MAM and DAM - closer together

  • By Kevin Hilton

MAM and DAM - closer together

Management of media and digital assets has always been important but is particularly crucial now in today’s multi-platform world - Contributing Editor Kevin Hilton looks at the latest trends and how the cloud is changing the way systems work...

The importance of digital asset management (DAM) and media asset management (MAM), which are similar and associated but still very different, has increased since the introduction of file-based operations and continues to grow today. Both are designed to make identifying, tracking and storing digital material easier and more efficient but the fundamental difference is that MAM was specially designed for broadcast and film production to manage audio, video and associated data. This last element crosses over with DAM, which has its roots in business and information technology (IT) for organising and cataloguing digital materials.

Despite these clear definitions, the ongoing and rapid development of the media industry has meant that not only have the boundaries between MAM and DAM begun to blur but the classifications are changing. “In many ways, DAM and MAM are outdated terms,” agrees Bill Admans, Chief Operating Officer of Ateliere Creative Technologies. “Traditionally they referred to single-function repositories for storing assets but now we’re looking at many systems, platforms and connected workflows that intersect through a content hub, which is what these systems have evolved into. Both have become more complex and it’s an integrated process, not just a single asset management.”

Part of the reason for this can be attributed to how the media landscape has changed over the last ten years. Broadcasting now encompasses more than just terrestrial and satellite television, particularly since streaming expanded the market in recent years. “Broadcast is too narrow a term,” Adman comments. “The audience for these types of systems includes media and entertainment in general, encompassing broadcasters, content owners and brands. It’s a much broader ecosystem. The asset management process now needs to provide more of a robust structure for creating, managing and distributing content to all the different devices, systems and workflows.”

Julián Fernández-Campón, Chief Technology Officer of Tedial, observes that the “legacy, monolithic MAM systems”, with their large amounts of functionality, have grown and adapted to meet the continuously changing needs of the broadcast sector in all its forms. “But these types of MAMs were silos, independent islands,” he says. “They were the equivalent of a videotape library transitioned to digital, file-based storage. They evolved, adding orchestration capabilities with the technology all based around the MAM. The problem is that these MAMs don’t meet the requirements in today’s M&E [media and entertainment] environment.”

This has led, Fernández-Campón explains, to a new approach in which the different aspects of an operation or workflow are brought together through a Media Integration Platform (MIP). Tedial has been working to, in Fernández-Campón’s words, “transform and redefine” media business efficiency and business methodologies and during the 2022 NAB Show will introduce its own MIP, smartWork. “We have designed it to empower non-technical users with a toolset that distils complex workflows into simplified processes,” he says. “This means Tedial’s MAM, or any existing MAM, is just another system to be integrated.”

The shift in meaning of MAM and the evolution of the technology over the last decade is similarly noted by Mathieu Zarouk, Director of Product Strategy for Media Workflows at Dalet. “Early MAM systems offered fairly basic functionality to catalogue and store video files, mostly for deep arching purposes,” he says. “Gradually, metadata complexity increased and the need to preview proxy video became important. Then there was the potential to automate certain tasks, such as restoring [items] based on editing timelines, and we saw the leap to workflow orchestration, which transformed the humble asset management tool into the essential content supply chain management solution it has become today.”

Other changes have been made, Zarouk adds, to provide broadcast teams with clearer interfaces and systems that are easier to configure, deploy and maintain: “High complex, monolithic MAMs have become unpopular over the years, which is why we are transforming our content management solutions into micro-service based software-defined tools that can run on-premises, cloud or hybrid infrastructures.” Another move on from old fashioned MAMs is the trend for hosting a management platform, such as Dalet’s Flex, on behalf of the user, either on a dedicated single-tenant basis or as a service.

Metadata plays a massive part in broadcast production and workflows today; it has had a particular impact on MAM and played a part in how technologies for this area have progressed in recent years. “There have been several advances in content metadata, the core of any MAM system,” comments Toni Vilalta, Product Manager at VSN. “We have developed new features both in the extraction and management of this information [because] in metadata management we know [about] the increasing amount of information and [that] the user needs simple tools to manage it. Our clients can develop rules for their metadata and quickly manage operations, with them using a simple programming language. This way, the information is more accessible and the user can get the most out of [the] metadata.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now playing an increasingly critical role in enhancing metadata, as well as helping to improve other aspects of broadcast technology. Vilalta says AI is particularly key in the process of metadata extraction, to the point where AI engines have been integrated into VSNExplorer. “This allows information like a text transcription or the facial recognition of characters to be extracted in a few minutes,” he explains. “The user only needs to validate the results provided in the same interface, allowing for a better content catalogue, which leads to better archive and media asset management.”

Jan Weigner, Managing Director of Cinegy, picks up on the AI point, saying it, in conjunction with automatic metadata generation, will be employed to create more usable metadata from the start of a project. Weigner observes that these developments have dramatically pushed on speech and object recognition, as well as MAM in general. But, he says, at the same time some customers have “a tough time” differentiating between DAM and MAM. “Our MAM tools could always be used to not only manage but also to cut, trim, edit, annotate, add voice-overs and do multi-layer edits with effects and titles up to 8K. That is the difference between DAM and our definition of MAM. What has changed is the expectations shaped by the cloud and what is deemed as acceptable quality when working remotely.”

While most companies specialise in either MAM or DAM, most admit to some degree of crossover. Iain Churchill-Coleman, Product Manager for EditShare’s FLOW media management system, comments that although it does offer some features for document tracking and similar functions, the company’s focus is on MAM for ingest through to workflow orchestration and archiving, all supported by rich metadata.

In terms of how the technology has been developing, Churchill-Coleman says there is now demand for covering “the multitude of media formats” currently in use. “Workflow orchestration layers are a big thing for us. We have an automation layer, which people can use when they deal with larger volumes and wider collaborations between teams on a project, with orchestration of the workflow in the background. This kind of automation of asset life cycles and process triggering is a big focus for us.”

As for the future, Churchill-Coleman observes that there is an equally big focus on “resilience and scalability” of the MAM system, together with multi-site working. “That’s being able to have asset management aware of on-prem or cloud locations, being able to synchronise material between those hybrid locations, search across them and utilise our service resources wherever they may be.”

As in other parts of the broadcast market, the cloud is now a major consideration when it comes to implementing MAM/DAM systems. “It’s getting to the point where the only way to do modern asset management efficiently and effectively is in the cloud, if we’re not past that already,” says Bill Admans at Ateliere. “The cloud is the easiest way to manage distributed workflows because you can connect anywhere and interact anywhere.”

Tedial’s Julián Fernández-Campón comments that broadcasting is moving to a “wider and more diverse” range of software, IP, cloud and cross-platform technologies: “There are more tools than ever before for every part of the workflow. And, more importantly, workflows are not dependant on the media location or the systems used in each deployment - cloud/on-prem - so users can easily deploy and evolve workflows regardless of the physical location of the system.”

From Dalet’s perspective, Mathieu Zarouk says the cloud has been driving new MAM functionality over the last 18 months. “Many content creators and distributors needed to have their teams continue to deliver while being home-based [during the pandemic],” he says. “Content management technology and media workflows were moving in that direction anyway but the events of the last couple of years accelerated the trend.”

Toni Vilalta at VSN states not only that “the cloud is here” but it is also the leading the investment being made by media companies in fields such as media management and AI. “The pandemic and connectivity improvement accelerated cloud implementation and it’s obvious it opens the door to many new opportunities,” he says. “MAM systems need to adapt to these new environments, for example in terms of accessibility, which is one of the main advantages of the cloud. A cloud-based MAM system needs an architecture that provides this easy access using a web browser from any place in the world.”
This global availability of MAMs and DAM cements their place in broadcasting workflows and shows that being organised has never been more vital.