Managing Graphic Assets at Cal Poly

Mike Blum, a graphic communication professor at California Polytechnic State University, had an organization problem: The students in his prepress course were being overloaded with images and had no way to manage them. The files were being saved helter-skelter—on servers, compact discs, and floppy disks.
So Blum sought a method for organizing the images across the department. He settled on Cumulus 5.5, a digital asset management system for organizing and publishing digital files including images, layouts, presentations, video, audio, and text. Cumulus, from Canto Software Inc., enables users to search and access images via the Internet, reads metadata, and can be integrated into an existing workflow.
Blum said he chose Cumulus because he wanted a system that students could use to easily manage images and not one that they had to struggle with. He said he especially liked that the software categorized images in a hierarchical structure, instead of relying solely on keywords, because it helps keep the images in order for the different classes he teaches.
When the department began using Cumulus, all of the images that were previously scattered over different types of media were saved on the server. The images were then cataloged and keywords were added to make searching and finding images easier for students year after year.
Because Blum and his colleagues didn't want to spend too much time entering keywords, they developed an AppleScript to do automatic keyword entry. In this custom program, Cumulus reads lines from a spreadsheet that lists both the names of the images and associated keywords. Then the keywords for each image are automatically read from the spreadsheet and cataloged in Cumulus with the appropriate image.
Students use the images cataloged in Cumulus to perform a variety of class projects such as creating four-color brochures and building sample Web sites. The students also use the images to learn about trapping, imposition, preflight, and output techniques. When the students want to use images not already cataloged in Cumulus, photos are taken with one of the high-quality digital cameras the department has on hand and then dropped into Cumulus. This allows students to use both stock and original photography.
The Cumulus system allows users to attach metadata about each asset. The metadata can be descriptive, such as keywords or categories; technical, such as file type or size; or legal, such as rights and credits. Assigning metadata to an asset allows users to search for the asset by describing it.
In short, the software creates a record for each asset. The record contains information about the asset, a thumbnail image, and the path to its location on the server. During a search, a database engine looks through every record to find a match to the query.
"Before Cumulus, students spent a considerable amount of time just looking for images—time they could have spent learning," Blum says. "Now…students can find the images they want, right away, saving a considerable amount of time."

For more information, contact Mike Blum at mblum@calpoly.edu.

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