When people think about creating new digital assets, products like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, Avid Media Composer or Sound Forge Pro are the professional’s first choice -- depending on the task at hand. Many of these products include a workflow management application which allows users to create projects, share files and apply some level of versioning to the files. Unfortunately however, not all products work together during the creation process.  

The Divide Between Asset Creation and Asset Management

Asset elements are often used by many different users in various applications to compose a finished project. Video files are a prime example of this where graphics, copy text, photographs, video files, 3D effects and sound files are created individually in separate applications and then brought together to create a final product.

Corporate videos will usually include files that have been used elsewhere such as in correspondences, websites, print advertisements and internal documentation.

While having the ability to manage files and share assets within a suite of products has improved efficiencies and time to market, there are still gaps when it comes to managing the asset elements and compositions for re-use for future editing.

In the November article on CMSWire, Digital Asset Management - It's More Than Just a Photo Album, I talked about what organizations should be looking for in Digital Asset Management.

DAM, as it stands today, is almost there. Because Digital Asset Management needs to be able to facilitate any media format, it often approaches management from the point of retention and distribution while only giving a slight nod to the creation process.

Creation tools primarily focus on creating the media files, even though they may have some DAM capabilities. As professionals working together within an organization, we need a way to marry the best of both sides of the overall work-stream.

The following is an example of a corporate website which has graphics that have been used for other purposes:


Sena Systems

The same graphics from Sena’s website are also used with other publications such as this example banner:


In both of these examples, the corporate logo came is from a company approved pool of images. The graphic of the two men is from an approved set of backgrounds and two unique fonts -- Pirulen and JaneAusten -- were used in the banner but not in the website.

3 Ways to Manage Assets

Each of these individual elements can be managed within a traditional DAM system, managed locally by a specific user, managed by a creation product’s utilities or simply saved on the file system. With each of these methods, there are inherent benefits and problems:

Digital Asset Management
Benefits Cons
  • Cross Platform Workflow for Approval and editing
  • Revision Control
  • File Locking during Edit
  • Automated Conversions
  • Content Tracking
  • Full Security for editing and access
  • Automated Distribution
  • Rights Management
  • Metadata and Search
  • Difficult to track elements and what compositions they are used in
  • Little to no direct integrations with editing tools
  • Not all DAM products access digital file EXIF data
  • Conversion capabilities may be limited
  • User Training Required
Creation Product Utilities
Benefits Cons
  • Strong integration throughout the product suite
  • Maximizes capabilities of all creation tools
  • Typically Project Driven
  • Project level Security
  • Usually does not require other enterprise applications
  • Product specific work stream tasks
  • File sharing and file tracking
  • Excellent control of EXIF data
  • File sharing is typically limited to within defined projects
  • Security is specific to projects
  • Typically no or little integration with third-party tools
  • Limited revision Control
  • Limited or no Rights Management
  • Limited or no searching
  • User Training Required
File System
Benefits Cons
  • General access by all users
  • Little to no training required
  • Supported by all content creation applications
  • No integration required
  • No file locking
  • Limited security controls
  • No Workflow controls
  • No revision control
  • No rights management
  • No Metadata
  • Limited search capabilities
  • No automated conversions
  • No content tracking

In an Ideal World, Integration Would be Seamless

A lot still needs to be done in order to bridge the gap between creation and management when it comes to rich media files. An ideal solution would include a DAM product that is designed to integrate with the creation product’s management applications.

Users should be able to store a graphic in a repository, call it into a creation project, share it with other users on that project and be notified when that graphic is updated.The person updating the graphic should be able to perform a search to see all compositions that are using the file so that the artist knows the impact of editing the graphic.

While working in a tool such as Adobe Photoshop, a user should be able to navigate to a file system, to Adobe’s Version Cue or to an enterprise DAM repository like Oracle’s Enterprise Content Management to find the elements required to complete a composition.The user should then be able to store that composition in a DAM repository so that other users can use that same composition as an element in another project.

There have been limited co-development efforts between DAM producers and creative tool designers. Until true integration happens, organizations will have to work within the boundaries of the product or design their own solutions to get the best out of their resources.

Suggestions for Bridging the Gap

Companies need all the capabilities that the creative packages provide along with the extended functionality of DAM solutions. As demand drives efforts to bridge the gap between creation and management and as organizations and users become more sophisticated, both management and creation products will have to adapt to keep pace.Until then, here are some points that can help bridge the gap:

  • Store all individual elements within a DAM repository. Have the DAM system configured for subscription services to notify users when new elements are added and updated, enable workflow process for approval and validation and apply security to match content utilization across the user community. Even though most DAM and creative applications are not integrated, users can still search the DAM system to find the elements they need, record in the elements DAM metadata record what project or compilation the element is being used for, and download a copy for use in the current project.When the compilation is finished, store it in the DAM system for future reuse and workflows.
  • Utilize the built in work-streams of the creative tools. As elements are downloaded from the DAM, store them within the project of the creative tool. Periodically review notifications from the DAM system and update the project when elements are updated.
  • Try to maintain a single trusted file for any element within the DAM system. Refrain from simply storing elements on a shared file system or sending them to project members via email. Having a single and validated source of an element can help to increase consistency and reduce the time spent finding items needed to complete compositions.
  • Take the time, either with your own resources or with assistance from external consulting firms, to truly understand how your content creators work. The first step into maximizing any process requires fully understanding how people perform the tasks. Automate what needs to be automated and reduce the time spent on finding the things your creators need by increasing the enterprise search functionality.

In the corporate world where rich media files are used as individual objects or as compilations, it is important to manage them efficiently. By combining creation tools with digital asset management, companies can reduce production times, make the processes more efficient and increase productivity.

Even though the gap between creation and management still exists, it is getting smaller. Companies can find the solutions they need for their particular process by combining creation and management and using creative solutions -- either that the company themselves create or one provided by external consultants.

There is no complete of the shelf solution for every process, but with a little ingenuity, a solution can be devised.