Remember that time that you and the team worked for three whole days and nights to hit that impossible deadline? No? Selective memory? You tried to forget? Your clients didn’t. Remember that exact moment it all crashed and it all went to sh*t because you didn’t back it all up to a nice big storage platform cause you would “do it later when we had time?” Well having been there, I can tell you it might be one of your worst professional moments ever. Lets hope that you NEVER feel that way. It is possible. Check it all out…
Big, Bigger, Baddest
So, as stated earlier hopefully this never happens to you. Now that you have decided to play it smart, what are your choices? Let's just say there are a lot of really good solutions that we are going to look at. Everything from smaller portable drives to large enterprise solutions, all the way up to the cloud. But we will save cloud based workflow and storage for another day. To pick the right one for your business, you need ask some of these basic and smart questions.
How do you envision your workflow? Do you work in small batches? Are you scaling up to 6K and beyond? Is it just you working on the project or are you working on a collaborative edit or project that will require permissions? According to Sam Eilertsen, Award-winning Senior Editor of Woodhaven Productions it’s really all based on what you are trying to do. “For 4K we are just like a lot of production facilities. For Slimebuck, our latest project, I've generally found if you get quality USB 3.0 hard drives you won't have a problem. With RED footage however, processing is the bigger bottleneck than read/write. For 6K I'd want RAID thunderbolt drives like the one G-Technology sells.” Well stated Sam. So where do we start?
Walk Before You Run
A lot of editors and VSX artists I spoke to loved these companies and their ability to scale their purchases based on budget and needs. I found out along the way of writing this article that professionals in this particular space are pretty particular (and in some cases very secretive) about storage devices. Not sure why, but check it out.
Each company had products with one or more of these common features that professionals wanted. From G-Technology, to LaCie and more, here are some of the more common features and benefits that mattered.
Getting More Bang for the Buck
Buying storage of any kind used to be a pretty expensive and bulky proposition. I can remember just a few years ago when a 100 GB of storage was actually a pretty expensive proposition. To top it off buying storage was also a big deal because even just a little took up so much physical space. Hmmm, kinda of like most technologies now that I think about it. But hey how times have changed. For example, one of my own little personal drives was under $150 for 2TB. Having the ability to be able to throw it (ok not throwing) it in the bag is a great option for when I have to go down to beautiful Narragansett Bay for a day shoot. So I am thinking that was a pretty good deal. But then as I looked up and down various price lists I was really impressed, especially in the 4K production space, where some really good external drives have a lot to offer, which I think is great.
But sometimes you want to start building out a production studio to call your own. Take for example a company like G-Technology that has a really solid rack set up for growing production and editing facilities. The G-RACK 12 Network-Attached Storage delivers, centralized storage for small-to- medium size post-production houses, TV/broadcast studios, ad agencies and in-house creative that use Adobe, Premiere, FCPX, or Avid Media Composer. Again the scalability factor is just so important to post and VFX houses running on thin margins with little to no room for error in equipment purchases. If I was in the purchasing mode right now, I know what I am looking for. I want storage solutions that can handle an insane amount of data all the way up to 8K resolution and more if I could swing it.
So why am I going to stop at 4K? But sorry, I digress. Let’s move onto another perennial fan favorite LaCie. The company founded in 1989 has an excellent just like the others (well earned) reputation for storage devices that exceed expectations for reliability and durability. Not the least expensive mind you, but based on experience (mine) you get what you pay for. Just as with G-Technology and others in the storage space LaCie offers a huge variety of storage options but if I had to pick one out of the litter here it is.
LaCie 8big Rack Thunderbolt
Videographers can work directly from RAW files in Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, get maximum quality from footage, and see edits in real time. No need to first convert footage into a lower resolution. Avid® Pro Tools users will also notice smooth audio mixing, even when working with hundreds of tracks simultaneously.
Thunderbolt 2 builds on those advances by doubling the speed potential to 20 Gb/s and enabling simultaneous RAW 4K video editing and display.
Thunderbolt technology also supports optical cables, which means you could connect a LaCie 8big Rack to a computer located up to 60 meters (197 feet) away. Which is nice if you need space in the edit suite. With up to 1330 MB/s* speeds for 4K video editing that's a lot of crunch power. (Not technical, but I like how it sounds) I also love the flat 1U spacing with room for up to 8 bays in a 1U rack space. Along with RAID and full component redundancy LaCie is a hard act to follow. But as they say all the time on infomercials, “Wait there’s more.”
Rolling Out the Heavy Hitters
No doubt the all of the companies I mentioned earlier have done an excellent job of providing end users the storage solutions that they were looking for. But lets not kid ourselves. At some point in your epic filmmaking career you are going to want and need more. More storage, more control, well more. Lots more. Think of this in the long-term big picture. Multiple projects that you own shot on the highest res (data rate) possible. Now you have to move it or share files all over the globe. Are you getting the picture? Check out these heavy hitters.
Bad to the Bone/Big Boys Category
Avid is a name that is one of the industry stalwarts. They have been around as long as I can remember and have an outstanding history of cutting edge products. With the introduction of the NEXIS product line Avid flexes some bigtime storage muscle. Avid NEXIS enables fully virtualized storage so media organizations can adjust storage capacity mid-project, without disrupting workflows. Powered by the Avid MediaCentral™ Platform, Avid NEXIS can control both Avid-based and third-party workflows. Avid NEXIS works with all top media creation applications, including Media Composer®, Pro Tools®, Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Grass Valley EDIUS.
The Avid NEXIS family includes several new storage engine options, designed to meet any scalability and density requirement. As the next Avid shared storage solution, Avid NEXIS provides a transition path for existing users of Avid ISIS and Avid Unity shared storage solutions. On a side note, I was delighted to see the storage calculator provided by Avid. If you haven’t had to figure out storage capacity for a big project why guess?
EditShare Flow platform provides facilities a secure and reliable ‘Private Cloud’ environment to facilitate remote and multisite workflows. In addition to new styling for the AirFlow web-based interface and new Apple ProRes and Avid Proxy codec support, the EditShare Flow asset management suite includes a new remote editing application
The comprehensive Flow MAM solution serves as a control and indexing layer across EditShare and third-party storage and archives, providing tools to manage ingest/transcode, log, search, retrieve, edit and distribute content and associated metadata. Flow Automation simplifies complex processes such as transcoding and file delivery, while extensive codec support including the newly added Apple ProRes along with the full range of industry standard Avid MXF formats ensures seamless and efficient remote and proxy-based editing workflows.
With an improved user interface and new features, AirFlow, the web-based module that ships as part of the Flow MAM platform, lets staff search, log, edit, and play proxies in a web browser from any location. AirFlow also offers users the ability to securely download and upload proxy or high-resolution media from on-premise EditShare storage systems to anywhere in the world using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
EditShare Flow Story provides remote and secure access to on-premise stored media directly through any Internet connection.
Having full integration with EditShare storage, MAM and video server solutions, Flow Story is aimed at fast turnaround environments such as editorial, reality TV, news and sports, providing users the ability to package content for finishing, delivery or playout.
In addition to ProRes support, Flow has added ingest to Avid format OP-Atom MXF H.264 proxies to supported codecs, providing an easier path for remote Avid based workflows. At the time of ingest, users can create both a full-resolution file (e.g. DNxHD) and a low resolution Avid proxy, or transcode existing hi-res Avid media to the Avid OP-Atom MXF H.264 format later.
Last on the storage parade this time around is Quantum. I was particularly interested in their StorNext Pro 4K using the Xcellis Workflow Director with scalability. Through a unique architecture that integrates key workflow storage components into an easy-to- manage, fully scalable hardware solution, Xcellis manages data across multiple storage tiers, supports both Fibre Channel and Ethernet clients and hosts workflow applications.
Yes, I know that 6K and 8K is lurking right around the corner but I think this would be a smart product for those production and post houses that have started the ramp up or nearing completion of their 4K workflow and need a solid end user storage solution. I like the idea of an intergrated 4K workflow that includes ingest, post, and delivery. Also the fact that you are sitting on 144TB in a raw storage capacity doesn't hurt either.
They say that variety is the spice of life and the same holds true for workflow and storage solutions in the production world. Whether you are in the market for simple storage or epic solutions, the sky really is the limit. Decide the direction and methods of how you want to conduct your workflow and move your data around. If you want to keep it simple and mobile than maybe small external drives would be the way to go. But if you have other ambitions or are intent on building your filmic empire then a more permanent (and larger) solution is in your future. Either way make sure that you control and protect your work. Next time, in Part Two of our storage solutions, we will jump up into the cloud and talk about solutions that detach from the idea of hard installs and move to a different mindset of moving large amounts of data around in the media space.
About Mark J. Foley
Mark J. Foley, MBA BA is the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB. When he isn’t out looking for the next big thing in technology he is working on his latest documentary “The Herreshoff Legacy."