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Blog about Digital Asset Management

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What do I do with extinct formats?

We all have them. Extinct technology. It comes and goes. We often take it for granted. At first, we treat it like a shiny new thing and then it becomes disposable. Soon, it collects dust somewhere.

Some of this technology stores data which was acquired or created by you. Some of that data may be digital files of value or digital assets, possibly even with some metadata.  Those files may be extinct (or soon to be expired and unsupported) file formats. Some of these file format may be proprietary which may require no longer used proprietary software to run it or a much older version of software to work with it because it is simply no longer supported today.

Sometimes, this data is on extinct physical media such as:

  • Smart phones (average life span: 1-2 years)
  • Prior personal computers (we all have them…every 2-5 years)
  • Smaller external hard drives (do you copy the old data as these hard drives get bigger, cheaper and faster? Or even use cloud storage?)
  • Film (Print or Slide) bye-bye Kodachrome. Film is simply a waste of time and money today. It makes no business sense to use it. If you have film, scan it (hi-res) as needed and archive the rest. Move on.
  • Compact Disc (tic toc…how many devices have optical drives today? Less. The writing is on wall.)
  • Video tapes (pick any of 30+ flavors. Convert to digital as needed and archive the rest.)
  • Zip drives and other proprietary forms of media
  • Cassette tapes
  • Floppy discs (all)
  • 8-tracks (really old school)
  • LP (33, 45 or wax)

Most of these have two things in common: They store information in some form and they fade into history, often with this information. Technology is disposable (Our culture makes sure of it). Before the end of this decade we will be adding DVDs to the list above (and have a lot of scratched coasters) as we download or stream data.

These may still need to be migrated to a current digital form while they still can. This is not about nostalgia. It’s about retaining a historical record. Or have it forgotten and lost permanently. Everything has a life span. Even when it is digital. Not all “stuff” may need to be kept that is why it takes an evaluation or review to determine the value, the feasibility and options available.

The simple answer to the question “What do I do with extinct formats?” is evaluate and migrate what is needed/wanted at least every 5 years.

Don’t believe me? Listen to this podcast.

What do you do with extinct formats?

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What types of assets do you handle with a DAM?

Most Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems can handle multiple types of assets. What types of assets do you handle with a DAM?

Choose all that apply.

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What media does your DAM support?

Many DAM systems are able to store multiple types of assets. One of the many factors you should consider when selecting your DAM is what media does the DAM support.

  • What type of media does your organization have now?
  • What type of assets will be added to the DAM?
  • What else will you add to your DAM going forward?
  • What file formats are you exploring to use in the future?
  • Do you plan to only store one type of media in the DAM? If so, why? Are you forgetting (or ignoring):
    • Audio
    • Graphics (for the web, print, television, etc.)
    • Photographs (created internally and/or acquired externally)
    • Text (MS Word, MS Excel, PDF, XML, etc.)
    • Video (for internal and/or external purposes)
  • Do you really need multiple, centralized repositories to store all this media and make it searchable vs. using one DAM? (in some cases, probably not)

Your organization spent a lot of money creating and/or acquiring these assets, so why not have a centralized system which enables the organization to find them again, reuse them and even re-purpose assets (re-purpose any part of the asset for a different project). As long as you account for any rights or permissions needed, having one DAM for your media is possible within any organization, no matter how big or small, regardless of how long the organization has been in business.

Any asset  with a file name and a file extension should be able to be in a DAM (NO, this does not mean the DAM should be a dumping ground for whatever assets you happen to find somewhere). With versions and  file formats aside, an asset is an asset is an asset. Therefore, any DAM should be able to store any asset and have metadata associated to it (not necessarily embedded metadata though), but the DAM will not necessarily be able to preview any file format you want. A preview to an asset is often a need (not a want) even if you have great metadata.  If you have assets in a DAM, you should be able to find it using metadata, but you will often want to be able to see the asset before downloading (exporting) it from the DAM.

Check with the DAM vendor on what file formats are supported before choosing the DAM you know you will need to use. If you are uploading new file formats to a DAM, check with DAM vendor to minimize surprises and see what workaround they have to offer in case the file format is not supported for whatever reason. The DAM vendor will often have a list of file formats they support and this list may evolve as the DAM vendor upgrades their system over time. Be sure to check on the versions of the file formats which they support because sometimes the version of file format may evolve quickly depending on the software vendor. Some DAM vendors try their best to keep up with the latest file formats and new versions  (at least the common file formats) within a reasonable time frame (sometimes within months of the new release).  The DAM vendor may support new file formats (and new versions) based on their clients’ needs and/or even client requests to support a ‘necessary’ file format.

Many people realize Adobe comes out with a new version of their software every 18 months. We all hope that the latest version of the file formats will be backwards compatible, but sometimes versions are not fully compatible and some features don’t work from one version to another. Therefore, keeping track of what version of a file format was used to create the asset can sometimes be quite important in order to make sure all the component assets work well together. This can be part of your metadata, if necessary. Using software which created the asset is sometimes the only way to see all the relevant metadata, such as the version of the file format. Some file formats which fall in this category are PDF and SWF. Many vendors have this issue with file format though. If you aren’t sure about compatibility, contact the vendor directly.

Knowing the version of a file format may be important whether the assets in the DAM are components for a ‘final’ version of an asset and/or the ‘final’ version of the asset itself. The DAM could a stand-alone, searchable repository for assets and/or the DAM may be closely tied to other systems which work together in a workflow. Either way, file format (and its version) may be one factor to interoperability in your workflow.

In a perfect world, everything would work perfectly all the time, as we imagined it should. This is the real world and experts may be needed in order to make things work the way they need to. When you aren’t sure or if you don’t know, ASK.

What media does your DAM support?