During our Kickstarter campaign last year, Jean MacDonald of App Camp For Girls fame kindly put us in touch with Mark Fuccio who was consulting for Connected Data Inc., makers of Transporter. Mark became a friend of the project and generously offered to use his ties to Drobo and Transporter to help us out with some gear needed for making the film. His only request was that we share with you all how we were able to put it to use.
We have a few challenges to solve as Jake is based out of Long Beach, California and Jed is based out of Twin Falls, Idaho. We share editing duties, so we each need to have all of our footage locally. Our other obvious challenge is that we have a ton of data and any amount of data loss could spell the end of our endeavour.
Here’s how we put our workflow together:
- Mark had Drobo send us each a Drobo USB 3.0 as well as a pair of Transporters each (think of Transporter as a private alternative to Dropbox). The Drobos have four drive bays and we filled ours with 3TB drives. We configured our Drobos to use one drive for redundancy, so we ended up with about 9TB of storage each. We currently have over five terabytes of footage, and it is reassuring to know it’s all stored on a system that protects from drive failure with space to spare.
- All of the footage we shoot goes onto each of our Drobos. We manually keep them in sync (e.g. ensuring that all footage goes into identically named folders on each Drobo).
- When we travel together for a shoot, we each carry a 1TB notebook drive. We ingest to each of our drives at the end of each day. This provides redundancy as well as enabling us to go our separate ways at the end of the trip—each with a replica of the new footage. We then copy the footage to each of our Drobos when we get home.
- When one of us shoots footage alone, we use our Transporters to shuttle the footage to the other. The Transporters work wonderfully for shuttling large files (versus Dropbox) as they connect directly to our networks and are always on, obviating the need to leave our computers on for days. Once the footage from a shoot has been successfully synced via our Transporters, we archive it to our Drobos.
Ease of Mind and Use
Surprisingly, we’ve actually had two hard drives go bad since we started using our Drobos. In both cases, we simply pulled the bad drive out, RMA’d it, and popped in the replacement when it arrived. The Drobos assimilated the new drives without skipping a beat. Our Drobos took something that could have been absolutely devastating to the film (a drive failure) and turned it into a minor inconvenience (mailing in a bad drive for a replacement). Ease of use and reliability are two of Drobo’s biggest marketing points, and we can attest that they’ve done well here. As an aside, we told Mark about our struggles with bad drives and he informed us that Seagate drives (which we’re using) have measurably higher failure rates than Western Digital and HGST. Something to keep in mind if you’re in the market for hard drives.
Editing Footage Directly from the Drobos
One of our primary concerns in basing our editing workflow off of the Drobos was that they wouldn’t be able to keep up. Our conclusion so far is that our fears were unfounded. We have completed a handful of edits from the Drobos and don’t have any complaints with regards to performance. The majority of our footage is ProRes (which means large file sizes), so we were pleasantly surprised that our Premiere edits of varying size open and load within 10 to 20 seconds (assuming caches are already built). Once loaded, scrubbing timelines and playing back the edits are nice and smooth.
If you’re looking for raw numbers, we get around 220MB/s read, 200MB/s write speeds using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, which is measurably better than our single platter drives, and (obviously) measurably worse than our SSDs. But of course, who can afford to put together a redundant, 9 terabyte SSD array? (If you can, and you’d like to give us two, please get in touch).
The Drobo may not win performance benchmarks, but it’s fast enough for us and we can’t fault Drobo for their focus on safety and ease of use over performance.
We’re (for the most part) a two-man show, so it’s vital to make the most of our time. We don’t want to spend it worrying about how our footage is stored and whether it’s safe. We just want a couple of gigantic, redundant, decently-performing volumes that will let us get our job done, as well as a convenient way to shuttle huge files between the two of us when the need arises. The Drobo+Transporter combo touches on each point beautifully. So, thanks to Mark and the folks at Transporter and Drobo!