What is the best way to store videos in a Digital Asset Management System?

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I have been asked by many potential clients as to what is the best way to store video in a digital asset management system. There are a couple different ways to answer this. "Highest res," "high enough," and "this is all I have."

Highest Res: Whether the video is HD, or standard definition, it was acquired, or shot, on a video camcorder that recorded the footage in a specific format. This changes a bit if you take into consideration editing and effects, but based on just the video footage alone, the format the video was shot in is the “Highest Resolution.”  If it was shot on a standard definition camcorder in the DV format, then that is the highest resolution (assuming it has not been recompressed). If it was shot on an HDV camcorder, then that is the highest resolution available, and typically what is stored as the master format. No additional recompression has been done that could degrade the quality. If you are making footage available, through your DAM, or your video asset management system, this is what they will want.

Here is a screen capture from a file off the camera:

Screen cap off camera

High Enough: This could also be called a “Mezzanine format,”  or “Proxy.” High resolution video can have very large file sizes, that in high volumes, can make digital asset management cost prohibitive.  In many corporate marketing asset workflows, editing has already taken place, and the goal is access and distribution of finished video assets. Compression can be applied to video files to reduce file size while maintaining an acceptable level of quality. As video compression technology has gotten better over the past 10-15 years, some compression methods can reduce file sizes by 50-75% while maintaining a virtually indistinguishable visible difference in quality. So for the purpose of either viewing the video, or converting it to smaller, more compressed versions for email, or powerpoint presentations, a mezzanine format provides good enough quality while taking up 50-75% less disk space and bandwidth. This option gives you the high resolution viewing, and repurposing, while minimizing file storage. It will be the best option for most corporate marketing department's media asset storage and repurposing needs.

Here is a screen capture of a Mezzanine format. Notice there is very little difference:

This is all I have: It is common that marketing departments find or stumble upon video files that they would like to repurpose. All too often, they have “found” a highly compressed low resolution version of a video.  If there is no way to go back to a master tape, or find the company that produced the video, then essentially you have the highest resolution of a video that just isn’t very hi res. That does not mean that it can’t be viewed and repurposed. This is unfortunately all to common, but it is ok.

Here is an screen capture of a highly compress video. It is not great, but it will work if it is all you have.

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