Digital asset management (DAM) is one of the most dynamic areas of software today, with organizations increasingly seeing its value in reducing costs and producing revenue streams. "These software solutions are now considered ‘must have’ products," says Mukul Krishna, who is with the digital media practice at Frost & Sullivan, "whereas previously, they were viewed as ‘nice to have.’ "
The large number of products in the market—about 400, according to Frost & Sullivan, is likely to cause users some difficulties. "No single product has more than 5 percent of the market," says Krishna. "Moreover, some products that claim to be DAM solutions really don’t have all the features that would qualify them for our definition of that category, such as a central storage repository."
The large number of options and the variability in the products presents a dilemma in terms of evaluation and selection (see sidebar). Nevertheless, organizations are convinced they must improve the handling of their rich media assets and are moving ahead with implementations.
The rapid growth in the DAM market is supported in part by the expansion of the use of video to communicate technical and business information.
"Video is a growing market in educational and corporate environments," says Krishna. "It’s a fairly small market right now, in the range of $70 million, but we expect it to grow at an annual rate approaching 30 percent, to over $300 million by 2013."
Leveraging video for education
The Utah Education Network (UEN), a consortium of Utah’s public and higher education systems, serves educational organizations statewide through its online resources, public television station and educational video materials. UEN wanted an effective way to manage and distribute its video assets, which include thousands of programs licensed through state education agencies and public broadcasting partnerships.
Along with five other educational institutions, UEN participated in an evaluation project to select a DAM system, and settled on TeleScope from North Plains. The features that were appealing included the fact that TeleScope could handle video in a manner comparable to its handling of other digital assets, brought up the files easily, had a user-friendly interface, allowed users to preview the files and was a mature product. In addition, North Plains was interested in working with educational institutions.
When UEN receives a video, many of which are from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), the video arrives in tape format. The first step is to digitize it using Apple Final Cut Pro and video encoding software, and then load it into TeleScope.
"Once they are logged in to our secure Web site, teachers can search for videos that complement their curriculum activities," says Cory Stokes, enterprise learning services manager at UEN. "The digital file can then be downloaded, shown through a laptop with a projector, put on a DVD or loaded into a video-enabled iPod."
Stokes continues, "Many of our teachers are in rural areas, and the teacher would have to wait for the tape to be delivered by mail, or go to a district center to pick it up." TeleScope provides an easy way for the teachers to select and obtain digital video content.
Although UEN has not been asked to provide university lectures on video, TeleScope would support editing and managing such material. "A part of the interface that we do not expose to the teachers allows for defining clips from longer programs," Stokes explains. "Subject matter experts could indicate the in and out points for instructional segments, and could add metadata for each segment." The segments could be available for downloading on iPods.
With the emergence of podcasting, media-driven education will continue to grow. "This generation is media-oriented," Stoke emphasizes. "Students expect to learn through multiple media sources, including audio and video." He points to the value of demonstrations over descriptions in supporting more effective learning, and of being able to review explanations as many times as needed.
In the near future, UEN hopes to integrate TeleScope with Blackboard, a course management system, to provide seamless access to video for faculty building online courses. "TeleScope has a good set of Web service interfaces," Stokes says, "so we think that the integration is feasible."
Video is becoming pervasive, agrees Steve Sauder, CTO of North Plains. "Popular Web sites, such as YouTube, have made video a part of people’s daily lives, but managing it requires some special capabilities," he says.
In particular, Sauder cites the need to integrate with creative applications such as Photoshop. "Much of the relevant information about a file is generated during the creative process, and capturing it then is much easier than capturing it when the file is ready for archiving," Sauder explains.
Video via open source ECMSollan, which is based in Montreuil, France, helps clients manage their digital content life cycle, from creation to publishing. The company has built a video content management solution on top of Alfresco, an open source enterprise content management (ECM) system.
"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 ECMUniversal 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
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."
|Posted Nov 1, 2007|