Software Tool Melds Yale's Art Disciplines

Students can access integrated content from anywhere on or off campus with a computer and Internet browser through a password-protected Web portal.
Yale University's Digital Media Center for the Arts is putting videos, audio chips, photographs and other media at the fingertips of students and faculty. The Web-based digital asset management platform goes live within two weeks.

DMCA worked with NetXposure Inc. during the past year to integrate multimedia functions into the software. The combined efforts would create a custom tool that all art disciplines at Yale University – painting, photography, sculpture, drama, film, architecture, graphic design, art history and music – could use.

Students can access the content from anywhere on or off campus with a computer and Internet browser through a password-protected Web portal. Or upload their content into the database to share with others. The system has been trialed in classrooms with between 30 and 50 students accessing the platform simultaneously.

The application is password protected. The digital content is stored on an open-source MySQL database. The platform runs on an Apache Tomcat Web server. The system supports Web services, which was a consideration for choosing the hardware and software, DCMA looks for ways to provide information about the university's content to museums, libraries and other databases and repositories outside the Yale system.

Image Portal X isn't just a digital database. But more a creative tool for students and facility who want to explore mediums other than those they focus in. "Perhaps a sculpture might see a student in film studies editing video and get the bright idea to use projectors to present their work at an art exhibit," said Lee Faulkner, media director at Yale’s Digital Media Center for the Arts. "Licensing issues for the content is a big deal today and probably something that slowed us down a bit from finishing sooner."

A digital pool of images stored in a database is hardly unique. There are many off-the-shelf packages that manage assets at a cost ranging from $55,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most are built around "per-seat licensing and once you try and open the software to thousands of students it gets very costly and complicated," Faulkner said, declining to provide campus-wide licensing costs. "Our budget is tight. It's nothing like the multiple tens of thousands of dollars we could have paid."

Few sculptures become superstars and then donate millions back to the university for the arts, he said. For the hardware, DMCA spent only $3,000. The Image Portal X platform runs on stock Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh OS 10 operating system on a 1.8 Gigahertz Power Mac G5 computer configured as a RAID array.

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