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Digital Asset Management-On the Cheap

DAM products to help graphics producers on a budget.

If you have between $20,000 and $50,000 dollars to spend on digital-asset-management (DAM) hardware and software, there are some really fantastic solutions available to you. and for some graphic-arts providers, such an investment can be readily justified. For many shops, however, that kind of money just isn"?t available, no matter how good the return on investment might be.

But there are a few solutions out there that might be able to do an adequate job for you. In fact, a few choices might even be able to push the "adequate"? label. In addition, there are some modular solutions that can expand from very small, single-user capabilities to very large enterprise packages. and while you may already be familiar with the names of some of the products I refer to here"?and have dismissed them as options for your shop because of their simplicity "?keep in mind that many have released brand new versions with new features; they may be better than you remember.

Basic options
On the lowest end of the spectrum, two products stand out"? from ACDsee and MediaDex"?while another"?from Extensis"? could be considered a step up.

ACDSee Photo Manager (www.acdsystems.com) is a Windows- only product that combines the ability to make catalogs of images with image-editing capabilities. It"?s as inexpensive as you can get: $49 for the single-user version and $129 for the Pro version; the latter allows for the import of RaW-format images and provides several extended editing capabilities and image filters. The weakness is that it is really for photographic images and won"?t read a lot of typical graphic-arts file formats like Quark and InDesign (but it"?s not really designed for that).

Canto (www.canto.com) spun off its very low-end single-user software in 2005, and this product is now licensed by Media- Dex (www.mediadex.com), which sells it under the MediaDex name. since MediaDex sells for $49 for the base version and $79 for the pro version, it"?s not surprising that it is mainly good for cataloging images on a single machine. You can extend the capabilities to do things like catalog all the internal pages of a Quark or PDF document"?but adding each of these two capa- bilities, for example, will cost $995 for up to three clients. Both MediaDex versions are available in Mac and Windows. Canto, meanwhile, continues to offer server-based systems under the Cumulus name"?it recently announced the release of version 7 "?at more typical enterprise pricing levels. Enterprise versions run under a variety of operating systems.

Portfolio 8 from Extensis (www.extensis.com) is the step up here, and is a brand-new release of the company"?s best-seller. It packs more power and features than the other low-end products mentioned earlier, but it also carries a bit of a larger price tag: $199. The new version can now read metadata in common movie-file format, and it also allows users to take advantage of the IPTC4XMP standard (IPTC Core), which is used by adobe Creative suite 2 applications. This effectively extends Portfolio"?s custom fields into the most popular creative applications, allowing a two-way exchange of information. Portfolio 8 can also read RaW image-format files. Extensis offers server and enterprise versions of the product beginning at $6000.

A bit more punch
FileMaker Pro (www.filemakerpro.com) has long been the database that Mac users have turned to, and developers have been eager to use the program as a base to build software for many different purposes. With the release of 8.0, there is a free addition called Creative Pro starter Kit, which goes a long way to helping users create their own DaM software. The kit includes many preprogrammed functions including writing HTMl, PDF, and Excel file formats natively. FileMaker Inc. offers several versions of its FileMaker Pro 8, with the base version priced at $299 and an advanced version at $499 (there"?s also a server version for $2499). The caveat here, however, is that even though 8.0 features new and very useful preprogrammed functions, no specific DaM software is included; it"?s up to the user to configure the software appropriately for DaM. FileMaker Pro 8 is available for Mac and Windows.

Stockview from Hindsight ltd. (www.hindsightltd.com) was originally designed to track stock photo images, but it actually does a lot more than that. like FileMaker Pro 8, for instance, it can write the catalog page files out in HTMl for posting to the Web. Because the product was really designed for agencies and professional photographers, a lot of energy has been put into labeling and caption capabilities, many of which are unique to this product. stockview can also do things like generate bar codes and user-defined serial numbering systems. Price: $395.

ThumbsUp from Graphic Detail (www.graphicdetail.com) is available for a wide range of users and shop types. The image and multimedia database solution comes in single-user Pro ($495) and Enterprise ($995) versions; the latter version has a variety of capabilities not found in the Pro version, including export functions, complex search functions, and auto-attach capabilities for high-res images. Client-server versions also are available. To ease the pain of migration to higher levels of DAM capabilities, the data file is upgradeable at no cost from single-user to client-server. The company also allows users to upgrade during the first year from Professional single-user to Enterprise single-user for $500 (no price penalty).

Web server power
Last, but certainly not least, is a relative newcomer to the DAM game, SeeFile (www.seefile.com). SeeFile"?s $695 base product is essentially Web server software that is designed to run on a Mac platform. SeeFile is packaged with a Mac Mini for $995, and is ready to go at that price (MySQL is included). The price structure is based on how many personalized sites you want to generate and how many log-ins you need to be able to handle.

On the high end, the Corporate edition is priced at $3995 and allows 25 unique personalized sites and unlimited logins. Knowing that many of its customers may not have 24/7 high-speed Internet capability, SeeFile has also teamed up with MacMiniColo (www.macminicolo.net) to offer colocation services with redundant protection and high-speed services starting at $29.95/month.

If the tool fits
Can you get a good DAM system on the cheap? Although none of the systems mentioned here will match a Media Beacon, WebNative, or other similarly full-featured system, they may well give you all the power you need, for a lot less money. And if the tool fits your shop"?s needs, you may not have to dig too deeply into your budget for an asset-management solution.

Stephen Beals (bpworkflow@verizon.net), in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.

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