Thursday, September 23, 2010

#0041 Asset management 101 – part 1: introduction

Mumbai, India – When it comes to managing your digital media assets, an elaborate database with asset access and revision control, cross referencing, robust search capabilities, linkage to command and control approval systems, solid pipeline integration and automatic mirroring is a wonderful thing. But, no matter how great the asset management system, quite often you'll find someone needs to access and locate data without using the database system. And, despite the mythology that these systems are a panacea, asset management database systems are expensive to deploy and maintain. So much so that few if any small and medium size shops have these tools. Asset management databases are the jet set luxury item of the super-rich vfx houses.

a logo for Adobe BridgeImage via Wikipedia
Case in point, consider Adobe Bridge, a marvelous application. The basic application comes with most or all Adobe Creative Suite products. This great little application allows the user to quickly categorize digital media assets, with a focus on stills and movies. Give it a folder or hard drive to examine, and it will return all the media in those folders it recognizes with a thumbnail, and the rest with an icon. The user can then tag the images with meta-data like the names of people in the shots, location, and so forth. The user, functioning as a librarian, can set-up a classification system and categorize images and movies by any criteria – completely independent of file location on the hard drive. Media can be viewed and edit applications launched. It's a great thing, and a short investment in time can organize the library.

But there's a catch – it only works in single user mode. Only one user can load and edit the library catalog at a time. It also is, by default, tied to a user account, although I'm sure the data can be made accessible to others, one at a time. As a collaboration tool, it is very limited, unless you want to invest in the server edition, which is relatively inexpensive but less easy to sell to management than the need for a CS bundle.

Even if you do get an app like Bridge approved, the next hurdle is its limited range of formats. Despite Adobe's support of many formats in its product line, Bridge may not generate thumbnails for some of these file types. Whether it's Bridge or some other application, you may be compelled to customize the application with plug-ins and file readers, or learn to accept that it cannot display the files.

Good asset management requires a solid system, and even a small project needs good asset management. The key to good asset management doesn't begin with expensive off-the-shelf or expensive custom solutions – it begins with a well-designed file system and solid file naming conventions. 
Next: Asset management 101 – part 2 - Understanding File Classification