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Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X

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Stacy Wells
Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 1, 2015 at 5:00:02 pm

I have been editing video at my church (obviously not professionally LoL) for around 10 years. I have used Pinnacle, Premiere Elements, Final Cut Pro 6, and I am now using Final Cut Pro X. I have always dumped my video files from my media directly on to my system drive and edited from there. I have recently discovered that editing video on the system drive is an elementary no-no. We have just purchased a fully specked out 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display:

4.0GHz QC i7, TB up to 4.2GHz
32GB 1867MHz DDR3L (4x8GB)
1TB Flash Storage
AMD Radeon R9 M395X w/4GB

I want to "do the right thing" in order to make my workflow as seamless as possible and to preserve the system drive. I will be editing 3 camera angles shot on Panasonic AG-HMC150P cameras (AVCHD). My question is what do you good folks recommend in an external drive (HDD vs. SSD, Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0, Lacie vs. G-Tech vs. ______). I certainly appreciate any help offered...


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 2, 2015 at 8:04:32 pm

[Stacy Wells] "I want to "do the right thing" in order to make my workflow as seamless as possible and to preserve the system drive."

Stacy: What you really want is a RAID system with some data redundancy. All hard drives will fail, so having a RAID 5 or RAID 6 can save your data from going bye-bye forever. I just had a hard drive fail in my external RAID 5 array. I pulled the dead drive, put in a new one and rebuilt the array. No data lost.

Here is an entertaining and educational video about one available storage solution:



Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Joe Marler
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 2, 2015 at 8:39:06 pm

Stacy, you have selected a good machine and will be happy with it.

Yes it's best to use media on an external drive. This advice originally was based on performance and splitting the I/O workload. It was also based partially on the idea that editing required a low-compression codec, which resulted in high I/O loads.

Since Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine and near similar performance by FCP X on native camera files, this changed the picture by enabling much editing to happen on high-compression native files. This reduces the I/O load but increases CPU load.

Your new iMac has over 1,000MB/sec I/O bandwidth to SSD, which also changes the "don't overload the boot drive" advice. However 1TB is too small to fit much video on. So the practical steps are unchanged -- put the media on external drives. That said you could put a small project on our system drive -- it definitely has the bandwidth.

But -- FCP X can generate a lot of space-consuming files: render, transcode, optical flow, etc. So just summing up your projected media files is not an accurate indication of your total space needs.

A good inexpensive app to help watch your space consumption is Final Cut Library Manager:
http://www.arcticwhiteness.com/finalcutlibrarymanager/

Although the 2015 iMac and FCP X are capable of doing three-camera multicam on native camera files, in some cases it might be a little more responsive if you transcoded to proxy or optimized media. This can happen on either import or afterward. Optimized media is about 8x the size so I/O load will be higher and space consumed larger. It is not necessary to do this and I have edited lots of H264 1080p multicam on a late-model iMac. It is a personal preference.

Re external drive, you can get by with almost anything, but a higher-end, faster drive is generally better for professional production use. You do not normally need SSD, esp if editing H264 camera native files. SSD is expensive, the storage is small and the I/O rate typically is not needed. Anyone can verify this by examining I/O statistics with Activity Monitor or iStat Menus when doing editing operations, including import, rendering and export. However if SSD fits within you space and size budget, there is nothing wrong with it -- it's very fast. Just keep in mind that both internal drive and any external drive (including SSD) should be backed up to another drive. So really you are talking about two drives -- one for media and one for backup.

I would definitely not suggest a bus-powered USB portable hard drive. They are usually 5400 rpm and quite slow. However the 1TB HGST Touro S is pretty fast (for this class): http://www.touropro.com/en/product/touro-s/

One of the fastest USB bus-powered drives is the 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast. However it is internally two drives in RAID0, so you'd definitely want it backed up:
http://www.seagate.com/external-hard-drives/portable-hard-drives/performanc...

The ideal practice is to have two different forms of backup -- say one constantly-connected hard drive for Time Machine and another drive you connect as needed using Carbon Copy or similar software. Yes, that would be three total drives -- media, TM backup and CC backup.

Many editors use a Thunderbolt RAID array of some type. This isn't mandatory and you might get by with a single fast hard drive for camera native material. However your storage should ideally be on the quality and performance scale of your machine and you have a very nice fast computer. Even though RAID5 can tolerate a single drive failure, it also should be backed up.

A lower-end quality drive array with good performance is the G-Tech G-Raid. It is available in 4, 6 and 8TB sizes. It is two drives in RAID0 so you'd need to ensure it's backed up. You could back it up to another one or a similar capacity drive.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/858463-REG/G_Technology_0G02272_8TB_G...

Keep in mind starting with El Capitan, Apple removed RAID support from Disk Utility, so everyone using software RAID0 drives will have to either (a) Use terminal to format and verify them, or (b) purchase SoftRAID Lite:
https://softraid.com/pages/features/softraid_lite.html

The Promise Pegasus series are very popular:
http://www.promise.com/Products/Pegasus/Pegasus2/R4

OWC makes the Thunderbay 4 which is relatively inexpensive and has good performance for this category:
http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Thunderbolt/External-Drive/OWC/ThunderBay-4

CalDigit drives and arrrays also popular: http://www.caldigit.com/products.asp


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Kannan Raghavan
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:30:00 am

Hi Stacy,
Just to add to what Joe said, I've been using both the GRaid 2 drive Thunderbolt RAID0 and the Promise Pegasus R4 4 drive RAID5 drives for years now. Both are really good. At work, I use the Promise as redundancy is always good. RAID5 is considered the best for video editing where you can lose one drive and still go ahead. You just have to replace the failed drive and it is automatically rebuilt.
I use the GRaid when I travel and work on-site at golf courses for live golf coverage. I like the smaller form factor and the speed of RAID0. It's a risk I take with no redundancy with RAID0 but I can't travel with a bigger drive.
Both have been tremendous performers.

Kannan Raghavan
The Big Toad Films Pte. Ltd.


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Bret Williams
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:53:57 pm

When using a raid 0, you can take less risk by always having a copy of the original media somewhere else like still on the cards, or in the portable drive they were copied to in the field, etc. your FCP X project can be on the external raid too, as it's constantly backing up the project to the system drive. And if the system drive is being time machined then it's backed up. I'd make sure motion and AE projects are auto saving to the system drive too. If your raid dies, you have a backup of the media, a backup of the project(s) and proxies and renders can be recreated.


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Stacy Wells
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 15, 2015 at 9:40:32 pm

Thank you all for the replies and information. Gathering my research, I have decided to go with the OWC 12TB ThunderBay 4 Raid 5 Edition.

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB2SRT12.0S/

I like the performance speed, storage space, and the redundancy that this will give me. If you guys have any pros/cons to offer concerning my decision, please let me know. Much obliged...


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Joe Marler
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 16, 2015 at 11:39:29 am

[Stacy Wells] "If you guys have any pros/cons to offer concerning my decision, please let me know. Much obliged..."

It's already been stated but just remember even RAID-5 must be backed up. You are safe from a single drive failure but other human, software and machine failure modes can jeopardize your data.


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Bill Moede
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 16, 2015 at 4:16:42 pm

I'm using Gdrive Minis, good results, I have tried a fast USB 3 drive but with HD too slow and many I/O problem that FCPX does not like.


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Bill Moede
Re: Using External Hard Drives for Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
on Dec 16, 2015 at 4:22:22 pm

Forgot to include that I also have a USB backup drive for every project G Drive Mini. I do a full backup of the project drive to the usb drive every time I'm done with that project for the day. The USB drive os unplugged and goes home with me so the backup is in a different location.

There are two types of hard drives; those that will fail and those that have failed.


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