Post Magazine

August 2014

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Page 47 of 51 46 POST AUGUST 2014 ow you manage your digital assets in large part determines how much money and time you lose over finding the right image, audio or video clip for a job. That's the reason why DAM (Digital Asset Management) systems came about, but not all DAM systems are created equal. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of DAM systems: those that are designed mainly to find, use and archive assets, and those that also optimize the production process. CatDV belongs to the second kind. CatDV from Square Box Systems is a British DAM solution optimized for video production and post production. I tested its Enterprise Server solution, which has four components: the CatDV Server, the Web Client, the CatDV Worker Node and, in my case, the CatDV Pegasus Client. Except for its magnificent splash screen, the Pegasus Client supports Avid workflows. Square Box also offers "lighter" versions of the CatDV system, including a Workgroup Server and clients that are suited for small work- groups and individuals. Any DAM system worth its money should at least offer several ways to categorize assets and search them. On the simplest level it should act as a cat- aloging system, not much different from image catalogs like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. However, true DAM systems — the ones that can be de- ployed on an enterprise scale — should also enable access control to specific people and groups. The CatDV Enter- prise Server offers an enterprise-level control over database access using the common access levels known as roles, groups and persons. The actual people who are going to use the system will always be assigned to a group and a role, automatically inheriting the access rights from the group/role combination. In some DAM systems, roles have the same permissions across groups, which doesn't allow for much flexibility in setting up the access rights for users. However, the CatDV Server allows a role to have different permissions depending on the Production Group it belongs to. For example, if you define a Freelance role in the Ingest Production Group you just created, you can nevertheless use the Freelance role again — with totally different permissions — in the Rough Edit Production Group you create next. I tested these capabilities with three Production Groups, three roles and four users set up. I was particularly impressed with the user-friendliness of the CatDV Server. To create the roles, groups and users, you need to log in as an admin. With most DAM systems, administration isn't particularly simple. In many cases, you need to have programming skills or, at the very least, accommodate to the system's usually arcane controls. The CatDV Server administration function- ality looked a lot like how you manage a Mac OS X Server. It took me about five minutes to set up the access rights for my four users — without reading an admin guide. Ease-of-use is one of the most import- ant features of CatDV throughout. Even the Enterprise Server doesn't require programming or scripting skills at any level of use. In addition, and besides allowing access to its catalogs, it offers several production-orientated features such as permission indicators (read, write, delete), a production blog sup- porting written instructions and to-do lists, an audit log, tape library manage- ment, shared clip lists (which is a sort of playlist), shared smart folders (basically these are saved database queries), etc. All of these features can be accessed either through dialog panels, pop-up/ drop-down menus, or the tree view in the sidebar of the main window. Scalability is no issue either, as the server database runs on MySQL. CATDV WORKER NODE & AUTOMATED ACTIONS One of the most interesting components of the CatDV system is the Worker Node, which is an automated version of the media-processing engine you also find in the CatDV Pro and Pegasus applications. The Worker Node is a component that you can set up to watch folders or server queries and then automatically perform actions such as moving a videoclip to a defined folder, creating a CatDV preview movie from the media, converting clips to another format, etc. Here as well, ease-of-use prevails. I have tested similar components of DAM and publishing systems in the past and most of them required the operator to enter commands using a proprietary language. You could write entire scripts with these apps but none of them could be operated by selecting options, clicking buttons and optionally entering commands. With the CatDV Worker Node you can configure the Worker to do almost anything without ever writing one line of arcane commands. I set up a watch folder and the most difficult part of it was to remember the server's IP-ad- dress. That isn't to say the Worker Node isn't powerful enough to automate quite complex processes. Take for example the conversion of a clip from one format into another. CatDV supports native conver- sion via QuickTime and plug-ins (which you do have to install separately as they are third-party products) such as Xuggle. However, if you wanted to automate the conversion of clips to mezzanine formats that are unknown to QuickTime, you'd be stuck if it weren't for the various "Execute Command" fields in the Worker Node. The field I was after was the one where I could enter a Telestream Episode command that would convert my test clips from ProRes to x.264. CATDV PEGASUS CLIENT In order to prevent the database from becoming corrupted with users simul- taneously processing a clip, the clip you ingest goes to your local catalog first. If you want that clip to become available to everyone on the system, you need to publish it. Once it's been published, you can change it — check it in, in traditional DAM and publishing jargon — and then publish your changes as soon as you're finished. CatDV takes a slightly differ- SQUARE BOX SYSTEMS' CATDV BY ERIK VLIETINCK ERIK@IT-ENQUIRER.COM SKYPE: ERIKVLIE HTTP://UK.LINKEDIN.COM/IN/ ITENQUIRER A SCALABLE DAM SYSTEM THAT'S USER- FRIENDLY, EASY TO CONFIGURE & FLEXIBLE VITAL STATS MANUFACTURER: Square Box Systems PRODUCT: CatDV PRICE: Starting at $100 (film students and videographers); up to $100K for broadcasters and large studios WEBSITE: H REVIEW

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