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DAM vs MAM vs VAM: your guide to media asset management

October, 15 2019

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Alex Ferris
Written By
Alex Ferris

When an industry becomes entrenched with jargon, it can become really confusing. This is doubly true when people are inconsistent with how these terms are used.

If you’re a creative director or head of a video production company, there’s a good chance that you’d much rather be creating than wading through technical jargon and grappling with supposedly intuitive software programs. 

As keen as you may be to concentrate solely on staying productive and creative, with every new technological and operational innovation comes a new flood of acronyms. This is exactly the situation when it comes to video production tools. While this tech has the capacity to revolutionize how you work, the terminology can be confusing to newcomers.

What we want to offer here is a quick guide to get behind the jargon and look innovation straight in the face. While there’s a great deal more depth in our handy eBook (which you can download by clicking here), let us take you on a whistle-stop guide through Media Asset Management. 


Getting to know those TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms!)

Here we’ll take a nonsense-free look at some of the flashy acronyms you may have heard in the world of media asset management and their definitions. We promise it’s nowhere near as mystifying as the tech gatekeepers would have you believe!

DAM: Digital Asset Management

DAM is considered by some to be an umbrella term, used to describe any piece of software designed to aid in the management of digital assets — videos, photos, text documents etc. However, this isn’t really true. DAM is by far the oldest term on this list. Therefore, it has a legacy definition that is attached to what it was originally designed to do.

DAM is most accurately defined as a piece of software designed to keep track of finished brand assets. Because DAM is older, standard DAM tools have limited abilities to handle large assets (specifically videos, but photos as well), and are not outfitted with advanced metadata capabilities that are critical to getting the most out of modern video assets. They also do not come with production-focused capabilities. 

DAM systems are good if your requirements are simple and your assets are small. If you need advanced metadata capture and production capabilities, you will likely get better results looking at other acronyms. 

MAM: Media Asset Management 

MAM is really the modern update to DAM. The term was originally used in broadcast media to describe systems built to handle the strains of video production. As such, MAM platforms tend to provide generous accommodations for large file sizes. 

With the ever-increasing amount of multimedia content online, MAM has expanded in its scope, becoming an umbrella term in its own right. MAM is probably the most ambiguous term on this list, applied in a large number of contexts. Traditionally, MAM solutions don’t have many production-oriented capabilities — focusing on archive management. However, this is not always the case, and many MAM tools are able to aid in production workflow optimization.  

VAM: Video Asset Management

VAM (also known as VDAM or Video Digital Asset Management) is, as the name suggests, primarily focused on the management of video assets. These tools bring dedicated features that are optimized for video production. For example, VAM solutions often integrate directly with editors, allowing you to access archives and ingest automation features from software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer.

Modern VAM platforms are also geared to enable cloud-based, collaborative editing. This means the ability to compress files, track changes and set permissions to control access. VAM is often archive and production focused — however, that is a distinction you should never take for granted. VAM software also gets used for non-video assets, able to manage multimedia deliverables much like a MAM. However, if you don’t manage video assets, VAM will come with loads of features you’ll never use.  

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The alphabet soup continues 

But wait, there’s more! 

As if those waters weren’t muddy enough, there are also some other more esoteric terms which you might hear (albeit less frequently) in the world of media asset management. These include:

    • PAM (Production Asset Management) — These tend to be fairly simple tools used for version tracking and storage interfacing to help production houses keep up with revisions on frequently edited files. PAM tools are falling out of favour as more production focused capabilities are being integrated into modern MAM and VAM systems. Historically, they were a critical part of an asset manager’s tool kit. 
    • WCM (Web Content Management) — A term used exclusively for tools to store, manage and edit HTML content. 
    • CMS (Content Management Systems) — Another catch-all term to describe any platform for storing, organizing and managing any form of digital content.  
  • Video CMS (Video Content Management System) — A term often used interchangeably with VAM. These are video management tools with archive and production features. Some consider Video CMS tools to deliver a focus on end-to-end upload capabilities. Realistically, there is near total crossover between Video CMS and VAM.

    What should you make of these differences?

It’s easy to see why these terms are so easily mixed up. Not only is there a great deal of overlap between them, some are used to describe both generic and specific functions. This can confuse matters when choosing the right platform for your own specific needs. The good news is that there are a wealth of options for every use case, and making the right choice is about understanding what you want and need. 

Video and production requirements

When looking at a digital asset management tool, there are two big choices you need to make — do you need to manage video assets, and do you need production-focused tools?

If you have video asset management concerns, you need a tool that can handle large files. Based on our definition, that means VAM, MAM and Video CMS. If you need production capabilities (version tracking, cloud-sharing and permission settings) you need VAM or Video CMS. Realistically, there are plenty of MAM labeled products that deliver production-oriented features as well. 

The real point here is that looking at labels won’t get you far. You need to think about capabilities and features, and look to match those with your needs.   

Easy archive management

As your production house creates more and more video content, your archives can become increasingly unwieldy. Fortunately, the current crop of VAM platforms incorporate sophisticated object recognition and capture of more detailed metadata during ingest. This means that archives can be easily scanned for images, words, phrases or even faces. You can essentially search for what you need within a file like the ‘Ctrl+F’ function delivers to text documents. 

Not only does this provide increased visibility over archives, but it also makes quick and simple repurposing of content more accessible — organizations can save money, time and resources by using content they already have in their archives, rather than creating new content. 


Functionality to support remote working

The hefty file sizes of high-quality video files have long been prohibitive when it comes to sharing and remote working. Some VAM platforms, however, can mitigate this by creating proxies which are as little as 2% of the size of the original master file. These can be shared easily and edited in real time. 

This also means remote collaboration is possible, without having to share multiple versions of files. With the right technological investments, you can make your operations more efficient. 

Easy integration

It always helps when a new tool is able to slot seamlessly into your existing tool kit. After all, switching between applications when searching through content and making edits can become tedious. 

Look for a VAM platform which makes it easy to integrate with your existing video editing software, keeping everything in one place. Many of these can also provide automation features which will improve workflows.

Security and centralization

As well as offering state-of-the-art encryption, good quality VAM platforms also allow for greater automation and centralization to reduce the risk of human error (which is by far the most common cause of leaks and breaches).

With integrated security features, some VAM platforms can help you to easily set permission levels for different users, so the people who have access to certain content will be completely controlled.

VAM platform

Know your options to get a solution that fits

The greater demand for content in this technological age means that the processes of creating, editing and managing your content need to become more efficient. And this means getting finding a tool that will help do this. 

Now that the world of media asset management has (hopefully) been demystified, you’re in the perfect position to choose the right platform for you. It’s important to ensure that whichever solution you choose to help you manage your media assets, you are doing the in-depth research you need to get the platform that suits your workflow, collaboration and security needs (to name a few!). 

When you’ve found one that offers as many of the above functionalities as possible, you’ll know that you’ve found the perfect fit for your operation. 

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