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Can a drive be too fast? (waste of money.)

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Allan Speers
Can a drive be too fast? (waste of money.)
on Oct 21, 2012 at 10:16:18 pm

FCP newbie here, trying to figure out hardware requirements.
From what I can see so far, using a 2012 Mac Pro 3.33 GHz six-core,  drive speed is my #1 bottleneck, even when just exporting files. However, I'm wondering if you can reach a point, with any FCP process, where drive speed is no longer the bottleneck. If so, then money is best spent elsewhere.

I'm reading that a lot of pro users simply use external WD Black Caviar eSata drives, and they get their work done just fine. ( ! )

I have one free PCIe slot. I am considering getting an Atto PCIe 6G internal sata card. I could then run 4-8 internal 6G SSD's, each getting around 560 MB/s i-o.

However, I'm also considering getting (instead) a super-fast PCIe ssd array as my main video editing drive, (the source drive) which would give me 780 MB/s (OWC) or 1500 MB/s read with the Revo 3. Man, that's tempting.


The downside of the PCIe ssd array is that I can only fit ONE. If that speed is a waste, then this is a very bad choice.

So, here are the important questions:
Based on a 3.33 MHz 6-core Mac, and, say,  1920X1080  10 bit files. Never more than, say, 4 source files in the timeline at once.  (multicam or multi-file editing.)

1:  As your source drive gets faster, at what point (if any) will it be fast enough that cpu speed becomes the bottleneck?  

2:  If you use the same drive as the destination drive, then yet how much faster before you reach that same point?

3: Is it recommended to also have a SEPARATE drive to receive the exported files?  In other words, if my source video files are on that PCIe ssd, capable of 762 Mb/s read-write,  would I actually be slowing things down by exporting back to the same drive?

3:  If you use a separate destination drive, then how fast must IT be (relative to the source drive) before it cannot possibly be a bottleneck?
In other words, if it's not as fast as the source drive, will the destination drive then become a bottleneck, "wasting" the speed of the source drive?

I'd love to simply export to one of my external backup drives, but they are all 2 TB Black Caviar sata.  Not even close to the PCIe ssd.  If they become a bottleneck, then I've wasted a lot of $$$ on that source drive.

Or what about exporting to a 3G SSD?  Still a bottleneck?

4: Any idea what software can actually monitor a single drive's throughput while an application is running?   In other words, an app that can tell me when any one particular drive is coming close to being a bottleneck? (So I can do my own benchmarks, and help out the next guy.)

My guess is that you'll always benefit from a faster drive, even with a G SSD, but does anyone actually know?  Are we all just fumbling around in the dark?

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Shane Ross
Re: Can a drive be too fast? (waste of money.)
on Oct 22, 2012 at 12:24:16 am

The only benefit fast hard drives have when used as MEDIA drives, is the ability to play back high data rate formats, and multiple streams of video. Drive speed has nothing to do with render times, or RT performance when it comes to adding filters.

If you use a fast drive for your OS drive...say an SSD, then your machine will boot faster and load apps faster. It will not render faster, transcode faster.

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Ben Holmes
Re: Can a drive be too fast? (waste of money.)
on Oct 22, 2012 at 7:06:26 am

If you're working with compressed video, like ProRes, you are way over specced on drives. You need a Raid protected array, which you could easily achieve with 4 internal SATA drives and a PCI Raid Card, or an external drive enclosure (4 or 8 drives, your call based on capacity).

I'd consider an SSD as a system drive - it will improve boot times and app opening times. Not render times though.

If you plan to work with RED media, or uncompressed HD video then by all means spend a fortune on SSD arrays.

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