Ever since folding DAM Coalition into PVC, we’ve been exploring what terms like digital asset management, media asset management and metadata mean to media & entertainment professionals. We’ve talked with a number of different experts about how these concepts are becoming an essential aspect of the production process for individuals and organizations, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Simian is a company that has been focused on explaining what these terms can mean to M&E professionals for years now, as their tools are being utilized in production and post-production environments. Their solution allows users to collaborate, present, share and track media assets in an easy and effective manner.
To discuss the specifics of what it means to do such things in a smarter fashion, we talked with Simian COO Brian Atton. He breaks down what some of these terms means, explains some of the core issues that professionals struggle with, mentions how these considerations can impact the bottom line and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: In a nutshell, what can a media asset management (MAM) system do for an organization?
Brian Atton: At its core, MAM is the uploading, management, collaboration and sharing of digital assets. By leveraging these assets MAM, should drive new business and increase team and client collaboration throughout the production process.
What sort of organization needs that? The answer is any organization that produces video, content, music, product lines…the list goes on. If you have media that needs to be shared, collaborated on or repurposed to gain new business or you need to manage and track the distribution of digital assets, then some form of MAM is right for you.
Do individuals and organizations inherently think about this concept differently?
I think so. For example, a production company may think of MAM in terms of a repository to store all of their director’s commercials. The director’s work is easily accessible and can be used to create custom presentations (reels) when pitching new work.
On the other hand, a corporate company may think of MAM as way to store thousands of media assets in one central location and distribute them to vendors and clients as needed. You could almost think of MAM as a control mechanism ensuring the right assets get distributed to the right clients/vendors for the correct use cases.
Corporate companies may also think of MAM as a way to collaborate on WIP files internally and with clients. Companies are demanding more out of the software that they use these days. Companies are looking to eliminate software so I would say MAM has become more all-encompassing to meet specific workflows.
There is also a trend in specialization. Early MAM systems were “one size fits all”, but now-a-days there are many products on the market that meet the needs of specific verticals. Finding the right MAM can mean the difference between increased productivity and frustration.
Let’s break this down as far as it can go…what sort of “assets” are you typically dealing with?
Mostly video. Audio, images and documents are popular file types as well but when we’re talking about assets we’re talking about any type of file can be uploaded. Also, any files that can be displayed or played within a web browser.
These assets include versioning, and versioning definitely plays a significant factor within MAM especially when reviewing WIP files. In terms of video, for every cut there’s potentially a new version to review. The ability to compare versions or even revert back to a previous is a must.
Is your focus on organizing these assets, storing them or integrating them into a workflow?
It’s a little bit of all of that.
For example, a post house might use Simian to collaborate with clients and stakeholders on works-in-progress files. Once the project is finished the asset can be stored and used later in a sales or reel presentation in order to win new business. The same files can also be used to power web sites with simple embed codes or even more complex integrations like mobile apps and OTT channels via an API.
Metadata is a word that gets tossed around a lot when we talk about this technology, and everyone seems to define it differently. What do professionals need to know about metadata?
As the questions states, metadata means different things to different people. To a production house metadata could be your credits, who/what/when/where about a piece of media. To a post house, while metadata can still mean this, it tends to mean the data embedded in a piece of media including edit information, notes, markers, comments, etc.
Individuals and organizations should absolutely make a concerted effort to define what metadata can and should mean for them. Metadata is really about organization and embedded information about a piece of media. It’s almost pointless to invest in MAM and not think about how you organize your media. Metadata is key when retrieving media either by a filter or a search. Categorization and tagging media is absolutely a must.
How have you seen the capabilities of these systems and the market < ’ < s need evolve over the past few years?
Mobile accessibility has become increasingly more important. We live in an on-demand society and media asset management is no different. Opportunities are created and lost in a matter of minutes so responsiveness is key.
Media asset managers are evolving complex software originally designed for the desktop by simplifying the UX and UI to work on mobile devices. The best MAMs allow users to collaborate, create, send and track presentations right from their mobile devices …really powerful stuff.
How has the cloud impacted or changed the way we approach storage and workflow?
The same challenges that face the cloud are still the same challenges that faced it 10 years ago when it was just called a server. The biggest challenge is bandwidth and file size. Not everyone has Pied Piper technology to do middle out compression (and if you watch Silicon Valley you know what I’m talking about) so pushing source files is still a major issue with the cloud. The big thing the cloud has done is bring teams together and made it much easier for companies to collaborate internally and with their clients no matter where they are. With mobile devices, it has really extended to EVERYWHERE. I think we’ll really see this continue to grow and the current issues with bandwidth will continue to shrink as speeds go up and new compression technologies are developed.
Raw storage price drops will most likely continue to drop, but without software the cloud is really nothing. It takes a significant engineering effort to build and maintain the cloud. It also takes a team of engineers to develop cloud-based systems like MAMs. At the end of the day the price of storage is a small factor when it comes to doing business in the cloud.
Is the core issue that we’re simply dealing with so much more data and so many more assets than we had been previously?
I heard a statistic that 90% of the world’s stored data was created in the last 10 years. I’m not sure whether that’s true or not but it seems reasonable.
There are definitely more assets due to more media outlets beyond traditional broadcast – namely Youtube. But the data itself for each asset has grown considerably – just a few years ago SD was the standard, now HD is and 4K is hot on it’s heels. With every jump in resolution comes a jump in files size as well the smaller formats to support devices that don’t have 4K support. So one 4K file format can really mean several other associated formats.
We’ve seen a number of review and approval options come out over the last few years, but collaboration has always been a key component of a MAM system, hasn’t it?
Traditionally, MAM’s were centered around storage and organization of files. I’d say in the last 5-6 years since MAM systems have migrated to the cloud that it’s really opened the door for collaboration and review & approval options. However, I wouldn’t consider many of the review and approval applications popping up to be MAMs.
Who do you usually find yourself talking to in an organization about their asset management system? Is it is systems admin, or a producer, or perhaps the owner of the company? How do those conversations go?
At smaller companies we’re generally talking with owners or EP’s, whereas larger companies we are dealing directly with the IT staff.
Owners/EP’s are focused on generating new business and collaborating with clients, while looking good while they are doing it. Not that they don’t care about the technical aspects. They do, they just might not know the questions to ask.
The IT staff is the exact opposite. They are more concerned about the technology running the platform, uptime, security, content delivery, data centers, backups, etc. Once they realize the platform meets their technical needs and meets the requirements of the day-to-day users then it’s off to the races.
How have you seen organizations use their MAM to impact their bottom line?
MAMs are designed to leverage media assets and drive new business. They also help eliminate software, IT staff and web developers, so right there, we’re talking about an impact to both sides of a bottom line. MAM really allows companies to focus on their core business rather than allocating resources to meet their technology needs.
I always get a laugh out of the DIY’s that try to do this stuff themselves… I mean do you want to grow your business or manage technology?
Taking a DIY approach can be setting yourself for failure, can’t it? I imagine most organizations have no idea what they’re getting into, or how much time and money would be saved by not trying to handle everything themselves.
I don’t know if it’s setting yourself up for failure, but it’s definitely time, money and resources not spent on building your business.
MAM may seem like a simple concept, however, it really isn’t. There are so many moving parts coupled with the rate that browsers, operating systems and other underlying technologies update. It takes a team to stay on top of changes that effect MAM.
Look at it this way. Let’s say you invest $349 a month in MAM, which works out to be $4,188.00 per year. Compare that to what it would cost to DIY. After developing a suitable platform, the software maintenance and time spent dealing with unexpected issues will far exceed the yearly investment of a MAM. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of cloud hosting, storage or content delivery. Scalability issues, system slow downs, little or no dedicated maintenance staff can turn into a sizable money pit and create a big sore point within companies.
At the end of the day, investing in MAM is a small investment for a solution that enables you to generate business and streamline the way you collaborate with and clients and teams. It’s a no brainer.
How how have you seen organizations directly impacted by a change to the way they were operating?
The biggest impact that we see across the board is how MAM frees up time and valuable resources. It’s allowed companies to collaborate, share and present media … smarter.
MAM is also helping our clients market their creative talent more effectively by using analytics and reporting features to see which media is most successful. Not to mention they look amazingly professional when they pitch new business and present to their clients.
Most companies are open to a different approach. Change brings new opportunities and once an organization realizes the potential it takes very little convincing if any at all.
The proof is really in the results. Once a company makes a decision to adhere to a new method it really only takes a few weeks if not days for them to realize the benefits. Depending on the organization the benefits can be almost instant.
What sort of conversation do you typically have with someone who is just beginning to figure out how a MAM can or will fit into their organization?
The conversation usually begins with the what are you doing now and how are you doing it types of questions, and also what are the pain points.
After we figure out what they are currently doing, we help them identify areas where they can streamline processes and help them get the most out of their daily workflows by implementing MAM.
We deal with everyone from small companies with less than a hundred assets all the way to large agencies and brands with terabytes of assets, so it’s really just about figuring out the best fit.
We have a white paper that you can download to learn more and you can always call to ask questions.