How to access massive amounts of data quickly

Benjamin Franklin coined the old saying, “Time is money.” If we adjust that saying to modern video production, the new phrase is “Time is data.” What this means is the amount of time recorded is data; the amount of video transferred to and from your editing software is data. That begs the question: How much time does it take to access that data? Milliseconds or minutes? Ben never had to wait while his video was rendering.

In this fast-paced video environment, downtime means lost productivity in the video production world. You need tools that can help you save time by accessing your data quickly. To ensure you make the most of your time, it’s important to know how to efficiently manage your digital data. Let’s discuss how you can do that.

Quick transfer speeds

As video formats increase in quality, the demand for data storage and handling also increases — and we’re not just talking about capacity, either. You need to be able to access all that data as fast as possible. The longer you have to wait for a file to access and render, the less productive you’re being.

It’s important to remember that when you think about data storage, you need both fast write speeds and fast read speeds. We often think about the write speed because that’s how fast the data will record on a device. Read speed is equally as important because that is how fast your device can access that data. This is important when you need to review shots, and it’s especially important during the post-production phase.

As for the ideal read and write speed you should look for, there’s no “one size fits all” answer. There are a lot of factors when it comes to your target read and write speed, such as video size (1080p, 4K, 8K), compression (H264 or RAW) and whether you’re using proxies or not. It will also depend on your own personal deadlines. Do you have time to wait for longer video transfers, or do you need to have the transfers done as soon as possible? Additionally, the read and write speeds you go with will depend on what you can afford, as prices increase when you opt for higher speeds because that typically equals higher performance.

High capacity at an affordable price

When we’re talking about data storage size, the better the video quality, the bigger the file. For example, 15 minutes of recorded video in Full HD at 30 fps/ProRes 422 will only take up about 16 GB of storage. If you step it up to 4K, it doesn’t just double. With the same fps and codec, you will need about 70 GB. If you want to make it ProRes RAW, it goes up to 132 GB. If you step up to a more powerful camera and start shooting 8K, that 15 minutes of video will take up to about 250 GB. It’s easy to see that you need to think in terms of terabytes and not gigabytes when it comes to video storage. Though prices keep coming down on large storage devices, not all terabytes are created equally.

To keep it fast and cost-effective, you’ll want to balance your storage across various devices. You may own several storage cards. You can always buy more because they are going to cost less. But as you need more and more data, you’ll need to more frequently offload the cards. Larger storage systems like RAIDs can be used for cycling your cards while you’re in production. (This is generally the role of a DIT or data wrangler on film sets.) Once again, transfer speeds will be a factor in your productivity. You need a system that can keep up with your production timeline, allowing you to shoot more and spend less time transferring.

Scalable storage

To keep things affordable, you want to think about scalability. You need a system that will compliment your storage needs over time. Today, you might think a single terabyte is way more than you’d ever need. Tomorrow, however, 10 TB might not be enough. It’s always good to look for a system that can grow and evolve with your needs and the industry standard.

Fortunately, calculating data is not exactly guesswork anymore. There are lots of tools out there to help you calculate your needs. A quick search for “video storage calculator” will net you many resources. There are also apps that allow you to enter the Codec, frame rate, image size and more to get a good estimate of the amount of data you’ll need for each hour or minute of video. For planning purposes, it’s helpful to overestimate rather than underestimate your totals. As Murphy’s Law is often at work in production, figure out your needs, then add 20 percent. Once you have this number, you may find that you need to add more storage to your budget.

Maximum portability

Video production is often about being on the go and almost always having deadlines. So your data storage needs to be ready when you are and ready to go where you need it to go. For instance, you might find yourself editing with your tablet or laptop on a plane ride. You might even need to transfer media from your camera to a larger storage device on the side of a mountain. No matter the situation, modern data needs to be as portable as it is powerful. 

To handle the data needs of video production, you must find something that is fast, lightweight, rugged and at least a terabyte in size. It needs to be affordable and should be able to scale as your projects and quality increase. Additionally, it needs to easily go from a field shoot to the edit bay quickly and efficiently.

A great solution

Earlier this year, Western Digital’s SanDisk(R) Professional brand unveiled a new storage solution that addresses all of these factors. The PRO-BLADE(™) ecosystem is more than just a new type of storage medium. This is a complete system that currently has three main components: 

1. The PRO-BLADE SSD Mag is the storage drive that comes in 1, 2 or 4 TB capacity1

2. The PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT is the portable enclosure that connects the mag to your computer or USB-C(™) compatible camera, which uses a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 interface

3. The PRO-BLADE STATION is a desktop enclosure that will accept four mags and connect to a computer, which supports Thunderbolt(™) 3. It will be available in late 2022.

The storage is NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) SSD rather than a traditional SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) SSD and is capable of up to 2000 MB/s read and write speeds when used in the PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure, and up to 3000MB/s read and 2600 MB/s write with the upcoming PRO-BLADE STATION desktop enclosure.2 The PRO-BLADE SSD mag is just 4.32-inch x 1.1-inch x 0.3-inch (109.73 x 27.9 x 7.6 mm) and weighs just 0.1 lb (45 g). They are tough enough to handle a drop from up to 9 feet (3 meters)3 and have a crush rating of up to 4000 lbs (1814 kg). This system is designed to go with you and grow with you.

The SanDisk Professional PRO-BLADE SSD mag and TRANSPORT are available now. You can learn more about the ecosystem here.

11TB = 1 trillion bytes. Actual user capacity may be less depending on operating environment. 

21 MB/s = 1 million bytes per second. Based on internal testing; performance may vary depending upon host device, usage conditions, drive capacity, and other factors.

3On a carpeted concrete floor.

Western Digital
Western Digital
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