Managing digital assets is a huge part of working with digital media at any scale. There are several reasons it’s important to use dedicated software to keep track of your media:
- Instant search-ability is key and good cataloging software in conjunction with robust metadata makes that possible.
- The media you’re searching for may be offline, whether unavailable or in archive and you may need to find it, or find information about it.
- You may not remember the organization of a project long-shelved
Assets destined for archive when a production wraps are moved to archive or “cold storage”. This is usually a different, space-saving solution destined for long-term reliability. Often times, those assets will be divided geographically, a practice I’ve already mentioned is common with digital media during production as well.
This software is key to it all. It will track media on ingest and “index” or “catalog” it as you work with and move the media. The following list represents a broad range of prices and feature sets.
Professional solutions are a bit out of the scope of this lesson, but Vanage, a professional solution from Telestream is a solid choice. Similar solutions include Levels Beyond, eMAM, Primestream, Cantemo Portal and Veritone. At this enterprise level, various 3rd party companies exist to help studios integrate the MAM software, the media servers, web hosting solutions, and all the bits of programming in between. NSA, run by Bryson Jones is an excellent and friendly resource.
- EditShare Flow: Glenn Venhaus is a great member of a community of indviduals finding affordable solutions to professional problems. His MIDI controller products used as Resolve control panels are fantastic. Because he finds this MAM particularly hopeful I’m listing it here. Especially with the B2 cloud backbone.
- CatDV: This is where things start to get “affordable”, as in closer to $500 starting out. It’s so multifunctional it’s tough to figure out which of its components does what. This is a massive piece of many softwares but it’s customizability means it grows with you. Bryson Jones is the big evangelist for CatDV. One has to buy the cheapest “CatDV Workgroup Server” to get the web abilities. And there are still issues (that one really does not support smart folders?And is somehow Mac only?). The difference between CatDV Pro for $500 and CatDV Essential for $X? I think the latter has server support? And I still don’t get the worker, client, etc. When it’s web-based who is hosting the media? And you seriously have to have the Pegasus version for R3D playback? Rolphe invented CatDV to basically find his home videos and photos (circa 2000) now CEO is Dave Clack. CatDV started as consumer-focused shareware. It’s specialties include high customizability, scales better than anything, has all the features where smaller products serve a single niche, it’s secure, reliable, and big enough it’s not disappearing overnight.
- KeyFlow Pro
- KYNO: KYNO is awesome and Matt Alard likes it but there is currently no provision for web-based preview for external access. It’s not a full-fledged MAM. From KYNO: “Many of the features like tagging, descriptive metadata support and filtering give it a MAM kind of feel but its scope is currently rather a very light-weight support of production processes rather than long-term archival, although people may still find it useful for that as well. The main point is, that is is much more light-weight than typical MAMs because it does not require an import/ingest step before you can do something useful with your material.”
- Axle: Axle is a bit simplistic, but easy to use. It’s more just a web platform for getting footage up so multiple people can comment and share it.
- Cantemo: It’s difficult to get pricing on this one but the feature set is incredibly broad and modern. You have to contact them to buy credits for use of their software on a month-by-month subscription basis based on usage. Other than that hard-to-predict pricing methodology the software looks amazing. How about integration with Resolve?
- Alorsoft Media Indexer
- YoYotta: Not a full-featured MAM by any means, but this handy tool for checksumming and LTO archive is one way to catalog and access your data.
- NeoFinder: NeoFinder is amazing for the price. It’s biggest weaknesses for my use are no support for NLEs and video workflow, and the networking option basically relies on every machine having a license of NeoFinder (albeit can be Mac or PC) and accessing shared storage. It doesn’t have a browser-based, easy-to-share with whomever, sort of option. But it’s got great support, checksummed backups, AI-based asset recognition, good format support. etc.
- Mac OS Finder: Primitive tagging features, not OS agnostic, and unreliable on network shares.
- Bridge: If you can tweak its centralized cache to be shareable, Adobe Bridge can be a useable MAM.
Important features to consider:
- Offline Image Proxies
- Offline Video Proxies
- Keyword Tagging
- Multi-user Access via a web server
- Mobile Access
- NLE compatibility
Tape (LTO) vs Hard Drive
- Linear vs Random Access
- Upfront Cost
There are a lot of opinions on it, but basically powered off disks are generally considered less reliable than tape. If they aren’t being used, HDDs are more subject to failure. They’re physically larger, have moving parts, and are more pricey than LTO. LTO-8 provides 12TB uncompressed and 30TB of compressed data capacity on a single cartridge priced around $100. But, bear in mind that LTO’s costs are quite front-loaded. You’ll need to buy the drive ($2k+)and the tapes and software. LTO tapes are rated at 30-yr longevity. LTO advances quickly and is only backwards compatible up to two versions. It’s linear, tape-based storage so there’s no skipping to the middle of it quickly to overwrite an old file–essentially you keep the old file and just write a new one to the end of the tape.
“With the introduction of LTFS, The LTO appears as a device and allows you to drag and drop files to and from the tape. In short, it allows the LTO drive interface to function like a regular hard drive. This removed the need for any special software and made saving and copying files much more intuitive for the user. It also has the added advantage of making LTO drives compatible across all the major operating systems.”
NAS for Archive?
As you should know, NAS refers to “Network-Attached Storage” as opposed to “Direct-Attached Storage”. It’s got spinning disks inside, and is intended for active storage, but if your storage requirements are minimal it can work as you grow. The nice thing here is that the NAS provider gives you software for managing digital assets. Just be aware that much of the metadata cataloging you do (especially with video files) is not going to be transferable.
QNAP (e.g. TVS-882ST3 or Bob’s recommendation TS-1685)
I use a Synology RS3614xs+ a 12-bay, 35TB usable, and at home I use a DS1515+
Synology Hybrid RAID
Quad Core Xeon processor with enterprise features like dual power supplies and swap-ability. You can also buy a 10Gb Ethernet adapter for it.
Drobo vs UnRAID?
Drobo comes as DAS or NAS, but caps out at 12 bays or 128TB max. It’s not typically meant to be an archive solution but some students have had success with it. It’s meant to be user friendly and easily upgradeable with any sort of drive.
UnRAID is like a more customizable, easier-scalable NAS, but similar to Synology and QNAP. With unRAID, you can start with a single drive and grow it with an array of random, mismatched drives from there. With Synology, you can swap an old drive for a new, larger, one, allow it to rebuild, and one-by-one upgrade them all. Or you can get a $500 5-bay external expansion bay.
“The people who get the most out of it are probably the ones doing a lot more with it – Dockers, applications, VMs, etc.”