How to Configure Video Editing Storage for Maximum Speed or Capacity
Last week, I got into a discussion with Loren Miller about how to configure various storage options for speed. Then, during this week’s webinar, Kathy asked about how to get faster storage without spending a lot of money.
This week’s article looks at both questions.
NOTE: At the end of this article you can download either a PDF or Numbers file so you can modify these numbers yourself.
- The greater the capacity or the faster the performance, the more storage will cost.
- Storage performance needs are the same regardless of which NLE you use to edit.
- If you are only editing single stream HD media, the speed of a single hard disk (HDD) will be fine; however, it may not have the capacity you need.
- Capacity matters as the amount of media in a project, or the number of projects you need to archive, increases.
- Performance matters when you edit 4K media or larger frame sizes, or when editing multicam clips with more than a few cameras.
- These numbers assume both the NLE and media are stored locally. Cloud storage and editing has different requirements.
- Storage speed does not affect render or export speeds; that will generally be roughly the speed of a single hard disk.
- If you are editing media from a server, 1 Gbps Ethernet transfers data at about 110 MB/sec. 2.5 Gbps Ethernet transfers data about 250 MB/second. 10 Gbps Ethernet transfers data about 1 GB/second.
- If you are editing single-stream HD media, get a hard disk with the capacity you need. RAIDs are fine, but not required.
- If you are editing multicam projects with more than four cameras, get an SSD. SSDs will always outperform any HDD RAID for multicam editing.
- If you need speed with limited capacity at low cost, get a PCIe SSD.
- If you need maximum speed with limited capacity at a medium cost, get an NVMe SSD.
- If you need reasonable speed with maximum capacity at medium-high cost, get a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) RAID, formatted as RAID 0. However, if a drive dies, you lose all your data.
- If you need maximum speed with as much storage as possible and data redundancy, get a PCIe RAID, formatted as RAID 4, with as much capacity as you can afford.
- If you need lots of speed with the maximum capacity possible, plus data redundancy in case one drive dies, get at least a 4-drive HDD RAID formatted as RAID 5. More drives increase both speed and capacity.
THE DETAILS FOR SPINNING MEDIA
Let’s start with spinning media. Hard drives transfer data between 100 – 225 MB/second, depending upon age, technology, manufacturer and amount of free space. For this table, I used an average of 175 MB/s.
There are three Thunderbolt protocols in current use:
- Thunderbolt 2 supports maximum data transfer rates of about 1,250 MB/second.
- Thunderbolt 3 supports maximum data transfer rates of about 2,850 MB/second.
- Thunderbolt 4 has the same data transfer rate as Thunderbolt 3: 2,850 MB/second.
NOTE: If you download one of the spreadsheets at the end of this article, you can substitute your own numbers to see results more specific to you.
A RAID collects multiple hard drives so that the computer sees them as a single unit. In doing so, it combines both their speed and storage capacity. How a RAID is formatted (called the RAID “Level”) determines ultimate speed and capacity, as illustrated here.
- RAID 0: If one drive dies, all data is lost. Backups are essential.
- RAID 4: If one drive dies, all data can be restored when a new drive is inserted. (This format is optimized for SSDs.)
- RAID 5: If one drive dies, all data can be restored when a new drive is inserted. (This format is optimized for HDDs.)
- RAID 6: If two drives die at the same time, all data can be restored when new drives are inserted. (For cost reasons, you would generally not use this for SSDs.)
- RAID 10: This divides all drives into two equal groups. Each group is formatted as RAID 0, while the two groups are then formatted together as RAID 1 (mirrors). However, RAID 10 sacrifices 50% of speed and capacity.
Given that RAID 1 simply mirrors two drives, it makes no sense to configure a RAID with more than two drives as RAID 1.
RAID 5, 6 and 10 require a minimum of 3 drives. RAID 10 also requires an even number of drives.
THE DETAILS FOR SSDS
SSDs are much, MUCH faster than spinning media. But they cost more and hold less. So, it’s a trade-off: blinding speed with limited space.
For technical reasons, SSD RAIDs work best when formatted as RAID Level 4. This allows you to lose one SSD, replace it, then safely restore all your data.
My recommendation, if you need the speed of SSDs is to either create a 4-SSD RAID 4 using PCIe SSDs, or buy the largest capacity NVMe SSD you can afford. Both options would completely fill a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 pipe.
Storage provides lots of options for video editors. So many, that trying to decide which works best for you can be really confusing. The key is to understand your workflow. There’s no reason to spend a fortune on high-speed storage if you are only editing HD material.
Performance becomes critical as frames sizes increase or you start editing multicam projects.
- Here’s the Numbers spreadsheet I used. RIGHT-CLICK the link and select “Download File.” You’ll find it in your Downloads folder.
- Here’s an Excel version of my spreadsheet. RIGHT-CLICK the link to download the file.
- Here’s a PDF of that same Numbers spreadsheet. Use this if you don’t have Numbers. (Right-click the link to download the file.)
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