Thoughts on Media Asset Management

Posted on by Sudd

[ This is the first in an occasional series on asset management. ]

[ Updated with comments from Sam Bogoch, CEO of Axle.]

As I was thinking about the gear I wanted to add to our new office, I realized that the time had come for us to invest in asset management software.

Our media is a mess. We have three different edit stations, each with an attached RAID. Files are stored on a variety of hard disks,  server volumes and thumb drives. And even though I’ve created most of these files myself I have no idea what we’ve really got or where I last put it.

The shambles our media organization is in has made me feel guilty for a long while, but it wasn’t until recently that I could do anything about it. So, last month, I purchased a Mac Mini and added a five-seat license to Axle Media Management software. And I realized that installing the software was the easy part.

My son, who is a digital archivist, came home for the holidays and I immediately had him look at AXLE, then explain it to me in simple terms. He was very impressed.


Axle is a database, but it doesn’t store assets, it stores pointers to where assets are stored on your server. This means that when we organize our files and folders in the Finder, it’s immediately visible through Axle’s browser interface. In addition, though, we can add comments, metadata and select information to Axle, above and beyond the organization provided in the Finder.  Axle then lets you search everything from nearly any device.

This organization takes the form of metadata: labels and keywords that are assigned to each file, or group of files, in Axle that enable us to find stuff; for example: all Digital Production Buzz audio interviews that discussed Cloud security during 2014 and ran less than 12 minutes.

In order for this system to work, files need to be stored on a server that Axle can see. Axle can’t “see” files stored on locally-attached hard disks; especially if those hard disks are turned off.


Great! Everything is connected and working properly. And I realized that getting us integrated with it would be the hard part. Specifically we need to change the way we work to make the most of any asset manager.

Philip Hodgetts has been preaching the gospel of metadata to my very reluctant choir for years. But it wasn’t until I started working with Axle that I finally realized the importance of what he was talking about.

Based on using the software for a week, here’s what I learned:

I could go on, but I suspect you can see the common thread here: an asset manager is only as good as the time and effort you spend in thinking about how you want to organize and search for your files.

It isn’t the software, its the people behind it. That means that we need to:

The biggest lesson for me was that an effective asset management system requires a organized, consistent, thinking human being behind the scenes making sure everything is working properly. A haphazard approach just won’t work. It needs to be focused.

A library is not a collection of books. A library is an organized collection of books. This is why librarians are so necessary. The asset management system provides the collection part, but we need to provide the organization.


Last week, after I realized that our media life was not going to improve until I made some changes, I hired Brianna to act as our librarian to help us get organized,

Based on what I’ve seen so far, Axle can do a great job of getting us organized… provided we put the effort into making the whole system work. Much though I wish I could wave a magic wand, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how we are doing.

UPDATE – Dec. 21, 2014

After I published this article, I sent it to Sam Bogoch, CEO at Axle Video for his comments. Sam writes:

That said, I do think it makes all this seem like a lot of work! Most of our customers don’t do very much of that work; they just point Axle at their shared storage, catalog it up, and then add comments and segments as they go. The workflow you’re describing is much more typical of a ‘traditional’ all-or-nothing MAM, where you can’t tiptoe in because you have to really abandon a folder structure and existing workflow in favor of the structured metadata schema. Axle is more typically an enhancement to an existing or new shared storage workflow, or as we say, icing on the cake.

By ‘catalog it up’, I mean the automated process by which axle generates the proxies and extracts the technical metadata (which includes a lot of useful stuff like running time, format, file creation date etc.). We do provide time-effective ways for a librarian or logger to add metadata across multiple or individual files, and that’s a good thing – the more you can afford to do, the better. The timeline-based stuff (for both video and audio) where you can post comments and mark in-out points for selects is also a big win, and approachable for everyone on the postproduction team.

We do offer structured metadata, but there’s a lot you can glean about your files from your folder structure, ad-hoc comments, selects and ongoing usage.

Also, FYI, axle CAN catalog freestanding hard drives. You can plug them into the machine running axle, catalog them (creating proxies, capturing technical metadata etc) and then disconnect the drives while leaving the database’s records and proxies intact. You can then search, annotate, select, etc. even though the drive is no longer connected.

[By the way, the contradiction between tracking files and getting useful searches] isn’t just about axle – it’s about the broader categories of ad-hoc producion work versus rigorous archiving. In fact, by hiring someone dedicated to the asset management side you’re putting yourself pretty far up the curve!

Larry replies: Thanks, Sam, for your comments.

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11 Responses to Thoughts on Media Asset Management

  1. Thanks Larry for the article.

    I ran through the same path a while ago. Having about 35 hard drives, some with active projects, including RAID and individual hard drives, backup and archive files. It was a pain in the neck every time a client came back asking for some changes or reediting an entire project after weeks, months or years. My short term solution at that time was to make a screenshots of each hard drive root folder and subfolder, print it out and attach it to the outside of each hard drive or media.

    I spoke to a friend of mine about my dilemma. He pointed me out to an application he has been using for a while ago called DiskTracker.

    The application scans any disk or media including CD, DVD, Blu-ray, flash hard disk in any configuration with a drag and drop action. After the scan, the complete structure of the media get mapped: folders, subfolder and files get organizer in columns by size, type, creator kind, created date, modified date, free space, scanned date, items, path, and last, it creates a chronology unique ID number per media. We can add notes, comments, disk label and more. The application doesn’t require a server to operate.

    The interesting thing is that after scanning (batch or individual media) we can unplug the media and the data information remain accessible by media title and ID. Searching within the application has many options and it is faster and more effective than the native Mac Finder.

    What I have done is to physically label each hard drive with the ID number, and when in need of retrieving a project of a single file, I make a search, I grab the corresponded media which appears highlighted with the identified media storage. I have found project files with eleven years old archive in a blink of an eye. Amazing. I hope this helps.

  2. In my previous response I forgot to include the link for the application:

  3. Jim McQuaid says:

    I did a similar low tech catalog using the utility PrintWindow. I print – to PDF – a snapshot of the complete drive directory structure. I do one that only goes “down” one level and one that opens every folder and lists each file. Then I just keep the PDFs in a folder on my desktop and search them when needed. Beats the screenshot by a mile.

  4. […] interface makes it very easy to search, catalog, tag and even subclip media files.  Larry Jordan (, an acclaimed expert in the video industry, recently purchased axle and blogged “when we […]

  5. Mike Janowski says:

    OK, this is a question I must ask.

    Isn’t this just a different way of doing a tape librarian’s job? And, since NO ONE in post wanted to pay a librarian, or give them time, to do this right, what makes anyone think we’ll have the time to do it now?

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Yup. PRECISELY correct.

      The problem is that, in the past, we could get away with masking tape slapped on the side of a box. With today’s digital files, there’s no place to stick the tape….


  6. Richard Simmons says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m part of a small doco team and we are facing the same issue: many external HDs and a couple Drobos that are full. We previously used Final Cut Server, but once it was EOL’d [and FCP7 is not ‘cutting’ it anymore ;)], we have moved on to Premiere Pro. I have tested Axle and we are now looking to implement a new workflow that would include Axle Video. Would you be willing to write up an article that’s a bit more in depth on the day to day use of Axle Video and include advice coming from a few months of use?


    • Larry says:


      Yes – this article is in the works.

      However, Axel is a “library” program, it is not an “editing” program. You use Axle to find stuff on your existing hard drives. Think of it as the library card catalog to your storage. Axle won’t help speed editing, per se. It will help you keep track of the editing you are doing and files that are stored “somewhere” on your system.


      • Richard Simmons says:

        Thanks Larry, that’s great news. I hope to help our team get much more organized and I feel that Axle is the way to go. Looking forward to reading the forthcoming article.


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