Finding the Right-Sized Asset Manager for Your Post-Production Workflow

editors using asset manager in post production

Likely no one on your team is begging to include more software in the post-production workflow. With so many pipes in the post pipeline, editors may resist adding a new tool to their pile.

Let’s take the MAM, for instance, a media asset management system most often suited to broadcast environments or large post facilities. In truth, a MAM can simplify workflows, whether you’re hunting down files or waiting for approvals. MAMs let every in-house and remote contributor access all production and archived assets, even when they’re stored across local and remote systems.

But the thing is, some MAMs are just too cumbersome for film or TV production. Many require professional services or an IT department to get them up and running, and afterward people may feel like they spend more time bowing to the needs of the MAM than getting the actual job done.

A broadcast-level MAM has something for everyone. But why struggle with a system if you’ll never use half its capabilities? Media asset management products come in a variety of flavors, and one size definitely does not fit all. Broadcast operations need the big guns—the capacity to do deep customization, for example, or to orchestrate all the steps in the ingestion, storage, and distribution of media.

But there’s another class of lighter-weight asset managers designed specifically for post-production workflows. They tend to be turnkey solutions designed to work right out of the box, without extensive IT support. They’re less expensive and easier to maintain, but they’re still high-powered enough to ease collaboration and integrate with your core editing software.

What’s in a Name?

If you’re on the hunt for an asset manager, don’t just go by name—you may hear of similar solutions lurking under the MAM moniker, or under the title “production asset manager” (PAM), which is used most typically to facilitate collaboration among teams using different tools. These solutions may be too robust for post teams simply looking for a way to organize their content, move assets across media storage tiers, and archive their media securely, with no need for all the automation possible in a PAM/MAM environment. Acronyms aside, the key is to find the right feature set for your operation.

An asset management tool for post production is a much different beast than traditional, heavy-duty MAMs. Generally, these solutions extend your project management capabilities beyond the confines of your editing system. They let PAs and other noneditors get a jump on some of the more time-intensive tasks as production ramps up. They help to track revisions amid a torrent of constantly changing assets, and can trace who touches each asset and how they changed it. The technology lets everyone, whether in-house or freelance, on location or working remotely, stay in sync as they share media.

Find Media Fast

An asset manager should let you search in a variety of ways. For example, you should be able to find all the clips with a specific line of dialogue by searching in a browser. Think about how easy that would make creating a stringout. The right asset manager will let you search for media phonetically, by metadata, or using any other criteria—even across multiple projects.

A web-based interface will also let anyone working remotely—story editors, producers, PAs—find and access the assets they need. For example, PAs can hop right in to a simple web browser, search for assets, and start organizing projects and bins. If the solution features a timeline, they may even be able to create and edit simple sequences to sync with the editors’ core editing software.

Reduce Bottlenecks

For the most part, all your post-production editors may care about is having easy access to their files. An asset manager designed especially for post-production workflows should let team members log media, prep content, group footage, and collaborate more efficiently without having to take turns.

An asset manager should remove bottlenecks, letting everyone on the team do their jobs in parallel. Rather than waiting for everyone to review all the dailies, for example, the right solution will make notations for every shot available to the entire team. If the director calls for a color adjustment on a shot, the colorist receives a notification and can get on it right away.

You don’t need a bear of a MAM to turbocharge your post pipeline. As teams are more distributed than ever, the right-sized asset manager can help your team to organize, search, prep, share, edit, and review all of a project’s footage no matter where they are.

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    Veteran tech journalist Susan Kuchinskas covers digital technology and media from the San Francisco Bay Area.

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