In the context of a Content Management System an asset is a data record or a file that the system focuses on. In this sense images are considered assets in an image database, but not the hidden system files. They are indeed files, but don't possess any content that is interesting for the system. The same applies for data records.
Data records, that hold additional information about an asset are called Metadata.
A CMS is understood as a central software system that makes content administrable and delivers it so that it can be used by users or external systems. For example a CMS can provide the content for a website.
Media and Image Databases are included generally in the category of CMS systems.
A Digital Asset Management system is a CMS, that manages and makes digital Assets (Data) available, for example text documents, contracts, images and videos.
Many Digital Asset Management systems have an additional focus on Media Asset Management or Video Asset Management for image, audio and video management.
Media Asset Management systems are capable of managing digital assets exactly like Digital Asset Management systems. Their functionality is designed rather more for visualisation and manipulation of media assets, like images, videos and in some cases layout documents. They are especially more capable than normal CMS systems, for example, in their ability to analyse image information and to manipulate media assets via the system.
Metadata is described as additional information about an object. As a concrete example from the Digital Media Asset Management, the photographer would be metadata record for an image. Metadata is, next to the actual assets, the most important information in an asset database. For example they can be browsed to find assets on the basis of their metadata criteria. They provide information such as intended use or ownership. Good systems allow an overall planning of the metadata.
MIME Type (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) identifies the content type of a file. Thus it is possible to differentiate categories such as audio, application, image, text, video and so on. Usually the MIME type is written into the file – which however, is not always possible. As an alternative the file can be identified by their file extension, which however, is somewhat less reliable. However, there is not a MIME type available for each file type. In this case the most DAM systems use their own definitions to identify the file type.
Mount Point is a term introduced by Unix systems that, in the meantime, plays a role in most operating systems and asset management systems. A mount point can be understood as an entry point in a file systems, for example, a hard-drive or a network drive. Some CMS systems support group dependent mount points. This has the result that different user groups can be granted access to different data sectors on a storage medium. Good systems also support mount point lists so that, for example, access can be granted on different drives.
The term Proof was coined in DAM systems from a technique from the printing industry, where prior to production a sample/test print was produced to check the resulting quality, colour fidelity and accuracy. In such a case this is called a impression or print proof.
With the digitalisation of the print industry newer and newer solutions for “proofing” were introduced to the market. Today it is possible to even produce a soft proof. In this method the desired asset is not produced on a printer, but simply on a monitor. With the aid of combined monitor and print profiles the subsequent print result can be displayed on the monitor as a sample within a specified tolerance.
The Video Asset Management system also belongs to the category of Content Management and Digital Asset Management systems. A VAM provides special functionality for viewing and editing video contents. Some VAM systems operate also with special video editing software to keep the quality and the duration of the editing processes as high as possible.
Many VAM systems provide a preview via a configurable number of frames that, for example are shown every 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 seconds. In most cases, these settings are freely configurable according to your requirements.
The XMP is published standard from Adobe to save metadata directly in an asset. This technology is used also, for example, in high quality photographic cameras to save data such as exposure, geographic co-ordinates and so on.
Such a file receives increasingly more and more information in their XMP data that describes their contents or their history during the course of their life. With the industry standard Creative Suite the metadata in the most important products can be managed and maintained. Good DAM systems are able to read out this information, make it available for searches and add new information to the XMP data.
The cross media application of the asset is achieved via the high quality central storage of their data. With versions of the best quality it is possible to process various derivatives for diverse uses such as print, presentations, web, mobile and so on. As required these derivatives can be pre-processed, or processed on demand. This occurs however, fully automated via the DAM system so that no administrative cost is incurred during normal daily operation. Continuous quality is ensured via individual configurations.
The software solutions used in business applications are usually client-server applications that provide the user access to the data via a web application. In the context of web server availability, which are usually permanently in operation, the assets and their information are thus permanently available. Permanent availability can only be achieved exclusively by systems that require a special software installation at the client or provide exclusive access via the file system; technical requirements that must first be created on each computer.
The advantage of lower costs can be substantiated through the high costs that result from not implementing a DAM to facilitate cross media application and permanent access.
Often the real costs of asset management are not considered in the original basic design. Thus DAM systems are able to optimise, for example, the time required to search for assets, the manual effort required to convert the assets into the desired or suitable formats for each application, as well as the provision of a central contact for ensuring adherence to guidelines for the use of the assets.
One of the basic principles of the DAM is a single and unique data storage. Each asset is stored in its best quality and processed for the respective cross media application.
As a part of this, good systems should be able to recognise duplicates. As a result it is no longer necessary for an asset to be saved, for example, with its own project or within an application – something that would lead to an increase in the storage required and unclear asset structures.
Many DAM systems operate today without a client software that must be installed on every computer where the system is to be used. Most of the time a web browser is sufficient to access the system. For some it is a cost saving and for others it makes the system available on as many systems as possible, without producing huge costs and investment. Leading systems are also cross-platform compatible – that means, that they can also operate identically on PC, MAC and Linux systems.
Durch die zentrale Datenhaltung und der Servertechnologie, ergibt sich ein zentraler Aktionspunkt rund um die Assets. In diesem zentralen System haben Mitarbeiter, Partner und Kunden die Möglichkeit ihr Arbeiten an den Assets (Auswahl, Bearbeitung, Verschlagwortung) zu koordinieren. Einige Systeme bieten zudem die Möglichkeit, die Arbeiten durch die Sofware zu koordinieren.
Je intensiver eine Person mit digitalen Assets arbeitet und je größer die Anzahl an Personen ist, die das in einem Unternehmen oder in einem Verbund tuen, desto höher ist das Potential zur Steigerung der Produktivität. Nicht nur durch das schnelle Auffinden von Assets lässt sich die Produktivität steigern. Auch Zusatzinformationen, die im Rahmen von normalen Strukturen gar nicht verfügbar wären helfen dabei. So liefern einige DAM Systeme zum Beispiel Informationen darüber, in welchen Dokumenten bestimmte Bilder verwendet werden.
Aber auch durch sogenannte Workflows und der Möglichkeit der koordinierten Zusammenarbeit ist eine Steigerung der Produktivität sehr wahrscheinlich.
Like in every warehouse, online shop or workshop being able to find a certain object quickly is fundamental. If the desired assets are not able to be found (quickly), then the DAM is not useful.
This is achieved with a properly maintained information metadata structure. This structure can also be maintained by the users, or also through automatic processes that add information. These processes analyse the asset as soon as it is available in the system and write information like MIME type, file size, format, height/width (for media data), colour space, number of pages, etc in the metadata.
The various media and image databases differ essentially also by how they deal with each data type and which information they can extract to provide to the user in the metadata. This is useful mainly in searching for assets. The standard information includes physical information, file size, format, revision date, etc. Recently biometric information such as the number of faces/people in the picture/video, or the predominant colour combinations are being automatically analysed. This enables searching for images with matching colours or pictures of groups of people or even specific people within the database
A further basic functionality of a media or image database is the preview of various file formats via the system interface. This is how a MAM/DAM processes previews for images, layout documents, videos, office documents and many more. The user of the system doesn't even need to install each software product on their computer to be able to access the contents. The quality of the preview and the types of previews which can be processed can be configured on most professional systems.
Asset Processing describes the processing of assets with the purpose to obtain information from the asset to add to the metadata or to process previews or derivatives. Processes included among asset processing are the extraction of texts from documents to enable a full-text search, determining physical data, processing derivatives, and the application of marking such as watermarks and batches.
Through the administration of user groups and user roles, the various authorisation concepts as well as representational variant can be implemented. Using user groups it is thus possible to individually manage mount points, authorisation for derivatives, visibility of metadata and much more. A group or role concept is generally part of all Enterprise Asset Management systems.
MAM / DAM systems that are used to monitor file systems are also capable of recognising and reacting accordingly to changes that are not performed via the system interface. That is especially important for users that are involved in processing of assets outside the system, for example with Creative Suite. These normally function via the file system.
Depending on the media/image database and server operating system on which it is installed, various monitoring technologies come into play.
The recognition of duplicates is a complex, but very important topic. Simple systems recognise duplicates from identical file names. More advanced systems already analyse the so called Checksum (test value) for an asset, that can be determined independently from the file name. By far it is even more difficult and more complex to recognise duplicates by analysing the content, so that not only classic copies but also small changes can be recognised.
DVD robots are normally used for two functional reasons. The most important function is to support automated allocation workflows for users of the image and media database. The system enables the “ordering” of assets on a CD/DVD/BlueRay disk that is then automatically compiled and written by the DVD robot. A further function is the automated generation of back-ups on a CD/DVD/BlueRay medium.
The term Indexing is understood as inquiry, analysis and saving of information so that it can be found quickly with in the system. Not all metadata are always indexed. Which information is indexed is determined by the requirements of the user.
Different to normal metadata, indexed data is edited especially for searching, to increase the speed of the inquiry and also the relevance of the search result.
Project folders assist in the organisation of daily work and the co-ordination of tasks. In some systems the project folder means nothing more than a certain folder in the file system in which a metadata for a project can be saved in the future.
Other systems are able to use a folder structure template for projects. As a result, for example in project type A) the sub-directories Upload, Layout Documents and Final Documents are created in the project directory, and for project type B) the sub-directories Meeting Notes, Approvals and Images appear in the project directory.
In addition to managing the various asset versions it is also possible to compare the versions of an asset. It is not only possible for text documents, but also for media files. Thus it is possible to compare images pixel by pixel to identify a retouched tree in a landscape or the deletion of unwanted shadows as a different version.
Usually the version comparison is used to check work or to select assets.
The processing of previews or derivates is normally performed centrally and promptly on the server. To process a preview there are many different techniques depending on file type. Some systems base the preview on their own algorithms and tools, others achieve the processing completely or in part via software from third party providers. Here is important to take note that the correct image is selected so that the system can also process the required derivatives. Thus for example, the preview of Office documents or Layout documents like in InDesign can not be assumed.
Almost all systems enable the supply of original files via a “shopping” cart. This enables the user, depending on their authority, to collect the desired assets into the cart and download them. Some systems provide other techniques, mostly without using the cart for direct downloads.
As not all users should be able to view and work on the assets, access rights are controlled via a central administration. The allocation of access rights normally takes place on the basis of user groups or roles.
The provision of data for externs, for example customers, partners, freelancers, who don't have direct access to the image and media database can be resolved via various technologies. Although, it is recommended to provide the data via the MAM/DAM so that the information stored pertaining to copyright and application is delivered together. Some manufacturers call this provision eTicket, in which case it involves sending an email message from the system to each recipient, mainly as an individual interface to view the asset and asset metadata.
Basically there are various ways that data/assets can find their way into the system. One of them is via the user interface of the system. Therewith it is possible to decide between simple uploads into the system or so called managed importing.
For managed importing, depending on the provider, additional functionality and supporting tools are provided. Thus during managed importing it is normal to perform a mass meta-tagging, and also control individual options of the asset processing to improve the quality of the asset and the metadata.
The "Batching" of images is understood as overlaying an image with a further graphic element in the context of copy protection, the copy right law or for other information reasons. As a rule images that are provided to external viewers or unauthorised user groups for previewing are batched. Common forms of batching are circles or squares with text to transfer the respective information.
To make an interface available to the users of an image or media archive, in which only relevant information and functions are provided, there is the option of customised interfaces. Here the various users can differentiate themselves completely. Some concentrate on the production of various designs for the web interface, whilst others the options to configure individual function menus such as the search function and the metadata display.
In most cases at sometime it the need will arise to integrate a DAM/MAM system with or in other systems. One of the main aspects in relation to connection with an external system is the provision of data for subsequent processing or display systems. As an example it may involve a web-shop to display images and texts, a product database for visualisation of products via video, or integration into the Creative Suite to achieve quick access to the assets for further processing.
In addition to the display of images there is large number of document types that are capable of storing multiple page contents. They can be Office documents, PDFs or InDesign documents. As soon as a system is technically capable of preparing a preview of the data format, the interface allows it then to be leafed through on the user interface.
The slide show provides the user with the option to conveniently and clearly view a selected number of assets in large format. The goal is to provide quick sorting of the assets for selection or presentation.
The full-text search requires that the Asset Management System is able to process the given types of assets. Crucially, this determines if a system is able to perform a full-text search for Word documents or not. In addition some systems show a decrease in speed as soon as the full-text searches become too much.
With the aid of watermarks it is possible to mark assets so that they are only useable for preview or limited applications. In addition the watermarks are used usually to store the information regarding the source and ownership of the asset.
The type of XMP support is different from system to system. Many systems save the meta data continually in the XMP block of an asset and use the data saved on the system during search and presentation of data via the user interface. Storing data based solely on XMP data in not possible from the point of view of performance, as browsing a DAM/MAM with 1000 assets would require the opening and closing of 1000 files – not possible with today's systems. Hence, as a rule the XMP data is buffered on the system.
Over time the media and image databases grow in number of assets, the number of metadata and the size on the data medium. The critical factor is not, as a result of the high speed data systems, the number of assets and the number of metadata, but rather the physical assets on the data medium. New systems enable the archiving of the “original” assets whilst still maintaining the metadata and asset information in the database. As a result the assets remain available in the system, however, only for searching and accessing the metadata. In order to work with the original the archive must be played back on the system.
Since increasingly more work is performed with and by software systems, most of the DAM/MAM software includes functionality for controlling tasks involving the assets. Beginning with the simple grouping of assets for a project or a job, up to the management of tasks. In extreme cases the system is able to perform subsequent tasks automatically via attached workflows according to the specifications.
Colour analysis, among other things, assists with identifying and characterising the relevant colours within the image asset. If all the pictures are provided with colour information, functions can be used to find images with similar colour appearance, so that they can be used in harmonious layouts. In exactly the same way, pictures can be sought using colour harmony standards to achieve a colour co-ordinated selection
Face recognition is also used to provide metadata for the system, with which assets can be found again, or to provide the user with the decision making tools for evaluating the assets. The face recognition enables purely the recognition of faces in the simple versions, and already in complex versions the ability to identify the gender and other characteristics such as “wears glasses” or “laughing”. In extreme cases the person can be identified and recognised again.
Sometimes it is not enough to save information only in the metadata. For example to be able to add comments or markings to an assets in specific areas. For this some image and media databases offer so called overlays, which can be used to mark areas of the asset and attach comments. The options available with overlays are diverse. Beginning with the graphical conversion even up to the comments that , in some systems, can even be a web-link or a reference to another asset.
The use of project folder is becoming more and more widespread. New systems don't only provide the creation and marking of simple file folders as project folders, but also but also the automatic creation of complete file structures as well as the creation of virtual folders. In the best case the folder templates allow authorisation as well as defining import and use parameters. That leads to a substantially reduced maintenance expense.
Significant differences can be seen in the technical metadata shown in the production view. Here each system has advantages and disadvantages in very different areas. Some enable the integration of third party software like Helios UB+ or WebShare, which are common systems in the publishing industry.
With the Creative Suite 5 a new benchmark was set in the integration of Creative Suite. This requires, however, a range of functions within the image and media database and also an existing Creative Suite at the client. Enquire how each solution integrates with Creative Suite directly with the provider.
The proofing process, well known in the print industry, is found more and more in image databases, that among other things focus on the publishing industry. Some providers can already print a proof from the database at various proof printers who, for example may be located at a customer or partner.
With the aid of the Fogra certified Helios WebShare SoftProof it has become recently possible to produce a soft proof on a registered monitor. This will save the substantial cost of the eventually no longer required print proof in the future, as well as making a faster proof more accessible.
The interaction of the DAM / MAM systems with others, but also the possibilities of the products themselves become even more comprehensive. The sequence of internal messages or the control of functions within a system or with external systems is called workflow.
Excel template for analysis of DAM systems with variable weighting for features Image Database Comparison Template (Excel)
Excel template for planning metadata considering user and MIME type groups Metadata Planning Template (Excel)