The following is a selected excerpt from Implementing a Digital Asset Management System (ISBN
0-240-80665-4) published by Focal Press.
on the type of project you are working on, there may be a high
potential for process automation and optimization. While this is not
necessarily something to worry about from the start, it is one of the
ideal ways to profit from a DAM system. Any kind of automation also has
the advantage that it results in improvements for the users, giving
them a reason to appreciate the extra work that they have to put into
using the DAM.
processes can be automated and improved depends largely on the DAM
system you are using. Even if you are only using a well-managed
directory structure on your server, you can still write scripts that
maintain and control data.
DAM systems offer metadata storage. Metadata can be used to provide the
users and the system with information about the assets stored in the
database. The most common example is EXIF information stored in images
made by digital cameras. This typically includes detailed information
about when and with what settings the pictures were taken, but it can
also tell the system how the camera was held when the picture was
taken. This allows an image viewer to automatically rotate the image to
display it on screen.
is either automatically generated, as in a digital camera, or it can be
added by the user. If you create an asset library with thousands of
images, it's sensible to use metadata to describe the images so they
can be found easily later on.
you want to automate data management, you can also use metadata to tag
files in your asset management system. For example, if you mark all
files that should later be used for distribution, it is then very easy
to set up tools to search for this information in the database and
automatically extract all the assets that are tagged accordingly.
metadata can be a tedious task, and getting every user to faithfully
add the relevant information can be difficult. Therefore, try to make
this as easy as possible but also make sure that users can't work
around the process. It helps to give users pre-defined values that they
can choose from. One good way to encourage metadata entry is to use
popup dialogs that ask for specific information upon import.
an example, think about an image library. You want to make sure that
images have enough metadata to be located quickly later. Using a text
field that can be filled with any kind of description may lead to
unsearchable information—words could be misspelled and descriptions may
be subjective. Decide beforehand which criteria can be used to describe
the images and then use selection boxes to allow the user to pick from
these options. A free text field should only be used for additional
Some DAM systems provide annotations: metadata that is used to mark change request in assets
incomplete information in your DAM will make it unusable, and if the
users ever get the impression that the metadata is incomplete they will
stop relying on it. When rolling out your DAM, make sure that any kind
of metadata you want to use in there is already defined, and that it is
clear to users what they are supposed to provide the system and what
they can search for.
Automate repetitive tasks
tasks are the first thing that can be automated once you have a
well-defined data structure. Imagine that you are creating textures for
3D visualization. This is typically done in a 2D application such as
Photoshop and the result is then exported to the format of the 3D
engine being used. Most 3D engines prefer textures in a specific
resolution and bit depth, and in some cases you even need different
resolutions of the texture. For users, this means that after they
complete a change they have to save the original file, then make sure
it is converted to the correct format, and finally move it to the
correct target locations.
of this can easily be automated; you can even have scripts to check the
result. All users have to do is to save their changed files and then
tell the DAM to do the rest. With proper logic, the script can even
check the texture for the correct format and send the user an error
notification if anything is wrong.
with scripts is very easy even for the inexperienced programmer. Start
with the single steps that you want to automate and then slowly build a
set of tools to take the burden away from the user. Most operating
systems have built-in automation tools that can interface with
applications on different levels. Examples are Shell scripts on Unix
derivatives, the Windows Scripting Host, and Apple Script.
An automated conversion or compilation pipeline can automate data exchange between departments
Integrate your tools
external scripts helps the user significantly, but it is even better if
the applications being used can directly interface with the DAM system.
Many companies that work with in-house formats create their own tools.
This is especially true for game companies and large CG productions.
Since these specialized applications are created by the users, they can
change any aspect of it that they want to. If the DAM system you are
using is open enough, these in-house tools can directly interface with
the DAM, ridding the user of the need to work outside of them.
soon as the content creation tools are tightly integrated with the DAM,
production can also benefit from the additional information that they
can store in a DAM. If the DAM supports some kind of meta-information
storage, the integrated applications can add information that it needs
to “understand” the assets.
use 3D data as an example again, once a 2D application has finished
exporting an image to the DAM in all required resolutions, it could
then add information about the file it came from to each resulting
image. If after two years of working you suddenly realize you have to
change something in the exported texture, you can simply click on the
texture in your DAM-integrated tool, and it will tell you which
original file has to be modified to perform the changes you need.
Alienbrain offers plug-ins for most major 2D and 3D tools
integrating tools with a DAM creates an extremely powerful solution, it
is only feasible for companies with experienced programmers. Most
applications and tools require C programming experience to customize,
and writing good and usable tool integrations requires much experience
in the tool's use.