ELVIS Digital Asset Management System

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1 ELVIS Digital Asset Management System IT-Enquirer Reports E. Vlietinck All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. E. Vlietinck disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although E. Vlietinck s research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, he does not provide legal advice or services and his research should not be construed or used as such. E. Vlietinck shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. For information contact:

2 Table of Contents Executive Summary. 3 The case for Digital Asset Management. 3 What makes a DAM system?. 4 The ELVIS concept. 5 ELVIS architecture ELVIS Multimedia support. 10 ROI considerations. 11 Conclusion E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 1

3 Copyright Notices This Report and all of its content are the property of Erik Vlietinck, Ll.D., the Publisher. The Report and all materials published therein, including but not limited to text, graphical and photographic images are protected by copyright and owned by the Publisher or its licensors. For Information on all IT Enquirer Content, send an to All material here present is E. Vlietinck, Ll.D All Rights Reserved. You may not modify the Report or re-publish, re-transmit, or otherwise distribute directly or via links the Report to any third person. This report has been copy-protected using different technologies and methods, including password protection, visible and invisible tokens. You must not remove any of these tokens. Permissions All requests for licensing, reprints, linking and other usage of the Report should be addressed to the publisher via at Read the full copyright information on 2

4 Executive Summary Software for the management of images, audio and video is the fastest growing segment of the content management market, according to several market analysts. Digital Asset Management (DAM) manages multimedia assets, including layout design and word processor files. Critical factors for DAM are consumer experience with light, brief video and audio and an increasing need for non-textual communication and documentation models. DAM s focus lies on the specific requirements of media other than text. While traditional DAM systems underlying database technology makes the use of a DAM system tedious and painful (SQL!), the next-generation DAM system ELVIS which we tested for this report, uses search engine technology at its core. ELVIS focuses entirely on three functionality drivers that are essential in DAM: collecting assets, searching and retrieving assets, and selecting assets. The ELVIS systems concentrates on file format support, ease of use, scalability, rapid deployment, and especially search. We found ELVIS to be a more user-friendly DAM system than any of the traditional DAM systems in the market today. ELVIS allows for better ROI by delivering a faster time to market, much lower training costs and much higher user satisfaction and adoption. Together with its desktop ease of use, ELVIS delivers organisations including corporate, publishing, and media from small to large, a powerful and highly scalable client/server DAM system that currently has no match in the market, both conceptually and feature wise. The case for Digital Asset Management Digital Asset Management (DAM) comes in a number of flavours. Some DAM systems target individual users such as photographers, a second group of systems aim at supporting the production of video and audio, and a third and probably the largest group aims at supporting corporate and publishing processes. ELVIS belongs to the third type of DAM solutions. This type of DAM finds itself at the heart of the fastest growing market of DAM systems worldwide. The reasons are the increased use of video, audio and images by enterprises whose core business has no direct affiliation with publishing. The explosive spike in the popularity of consumer online video, is fuelling a similar interest in video within enterprises. Video use on the Web is growing extremely swiftly. Consider these data from a variety of sources: 2009 E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 3

5 73% of the Internet audience watches a video at least monthly that is about 90 million viewers. In March 2008, each YouTube viewer watched 50 videos monthly, an increase of about 14% from February, when viewers watched about 42 videos each. In 2007, YouTube added 831,000+ net new videos to its library. Enterprises who see this statistic as irrelevant to their operations will in many if not most cases find themselves disabused of the notion when customers start to request video communication services. Typical first uses of video by commercial entities have been for promotion, generating contests in which users are encouraged to submit creative or funny videos to compete for prizes as part of a promotion. Software for the management of images and video is the fastest growing segment of the content management market, with just 44% of enterprises having such products today but 22% intending to install it in 2009, according to a 2008 Gartner survey data. IDC Research even reports that 30% of all corporate content will be audio, video and images by The use of audio is also on the increase. Audio is valuable in situations where workers hands and eyes are occupied with operations tasks. Storing audio recordings associated with calls to a call centre is something organizations commonly do today in a content management repository so they can capture it as part of the overall customer folder and apply retention policies to it. What is coming next is less focused on record-keeping and more on content creation, as well. Critical factors for DAM are consumer experience with light, brief video and audio and an increasing need for non-textual communication and documentation models. These factors will accelerate the need for video, audio, and images to be incorporated as an accessible element of content management technologies. What makes a DAM system? We define DAM as the type of software application that catalogues, indexes, stores, retrieves and renders rich media (graphics, photos, video, audio, vector art, animations, layout files, CAD files, etc). Within the media and advertising industries, such application may also be referred to as media asset management (MAM) applications. In corporate environments the acronym DAM is used more often. We will use the DAM acronym throughout this analysis. Except for corporate users in general, DAM is a growing concern among agencies, broadcast companies, marketing communications departments, etc. 4

6 DAM tools and services provide functions similar to those of enterprise content management (ECM) systems, such as content library services (check-in, check-out and version control, for example), repository management, content ingestion and deployment, and workflow. The difference lies in DAM s focus on the specific requirements of media other than text. These can include special search and metadata requirements, transcoding and transformation tools, mediaspecific storage and bandwidth requirements, and integration with editorial or publishing systems at the creation side and rendering systems at the output side. The DAM type developed to support corporate, book, magazine, and newspaper publishing has functions that have expanded substantially beyond the what media builders or sellers need. Nonmedia enterprises use more graphics and rich media than ever before, particularly on Web sites, and need to manage them effectively to contain costs and control their branding and corporate identity. The ELVIS concept ELVIS is a Digital Asset Management system developed with Adobe Flex technologies. It has a server component and a client running as an Adobe AIR application. The server component is endlessly scalable and delivers clustering and load balancing functionality out of the box. Dutch Software delivers ELVIS as a ready to install application bundle, with an extremely easy and simple installation and even configuration process. To install and run ELVIS an organisation does not need a dedicated administrator. The concept behind ELVIS is different from that of other DAM vendors. ELVIS focuses entirely on three functionality drivers that are essential in DAM: collecting assets, searching and retrieving assets, and selecting assets. The ELVIS systems concentrates on file format support, ease of use, scalability, rapid deployment, and especially search. Unique about ELVIS is that it does not rely on database technology but on search technology. The vision that finding assets quickly and efficiently is paramount drives the development of ELVIS and its success in the marketplace. This vision also makes ELVIS a lightweight application in areas where specialised third party production products (Final Cut Server for broadcast, Elpical for image editing) can do a lot better job while it expands its capabilities in areas where most competing products are weak. For example, basic inline editing (which is usually done by the production department) of images, audio and video in ELVIS is not available, but tagging assets is. Creating video effects is not available, the creation of a smaller clip from a larger video clip is possible, as is soft-cropping, etc. Most competing products offer it the way around, resulting in systems with features nobody uses because they are too basic E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 5

7 The concept choice made by ELVIS developers can make ELVIS look like under-featured on the surface when compared to other systems, but on closer look ELVIS turns out to be much stronger in delivering core DAM functionality rapidly adding, enriching, and finding assets which results in a better ROI than the competition. ELVIS architecture In contrast to traditional DAM systems, ELVIS does not use a database but is based on search engine technology. Its two other components are a storage and a processing engine. The lack of database underpinnings makes ELVIS actually more flexible than database based solutions. For example, the product allows users with the right permissions to search across the entire asset base, even when the assets are structured on the file systems level in Zones. This is impossible with database driven solutions as they require users to search within the boundaries of configured tables and database relationships. In other words: the asset-base structure is not an obstruction to finding the asset users need, unless they are explicitly forbidden to do so. User friendliness ELVIS searches are very fast, not hampered by the need to know SQL or any other structured search language, and compliant with the consumer feel next-generation DAM systems need to support. 6

8 Searches are sorted by relevancy by default another functionality that database driven solutions cannot provide for, and one that reminds more of the way Google conceives searching than SQL does. Searches can apply to metadata and to content (for assets that have textual content) and can be saved as a saved search (a sort of Mac OS X Smart Folder). Furthermore, the administrator and the users who have the permissions to do so, can categorise the assets based on their file formats this type of categorisation is called Filters. Both filters and saved searches can be shared among users. Finally, a folder browsing feature is also present. This functionality can be limited to Zones to which the user has access permission. All user interaction with ELVIS for searching relevant assets is fast and intuitive, and reminded us more of an Apple Mac OS X desktop application than a client/server based enterprise product. There is no learning curve and even inexperienced users will find that working with ELVIS is fast, flexible and easy --an example is filmstrip mode where users can view a large preview of an asset with a 2009 E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 7

9 filmstrip view of the other assets, accessed by double-clicking the asset. Assets can also be ed and other actions can be taken upon them easily. Tags (see further) for example, make the search capability richer and more consumer-type simple. Scalability Partly due to the lack of a database, partly because of its optimised code, and in large part because of the fast and load-balance capable processing engine, ELVIS is scalable to support millions of assets without noticeable performance hits. In fact, as many processing engines as wanted can be installed, clustered, and load balanced. This engine is intelligent towards its load balancing capabilities and its capability to find free stations on the network that can help with the processing task. Furthermore, ELVIS Air client supports drag and drop from and to local workstations. On the server side, hot folder import, RSS or XML feed import, and importing the Flex Web-only page are possibilities for importing assets also. Integration with Adobe Creative Suite 4 (panels) ensures drag and drop capabilities for designers who are using ELVIS assets. Zones enable administrators to structure the file repository without affecting the search-ability of the total asset base. A good example of ELVIS scalability potential is its ability to show all its assets potentially millions of them in one window. Although this is only useful in a demonstration environment, it does show how well ELVIS has been optimised for its core task. In a maintenance upgrade, ELVIS will also offer the ability to run multiple search engines simultaneously. ELVIS currently integrates with WoodWing Software s Enterprise 6 publishing system. In this domain, we would like to see ELVIS integrate with more than only one publishing or even production platform. We believe ELVIS should also integrate with vjoon s K4, Quark Publishing System, Censhare, ATEX, and a considerable and growing number of XML-based systems such as NUQLEO and Atomik Quantum Publisher. Server, user, and asset Management Configuration is done using configuration files (text files that the administrator needs to fill with the correct configuration details). For example, setting up users other than via LDAP can be done by adding their name, role and permission base in the internal.users.properties.txt file. We believe that even for configuration purposes, an organisation would not need to employ a DAM expert. Someone in the organisation who has a good level of understanding of desktop and server products, can manage ELVIS from beginning to end. Although ELVIS can be managed without the need for a dedicated or specialised administrator, the person who will be in charge of ELVIS has the ability to manage users, roles, collections, modules, etc, from within ELVIS GUI interface once the system has been installed. 8

10 All management features are extremely simple to perform. Setting new user permissions for example, is a matter of adding a user name and checking the user rights buttons. Some features don t require administrator intervention at all. The audit trail functionality for example, is turned on by default. It keeps a log of everything that happens with every asset, including check in/out activities on the fly. ELVIS administrators can import assets from legacy servers or by any type of (wire) feed. In order to organise the file imports, they can have the assets imported into Zones, depending on the import source. Zones are not physical or logical barriers users can t search across. Instead, they are merely extra aids for having a structure in the way assets are stored in folders on the server. Collections can be set up by both administrators and users who have the correct permissions. These are groups of assets that belong together according to a user, and which can be used in different actions. Collections can be shared and again do not restrict a user s searching capability in any way. Except for creating virtual groups of assets with Collections using drag-and-drop, ELVIS users can tag assets. Tags further enrich the assets beyond the usual metadata. They can be added to assets by any user, ensuring the assets are categorised in a 360 degree fashion the equivalent of the so-called tag cloud that makes finding the right assets for a job a more precise activity than is possible only with metadata (especially important for non-textual assets). Besides the parallelism with social bookmarking which especially younger users will be accustomed to tagging also makes assets findable under a larger number of criteria, adding to the media richness of the database. However, and especially as ELVIS already offers such rich functionality in these areas, we lacked the ability to search for image patterns. ELVIS does have phonetic and fuzzy search capabilities. We do like to see visual search added to the product (e.g. facial recognition) E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 9

11 Metadata and XML support By default, ELVIS comes with 200 metadata fields, which can be expanded to an unlimited number by the administrator. ELVIS also creates a full text index, enriching the search capabilities and further adding to the metadata. Metadata such as EXIF, IPTC and XMP fields are automatically imported with the asset in ELVIS. On export, ELVIS will add custom fields as sidecar files to the asset, so that authoring or editing applications can take advantage of them. Fairly unique about ELVIS is its processing engine supporting full native XML import and export. This means ELVIS enables its users to integrate with all open systems. But even systems that do not natively support XML can benefit from ELVIS XML capabilities. The best example of this is the WoodWing Enterprise 6 integration that is delivered with ELVIS. In order to import assets from Enterprise 6 which does not support XML on import or export ELVIS processes Enterprise assets by transforming them into XML through XSLT. This turns all Enterprise 6 articles into XML-objects. This in turn gives ELVIS users who are not running the Enterprise 6 platform, a chance to use the articles from the Enterprise platform just as any other asset. Another advantage of ELVIS XML capabilities is that image and text assets are automatically linked to layout design assets. This allows users to instantly see which assets belong together, or are published as one publication. Links between assets can be created manually as well. The same XML support in ELVIS ensures users can turn on import modules that use RSS or XML feeds to pull assets into ELVIS. An example of this is the Flickr module which gives ELVIS the ability to pull in all Flickr images as they are added in real time. ELVIS Multimedia support A Digital Asset Management system may offer a huge number of features and capabilities, but one of the most important factors that should drive the decision to buy one solution or another, is the list of file formats the DAM supports. ELVIS supports all common file formats and most Camera RAW formats as well. Another factor to take into consideration is the system s support for file formats that are rapidly growing in importance audio and video. ELVIS can store audio and video just like any other asset, and as it does for every type of asset, generate a preview of every supported video format; in the preview scrubbing through a video clip is possible already. Video is previewed as Flash video, while other formats such as Microsoft Office files, Text, etc are rendered as HTML, and images and PDF documents as JPEG. ELVIS currently lacks the ability to create individual clips by In/Out marking. ELVIS will be upgraded at some point in the future to support this feature, as it fits in the basic philosophy of maximising selection capability. 10

12 Intensive editing of video can be better done by production DAM systems like Apple s Final Cut Server which already supports such capabilities. ELVIS should (and probably will) therefore integrate with such systems sooner rather than later. ROI considerations Based on our own testing and observations from working with ELVIS and with two of the major traditional DAM systems available, we believe that ELVIS has a better ROI than traditional DAM systems in two areas: administrative and user-based. In the area of administration, ELVIS is up to 80% less difficult and time-consuming to install, configure and set up. The time to first asset import is dramatically lower than with database driven systems. Management of ELVIS once it has been installed and configured is also much less resource intensive than the traditional DAM system. Based on our experiences, we believe it is realistic to expect a ROI of between 50% and 80% on administration with ELVIS compared to traditional DAM systems. In terms of using the system, the flexibility and consumer-type usage concept ELVIS characterise, make up for two effects: the first is the lack of learning curve and the second is the acceptance and ease-of-use for people who will have to work with the system. The lack of a learning curve ensures training costs are at an absolute minimum. Compared to traditional DAM systems the reduction in training cost will be as high as 90% the 10% difference is for those inevitable technology-illiterate or even hostile users who are present in every organisation E. Vlietinck. All Rights Reserved. 11

13 Technology acceptance is driven mainly by the ease-of-use and familiarity of a system to users who have only consumer-level experience with a computer or software system. In ELVIS case, the parallel between ELVIS interface and consumer type DAM is almost 100%. For example, tagging assets is reminiscent of tagging content on the Web, an activity many Web surfers are familiar with. Sharing Collections in ELVIS is reminiscent of sharing content on the Web, etc. Due to this high level of parallelism, ELVIS actually stimulates the enrichment of assets through their metadata, the creation of Collections, and the tagging and sharing of assets. The search concept ELVIS uses is another parallel with how consumer type users find information on the Web. Even the results lists returned by ELVIS are much alike the results list most familiar Web Search Engines render. Finally, saving searches is most familiar to Mac OS X users who can save file searches in what is known as Smart Folders on that operating system platform. For these reasons, we believe ELVIS can generate very high ROI in time spans that are dramatically lower than its competitors. ELVIS pricing scheme strengthens us in reaching this conclusion. Conclusion ELVIS is a unique DAM system that cleverly implements new technologies currently mainstream in Web 2.0 applications. Through its concept choices and the implementation of only asset management functionality instead of bloatware features, ELVIS delivers fast, flexible and powerful DAM capabilities in an attractive package. We believe ELVIS is the first of a new generation of enterprise-level applications that offer administrators less management headaches, and users more consumer-level ease-of-use both issues that hamper traditional systems in user acceptance and ROI. 12

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