Allowing us to share, organise, preview and add metadata to all of our assets from case study shoots to catalogue layouts, asset management makes it far easier for us to know where our work is when. Other asset management programs might suit you better, but here’s a quick guide to two of our design team’s favourites: Extensis Portfolio and axle.
The new kid on the block: axle
Released in 2012, axle allows you to take one of your studio’s Macs and turn it into a ‘media management and collaboration server’. What this means in practical terms is that it looks through any drives connected to the server, whether that’s the hard drive of each iMac in your studio or a rack full of external drives, and indexes all the files on them. It then creates an online portal where you can browse every file, regardless of where it’s stored, and everyone can use this to preview low-res versions of documents, play back proxy videos, edit metadata and more. Even better, you can create different views of this portal, so people only see the files for work that’s relevant to them, and any clients you give a login to can only see files from their project. You can also save searches for quicker access to common groups of files (say, all the images tagged to a specific location, or everything shot with a certain type of lens).
While this may not sound like it’s that far above and beyond anything else out there, the great thing about axle is that it’s accessible from any device, from your iMac to your iPad to a client’s PC, so you can always access resources. And because everything is web-based, your users don’t have to spend time installing apps on their computers, and can log in to the portal from any machine. It’s also an excellent choice if you’re thinking of diversifying into video work, as you can export collections of clips straight to your editor, then view H.264 proxies of the result and flag anything you want to alter in those proxies, without having to have access to the editor yourself (this could work wonders on complex approval processes where you have a lot of non-creative parties to get sign off from).
Once you’re finished with a project, you can even arrange for axle to automatically move it to centralised archive storage – or the cloud, if you prefer to store things online – so everyone can access it if you ever need to reuse it, but it’s not taking up valuable space on any individual artist’s hard drive. The project stays in the central index of files, so if you’re ever working on something similar the team will be able to see that some assets already exist, and hopefully save themselves some time and money by repurposing that work, rather than duplicating it. This is definitely something that’s helped the team at Jigsaw24 hit one or two tight deadlines!
The office staple: Extensis Portfolio
Having had a home in the Jigsaw24 office for over two years now, Extensis Portfolio‘s powerful search has made it one of our designers’ most-used tools. “I like using Bridge for local projects,” explains our senior designer, Paul, “but when it comes to searching our server, Portfolio is faster than Bridge or Finder. It also lets me drag and drop the file I want into any application, rather than just Adobe ones, or share directly to email if I don’t want to edit the file – if one of the sales guys needs a case study, the quickest thing to do is find it in Portfolio and send it straight to him from there.”
Other features that have turned our head include Portfolio’s ability to let you create galleries of files. Our team use this to group different kinds of work so that they can navigate to it more simply – we have a gallery for all the files relating to internal documents, for example. We also like that you can ‘route’ files to a folder that belongs to a specific person on the team; it makes it easier for our design manager to assign projects and share resources. And anything that lets you batch convert files into JPEGs, TIFFs and more and edit their metadata while you’re at it is worth a look in our book.