DAM with a video spin

"We chose Alfresco because its virtual file system makes ECM as simple as using a shared drive," says Marc Lefebvre, business development manager at Sollan. "In addition, its open architecture and the ease with which we could make demos were also major benefits."

Sollan’s Video Content Management (VCM) is a ready-to-use product that integrates directly into Alfresco. VCM is designed to address all aspects of the business use of videos. It imports and stores videos of any format and size, indexes the metadata and allows the addition of related information. For example, graphical annotations can be added, such as a circle drawn around an item shown in a video frame to emphasize it.

VCM also can be integrated with other applications. "It can be accessed from any application such as Microsoft Word or other content management system," says Bruno Barret, CEO of Sollan. "Users can search for videos, share them and link to other information in an intranet or extranet application." VCM is aimed at a broad range of users, including research, marketing and sales departments, as well as training and technical support.

The open, standards-based architecture of Alfresco helps make integration rapid and straightforward. "Before Alfresco, there was no open source product on the ECM market," says John Newton, co-founder and CTO of Alfresco, "and none that emulated the Microsoft file drive protocol." Customers download the product at no cost, with Alfresco’s revenues derived from its consulting activities to customize the product.

"Sollan’s VCM handles streaming video so that segments can be previewed and selected," Newton says. "This capability helps reduce the storage requirements for video, which can be considerable. Some content management systems, SharePoint for example, also have limits on file size, so using a repository in which file size is unlimited is a significant benefit for customers who need to manage video files."

More on video in ECM

Universal Content Management (UCM) from Oracle is focused on distribution and consumption of digital assets. "Good software is available for creating video and other assets such as images," says Andy MacMillan, VP for product management at Oracle, "but once they are created, they need to be distributed, and that’s the issue we are focused on."

The same video clip may be used in multiple ways. "Companies don’t want to pay again to have multiple versions of the same work," MacMillan continues. "They want to be able to store the asset, find it and reuse it." If a video clip was used in a training program, for example, it can be repurposed as a product demo on a Web site, as long as it can be located and formatted for the intended channel.

One of the strengths of UCM is its ability to integrate many supporting products. For example, UCM can be integrated with FlipFactory from Telestream (telestream.net), a product that converts video so it can be used for broadcast, Web sites, podcasts or other channels. "Because our architecture
allows ready integration of these products, customers can use whatever tool works best for them," MacMillan says, "and if a new tool comes out that they like better, it’s no problem to switch."

Metadata associated with video is compared to rules in UCM to determine how the file is distributed. UCM also stores full text of videos, so that users can move to a particular point in the text. The extraction of metadata directly from the video segments is an area where MacMillan expects some development in the industry in the future. "Products that can search for particular images are not in the mainstream yet," he says, "but they are in the works, and will contribute to the use of video in a broader way."

Sorting out the options

Given the plethora of DAM products available, choosing the right one can present a challenge. Seeking informed and objective advice can save time and money. DPCI is an interactive technology agency that helps companies select and implement DAM systems. "Our customers want us to provide guidance in best practices along with software solutions," says Joseph Bachana, DPCI president.

DPCI helps define DAM requirements, select potential vendors and evaluate the responses. "Vendors typically send back proposals that are not comparable to each other," Bachana says. "We have developed templates for the vendors to fill out, to help our customers reconcile the responses more quickly."

The most common mistake that organizations make when selecting a DAM system is to look at the products first. Bachana explains, "Companies should be thinking about their requirements, and should not get too entranced with neat features before they know what they need."

Failing to involve users sufficiently in the selection process is also a mistake. "People tend to own what they select," Bachana says. "A happy user becomes an effective evangelist for the new system, but the opposite effect occurs when the system does not meet the user’s needs."

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