Everything you need to know about storing video

There are countless articles about creating videos with perfect lighting at just the right angles. However, setting up that scene only matters if you can capture the footage without running out of storage for data.

Here, we’ll begin with a firm understanding of value, speed, capacity, and costs. Then, you can apply that knowledge to make smart decisions and get the correct storage for your video needs.

Your data is more valuable than you may realize

When discussing the value of your storage options, we’re not just referring to the cost of a memory card based on how many gigabytes or terabytes it can hold. The data you create also carries the cost it took to make that data. You may have actors on a limited schedule or a rented film location with a strict time allotment. Sometimes it’s simply impossible to shoot retakes, as with filming nature or live events. Does this mean you should spend a fortune on storage to ensure your data is safe? Not necessarily.

Internal vs. external storage

Each camera and computer you use will have some form of internal storage. However, this storage serves a different purpose than external storage. Internal storage drives mostly work as a cache, allowing you to access things like videos and photos quickly.

 It also manages the connectivity with I/O (input/output) devices ⁠— including your external drive. The faster your internal drive is, the faster your system responds to your commands. This speed and power come at a cost, of course. When comparing gigabytes to gigabytes, internal storage prices are about 20 percent higher per gigabyte. That may not seem like much when you think of $100 versus $120, but it can add up over time.

On the other hand, external storage drives are excellent for large files, such as RAW video, and being portable has clear advantages. For example, if you’re filming a wedding, you’ll need to capture a lot of footage with retakes and duplicates. You’ll likely use multiple cameras. All of this footage will need protection and will need to be uploaded to a computer for editing. Since external drives are self-contained, you can use them between devices and take them with you for any shoot. In the unfortunate event that an external drive gets damaged, you can often fix it and save the data it’s storing. This is rarely the case with internal drives because they work like a cache. It may be wise to invest a bit more to get the extra bang for your buck.

Dive into external drive speeds

In the external drives industry, the hard disk drive (HDD) is the OG of data storage designed with electro-mechanical technology decades ago. When engaged, it spins quickly for read/write functions. HDD is an option to consider when you need a low-cost solution, but it has drawbacks. The physical limitation of actual spinning RPMs makes HDDs much slower than modern competitors — the read/write speed averages about 80 to 160 MB/s through the SATA protocol.

Solid-state drive (SSD) was developed later with non-volatile flash technology. This means it will hold the memory without power and has no moving parts. SSD offers several benefits over HDD. Without the limits of a spin platter, the read/write capabilities are much faster than its predecessor, up to around 550 MB/s through the same SATA protocol as HDD. Also, since it doesn’t have any parts subject to wear and tear over time, you’ll find it’s more portable, a lot more consistent and holds up well with time and usage.

Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is a newer protocol for accessing high-speed storage. It’s a highly evolved version of the SSD. The major upgrade here is that it connects directly to the motherboard at the PCI express socket, making it insanely fast. One of the best ways to engage directly with the PCIe socket is by incorporating the throughput of Thunderbolt. It allows you to implement multiple connections and helps achieve a max speed of 2800 MB/s. This dramatically higher speed will directly impact your loading and rendering speeds and save a lot of time.

Make redundancy work for you

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is another important feature to understand when choosing a storage drive. When your data’s duplicated within the drive, you’re at a much lower risk of losing any data. Here are the basic principles of each RAID type and the best use practice for it:

RAID 0 – This doesn’t provide redundancy exactly, but instead it breaks the data down into smaller pieces and strips it across all of the drives in the group. Use this when performance is your top priority.

RAID 1 – Use this RAID to have a completely duplicated copy mirrored in your drive. This cuts your capacity in half but gives you the best protection against loss.

RAID 5 – This gives you the best speed and protection when you have multiple drives. It divides the striping over however many drives you’re using like in a RAID 0, but with the addition of a parity calculation for data protection.

RAID 10 – This RAID is the best combination of reliability and performance, striping your data over mirrored copies. Ideal for business-level data management with a large array of drives. 

To elevate your storage even further, look for software RAID, called SoftRAID. This provides you with many benefits such as selecting the RAID level of your choice for added flexibility and customization, in addition to monitoring the health status of your drives to help prevent  data loss. 

Calculate the capacity and cost

Regardless of how much you know about video storage, it can still be daunting to decide if the external drives you’re considering will really be enough for your next project. It varies wildly depending on the resolution and frames per second you’re shooting, but once you define the factors, it’s a fairly easy equation. The formula is based on your bit rate. You can break it down as follows:

  • n Mbps/8 Conversion unit: n MBps
  • n MBps*3600 Calculate the storage capacity in one hour (unit: MB)
  • n *3600/1024 The unit is GB

One-hour storage capacity of a camera with the bit rate of n (unit Mbit/s)=[(n/8) *3600]/1024 GB


Once you have an idea of what type of storage is best for your needs and how much storage you want to invest in, you can dive into the costs. Speeds, specially read speeds are a must for smooth video editing. One of the best ways to compare options is to determine the cost per gigabyte for each device and compare. This helps you get the best bang for your buck. However, be sure to consider how fast you need your media to operate to play back your video. Additionally, consider the saved transfer time, if you are handling a lot of data, slow transfer speeds will bog you down. 

Video storage Thunderbolt solution

Thunderbolt is a great pipeline that offers incredible data speeds. If you need fast transfer speeds, Thunderbolt is the way to go. OWC offers an extensive line of thunderbolt storage solutions. Each version has a wide range of features like additional ports for various levels of daisy-chaining, adding monitors and more. You’ll get a powerful RAID that allows you to create, manage, and monitor advanced RAID sets.

Envoy Pro FX (Up to 2800MB/s and 4TB): This Thunderbolt NVMe drive offers backwards compatibility with regular USB ports and blazingly fast speeds. Its rugged design with a crush, dust and waterproof construction and speeds of up to 2800MB/s make it a perfect editing drive for small projects.

ThunderBlade (Up to 2800MB/s and 32TB): This blazing fast NVMe RAID offers the added capacity and data protection of a RAID system housed in a rugged enclosure. Built for the road or desktop, it can handle the most demanding uncompressed high-bandwidth content. 

Gemini (Up to 773MB/s and 36TB): This offers two drive bays and prioritizes user-friendly features like front-side camera ports, USB options, daisy-chain expansions and a dedicated monitor. Install your choice of 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch HDDs or SSDs or combine one of each to maximize speed and capacity. 

ThunderBay 4 mini (Up to 1556MB/s and 16TB): ideal for maximizing 2.5-inch SSDs and has four drive bays making it easy to take your data wherever you need to go. It’s compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and allows you to use pre-configured set-ups or create your own.

ThunderBay 4 (Up to 1527MB/s and 72TB): With four drive bays and up to 56TB of capacity, this connects easily to either Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3, which is a great way to start smaller with room for expanding your hardware in the future.

ThunderBay 8 (Up to 144TB and 2750MB/s): gives you professional-level options and massive capacity at 144 TB with eight hot-swappable drive bays for any type of drive — no adapters needed. Also, you can string up to 6 units together and create a full data center of up to 768 TB. Moreover, it has a fully enclosed locking front panel to keep your data secure.

ThunderBay Flex 8 (Up to 144TB and 2750MB/s): This award-winning option offers eight hot-swappable drive bays and 144TB of capacity and is highly configurable. The Flex 8 is the only OWC device that can be configured with NVMe drives inside, capable of reaching 2800MB/s. This is fully customizable station with exactly what you want for drives, ports, PCIe cards and much more. 

More storage for less

It’s no mystery that videographers need data storage — lots of it. However, having excessively more storage than you need is an expensive problem. On the flip side, not having enough is detrimental to your workflow and business. With an understanding of the speed, capacity, cost and real-world value, you can stock up on the right storage at the best price to keep your creativity flowing.

To learn more about OWC’s catalog of storage solutions, head to macsales.com.


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