Hard (Drive) Questions

Digital video is all about data. Lots of it. Even after compression, all those individual still pictures add up to create a staggering amount of digital information. Most other methods of communication–written word, sound or still image–don’t come even close to gobbling up as much storage space as digital video.

But sheer quantity of data is not the only challenge digital video poses. Because it’s a medium that’s very much dependent on time, the mass of video data has to be at the right place at the right time–every time–for digital video to work at all.

Taking these factors into consideration, it’s clear why the technology that stores and retrieves video data is one of the most crucial factors in any digital video system. And while the future may hold some bio/electro/magneto wonder that’s able to store terabytes on the head of a pin, today’s video editors rely on the hard drive almost exclusively for digital video storage.

And why not? Hard drives are getting bigger, faster and cheaper at an astounding rate. What would have set you back several thousands of dollars (if available at all) a few years back is now selling for a few hundred. New technologies like ultra-wide SCSI and FireWire promise to improve performance greatly, even as prices fall.

But with progress comes confusion, for the new and not-so-new digital video editors alike. It’s hard to get straight answers regarding how the hard drives differ, which ones are suitable for video and how many are necessary, among other questions. We’ll spend the next few pages giving you straight answers to these questions and more.

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