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August, 26 2020

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Industry jargon is generally developed to make communication easier. But it can just as easily cause confusion. Marketers like to “coin” terms to “differentiate” products, and product teams get side-tracked in minutiae that doesn’t impact outcomes. Both of these forces have impacted digital, video, and media asset management software. 

In order to describe tools that centralize your control over video and digital content, you need to learn a whole host of acronyms, including DAM, VAM, MAM, PAM, VCM... just to name a few. 

What’s more, this terminology is often used inconsistently, adding to the confusion. But that’s what this article is for — we’re here to break down the meanings of each and explain why MAM is the best term to use (and probably the only term you need) when it comes to asset management tools for video and more. 

Getting to know those TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms!)

There are a few acronyms that bounce around in the world of media asset management and here we’ll take a nonsense-free look at what they mean. 

DAM: Digital Asset Management

Digital asset management can be considered an umbrella term that’s used to describe any piece of software designed to store and organize digital assets in a central location, including videos, photos, music, text documents, etc. However, this isn’t the most accurate definition as it has a legacy definition attached to it. 

Probably the oldest term we’ll discuss in this blog, 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 capacity to handle large assets (specifically videos, but photos as well) and do not come with production-focused capabilities. That’s why DAM systems are good if your requirements are simple and your assets are small. 

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 management. 

Modern VAM platforms have a wide range of capabilities, such as the ability to ingest video, transcode files, locate assets using metadata and store files within the archive. However, the term isn’t the most popular and doesn’t actually tell you whether the system was designed for archive or production purposes. So if you want storage and searchability features as well as a variety of production functions, MAM might be better suited to your needs (which we’ll get to).  

MAM: Media Asset Management 

MAM is really the modern update to both DAM and VAM. 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. Traditionally, MAM solutions don’t have many production-oriented capabilities — focusing on archive management. However, this is changing, MAM is often archive and production focused, aiding in production workflow optimization. 

For example, some MAM solutions can integrate directly with editors, allowing you to access archives and ingest automation features from software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer. Modern MAM 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. Advanced metadata capabilities also simplify searchability and storage. This is probably the best term to use when managing various multimedia deliverables. 

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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 systems. Historically, they were a critical part of an asset manager’s tool kit. 
  • VCM (Video Content Management) A term most commonly used for creative and digital agencies, VCM is similar to VAM and MAM systems. These tools focus on cataloging video assets as well as providing production-focused capabilities, but it’s better suited for organizations with limited content management needs. Find out more about VCM and how it benefits creative agencies by reading our free eBook: A Creative Agency’s Guide to Video Content Management.
  • 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. 

What your organization needs from asset management

It’s easy to see why these terms are so easily mixed up. Not only is there a great deal of overlap between them, but 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 your specific organization wants and needs. 

Video Asset Management

What are your 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 MAM, VAM and VCM. If you need production capabilities (version tracking, cloud-sharing and permission settings), you need MAM or VAM. 

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.   

Do you need archive management?

As your production house creates more and more video content, your archives can become increasingly unwieldy. Fortunately, the current crop of MAM platforms: 

  • Can incorporate sophisticated detection software (e.g. object recognition and voice recognition
  • Can capture more detailed metadata during ingest (and automate the process). 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.

Will the software 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 MAM 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 and accessed by multiple users. You can even control who has access to these files and the level of access they have, ensuring security. 

This also means remote collaboration is possible, without having to share multiple versions of files. Some MAM software offers checking in and out capabilities, which means assets and sequences don’t have to be constantly downloaded. Instead, they’re all contained in the project bin and editing can start straight away. By doing your research and finding the right technological investments, you can find a MAM system with features that benefit you and make your operations more efficient. 

Does the tool have integration capabilities?

It always helps when a new tool is able to slot seamlessly into your existing toolkit. Switching between applications when searching through content and making edits can become tedious. After all, there’s very little ROI if you need to invest in even more software to help your asset management software function. 

Look for a MAM 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. For example, our Curator for Adobe Panel — which emerged from a partnership between IPV and Adobe — is an easy way to simplify your workflow. 

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Is the software secure?

As well as offering state-of-the-art encryption, good quality MAM 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 MAM platforms can:

  • Encrypt your assets, especially those being shared in the cloud.
  • Easily set permission levels for different users, so the people who have access to certain content will be completely controlled.
  • Set who has edit permissions and even see who has edited what (complete transparency and tracking).
  • Assign watermarks to editors, which ensures traceability in case of a leak. 

Security isn’t just essential to ensure your projects aren’t leaked. You also need to think about retaining your clients’ trust and maintaining your reputation, so any software you use needs to reduce any internal or external risks. 

Regardless of the acronym, find a solution that fits

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. 

However, when it comes down to it, the different terms don’t really matter and there’s a lot of crossover between many of them. To figure out what software will work best for your organization, you need to do in-depth research to get the platform that suits your workflow, collaboration and security needs. 

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. And we may be biased, but IPV’s Curator does everything we described — and more! If you want to find out more about what MAM can do, check out our free eBooks here.

To find out more about MAM software and go through your options, book some time with Gabrielle directly.👇👇👇


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