What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a ‘group of things’ you need to do to ensure your digital assets (videos, images, audio, metadata, files, etc.) stay:

  • Safe
  • Up to date
  • Organized
  • Ready – available at the touch of a button

In many ways, anyone and everyone who has to deal with digital files (as opposed to tape, albums, books, etc.) already knows and practices DAM, whether they realize it or not.

The difference between a novice practicing DAM and an ‘expert’ practicing DAM is somewhat similar to the difference between an average person flipping a burger and a chef flipping a burger.

However, the difference between an ‘expert’ and a professional Digital Asset Manager (DAMager?) is: An expert is good at flipping burgers for friends and family, or even a top-class restaurant; while a professional can flip millions of burgers, all alike, to people all around the world, with maximum efficiency.


How many assets will you have?

The first thing you’ll need to do is count. Once you’ve counted your digital assets, you’ll know what kind of DAM you need.

Note: The following statistics have been taken from many sources and might not be accurate. Please do your own research.

Some file sizes:

  • The average MP3 song is about 3.5-5 MB in size.
  • The average VOD movie is about 5-10 GB in size.
  • An average photo (JPEG) from an 18 Megapixel camera is about 18 MB in size.
  • An average power point presentation (with images and video) is about 1 MB per slide.
  • Source video from a broadcast video camera is about 22 GB/hr.
  • An 18 Megapixel RAW image is about 30 MB.
  • An uncompressed full quality audio (24 bit 48 KHz) is 17 MB per minute.

Now, here are some numbers

  • The average family shoots 1,000 pictures on a 2-week vacation.
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (10 MB per user per year).
  • The average person downloads 12 songs from iTunes yearly.
  • The world sees 30 million power point presentations per day.
  • The average shooting ratio of a broadcast-quality video is 10:1.
  • The average professional photographer shoots 5,000 frames a year.

Now here’s the scary part. In ten years, you’ll need ten times the storage. But this is only if you’re average, and not growing. If you’re in a business trying to grow 10% every year, you’ll need 1,660 times the space in ten years!

For example:

  • If you have 1,000 songs (5 GB) on your computer today and download 10 songs (50 MB) every year, with a growth rate of 10% more songs every year, in ten years you’ll need about 70 GB.
  • If you have 1,000 RAW photos (30 GB) on your computer today and shoot 1,000 photos (30 GB) every year, with a growth rate of 10% more photos every year, in ten years you’ll need about 40 TB of space.
  • If you’re saving broadcast quality video, and have completed 10 projects (2 hours each) so far, you’ll need about 3 TB today. If you shoot 2 projects every year (500 GB) at a growth rate of 10% per year, in ten years you’ll need about 700 TB of space.

These numbers are average. If you’re a professional you’ll need way more than what I’ve given here. After a certain point, a threshold, you will no longer be able to manage your digital assets single-handedly.

What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a group of things you need to do to ensure your digital assets (videos, images, audio, metadata, files, etc.) stay:

  • Safe
  • Up to date
  • Organized
  • Ready – available at the touch of a button

A simple DAM might be a piece of software. A complicated Digital Asset Management system might include a bunch of software, hardware and manpower ready to move 24/7.


Hard drives fail, and data gets corrupted. Even data sitting around for years gets corrupted.

Most people just dump files into drives and forget about them. That’s okay if you don’t need them in the future. But, what if you do, and you try to read that old drive and you can’t?

There’s another aspect to safety, which is protecting your data from viruses, malware, hackers, theft, physical drive damage, etc. Most single users will need some kind of Internet Security software and a safe environment to prevent these things.


File formats disappear when new technology arrives. Those who had shot on Beta, DV or HDV a few years ago should realize these formats might not be around five years from now. The same can be said of intermediary formats like Prores or DNxHD.

You see, file formats are not constitutional rights, so the user is burdened with the responsibility of vigilance. You have to ensure your data is up to date so it’s compatible with the latest systems. Otherwise, they are junk.


Ask any professional photographer who has shot clouds and skies how difficult it is to find them a few years down the line. Some programs allow you to write metadata or tags that can identify your images.

But, what happens if you’ve tagged all of them as ‘cloud’, or even ‘cloud1, cloud2…’ and so on? Let’s say five years down the line you need a specific cloud type for your project. What keyword or phrase will you use to search for your cloud?

A good digital asset management system must anticipate a truckload of scenarios like the one above, and ensure good practices are followed by everyone who has access to it. It only takes one idiot to ruin years’ worth of good work.

Ready at hand

It’s only when data is safe, organized and up to date that it can even be considered for future use. Assuming everything else is in order, a good digital asset management system must be easy to use, easy to teach, easy to upgrade, robust, versatile (able to handle many file formats and sizes) and economical.

Ten years from now, if your assistant is assigned with the task of finding a particular cloud, he or she must be able to do it in minutes. If a DAM can guarantee that today, it’s worth its weight in gold.