A Workflow Playbook for Migrating Your Media Assets to a MAM

By | March 5th, 2019

Asset > Metadata > Database > Media Asset Manager > Backblaze Fireball > Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage

This is one in a series of posts on professional media management leading up to NAB 2019 in Las Vegas, April 8 to 11.
–Editor

Whatever your creative venture, the byproduct of all your creative effort is assets. Whether you produce music, images, or video, as you produce more and more of these valuable assets, they tend to pile up and become difficult to manage, organize, and protect. As your creative practice evolves to meet new demands, and the scale of your business grows, you’ll often find that your current way of organizing and retrieving assets can’t keep up with the pace of your production.

For example, if you’ve been managing files by placing them in carefully named folders, getting those assets into a media asset management system will make them far easier to navigate and much easier to pull out exactly the media you need for a new project. Your team will be more efficient and you can deliver your finished content faster.

As we’ve covered before, putting your assets in a type of storage like B2 Cloud Storage ensures that they will be protected in a highly durable and highly available way that lets your entire team be productive.

You can learn about some of the new capabilities of the latest cloud-based collaboration tools here:

With some smart planning, and a little bit of knowledge, you can be prepared to get the most of your assets as you move them into an asset management system, or when migrating from an older or less capable system into a new one.

Assets and Metadata

Before we can build some playbooks to get the most from your creative assets, let’s review a few key concepts.

Asset — a rich media file with intrinsic metadata.

An asset is simply a file that is the result of your creative operation, and most often a rich media file like an image or a video. Typically, these files are captured or created in a raw state, then your creative team adds value to that raw asset by editing it together with other assets to create a finished story that in turn, becomes another asset to manage.

Metadata — Information about a file, either embedded within the file itself or associated with the file by another system, typically a media asset management (MAM) application.

The file carries information about itself that can be understood by your laptop or workstation’s operating system. Some of these seem obvious, like the name of the file, how much storage space it occupies, when it was first created, and when it was last modified. These would all be helpful ways to try to find one particular file you are looking for among thousands just using the tools available in your OS’s file manager.

File Metadata

There’s usually another level of metadata embedded in media files that is not so obvious but potentially enormously useful: metadata embedded in the file when it’s created by a camera, film scanner, or output by a program.

Results of a file inspected by an operating system's file manager
An example of metadata embedded in a rich media file

For example, this image taken in Backblaze’s data center a few years ago carries all kinds of interesting information. For example, when I inspect the file on macOS’s Finder with Get Info, a wealth of information is revealed. I can now not only tell the image’s dimensions and when the image was taken, but also exactly what kind of camera took this picture and the lens settings that were used, as well.

As you can see, this metadata could be very useful if you want to find all images taken on that day, or even images taken with that same camera, focal length, F-stop, or exposure.

When a File and Folder System Can’t Keep Up

Inspecting files one at a time is useful, but a very slow way to determine if a file is the one you need for a new project. Yet many creative environments that don’t have a formal asset management system get by with an ad hoc system of file and folder structures, often kept on the same storage used for production or even on an external hard drive.

Teams quickly outgrow that system when they find that their work spills over to multiple hard drives, or takes up too much space on their production storage. Worst of all, assets kept on a single hard drive are vulnerable to disk damage, or to being accidentally copied or overwritten.

Why Your Assets Need to be Managed

To meet this challenge, creative teams have often turned to a class of application called a Media Asset Manager (MAM). A MAM automatically extracts all their assets’ inherent metadata, helps move files to protected storage, and makes them instantly available to their entire team. In a way, these media asset managers become a private media search engine where any file attribute can be a search query to instantly uncover the file they need in even the largest media asset libraries.

Beyond that, asset management systems are rapidly becoming highly effective collaboration and workflow tools. For example, tagging a series of files as Field Interviews — April 2019, or flagging an edited piece of content as HOLD — do not show customer can be very useful indeed.

The Inner Workings of a Media Asset Manager

When you add files into an asset management system, the application inspects each file, extracting every available bit of information about the file, noting the file’s location on storage, and often creating a smaller stand-in or proxy version of the file that is easier to present to users.

To keep track of this information, asset manager applications employ a database and keep information about your files in it. This way, when you’re searching for a particular set of files among your entire asset library, you can simply make a query of your asset manager’s database in an instant rather than rifling through your entire asset library storage system. The application takes the results of that database query and retrieves the files you need.

The Asset Migration Playbook

Whether you need to move from a file and folder based system to a new asset manager, or have been using an older system and want to move to a new one without losing all of the metadata that you have painstakingly developed, a sound playbook for migrating your assets can help guide you.

Play 1 — Getting Assets in Files and Folders Protected Without an Asset Management System

In this scenario, your assets are in a set of files and folders, and you aren’t ready to implement your asset management system yet.

The first consideration is for the safety of the assets. Files on a single hard drive are vulnerable, so if you are not ready to choose an asset manager your first priority should be to get those files into a secure cloud storage service like Backblaze B2.

We invite you to read our post: How Backup and Archive are Different for Professional Media Workflows

Then, when you have chosen an asset management system, you can simply point the system at your cloud-based asset storage to extract the metadata of the files and populate the asset information in your asset manager.

  1. Get assets archived or moved to cloud storage
  2. Choose your asset management system
  3. Ingest assets directly from your cloud storage

Play 2 — Getting Assets in Files and Folders into Your Asset Management System Backed by Cloud Storage

In this scenario, you’ve chosen your asset management system, and need to get your local assets in files and folders ingested and protected in the most efficient way possible.

You’ll ingest all of your files into your asset manager from local storage, then archive them to cloud storage. Once your asset manager has been configured with your cloud storage credentials, it can automatically move a copy of local files to the cloud for you. Later, when you have confirmed that the file has been copied to the cloud, you can safely delete the local copy.

  1. Ingest assets from local storage directly into your asset manager system
  2. From within your asset manager system archive a copy of files to your cloud storage
  3. Once safely archived, the local copy can be deleted

Play 3 — Getting a Lot of Assets on Local Storage into Your Asset Management System Backed by Cloud Storage

If you have a lot of content, more than say, 20 terabytes, you will want to use a rapid ingest service similar to Backblaze’s Fireball system. You copy the files to Fireball, Backblaze puts them directly into your asset management bucket, and the asset manager is then updated with the file’s new location in your Backblaze B2 account.

This can be a manual process, or can be done with scripting to make the process faster.

You can read about one such migration using this play here:
iconik and Backblaze — The Cloud Production Solution You’ve Always Wanted

  1. Ingest assets from local storage directly into your asset manager system
  2. Archive your local assets to Fireball (up to 70 TB at a time)
  3. Once the files have been uploaded by Backblaze, relink the new location of the cloud copy in your asset management system

You can read more about Backblaze Fireball on our website.

Play 4 — Moving from One Asset Manager System to a New One Without Losing Metadata

In this scenario you have an existing asset management system and need to move to a new one as efficiently as possible to not only take advantage of your new system’s features and get files protected in cloud storage, but also to do it in a way that does not impact your existing production.

Some asset management systems will allow you to export the database contents in a format that can be imported by a new system. Some older systems may not have that luxury and will require the expertise of a database expert to manually extract the metadata. Either way, you can expect to need to map the fields from the old system to the fields in the new system.

Making a copy of old database is a must. Don’t work on the primary copy, and be sure to conduct tests on small groups of files as you’re migrating from the older system to the new. You need to ensure that the metadata is correct in the new system, with special attention that the actual file location is mapped properly. It’s wise to keep the old system up and running for a while before completely phasing it out.

  1. Export the database from the old system
  2. Import the records into the new system
  3. Ensure that the metadata is correct in the new system and file locations are working properly
  4. Make archive copies of your files to cloud storage
  5. Once the new system has been running through a few production cycles, it’s safe to power down the old system

Play 5 — Moving Quickly from an Asset Manager System on Local Storage to a Cloud-based System

In this variation of Play 4, you can move content to object storage with a rapid ingest service like Backblaze Fireball at the same time that you migrate to a cloud-based system. This step will benefit from scripting to create records in your new system with all of your metadata, then relink with the actual file location in your cloud storage all in one pass.

You should test that your asset management system can recognize a file already in the system without creating a duplicate copy of the file. This is done differently by each asset management system.

  1. Export the database from the old system
  2. Import the records into the new system while creating placeholder records with the metadata only
  3. Archive your local assets to Fireball (up to 70 TB at a time)
  4. Once the files have been uploaded by Backblaze, relink the cloud based location to the asset record

Wrapping Up

Every production environment is different, but we all need the same thing: to be able to find and organize our content so that we can be more productive and rest easy knowing that our content is protected.

These plays will help you take that step and be ready for any future production challenges and opportunities.

If you’d like more information about media asset manager migration, join us for our webinar on March 15, 2019:

Backblaze Webinar:  Evolving for Intelligence: MAM to MAM Migration

•  •  •

Backblaze will be exhibiting at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas on April 8-11, 2019.NABShow logoSchedule a meeting with our cloud storage experts to learn how B2 Cloud Storage can streamline your workflow today!
Skip Levens

Skip Levens

Skip drives Backblaze's outreach to Creative and Media and Entertainment customers - and has been a long-time champion of intelligent digital storytelling and television and film production workflows.
Category: Cloud Storage   Tags: , , ,