Advanced digital asset management
We’ve gone over the basics of why the Adobe Experience Manager DAM is valuable and how you can use it. That set of basic concepts is mostly universal to AEM implementations, but the DAM goes beyond the “happy path” use cases. AEM includes more advanced features designed to enable marketers and their associates to unlock very specific pieces of value. These features may not be relevant to you at present, but it’s helpful to know that they exist and why. You may need them someday.
Integration with Scene7
One of the most compelling features of Adobe’s DAM solution is the out-of-the-box integration with Scene7, a cloud-hosted solution for editing and publishing media files. With Scene7 you can make ordinary digital media files interactive and customized.
For example, Scene7 can generate on-the-fly images on landing pages, such as “Welcome from Ohio!” if the system detects that state as the user’s location. Scene7 is a full-featured solution for managing digital media files in the cloud.
Wait...doesn’t that sound a lot like the Adobe Experience Manager DAM?
Truthfully, AEM DAM and Scene7 have some functional overlap, because of the way both of those products came to Adobe. The AEM DAM was part of CQ5, acquired with Day Software in in 2010. Scene7 was acquired by Adobe in 2007. In the most recent releases of AEM, Adobe has begun to integrate these two asset management platforms to take advantage of each of their strong points. The eventual goal is to completely turn them into a single integrated solution. So, let’s explore how Scene7 integration can help take your digital asset management to a whole new level.
The first thing to point out with Adobe’s DAM–Scene7 integration is how easy it is to configure. Unlike with many enterprise software integrations, you do not need programmers to build integration. One of the most valuable aspects of Adobe’s Marketing Cloud is its seamless integration between products. Adobe continues to build upon those integrations, and this is a newer, but very powerful example.
Integrating an AEM instance with a Scene7 instance is all configuration-based, so you should be able to do it with an administrator or even a power user. If you have to involve a programmer, you are either doing something interesting (that I want to hear about) or something wrong. You’ll see this simple integration between Adobe products as a recurring theme throughout this book, and we’ll discuss cloud services configurations, like the Scene7 integration, in Chapter 16.
After you have your AEM instance configured to connect with your Scene7 account, you can set up asset synchronization between the two platforms. This synchronization is especially helpful if you’ve been using both products separately for some time and have different categories of digital assets in each. You can configure automatic synchronization or trigger it manually, but you should be aware of how much you are synchronizing. Within AEM, it’s all workflow-based processing, which can be pretty resource-intensive. If you have hundreds or thousands of DAM assets you want to synchronize in either direction, you should work with a solution partner to make sure you put together an appropriate plan for doing so.
Scene7 integration includes some content components that allow you to add Scene7-specific functionality to your websites. Doing so can enable powerful ways to improve the user experience of your site, and stand as a great example of how Adobe is integrating Scene7 benefits into the rest of the AEM platform. The following components are included:
- Basic zoom—Allows you to add simple zoom in/out features to images
- Flyout zoom—Allows you to add “magnifying glass” zooming to images (such as on a clothing retailer’s site)
- Flash flyout zoom—A Flash-based flyout zoom, for sites that don’t support the DHTML code needed for the standard flyout zoom
- Flash template—A component for configuring dynamic content in Flash movies
- Image template—A component for configuring dynamic content in images
- Video—A universal video player that detects which video format is optimal for the site visitor
Templates are a core feature of Scene7 that allow you to dynamically change media files on the fly. They integrate into AEM nicely, because they open up your options when creating dynamic content or performing multivariate testing.
Content finder integration
The Scene7 integration is also seamless for content authors because it includes content finder integration. Basically it extends the content finder and interface into Scene7 so that a content author can utilize Scene7 assets without leaving the context of AEM. The author sees the same digital asset browsing experience, but can search and drill down through a tree of assets that are actually hosted in Scene7 and not within AEM DAM. This is very handy when you have a combination of DAM assets and Scene7 assets.
Adobe Experience Manager’s integration with Scene7 is fairly new, but already extremely compelling. Adobe is obviously working toward a fully integrated platform that accommodates all aspects of the digital asset creation and delivery workflow. You’ll probably still find some holes in the form of things you want to do but cannot... yet. But, you can expect this integration to continue to improve. Adobe has made a commitment to the complete integration of AEM and Scene7, and you can already see how compelling that vision is.
Integration through Adobe Drive
While the AEM DAM and Scene7 provide certain aspects of digital asset manipulation from within the platform, it’s sometimes just not enough. The changes you can make to assets using Adobe Creative Suite products such as Photoshop or Illustrator far exceed what you can do with the DAM or Scene7. But, downloading and uploading DAM to those Creative Suite products is kind of a pain. Fortunately, Adobe built a solution to this problem called Adobe Drive.
Adobe Drive is a free software product that provides direct integration between local instances of Creative Suite products and a digital asset management platform. Obviously, the AEM DAM is one of the platforms with which Drive can integrate. Drive works with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and InCopy by exposing the DAM to those products just as if it were a local file store. It uses a protocol called WebDAV, which allows you to browse the data structure of Adobe Experience Manager as you would a file system. (There are other examples of how WebDAV is used in AEM, too.)
Adobe Drive doesn’t expose only the DAM to Creative Suite products. It also unlocks additional features that are otherwise not easy to utilize. You can manage check in/out of digital assets for editing, view and edit metadata in a more sophisticated interface, and view version history.
Furthermore, Drive is a desktop application, so it also allows offline editing, so you aren’t restricted to editing DAM assets only while connected to the DAM.
Ultimately, Adobe Drive just makes treating the DAM as a repository for creative assets a little simpler, even while your creative team continues to work on them. It’s not for everyone, and for some organizations, it’s overkill. But, if your creative team needs direct access to the DAM, it’s a great way to provide it.
Dynamic image servlet
The DAM allows you to create renditions of an image that include different sizes and versions of the same asset. You can use those renditions in the content of your website, and that can be helpful when you need to create thumbnails or smaller views of large, high-resolution images. When you are creating multi-device websites where Internet bandwidth is a varying concern, this feature becomes even more important. After all, you want to minimize the size of any files a site visitor has to download to view your site. Making your site load faster improves your search engine optimization and the user experience.
Although not really a DAM function, you have another option in AEM for dynamically generating optimized images. The image servlet allows you to request images using a special URL that dynamically changes them on the fly. Out of the box, it doesn’t allow you to do much in terms of image manipulation, but with the help of a solution implementation partner, the image servlet’s functionality can be expanded. You can create image servlets that resize images, add dynamic text, or rotate and crop. If an available Java library lets you do what you want to your asset, anything is technically possible.
Implementing an image servlet is not something a content author or even an administrator can do. It requires foresight and implementation and programming. Much of what you can do with the image servlet can be accomplished using Scene7, so going through the process of implementation may not always be necessary. But, if you aren’t planning to use Scene7, have other reasons to keep this functionality within AEM, or just want to customize the heck out of it, the dynamic image servlet is a good option to consider.
The trickiest type of digital asset to work with is video. The files are huge. The encoding requirements are complicated. The debates about best practices are rampant. In AEM, you have a number of options for managing and delivering video within your web experience. It’s a complicated topic that has filled entire books. I just touch on a few high-level points here, related to what AEM offers. If you are planning to implement websites with a lot of video, I highly recommend you work with the Adobe documentation, a solution partner, and additional video-specific resources to put together a detailed plan for managing your videos.
You can host, encode, and deliver video in your websites directly from the Adobe Experience Manager DAM. Video files uploaded to the DAM can be transcoded into a number of formats, so that you can implement a fallback approach to delivering the optimized video format to a site visitor.
AEM then has a video component that allows you to choose videos to display from the content finder, just as any other digital asset. It typically requires some upfront configuration to make sure you are transcoding videos into the right formats and have the correct logic in place to choose which version to play. But once that is set up, it makes adding video to your web experiences pretty simple.
That said, be cautious when deciding to stream video from the AEM DAM. Video requires significant computing resources to deliver, much more than the images and text that make up the majority of your websites. Videos cannot be cached in the same regard, either. Therefore, delivering lots of high-quality videos out of the DAM is probably not the best solution because some significant hardware challenges may arise. You’ll need to beef up the servers on which your AEM instances run, and even still it’ll be difficult.
Organizations implementing video on AEM very commonly utilize external, cloud-hosted platforms as their video solution. Then all they have to do is implement that platform’s video player on their site and let someone else’s hardware manage their video.
Fortunately, Scene7 (a cloud-based solution) is one of those viable options for hosting video to be delivered via Adobe Experience Manager.
Using Scene7 to host your video lets you take advantage of a cloud-hosted video platform option without sacrificing the content management integration you have with DAM video. Videos can be uploaded to the DAM, Scene7, or both. They can be transcoded as necessary. Conveniently, those video assets are available in the content finder for easy access when authoring content.
AEM’s Scene7 integration also includes a special video player that takes advantage of Scene7’s ability to dynamically decide which rendition of a video to play. It considers the device, the bandwidth available, and the screen size to optimize the user’s video experience. Scene7 video is a great option for cloud-hosting video, especially when you have a lot of videos to deliver through many different channels.