Staying on top of your production workflow can be a nightmare. Every team works differently, and no matter how good you think you have it, there are always inefficiencies in file access, approvals, security and much more that can be smoothed out with the correct processes and tools in place. To help you get started in assessing your own production workflow, we’ve had a look at production asset management (PAM), and one of our favourite tools, Strawberry.
When multiple teams are saving projects and assets to a shared storage, there are bound to be some inconsistencies. Knowing whose data is whose, who put it there, and finding where it is when you need it, is essential. That’s where a media management system can help. Often seen as the preserve of big production houses, they’re increasingly being used by creative agencies to improve their production workflow.
If you're working for yourself, you may have your own quirky way of remembering where everything is (everyone has their own system for organising their sock drawer!), but if you're part of a small creative team who turn out hundreds of videos, graphic design projects and more every month, you need a better way of organising assets. The last thing you want is for those important assets to accidentally get moved, archived or deleted by another editor without you knowing.
When it comes to asset management, there are a few different acronyms you’ll likely come across. You may already be familiar with, or be using, a media asset management (MAM) system, also known as a digital asset management (DAM) system, to give you improved organisation, sorting, editing, sharing and management of rich media assets like photos, music, videos and more, as well as managing access rights and permissions.
Where production asset management (PAM) systems differ is that they are geared more towards production (such as films, video games and animation), and in particular making production workflows more collaborative and flexible.
While MAM and DAM systems are designed more for storing and archiving digital assets, PAM systems are for those workflows which require fast movement of assets with revision control, where edits are frequently made. So if you have multiple editors working on a production project, they can access sequences from different workstations, meaning a faster, more efficient production process.
One such system is Strawberry by Projective, a powerful production asset management (PAM) system that's ideal for smaller teams. I chatted to Derek Barrilleaux, CEO of Projective Technology (who develop Strawberry) about the importance of a good production asset management system, which lets editors quickly find content that's related to a particular project based on context.
"In a creative environment, you may save drafts to your computer hoping that some day in the future you’ll have time to put it in its right place, but you never have that time realistically," he said. "So your desktop ends up looking like complete and utter chaos.
"That same thing happens in creative agencies. If it’s just one or two creative people, it’s not a huge deal, but if it’s five or ten or 20 or 50 users, no one knows what content is usable, what can be deleted or what can be archived."
Strawberry takes the old philosophy of editors and designers accessing storage and turns it on its head, giving users project-based asset management. Derek said: "To an editor, storage is a commodity like water – they don't need to know where it comes from, they just want to drink it. They don't need storage, what they need is space to work on their projects."
Project Mounts in Strawberry provide a virtual storage space for specific projects that editors need to work on. "At an architectural level, we have the customer's storage and Strawberry organises that on a project basis automatically. The editors and users never see this going on, they only get that virtual project mount," Derek said.
Strawberry have put a lot of work into creating an intuitive interface that puts the emphasis on easily searching for files. "They go into Strawberry, and they have this really cool asset management functionality where they can actually scrub through proxies of the content that their login credentials enable them to see," Derek said. "I like to think of it as a supercharged Finder. You don’t just have a thumbnail, you have an actual scrubbable proxy of the file.
"Then the editor can go in and see the assets they want or the project they want to work on. When they click Open on that project, Strawberry takes all the relevant information from that creative storage and links it all into the virtual volume they’re working on."
Giving the right people access to the assets they need for a particular project is essential for any creative team. But you don't want to bog them down with complex storage infrastructure. Get all the staff on a production involved and involved from their desks or laptops, wherever they are. With Strawberry, you can review, log, subtitle, annotate or comment on assets from its web interface, and create rough cuts from a web browser using Preditor.
The project-based approach empowers users to drive simple workflow tasks. It’s especially useful for when you have freelance editors who only need access to certain projects and assets, rather than your whole file server, Derek said.
"We’ve taken away the need for an editor to prepare a workspace to edit from. We’ve given them a simple search interface to find everything they need, and because the editors don’t have unfettered access to the storage, we can give them really simple access for situations like when freelancers come in and you only want them to see certain projects." Especially useful if you don't want freelance editors seeing footage from that upcoming top secret project of yours...
A bugbear of many editors is assets not being saved with a standardised naming convention, making it time-consuming to find the clip or file they're looking for (searching a huge file server for that one video clip called vid0000678901.mov isn't helpful for anyone). Strawberry solves this from a slightly different perspective.
"You can still name a file in Strawberry whatever you want," Derek said. "But what Strawberry enables you to do is find that made-up file name based on project context. Everything is about the project, and everything that comes onto that storage has to be organised into some larger container or project.
Strawberry makes finding assets you were working on a year ago easy, as you can search using context, rather than having to remember file names or keywords. Derek said: "With Strawberry, the editor just has to remember what project they were working on when they had that particular asset. Even if that asset has a random name, they can go into the project they were working on and see all of their content in there and find it that way. We’re giving editors project-based metadata, so then you can find the content based on project context."
To find out more about production asset management (PAM) and Strawberry by Projective, get in touch with the team on 03332 409 204 or email DandP@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
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