All those DAM Systems

Those DAM systems…workflows, storage, backups, external hard drives, partitions, servers...sound familiar? It seems endless. By no means are these sexy terms, they are dry, lack creativity and there is nothing glamorous about them…or is there?

Digital Asset Management Systems, or DAM’s are growing in popularity because of their viable need for smarter workflows, plus technologically advanced reliability as we know it is infinite.  Though we may not always gravitate to this type of dialogue, digital asset management systems are darn right important.  We rely on them as we work on projects, grow our workflows and save some of the most important work we will ever create.  We need them.  We have to pay attention to them and make sure they work. It’s also critical to make sure they are running up to speed with all of the latest software updates.  It’s hard to keep up with technology, software updates seem to pop up every other day, many of which we would like to avoid, since they change the interface and workflow of our devices!

But digital asset management is a different animal.  You really do get what you pay for in this market and it’s smart to invest in a system that is solid, reliable, robust, and will adapt to your ever changing workflows and mixed media needs. Essentially you want something that is tangible. Speaking from experience, I know a good system when I see one.  I am a video asset coordinator and editor, so I manage video assets for one of the largest wildlife conservation organizations in the world.  I am required to have organization and order to my workflow, it’s not an option, it’s a must.  We have a few DAM systems that have worked very well for us.  We have a plethora of video assets, everything from old digitized SD archived footage that we probably will never use again, to stunning 4K footage from the field in Nepal and the Amazon, some of which is now known as VR or Virtual Reality.  Those files are simply huge.  4K is where we are going and those files are enormous, requiring a lot of space.

First, I’d like to talk about some of the workflows I’ve implemented as a video archivist.  It’s a challenge when you’re getting in footage quicker than you can process.  We always have hard drives coming in from around the world.  The footage is stunning, and I find myself wanting to work on it right away, but before I can do that I must back it up, but before I can even touch it I must make sure I have the contracts for each drive that is coming in.  We work with and commission many different videographers and photographers so I need to know which office the drive came from and who it belongs to, what the rights are, etc…that is something I highly recommend.  Make sure to put all of your contracts in once place on an internal server that your team or department can access.  I have a folder labeled contract/release forms on our internal server so I know which contract goes to which hard drive/footage.  Once I have that in place, I am free to back up the footage and organize it.  I also do a second back up to a designated hard drive, which I then label.  Right now I have about 6 hard drives, ranging from 1-5 Terabytes, in my office and they are all labeled.  One of the first things I do now, is label a drive since we are working with so many, I need to know what footage is on what drive.  Once I get the drives and back up the footage, I then create stories depending on the project and I will also create b-roll packages.  It’s very rewarding and exciting work but if I don’t have a system in place, then my entire workflow becomes counter productive. It’s critical to have structure to your digital asset management system.

The DAM systems I recommend are:

  • VideoBank It can get pricey but it’s a solid database, which allows you to catalogue all of your video and photo assets. You simply upload the assets into your system, then plug in the metadata and the system is redundant so if the system crashes or fails in some way, the assets are still there since the redundant data backups ensure stability and success.
  • Drobo is another excellent self-managing storage device systems.  These systems have a redundancy platform set up which means they are constantly backing themselves up.  What does this mean?  With redundant backups, there are no hard drive failures but if something does go wrong, the assets are always there! And that’s good news. I’ve worked on a partition with multiple drobo systems in the past and they are fantastic.  These drives are essentially housing units with portable hard drives inside of them.  I’ve seen people dedicate closets to housing a tower of Drobos.  They are reliable and come in multiple sizes depending on your workflow and storage needs. These devices are made for computers and are made of different types of backup systems including direct-attached storage (DAS), storage area networks (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS). I highly recommend them and they are made by a company called Connected Data.
  • External Hard Drives and Internal Servers. This is a system you want to always put in place.  Investing in a few 1 to 2 TB hard drives are a great way to backup storage and hold onto it for as long as you need while you are moving it around and editing it.  I recommend LaCie and GTech as two of my favorite external hard drive brands. Premiere Gal also works off of a 4-TB LaCie Rugged RAID portable drive on the go before she backs up. A few of the websites I really like for competitive pricing and delivery reliability are, NewEgg, G-Tech, and B&H. Prices in external storage has really come down over the years so don’t be afraid to invest in space! Daisy chaining the drives is another way of backing up the footage to one another.  If you work for a company, I’m sure you will already have an internal server backup system in place.  This is where files can move around and be shared over your network.
Daisy Chaining Drives by Buffalo Tech:

Daisy Chaining Drives by Buffalo Tech:

Invest with an expert company who can build you a custom DAM system.  As I mentioned earlier, meet with a company who specializes in creating and designing custom DAM systems tailored to you or your company’s specific asset needs. It’s a personalized process so the benefits span across the board.

Organization equals success and though it may not seem terribly exciting, having a concrete, reliable DAM with a solid data backup protection is really critical and will allow for smooth sailing workflows and interactions when it comes to your digital assets.  You want to protect assets that you already have archived, and prep the assets that are coming in so you can feel confident in the system you’re working with and don’t have to worry about backups failing, and not having enough storage. If you and your colleagues feel comfortable and confident in the DAM you’ve created, you will take pride in all of the moving parts.  Protect your digital assets so your innovations and creativity can thrive.


Irene A. Magafan is a natural history documentary filmmaker, producer and writer of the award winning documentary The Bonobo Connection, narrated by Ashley Judd, as well as an independent multimedia producer.  She currently works as the video asset coordinator and editor for one of the largest wildlife conservation organizations globally.  Previously she worked at the National Gallery of Art as a video archivist and spent 3 years at RHED Pixel - a Visual Communications company, as a video producer and project manager. Irene is a member of SAG-AFTRA and is a freelance voiceover actor. She is a recipient of the Master of Fine Arts degree in Film & Electronic Media from American University as well as a Scholar in the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Email: You can follow her and check out her work on Twitter.