In addition to managing information, you might need to manage digital assets, be they chapters, images, video, audio, multimedia, etc. So, let’s talk about asset management, which is just as important. Digital asset management is the system by which you organize files you will need to find later to continue working on a project. Depending on your project, this system may need to accommodate different types of files and those files may need to be accessed by members of a team. So, the system has to be designed to drive findability as well as minimize confusion and (more importantly) duplication.
A digital asset management system really relies on two things, regardless of the storage system being used – the location of what’s being stored and the name of the stored files. When I think of location where storage is concerned, I think about file folders. It’s a metaphor that’s been extended across many storage systems, so we’re all familiar with it. Designing a useful file folder system really relies on a comfortable knowledge of information architecture. How are these files best grouped? What sort of drill down do we need, if we need one at all? When I was working on the Dead Bunny videos, my file folder system started with the topics. In each topic’s folder there were folders for the slides, the audio tracks, and the graphics. That was it because that was all that was needed.
Within this file folder structure, you then have all these files. Naming these files usefully is an art. A very necessary art. When I started working on Dead Bunny, I didn’t fully appreciate this. I hadn’t worked with projects that had so many little pieces before, so I had never thought about file naming. It took a couple of game writing books to straighten me out (and save Dead Bunny from becoming a massive headache). When you have a project with a bunch of little pieces, how you name them is just as important as how you file them. The naming convention helps provide another layer of organization to your content, and therefore should really be uniform. In Dead Bunny, this manifested as adopting a uniform name that incorporated both the topic and file’s number. For the slides, this number was the slide’s number in the deck. For the audio tracks (and this made my life a million times simpler when someone showed me this), this number was the slide that the audio matched up to. (I did start out just numbering them, but switching to align with the slides cut down my work time significantly.)
And if you’re in a team situation, having everyone know the file naming convention makes sure files will be where they belong, regardless of who created it. Some software makes it very difficult for you to rename a file once it’s been created, so having this in place at the beginning is a serious time saver. Also, when everyone knows what the structure and naming convention is, everyone is able to find the assets they need quickly without having to chase down the original creator. (You’d think this would be obvious, but I’ve been in painful situations where it wasn’t.)
Another place where having strong digital asset management skills is handy is voiceover work, and this is because I’m regularly shifting between working on personal and outside projects. It should be rather simple, I suppose. I’m only managing audio files, after all. But it’s amazing just how diverse the world of voiceover is. In my file folder structure, I have folders for auditions, hitRECord, and then my voiceover genres. Within those folders are folders for production groups (except hitRECord, which jumps straight to the projects folder level). And then within the production group folders are the project folders. It may sound like too much, but you’d be amazed how quickly I can retrieve a file when I need it.
For audiobooks, each book gets its own folder, and then each chapter gets its own folder. (I’m apparently flying in the face of audiobook production best practices here.) It lets me see where I am in my work and keep on top of things. I keep notes on the preferred technical specs for each group I publish with so I can make sure everything including the file names is correct when I upload them. Following those file naming conventions then allows the publisher to organize and upload my audiobook quickly and accurately.
For audio dramas, I’m one remote cog in the machine, so following the established storage system rules is especially important. In my own system, each production group has its own folder, filled with project folders, filled with character folders. But when it comes time to prepare my work to go back, I make sure my files are organized the way the production group want them. Some prefer files to be grouped by character. Others prefer by episode or scene. Some have very specific file naming conventions designed to make all of the lines fall into order when added to the production group’s folder. Others just need an episode name and a character name, if they even want that much information. It doesn’t matter that each group wants something different and that none of them organize the way I do; what does matter is that my work will be locatable in their system once it gets there.
Anyway, there it is. Managing digital assets from an information management frame of mind. As always, remember the goals are findability and usability, and you’ll be fine.