Phase One’s Media Pro 1 marks a new chapter in the life of this leading professional digital asset management software. I’ve been using a version of this product since it was created by iView Multimedia quite a few years ago. Then, when Microsoft purchased the rights to the program and renamed it Expression Media, I signed on as a beta tester for the new platform. Within the last year, Phase One acquired the software and renamed it Media Pro 1. They’ve been working hard to improve the product’s functionality while also integrating it with their marquee editing software, Capture One Pro 6.
Since I’ve been using versions of this software for such I long time, I freely admit that I’m biased in my review. However, I also regularly use other asset management software such as Lightroom 3, Photo Mechanic, Adobe Bridge, etc., so I have a good understanding of the pros and cons of each product. For my workflow, Media Pro 1 is the very best way to organize, catalog and find my digital life.
Sorting and Organizing
The reason I like the program so much is that it does a phenomenal job of helping me find my media. I want to make it clear that this isn’t just a photo-organizing tool; rather it is a media-organizing tool. I use it to organize and catalog my photos, videos, audio recordings, music, PDFs and documents. Basically, any digital media that I use, Media Pro 1 will help catalog.
The first thing to understand about Media Pro 1 is that it is a database tool. This stands in contrast to programs like Photo Mechanic or even Phase One’s Capture One Pro 6, which are browsing programs. Since it is a catalog, Media Pro 1 imports information about your media into a catalog and allows the user to search across every bit of information (i.e. meta data) embedded in the files.
When I first started out in digital photography, I really had no way of grasping how rapidly my image library would grow. I remember the frustration of trying to find an image when I “only” had 10,000 pictures. Now that many years have passed, I have hundreds of thousands of images, thousands of videos and hundreds of audio recordings. It is near impossible to find anything by simply browsing for it on my hard drives and that’s where Media Pro 1 comes in.
One of the great things about working with a database program is that the physical drive doesn’t have to be hooked up to the computer in order to search for a file. Media Pro 1 allows searching for files even though they are on different disk drives, folders, DVDs, thumb drives or networks. Once the file is found, the user can attach the disk drive and work on the file as necessary. In fact, Media Pro 1 can quickly send your media files to your favorite editing programs like Capture NX2, Photoshop CS5, Garage Band, In Design or Phase One’s capture One Pro 6.
This ability to reference data when the drive isn’t connected is helpful when I am traveling and need to find data for a certain image. I can keyword, rate, rank and tag my images when I’m on the road, then synchronize the entries when I get back to my office. I do this a lot when I travel. I’ll be on the airplane and spend a few hours keywording images from my trip. Since my storage drive with the original files doesn’t need to be hooked up, all I need is the database file.
You can create as many catalogs as you want in Media Pro 1. Each catalog can hold an unlimited number of files, so it makes sense for most people to keep everything in a single master catalog. My approach is to have catalogs that span a few years. For example, my first catalog spans 2001 – 2005, the second catalog spans 2005 – 2007, the third catalog spans 2008 – 2010 and the fourth catalog starts at 2011 and will probably continue to 2012 or 2013.
There isn’t a limit to how many catalogs you can have open in the program, so it is easy to have multiple years open at the same time. I think that one of the best features of Media Pro 1 is that it allows you to search across all of your catalogs for files. This puts Media Pro 1 in the front of the software pack as far as I’m concerned.
I can search for my media in a variety of ways. One of the quickest and easiest is to use the sorting criteria in the Catalog Fields section. This allows me to pick a specific element of meta data and show only media with that specific item.
For example, I can use the keywords field to find what images have the keyword “bay” in them. Then, I can further sort with another keyword by simply holding down the Command/CTRL key and clicking additional keywords.
Another way to find media is to use the Find Command from the menu (Find --> Find …). Using the Find utility allows searching by just about any criteria imaginable. This includes things like dates, camera type, urgency, author, city, country code, phone number, copyright, etc.
Yet one more great tool for helping to find images is to organize photos into virtual groups. Say for example that you have a number of photos in your collection of classic cars. It is very simple to create a “catalog set” called Classic Cars, then drag and drop any photos of classic cars onto the new category. In the future, if you want to quickly see your classic car photos, just highlight the virtual set and it will show you these images no matter where they are located in your file system.
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