March 18, 2014
The 10 - Digital Asset Management Q and A Series #3
The 10. Ten questions about digital asset management from professionals in the field. People who actually work in DAMS everyday.
This week we are hearing from Nate Ptacek, Video Librarian for Patagonia.
Now to the Q and A.
1. What should people know about you?
I am a photographer and filmmaker, and like many, fell into my professional niche in DAM by virtue of necessity. I am relatively new to the DAM game with only 3 years of experience – 2 years on our product photo shoot, 1 year on our video team. Both roles were new and had little precedent set in terms of DAM, so much of the system that I have developed was through simple trial and error (mostly error!).
2. What is unique about your work environment and position?
Patagonia is an incredibly innovative outdoor apparel company that is as well known for high-quality, stylish clothing as it is for an unfailing commitment to the environment. A relaxed company culture and individuality runs deep – we have a flex-time policy allowing for employees to go surfing during the middle of the workday – so it’s definitely a unique environment to implement any sort of overarching DAM initiative. I’ve definitely had to strike a balance between catering to unique and evolving workflows and maintaining enough defined process to run an effective DAM system.
3. How important is DAM at your company?
DAM is definitely gaining importance at Patagonia. In my short time here I have seen an increase in the understanding of basic concepts and practices, as well as some user adoption. I think after so many years of playing “so… where was that file?”, folks realize that there has got to be a better way of doing things, but they may not know exactly what that is, so connecting the dots and providing a solution is my job.
4. What do you consider your biggest achievement with DAM?
My biggest achievement has been the organization of some 40TB+ of unconsolidated video data into scalable, shared storage, synced in Portfolio and keyworded for increased accessibility. At one point I was told this was more data than the rest of the company, combined – all spread across dozens of hard drives with no coherent folder structures, naming conventions, or standardized file formats that I could discern. It’s definitely still a work in progress, but at least I have it all mapped out and am finally implementing the solution, which is very satisfying in and of itself. The next step will be leveraging NetPublish to make our final exploitable assets more easily available.
5. What’s your favorite DAM feature? Wish list feature?
The ability to keyword search across an entire library – it’s amazing what this will do for your sanity! Image recognition auto keywording is my biggest wish list feature.
6. What’s your biggest challenge when working with assets and how have you overcome it?
By far, my largest challenge has been handling rapidly evolving video technology and the subsequent effect it has on workflow. Video assets are complicated and diverse – typically very heavy in size, with a wide variety of codecs and software-dependency for proper playback. Workflow can change entirely depending on your final delivery needs, and NLE (non-linear editing) software is in an industry-wide state of flux. 4K has become a reality in recent years, which has put a lot of extra stress on just our storage alone. We are also outsourcing more and more work, which adds entirely new factors to the equation. But I’ve seen all of this as an opportunity to take a very holistic approach to DAM, finding the cleanest line for process and workflow that can accommodate anything we throw at it without stifling creativity.
7. Can you share a ‘DUH DAM’ moment and how you got yourself out of the mess?
I can’t think of any specific scenario off the top of my head, but simply being able to quickly sort out our video media based on content and licensing has saved a ton of time for me.
8. What key advice can you offer someone new to Digital Asset Management?
There is no “one true way” to approach DAM. Every workflow is unique and must be met with somewhat of a custom solution, but it’s also good to follow best practices. Don’t get too hung up on details without looking holistically at the entire workflow and lifecycle of your data. Take into account a variety of scenarios and search out the cleanest line. In other words, don’t get stuck in only “your” way of thinking about assets and how you access and use them – put yourself in others’ shoes and try to take into account this information to influence your strategy. Workflow and process is 95% of good DAM – software configuration and metadata taxonomies should follow the lead of your workflow. Steer toward simple solutions, then test, evaluate, and re-envision. Try to compartmentalize your workflow to allow for evolving technology. Don’t wait to deploy forever because it’s never going to be perfect – sometimes you just need to start somewhere – anywhere – and learn from your mistakes.
9. What are your most trusted sources for DAM information?
There are a lot of great books, blogs, and consultants out there, and it’s a good idea to use all of the resources at your disposal to gain a base understanding of best practices. But for me it was ultimately experience – learning from my mistakes – that really taught me how to best approach DAM systems. But that’s not to say you should go it alone. It’s important to have a trusted colleague to bounce ideas around with, shoot holes in workflow, and talk through use cases. One of the quickest ways to test a proposed workflow is to simply try to explain to someone how it is supposed to work.
10. Where do you see the future of DAM headed?
With the sheer growth of data in recent years – particularly photo and video content – DAM is going to become increasingly necessary for business and personal use. I see it becoming a household concept, and envision a variety of off-the-shelf workflow + DAM solutions, packaged for easy adoption by the layperson.
Comments? Would you like to be featured in an upcoming 10 Q and A? Let me know below.