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DAM: getting creative with rich media

MediaBeacon, founded in 1989, has a line of digital asset management products based on open standards. It was selected by Showtime after a comprehensive needs analysis, during which numerous stakeholders were interviewed. “We discussed the challenges faced by the creative department, IT and outside partners such as cable affiliates,” says Paul Nicholson, VP, print and broadcast production, at Showtime. “We set up a ‘war room’ and a whiteboard map that documented what we wanted to accomplish.”

One major challenge was to manage the system with a limited set of resources. “We did not have a separate department that could be tasked with maintaining the system,” Nicholson explains. “We had to make it work through our operational units.” One powerful advantage the group had, however, was its well-designed business processes. “This aspect is critical,” Nicholson says. “People think that buying a tool will do it for them, but it won’t. You have to have sound processes to start with.”

The adherence of MediaBeacon’s R3volution to the XMP standard allows it to embed metadata in the digital asset file. “Business people enter data into systems we have, such as job tracking and scheduling systems,” Nicholson says. Once a business user enters data about a job, scripts run automatically to create a directory for it. The creative employee just needs to enter the job’s number and save the file to the directory. MediaBeacon then stamps the metadata into the file. “Trying to get creative people to enter metadata is a losing battle,” Nicholson says. “It’s much better to provide that information from other sources.”

Managing video assets

The group is beginning the process of upgrading to R3volution 3.0, in large part because the new version will allow users to customize their portals. “In some cases, a worker might need to select 20 images out of 4,000 to promote a show,” Nicholson explains, “while in another, the worker might need to pull together a presentation that is destined for an executive and includes print, photos and video. With Version 3.0, the workers will be able to set up their portals in the way that is most useful to them instead of having a standard user interface.”

Another initiative that the group will undertake is to enhance the management of video assets. “We are going full steam ahead with a robust system for video,” says Nicholson. “We have revolutionized the creation of DVDs within the MediaBeacon portal, so that our users can quickly find videos and create menu-driven DVDs from them.” Those clips might include trailers for shows or excerpts to be used in presentations. “Sometimes the video was checked out or hard to locate, which meant that setting up a DVD was time- consuming,” Nicholson adds. “Now it can be done in minutes.”

Video capability is an area where MediaBeacon’s R3volution has an edge over other DAM products, according to Tom Rieger, VP of marketing for MediaBeacon. “We are video-ready out of the box with a native transcoder,” he says. Transcoder software converts video from one format to another, which is required for delivery to different platforms. R3volution also can be integrated with other transcoder products such as Elemental Server from Elemental Technologies and products from Telestream.

Digital asset management generally requires a mix of applications to carry out all the required processes, which makes integration critical. “It’s not like imaging or document management, where a single application can go end to end,” Rieger says. “With DAM, all the pieces have to work together, and open standards help that happen.”   

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