Picking the right hard drive or RAID system is one of the most important choices video editors can make. Here are some options that will work in most video editing scenarios.
Video editors are all about speed. We want the fastest computers, the best graphics cards, the most RAM, etc. But when it comes to storage — which is arguably one of the biggest speed factors in the editing world — things are often overlooked.
Obviously there are a number of factors that will dictate how fast your storage system needs to be. The codec/resolution of your footage, type of work you’ll be doing (editing vs. vfx), sharing requirements, and all sorts of other variables come into play when choosing the right system. While it may seem confusing at first, nearly all projects or post-production environments call for one of the following three setups:
1. Solid State Drives
If you’re a single editor working alone on reasonably sized project, SSD drives very well could be the way to go. A high-end SSD will give you up to 500 MB/s in performance (or more), which is several times better than your typical 7200 RPM 3.5” drive. Not to mention their small footprint makes them ideal for traveling, doing DIT work, or archiving.
With all that said, SSD drives are fairly expensive and don’t offer a tremendous amount of capacity. Even to this day, it’s rare to find an SSD that has larger than 1TB of capacity on it, which means you need to be working with a reasonable amount of footage if you plan on going down this path. RAW files from a RED or ALEXA might call for a different solution. If you’re in the market for an SSD though, there are plenty of options out there.
2. RAID Systems
If storage capacity is an issue for you, then SSDs are likely not the way to go. A far better option is a direct attached RAID, which is a system of two or more hard drives that work in tandem to give you extremely fast read/write speeds that will exceed the performance of an SSD.
RAIDs can be configured in many different ways, one of which is a RAID 0 setup, which will give you by far the highest performance, especially when numerous drives are utilized. The more hard drives you have set up on your RAID, the faster the performance will be. In other words, a RAID with only two drives will not run nearly as fast as a RAID with six drives. The caveat to that, however, is that with a RAID 0 system, if a single hard drive fails, all of your data is lost – and you’re more likely to have that happen when you have a lot of drives working in tandem.
Again, you’ve got plenty of options depending on your needs — just remember, if you’re using a RAID 0 setup, always back up your project files on a separate drive just to be safe, and never archive your material to it.
3. SAN Network
If you need the speed of a RAID 0 array, but also need to be able to share the content on the hard drives with multiple users, you likely want to use a SAN.
A SAN will essentially operate the same way as a fast RAID system, but it’ll be accessible via a network, which allows for multiple users to work off of it at the same time. To each individual user, the SAN will show up on their computer as a local drive, but it’s actually being shared by the rest of the team.
As you might imagine, a SAN can offer some of the most impressive speeds out there (over 1000 MB/s), though using one comes with its share of challenges – cost being one of them. It’s not uncommon for a SAN system to cost tens of thousands of dollars, which inevitably makes them suitable for only the most professional environments. Not to mention, setting up a SAN also means you’ll need to install specialized software and hardware on your local machines in order to get it up and running.
What are your video editing storage solutions? Let us know in the comments below!