The Secret Life of DAMS

Still vitally important to any media house, the advent and subsequent evolution of digital archive solutions has improved both the accuracy of information, as well as the efficiency with which a production department is able to supply completed layouts.

In the 2013 movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, lead actor Ben Stiller’s character Mitty’s mundane existence as the head of Life magazine’s extensive photo archive is turned upside down when the whereabouts of the all-important “negative #25” cannot be accounted for. While the events that unfold as Walter attempts to track down both the negative and the renowned photojournalist who originally supplied it make for an intriguing plot, the premiss for this adventure would have sat rather uncomfortably for those actively involved in the publishing industry at the time. 

Indeed, as long as magazines have rolled through a press, the importance of a well-managed and carefully organised archive of images, logos and templates has proven paramount. 

While much like with vinyl records, the loss of colour “richness” associated with slide film, in particular, has since the advent of digital portraiture been sorely missed, one area that has undoubtedly benefitted from modern publishing’s penchant for pixels is the evolution of digital asset management (DAM) systems. 

Where our hero, Mitty, would have had to document and file every 35mm, 6x7cm or even 4×5-inch slide and negative individually, careful to include enough information on each to allow for a seamless transition between archive and art department, in a modern world this still vitally important role now involves accurately tagging each digital image with appropriate metadata to allow any number of registered users easy access. 

Of course, the real benefit of a sophisticated DAM solution is the level of efficiency it introduces to the respective production process. Brought to the fore over the past two years of entire editorial and production departments needing to work remotely – and especially once integrated with a modern digital workflow management solution – the advantage of having access to an accurate and easily searchable archive of imagery has proven invaluable to many publications. 

Cloud based in most modern applications, further advantages of a sophisticated DAM solution include an unlimited-in-length call sheet of information and data associated with each image, as well as an accurate audit trail of when and how an image has been featured to date. This not only makes the task of crediting the artist that much simpler, but also prevents any unforeseen duplication and, indeed, assists a blurry-eyed intern with accurate captioning. 

DAM eradicates the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ of mismanaged images, documents, logos and more”, says CEO of WoodWing Ross Paterson. “Using FTP to share content with stakeholders. Searching for assets scattered across email, cloud drives and local storage. Email ping pong for amends and approvals... If your staff loose a minute each time they need to track down an errant asset, or five when they upload artwork to an FTP site, cumulatively it adds up to days of lost time each month. 

Another digital solution encouraged by both the existing pressures on print media, as well as the pandemic-driven events of the past few years has been the rise of channel-neutral content. Where before the focus (and main source of advertising revenue) of a publishing house was towards print with after-the-fact adjustments made to accommodate a digital duplication, in recent times many media hubs have adapted their workflow solutions to be able to accept and seamlessly adapt content to fit any number of predetermined platforms, digital or otherwise.

The industry knows it needs to move away from print-centric workflows but we often see publishers trying to amend existing processes to fit the new multichannel landscape, instead of redesigning processes to make them truly fit for purpose. adds Paterson.

A breakthrough scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty sees this previously office-bound librarian completely relaxed and filling his lungs with crisp, fresh air as he carves down a narrow valley road in Greenland (though it was actually filmed in Iceland) on a skateboard. Now, assuming the café sited at the bottom of this slope has reliable WiFi, Walter could seamlessly upload any requested images, to be accessed by his entire production department, before heading back up the road for another adventure.

If you want to iron out inefficiencies in your workflow process, there are lots of content automation solutions available. To find out which is right for you contact us.

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The secret life of DAMS
Automated Catalogue Creation
Collaborative Workflow Management
When the middleman is the right man