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Peter Rzazewski

Thunderbolt drive options for video editing

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I run a 17" macbook pro 2.5ghz intel core i7 and currently using a G-RAID from about 5 years ago for video editing. It's ok for my standard footage, but now with the GH4 4k files, premiere pro stalls whenever I try using the files. I do create proxies at this point, but I would rather just work with the 4K files directly. To do so, I'm assuming working off an external thunderbolt drive would do the trick, but I wanted to ask those who have had luck running 4k files on a laptop successfully. Anyone?

If I must go with an external drive to run my 4k files, what do you recommend?

Would this suffice? http://store.apple.com/ca/product/HFY72ZM/A/lacie-3tb-d2-thunderbolt-2-usb-30-hard-drive?fnode=5f

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Thunderbolt is just the connection type so unlikely to make much of a difference here, an SSD would be the only thing you could possibly look into that might help but most likely is your processor cores or RAM is maxing out (see whats happening in activity monitor when premiere stalls)

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I would personally stay away from lacie products for professional work. In use at my studio for a few months now: http://www.promise.com/Products/Pegasus in the thunderbolt2 4 Bay version. Works for 4k Prores files in RAID3.

No hickkups yet and we move a lot of projects/TB each month.

​Thanks Franz. Im going to look into this but I do fear it's an expensive option.

Thunderbolt is just the connection type so unlikely to make much of a difference here, an SSD would be the only thing you could possibly look into that might help but most likely is your processor cores or RAM is maxing out (see whats happening in activity monitor when premiere stalls)

GH4 4K files dont have that big a bandwith compared to prores for example - that would put more stress on the hard drives.

However since they are encoded in H264, they require a lot of cpu power.

​Thanks neosushi. My 17" macbook pro is the late 2011 model 2.5GHz Core i7 and has 16gb of ram. I swapped out the DVD drive for a secondary hard drive and I swapped the original drive (for applications/os) for an SSD.  Aside from getting an SSD external, what else would you recommend to enable smooth 4k editing on my laptop (aside from proxies of course)?

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What I find frustrating about thunderbolt is that there don't seem to be any enclosures that you can just plug an ssd into (whereas USB 3 enclosures are ten a penny). I get that thunderbolt licensing fees are expensive, so a thunderbolt enclosure would come at a premium, but it's weird that there just don't seem to be any, even several years after it became a standard port on macs. 

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We just use this drive enclosure from OWC and then open it up and swap in raw drives for different projects. For some projects we stripe multiple drives as RAID 1 to have an automatic backup, or usually just use the drives individually and make manual backups. OWC makes a Mercury Elite for SSDs as well, and Mercury Elites with more than two slots if you want to have more drives cooking at once.

I'm a little worried that Apple one day drop support for Thunderbolt, so it's good to have an enclosure with a more universal port like USB3 on it, too.

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I use a older model Seagate GoFlex dock which will accept any standard connection hard drive, although they don't advertise that fact, and then it's as simple as swapping them out depending on the project.

However, as mentioned earlier, you'll probably find it's the codec causing the issue not the drive access speed. I edit GH4 4k on a fully spec'd imac and it still will lag. I use EditReady to convert to 4k Prores and even though the files are massive, probably four times the size, they play without issue. H.264 is hard enough on your processor in 1080, so unpacking the 4K version is a whole lot more effort. 

 

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What I find frustrating about thunderbolt is that there don't seem to be any enclosures that you can just plug an ssd into (whereas USB 3 enclosures are ten a penny). I get that thunderbolt licensing fees are expensive, so a thunderbolt enclosure would come at a premium, but it's weird that there just don't seem to be any, even several years after it became a standard port on macs. 

Most enclosures accommodate 9.5mm which are the size of most SSD's. There are several mini thunderbolt enclosures where you can plug in SSD's, I have no idea how you came to that conclusion that there isn't......

 

Now to answer the thread starter what you need are a pair of SSD's you can run in Raid externally, not sure if your MBP supports USB 3.0, if it does then just go with a cheap USB 3.0 enclosure and buy a 1TB SSD. 

 

Also you should really be converting your files to Pro Res.....

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I still think before you invest anything first step is check activity monitor and see are your cores or RAM maxing out when PP stalls.. If so then a new HD wont help I guess, unfortunately technology changes a lot in 4 years!

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I edit on a dual-core late 2013 macbook pro laptop. I can edit GH4 .mov H.264 files natively without problem. I can also edit 4k ProRes 422 HQ without a problem. I use a G-Drive 2-drive RAID enclosure, thunderbolt. It wasn't cheap, but not as expensive as the Pegasus. I use it in RAID 1, for drive redundancy, so don't get the benefit of RAID 0 speeds. 

However, I can also easily edit off a single G-Drive USB3 external, if I'm only doing one stream of GH4 H.264 4k or ProRes converted footage. 

But, this is all in Final Cut X. Premiere Pro is vastly slower, and a serious pain in the ass to use. It can't be hard drive speed because the data coming off the drive is the same. So I would say your system itself is probably not fast enough. Firewire 800 is easily fast enough for most video streams (800 mbit/sec is faster than the 220 mbit/sec of 1080p ProRes HQ and not quite enough for the 960 mbit/sec of 4k ProRes HQ but since most ProRes HQ doesn't need the max bitrate you'd be likely to handle a single stream on FW800 just fine in the real world), so USB3 or Thunderbolt wouldn't be absolutely necessary (although really nice to have). 

My point is that you're not likely being held back by your hard disks unless they are USB 2.0 or FW400 and also internally very slow (5400 rpm or something). You're much more likely to be limited by your GPU/CPU with Premiere, and possibly by RAM although I have 16GB and again, no issues at all.

If 4K is essential to you, you need a much faster system. Otherwise, I'd strongly recommend transcoding on import to 1080p 422 ProRes standard (not HQ or LT). It's a perfectly good codec, much much easier on your CPU/GPU, and your hard disks are likely plenty fast enough to handle the increased bitrate and take some of the load off your processors.

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If you're willing to consider a USB 3 drive, take a look at this bad boy: http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Backup-Portable-External-STDA4000100/dp/B00HXAV0X6

It's actually two drives crammed into a RAID 0, crammed into a single bus powered enclosure. 4 TB, and I'm seeing it deliver in excess of 230 MB/s (yes, megabytes) per second in real world file transfers. That's SSD level sequential (but not random) performance. Comfortably fast enough to edit on! They include a free NTFS driver (Paragon) for Mac which works extremely well. And just look at that price. Really cannot recommend these highly enough.

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Hey all. Thank you for your comments. After much research and posts on multiple forums, I went with the OWC 16tb thunderbolt and configured it to raid5 using soft raid. It seems to be the best bang for your buck with good user ratings. So far, working on it a few weeks, it has been an absolutely god send. Editing is no longer a pain. No need for proxies, especially coupled w the iMac 5k + 32gb ram and internal SSD. NOW I can work uninterrupted!!!!!! :D

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Hi, I use a HighPoint RocketStor 5212 Dual Bay Thunderbolt Storage Dock on my iMac for editing. I'm only editing HD footage and it works well with 2x 2TB drives. It also takes SSDrives so it might be OK for 4K footage!

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On 6/11/2015 at 2:52 PM, Peter Rzazewski said:

Hey all. Thank you for your comments. After much research and posts on multiple forums, I went with the OWC 16tb thunderbolt and configured it to raid5 using soft raid. It seems to be the best bang for your buck with good user ratings. So far, working on it a few weeks, it has been an absolutely god send. Editing is no longer a pain. No need for proxies, especially coupled w the iMac 5k + 32gb ram and internal SSD. NOW I can work uninterrupted!!!!!! :D

Good choice.  I went with the mini 4 bay SSD version but i'd like one of the 16tb versions because they are great bang for your buck.

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On 28 April 2015 at 10:14 AM, Promit Roy said:

If you're willing to consider a USB 3 drive, take a look at this bad boy: http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Backup-Portable-External-STDA4000100/dp/B00HXAV0X6

It's actually two drives crammed into a RAID 0, crammed into a single bus powered enclosure. 4 TB, and I'm seeing it deliver in excess of 230 MB/s (yes, megabytes) per second in real world file transfers. That's SSD level sequential (but not random) performance. Comfortably fast enough to edit on! They include a free NTFS driver (Paragon) for Mac which works extremely well. And just look at that price. Really cannot recommend these highly enough.

I have been using a couple of these for the past year or so, very fast, no problems at all with 4k h264 or prores. However my cpu is faster than the OP's and is only boarder line fast enough 

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12 hours ago, jpfilmz said:

Good choice.  I went with the mini 4 bay SSD version but i'd like one of the 16tb versions because they are great bang for your buck.

I have both -- a 16TB Thunderbay 4 in RAID-5 and an 8TB Thunderbolt Mini in RAID-0 using 4 x 2TB Samsung Evo 850s. The TB4 is very good but as it fills up the speed declines. Also spinning RAID system aren't good at small random I/Os, which unfortunately FCPX does a lot when scrolling through the Event Browser of a big library. The SSD array maintains excellent sequential speed even if 90% full, also it's vastly faster at random I/O.

You described it exactly right -- the TB4 has excellent bank for your buck, which is important at larger sizes. The big benefit of Thunderbay and SoftRAID is you are not tied to a specific hardware enclosure. By contrast if my Pegasus R4 chassis fails, I can only use those drives in another R4 since it uses proprietary hardware RAID (which is no faster than SoftRAID, anyway).

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