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DAM: Solving asset-retrieval, storage and sharing issues

Apr 1, 2003 12:00 AM

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Digital-asset-management (DAM) options range from $200, single-user desktop systems to million-dollar enterprisewide systems. Products include:

  • Entry-level image libraries/catalogs that reside on the desktop or workgroup
  • Asset repositories employing client/server technology
  • High-end enterprise systems for handling everything from office documents to video files.

In general, midrange asset-repository systems are the most popular options for commercial printers. Publication and catalog printers may require higher-end systems, depending on their workflows.

Midrange rocks

“Most of our customer are in the middle category,” says Geeter Kyrazis, director of business development, Wave Corp. (Longwood, FL), which offers the MediaBank asset-management application. “Our pricing reflects that — the workgroup solution costs $10,000; the enterprise is $30,000.”

Founded in the early 1990s by Paul Trevithik, MediaBank was acquired by font specialist Bitstream in 1997. In 1998 MediaBank was sold to Inso Corp., which then sold it to Wave in 2000.

Wave, previously a MediaBank system integrator, faced a hostile reception. During MediaBank's ownership changes, product development and support had lagged, alienating some of its 200 corporate customers.

Following the acquisition, Wave's immediate goal was to stabilize the product. “Much of the server-based code was rewritten and all engineering changes [had to] increase performance or stability or both,” says Kyrazis. “Support calls dwindled from 220 incidents per quarter to fewer than 50, despite a growing customer base and regular version releases.”

Today, MediaBank has a broad range of users. Outdoor retailer Cabelas (Sidney, NE) uses the system as a workflow tool to produce its catalogs. “Users can drag and drop images from MediaBank into QuarkXPress layouts — they use it for OPI and archiving,” relates Kyrazis.

Many high-end users use their systems to give customers online access to assets. “3M (Minneapolis) has an installation where MediaBank is the database structure around which some of its Web services are built,” says Kyrazis. “If the worldwide sales force needs a cutsheet or product sheet, they request it over the Web and the page is built using MediaBank, inserting the language or whatever localization rules apply. They can have 2,000 users at any given time.”

Brown Printing, a division of Brown Industries (Dalton, GA), primarily uses MediaBank for archiving assets. The printer specializes in point-of-purchase displays, sample books and brochures for the flooring industry. The 150-employee operation's largest press is a MAN Roland 800; it also has a variety of six- and four-color, 40-inch presses. Five years ago, the company installed two Creo platesetters, the impetus behind its DAM-system implementation.

In its analog days, Brown maintained an extensive film room. “We do a lot of reprints, which could go back one to two years,” says Richard Amsberry, electronic prepress manager. “To take advantage of CTP, we had to have a digital version of our film room.”

Farewell to film flats

Prior to going CTP, prepress employees used notebooks to record where older film flats were stored. But knowing the film's location didn't eliminate other reprint problems. “The film could be buried in the bottom or middle of a file drawer,” relates Amsberry. “If the Mylar was torn, the job would have to be restripped. On average, it took an hour or two to get a job replated. Now we can probably do it in 20 minutes.”

Brown management selected MediaBank after seeing a demonstration at a trade show. “We were looking for something we could put on our Unix server,” says Amsberry. “At the time, MediaBank was the [only] system we could buy off-the-shelf.”

Brown primarily uses MediaBank for archiving assets that have already gone through its Rampage workflow. “In our setup, MediaBank is integrated with a Legato [back-up system] and a Straitline AIT IT tape library on an SGI Origin 2000 server,” explains Amsberry. “We maintain our CTP RIPed data as well as customer photo files.”

MediaBank also has reduced the need for prepress employees to burn CDs. “About five years ago, our customers started to use larger rack cards — these are boards that have a sample of carpet or tile mounted on them so customers can flip through samples,” says Amsberry. “Prior to that, most of our Photoshop scans were relatively small. We could put several of them on a single CD. But then our customers wanted 24 × 30-inch images printed. We could only put one or two images on a CD, so we started using our DAM system for that.”

Brown typically doesn't charge its customers a fee for storing assets, but it does charge retrieval fees. “We handle it much the same as when we were film-based,” says Amsberry. “If they request an image that we've scanned or a job that we've printed, we'll put it on a DVD or CD and charge them for that.”