[ 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.
WHAT AXLE DOES
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.
THE HARD PART
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.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
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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