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Demystifying Digital Asset Management Jargon Pt. 2

Demystifying DAM

It’s easy to see why today’s businesses deploy digital asset management software – it’s the best way for teams to manage large collections of rich media assets and keep teams connected with their important files, anytime, anywhere. But with lists of acronyms and industry jargon, certain DAM terminology isn’t quite as easy to understand.

Recently, we ran a post about demystifying DAM jargon that defined terms like Metadata, Ontology and Boolean Search in plain English. But that was just the beginning. With so many DAM terms out there, we’re continuing the series today by spelling out even more DAM vocabulary. The following terms all relate to changes you can make to files once they’re in a DAM.

Many thanks to DAM Glossary for inspiring us with their original list of terms, which we have adapted here.

What is Asset Manipulation?

This one’s actually really straightforward. Any change you make to an original asset, whether you’re converting an image to a new format or changing it to grayscale, altering the file size or cropping an image is an example of asset manipulation. The resulting file is called a derivative file, and as explained below, it can be used for many different purposes depending on your project needs.

Asset manipulation

What is a Derivative File?

When you change an asset as described above and save it as a new file, you end up with a derivative file. Derivative files can be used for many purposes in the digital asset management workflow, like creating “proofs” of images, low resolution versions of assets for a website, high resolution versions for print materials, converting files to different formats, etc. Derivative files can also be called renditions, proxy files, or surrogates.

What is Transcoding?

Transcoding means converting video or audio files from one format to another. For example, when your favorite cat video won’t play on your smartphone or tablet, it’s time to transcode it. Transcoding involves compressing the file and transferring it to the format in which it’ll be viewed, often to meet the constraints of mobile device screens. Full-featured digital asset management software includes transcoding capabilities so you can convert videos for different purposes without having to launch multiple programs and switch between them.


What is a Codec?

A codec is the software that encodes and decodes digital data during the transcoding process. The term is a combination of the words “compressor” and “decompressor,” since codecs are used to compress files when converting to another format and then decompressing them when playing the converted file in the desired format. Again, full-featured DAM platforms will include or support codecs to allow playback of the files you have or convert them to the format necessary. One thing to keep in mind about codecs: the more you compress a file, the lower the quality will be for the resulting, converted file .

What is a Watermark?

No doubt you’ve come across watermarks before – they’re the see-through logos or text that you see on images or graphics on different websites. If you’ve ever wondered why they’re there, it’s to ensure that images aren’t copied and pasted without permission from the copyright owner. Watermarks are especially common in stock photography, where customers often receive comps, or low resolution versions of images that you can use as a placeholder in a design to determine if it’s the right image. Watermarks on comps ensure these images aren’t used for final projects without purchasing the proper rights for the image.


When you’re creating many derivatives or converting assets, you may end up with a lot of versions of one file. Digital asset management features like version control and related assets can be immensely useful for keeping yourself organized and making sure your files are always easy to find.

Of course, the list of digital asset management software terms goes on and on. We’ll follow up with more demystified DAM jargon in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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