How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
How does the broadcasting organization 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 Dave Klee. Dave, how are you?
Dave Klee: [0:09] I’m doing well, Henrik. How are you?
Henrik: [0:10] Good. Dave, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Dave: [0:14] Well, I actually read one of your earlier blog postings about making your elevator pitch, so I’ll give you mine so far. I’m a systems engineer, working in media asset management at NBC, so most of what I do focuses around organizing video files for NBC News. [0:30] Whenever you see old footage that shows of up of, maybe, a politician saying something contradictory, or some major event that’s happened in the past, I work on the systems that help people within the company find that stuff and put it into stories that they’re working on for the news. [0:45] As you can imagine, those systems are pretty big and complicated, so they need a lot of attention, and I work on a team that helps support them and figure out how to make them work better.
Henrik: [0:53] How does a broadcasting organization use Digital Asset Management?
Dave: [0:56] Well, there are a lot of uses within NBC, and I’ll only speak to the ones I know about. There are some things on the distribution side, obviously, that I don’t work with very much. People when we’re done making a TV show or a program, we’ll ship it off to someone else, and usually in many different formats, and a variety of different ways, so we have systems to facilitate that. [1:17] Also, when making TV programming, we’re working a lot with collateral material or things that would support that programming, so you might have graphic design for a website, or DVD material, or a billboard, or an advertisement. We have systems that help facilitate that, that I don’t work with very much. [1:33] What I do is really work with NBC News, and when I say, “News,” I mean “Nightly News,” anything that happens on MSNBC, the cable channel, the “Today Show,” and then some of our longer shows, the news magazines like “Dateline” and “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” [1:49] In these systems, there are really two major things we’re looking to accomplish with Digital Asset Management. First and foremost, it’s to enable daily editorial workflow, to let people get through the day, and also to build a longterm catalog and archive. I can briefly talk about what those mean, and I think it’s very interesting, because there are some tensions between those. [2:11] First of all, for a daily editorial workflow, it’s a big place, so there are a lot of people working on a lot of different things, as you can imagine, and we need systems that can tie people together, to allow them to collaborate, and share information, and share core footage, underlying what they’re working on. [2:30] A lot of times, things will end up being used across our different platforms. We might have a story that’s developing throughout the day on the cable channel that will incorporate a small piece with the nightly news, or we might have a small piece on the nightly news that ends up becoming a larger piece on one of the news magazine shows like Rock Center. [2:49] We need systems that help people work together, share footage, and we have producers working with editors. Sometimes, we have multiple video editors working on the same project. We just need systems that really facilitate that workflow and get people working together. [3:05] On the other side of things, we’re working on a long-term catalog and archive. Like, I’d imagine many broadcast organizations, we started with a lot of footage on film. Over time, this footage on film got migrated to videotape. Over time, the old videotapes got migrated to new videotapes. Now, we’re taking these videotapes and starting to put them into a centralized system, a centralized repository so that people can find them in the future. [3:36] As we’re doing that, we’re working on cleaning up the metadata because over time, metadata entry was done by many different people and manipulated in many different ways when things moved from one system to the other as you can imagine. There’s a lot of metadata cleanup that’s done during this process. [3:54] Then, there’s new footage, too, that’s constantly coming in. A lot of the new stuff that comes into the building comes in on satellite feeds from all over the world, and so we need some people who are sitting there adding metadata and cataloging things that are coming in in real time. [4:08] This footage is used both in future programming and sometimes, it’s sold to other people because one of the things we can do is license this footage. We need to keep track of rights and what we own and what we’re able sell to other people so when people are making other documentaries or TV shows or films, they may come to us looking for footage. [4:31] I think these two different things, the long-term cataloging and the short-term workflow, are really interesting because they have such different needs. I think there are really a few key conflicts or tensions that we have to think about and work on when we’re trying to support these systems and when we’re trying to fix them and build new ones. [4:54] One of the main ones is accessibility versus security. For daily workflow, we really want assets to be as accessible as possible. We want people to be able to get whatever they might need to get their job done, but in the long-term, you generally want to carefully want to manage your permission structure and make sure that people only get access to the stuff that they should have access to and prevent people from doing things that might be bad like accidentally deleting assets or changing metadata when they shouldn’t. [5:25] If you think about it in terms of a physical place, a building with doors, for the daily workflow, you might really want everyone to have the doors open and people just get wherever they need to go. But, for this long-term archive, you want carefully give out keys and carefully control which keys open which doors, so people only get access to the stuff that is appropriate. [5:47] That’s a real tension. Another big one is speed versus safety. For the daily workflow, you want people to get access to things as quickly as possible, and you want that to be a seamless process. We need systems that are fast enough to be able to grab something while it’s recording, put it into a project, and then ship it off to be played back on the news. [6:09] But that process flies in the face of building systems that are extra safe, because the safer systems aren’t necessarily the fastest systems. When you have a long-term archive, if you really want it to be safe, you want to put things on the safest media you can, but often the safest media is the slowest. [6:26] Another big tension for us is flexibility versus reliability, or maybe flexibility versus consistency. A lot of different people in the building, and you want to allow people to work the ways that they work best so that they can get their jobs done. That means you need to be flexible in daily workflows, but at the same time you really want to produce consistent results for this archive. You want metadata that’s full and complete, and you want things to be very consistent for the long term. [6:54] That’s a big tension for us. The last one I’ll mention is usability versus quality. Ideally, and this is very true for video files, you want the highest possible quality video file in your archive, but there’s a price to that. The highest quality video files not only can be very big, which makes your system much more expensive, because you have to build in extra storage and extra bandwidth to accommodate such big files. [7:22] It can also be complicated when you’re dealing with the highest quality files, because often these are original files that came right out of a camera, and many different cameras use many different types of video files. The video world is very fragmented when it comes to types of video. If you put the original video file, which is arguably the highest quality, into your archive, you may be dealing with a file format that doesn’t exist in a few years, or a file format that’s very complicated to get into the system that want to use it in. [7:55] You end up with these very complicated workflows that make the system less usable. By streamlining a system on just a few codecs, a few types of video, and making them compressed or standardized in a certain way, it can make the system much easier to use, much easier to build. But that’s a real tension that we’re always trying to figure out, because the archival aspect demands quality, and the workflow aspect really demands usability. [8:25] These tensions, I’d imagine, are in a lot of different technologies, but I think they’re just amplified in a big broadcast news environment, because there’s a huge difference between how the fastest system would perform and the safest system. Small choices you make in different types of video formats would demand a whole different type of architecture. [8:45] Really, we need, for the broadcast world, systems that can serve both masters. We need a short-term fast and flexible workflow enabling tool, and we need a long-term, secure, high quality, centralized repository. Both those things need to happen, and I think that provides some interesting challenges and some opportunities.
Henrik: [9:05] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Dave: [9:09] For people who are DAM professionals, I’ve actually listened to some of your other podcasts, I wouldn’t necessarily purport to have any advice to offer them. I’ve gotten some useful tips from the ones I’ve listened to. But, for people looking to get into it, or looking in from the outside, I can tell you there are a few things that have really helped organize my thinking around Digital Asset Management since I’ve gotten into it. [9:31] One of them is about these choices that you have to make, and understanding that Digital Asset Management, once you really get into it, I think is about making some tough choices, often between two different things that are right, but they can’t both be right at the same time. Successful organizations are the ones that, at the outset, do a lot of self-analysis, really look at what the organization needs and wants, and take times to discuss these tradeoffs, because not only does that help you build a better system, but I think that helps you build consensus and set expectations about what your DAM will do and what it won’t do well. [10:12] The second thing is, as a technologist, I’m constantly trying to remind myself that technology doesn’t always have all the answers for us. Those answers are really within the organization or within workflows. [10:26] Rather than just adopting whatever new technology comes out and then trying to force that into the workflow for the users, I think it’s a much more powerful way to work when you centralize on your workflows, how people want to work and how your organization wants to be. Let that drive your technological decisions. [10:46] Then, I think those technologies can really fall into place. You make those decisions from a place of much more power. [10:54] The final thing I might share is that I really believe Digital Asset Management is a journey, not a destination, per se. There are a lot of vendors that I think will encourage this big bang idea of you buy something off the shelf, you implement it and you put all your stuff inside. Bang, your assets are managed, problem is solved. [11:16] I think the more you do things with Digital Asset Management, the more you realize that’s not the case. It’s an ongoing process. Even once you’ve got a very good system in place, over time it’s going to need to adapt to new people, to new workflows, new technologies, new ideas. A good system is going to do that for a very long time, and that’s OK .
Once I stopped looking at Digital Asset Management as a problem that could be solved and started looking at it as a process that could be managed, that really helped me, not only make some better decisions, but set some better expectations within the organization and help build systems that just made more sense.
[11:37] Once I stopped looking at Digital Asset Management as a problem that could be solved and started looking at it as a process that could be managed, that really helped me, not only make some better decisions, but set some better expectations within the organization and help build systems that just made more sense. [11:57] For people starting out or looking at this process, I think those are some things that have helped me ground my thinking.
Henrik: [12:04] Well, thanks, Dave.
Dave: [12:05] Thank you. It has been a pleasure.
Henrik: [12:06] For more on Digital Asset Management, log onto AnotherDAMblog.com. Another DAM Podcast is available on Audioboom, iTunesand the Tech Podcast Network. Thanks again.