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Digital Asset Management in the Real World: Finish Moves and Stone Cold Stunners

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The following is a guest blog post by Gloria Gonzalez, a UCLA Library and Information Science graduate student and former NDIIPP Junior Fellow.

I hobnobbed with celebrities in Hollywood recently.  And I mean real A-list talent: I got to spend quality time with the archival stars of the moving image world at the Association of Moving Image Archivists Digital Asset Symposium 2011.

AMPAS, by Gloria Gonzalez
AMPAS, by Gloria Gonzalez

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences provided space for DAS 2011, which aimed to inform professionals from varied content domains about current issues, solutions and lessons learned during the implementation of digital asset management systems for moving image and audio content.

The meeting featured presentations on six case studies, which ranged from the corporate and commercial world to academia and the non-profit sector.  They formed a diverse group of topics related to the life cycle of digital audiovisual assets.

Steven Anastasi, from the media archives at Warner Bros., began the symposium on an stimulating note by explaining how a study performed at the company found that not all of its digital content is created equal. Content valuation can classify assets as either “managed” or “perishable” and determine the archival outcome of the content.

The study was done in preparation for the installation of digital preservation infrastructure at the archive, which will provide accurate validation, monitoring and migration of audiovisual assets. Main outcomes of the study include changes in workflow and asset delivery to support metadata standards and centralize information.

Managing Art Images, by Piedmont Council for the Arts, on Flickr
Managing Art Images, by Piedmont Council for the Arts, on Flickr

The next presentation, made by Andrea Kalas and Mark Lemmons, showcased Paramount Pictures’ work with Thought Equity Motion’s video platform for the implementation of a Linear Tape File System. Kalas made the point that “digital preservation may be many things, but one thing it’s not is tapes on shelves,” and boy was she right! While struggling to keep up with the terminology involved with LTFS, I learned that it’s an open source, self-describing file system that has the ability to work with multiple tape storage formats and increase ability for future preservation.

Steve Davis’ case study, “Wrestling with Solutions,” demonstrated a year-long project which involved migrating 26,000 hours of legacy video and delivering 780 TB of data to Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. In preparation for the 2012 launch of the WWE Television Network, Crawford Media Services took on the massive project, which took a year to complete and included digitization, verification, and descriptive metadata.

Davis gave some entertaining details about the WWE controlled vocabulary, including “finish move,” “blood,” and “stone cold stunner.” Davis learned that completing the metadata prior to migration isn’t necessary as long as you’ve determined the metadata scheme, and orchestrating the flow of data is crucial.

John Passmore and Kara Van Malssen’s case study involved the transition from television and radio to multi-platform production and work New York Public Radio is doing with AudioVisual Preservation Solutions to improve the state of their digital archive. With the majority of new material flowing digitally into disparate software systems, there is a need to aggregate content into a single interface that is easily accessible and searchable.

Together they developed an archive database that facilitates communication with both the production and broadcast system and the web content management system. They explained that custom and commercial solutions should be open to integration and ensured systems use API standards and open data because “data must be able to get in and out.”

Brewster Kahle’s presentation focused on the aim and philosophy of the Internet Archive: Universal Access to All Knowledge. He explained the urgency to bring content into digital format not only for preservation, but for access as well.  The two compliment each other:  “access drives preservation,” he said.

Stone Cold at WM promo video, by simononly, on Flickr
Stone Cold at WM promo video, by simononly, on Flickr

Kahle explained audio/video digitization and preservation projects at the IA while reiterating the importance of cost effective operations.

He also emphasized data migration and reformatting.  “The idea of digital preservation has a very active role to it,” said Kahle.

Constant reformatting keeps the files relevant, which is critical for access to information. To highlight these points, Kahle showcased, Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive, a collection of television content from 20 channels dated September 11-17, 2001 that streams from the IA.

Sam Gustman finished the afternoon with a case study from the University of Southern California Digital Repository.  Core functions of the repository include digitization, cataloging, digital preservation, digital library access and file-server services for large assets. The repository serves the USC community and also has a variety of external customers, including researchers, archives of all sizes and commercial entities.

These assorted presentations helped me realize the depth and span of digital preservation these days.  I even feel a curious sense of satisfaction knowing that stone cold stunners are preserved for posterity!


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