was all just because of a misspelling.

[5:19] That’s a challenge that we’ve certainly overcome now with this new system where we can easily load an Excel roster of our players and then you type in the first letter or two letters of the player’s name and you move on. This new system has saved us a lot of time.

[5:32] At the same time, when we were first establishing the system and determining what fields and what key words we wanted, I think at first we may have gotten too overly ambitious of creating so many different fields that it was taking longer for the first few weeks of our season to log our games and not less time, which is what we anticipated going into the season.

[5:54] We were logging everything from what color jerseys our players were wearing, what the weather was like. It’s really just trying to be ambitious without being overly so where it’s really costing you time and not saving you time.

Henrik:  [6:07] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Jay:  [6:12] When we went through the process of choosing a new asset manager, we demoed as many of the new systems as we could. We also spoke with, in our case, other football teams that we knew had made this transition to a new system or teams that we knew were as robust as we are in terms of the amount of content we produce.

[6:33] Reach out to other people. Demoing is great and that was certainly helpful for us to demo every system we could. It was equally important for us to talk to people who have actually used the system, specific to our needs.

[6:46] We talked to some people who were using the system we went with and other systems but whose objectives are different than ours. What system may work for a sports team may not work for somebody who’s doing news programming or something like that.

[7:02] Reach out to as many people as you can who you think would be using the system for similar purposes. In our case, we leaned heavily on our consultant and integrator during the project to have them connect us to other sports leagues and organizations who we knew would be using the system for somewhat similar purposes.

[7:22] As I said before, as much as you can, figure out in advance what types of fields and key words you would like to use and have that all laid out. In our circumstance, we’re still evolving and we’re still adding metadata fields and key words and we’re removing some too. Don’t be afraid to do that and say, “This one is unimportant. We don’t really need this.”

[7:44] Those would be my two pieces of advice. It’s certainly a learning experience. This will be our sixth game of the season coming up. Just now we’re starting to get really into a flow and using the system in a way that is most beneficial to us.

Henrik:  [8:00] Thanks, Jay.

Jay:  [8:01] Thank you. Anytime.

Henrik:  [8:02] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics go to For this and 170 other podcast episodes, go to If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to me at Thanks again.

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Another DAM Podcast interview with Rob Schuman on 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 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 Another DAM is available on AudioBoom and iTunes.

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