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The Importance of Meta-tagging Assets

Before going into the actual importance of properly identifying your digital assets or “meta-tagging” them with “metadata,” we should all be familiar with what it is.  The term “metadata” defines the description of content, which can include the title, author, creation date, description and other things, such as the standards used, like the bit rate or format.

Meta-tags don’t do anything to the content itself; but they are used to catalog content information.

Metadata offers a standardized system to classify and label content which, in turn, provides many advantages, such as: re-use and content aggregation, improves search relevancy and results by providing better retrieval with improved descriptions in search results, creates an audit trail, with information about when the content was created and by whom and can even help identify duplicate, redundant and possibly obsolete materials.

Metadata is not just for the one who created the asset – but for others to be able to find it and know something about the content beyond the filename!

Where I work, when projects are checked into the asset management system, metadata is entered to follow that.  In most cases, we don’t even have time to handle entering lots of metadata.  As long as that job number is there, you’re in pretty good shape.  However, metadata helps so much – especially when it doesn’t involve a job number.  A good example is that I can go into our DAM right now and type “Altima Red.” I then get results for red Nissan Altima cars! Too cool! You can then look through the clips and see the year of that car and so many other items.

“The assets are allied to projects via metadata tags with the ability to link them as deemed necessary, making them eminently searchable and often providing thumbnails and persistent audio-visual playback whether an asset is ‘online’ or in deep archive,” explains Karim Miteff, Sales Account Manager at Niche Video Products.

Think about this – if you had to find one bit of content out of thousands or even millions of assets in one minute or less (without the aid of Google), how would you do it?  Would you visually search for that one asset or would you search using metadata?  The answer is a no-brainer.  (You even hesitated on this one???)

Metadata is everywhere, not just attached to data files!  Take, for example, books; everyday objects you’ll find lying about (and cluttering) book stores and libraries.  The metadata’s there – books are media objects, too – albeit not digital (although I know that some books ARE digital!)  Whether it’s paper or digital, they both have metadata.  Just as in the digital media trade, some metadata may appear before the author (or artist) even finishes their creation.  Data such as the title of the piece (even if only a working title) and the general idea or genre behind, for example, may be affixed.  Many other things can be connected to a book, such as information on the binding or its ISBN number, or even pricing/cost figures.

Despite the Herculean task of archiving assets, it is made easy by today’s equipment and knowledge.  Although many assets are in different formats, making their management even trickier, technology has prevailed – for instance, sharing digital assets between different media platforms is easier, thanks mainly to the multitude of software available to perform this feat.

A DAM (digital asset management system) is only as good as the metadata attached to its contents!  Without a proper system of meta-tagging, moving assets around within the workflow is nearly impossible.  A DAM depends on its metadata to search – without the correct metadata appropriately tagged, the DAM is useless – no matter how much money was spent on it!

In order to be useful to the process, it is also important that the metadata that is tagged to the asset is relevant to the asset, properly applied to the asset and applied to the asset as soon as it’s available in the DAM.  Tagging the data in the right way at the right time is definitely an effective metadata strategy.

Luckily, there are many companies and technologies that exist today to handle these problems.  And if it’s too much, there are even companies that will tag your digital media assets for you.

Aframe, for example, offers metadata tagging services which may be useful to free workers from this mundane task, helping to make finished pieces or highly re-usable rough or raw footage searchable and persistent.  Although primarily known for its asset management solution, they host over 24,000 hours of high-resolution footage, possessing over 60 commercial accounts and 5,000 discrete users of the platform. Customers range from small 2-3 person production companies to entire departments of large broadcasters such as the BBC and MTV.  Keeping a well-detailed stock of their digital assets is crucial.

So, to sum it up, meta-tagging is important… you have to have a good metadata strategy: know your content, be able to identify and tag your asset properly and at the proper moment, and watch your workflow!  While doing this, also remember to check back often and stay blogged-in!

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Editor-In-Chief, Publisher at Broadcast Beat Magazine, LLC.
Ryan started working in the broadcast and post production industry at the young age of twelve! He has produced television programs, built large post production facilities, written for some of the industry's leading publications and was an audio engineer for about ten years. Ryan previously wrote for Broadcast Engineering Magazine, Creative COW and his projects have been featured in dozens of publications.
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