Videoguys' Recommended Solutions for Video Storage

One of the most confusing things about digital videography is the storage requirement. We can help you better understand just what kind of storage you will require for your video productions.

Finally, digital videographers have a range of choices for storing their digital video files. Todays new hard drive and RAID technologies combined with larger, cheaper drives have made Desk Top Video more affordable then ever!!! We offer digital video storage solutions for every level of video and budget.


1) You can never have too much storage

DV compressed video requires 13GB per hour of footage. While this may not seem like a big deal to you today, it sure was just a few short years ago. Back in 1998 a 9GB SCSI drive would cost you over $1500!! And if you wanted to create great looking video, you had no choice but to invest that kind of money. Today's Ultra 100 EIDE drives and SATA drives are almost as fast and they are a fraction of the cost.

For best resuIts we suggest you configure your system with 2 EIDE drives. A 40GB+ for your operating system and software plus a dedicated 80+GB for video. With 80+ gigs of video storage you will have no problem producing a 90-minute production and several of 30 minute shows.

2) It's the throughput baby!

Seek times and peak transfer rates mean nothing for video production. All we care about is sustained throughput. We don't care about the highest specs of the drive. We only care about the minimum. If the sustained data rate of the drive dips below the required transfer rate for our video, the result is jerky playback, messed up audio and dropped frames. Given today's technology, there is no excuse for this. When in doubt, get better storage then you think you will need.

RPMs are a good indicator of a drives over-all performance. For video work we recommend drives rated 7200 RPM or faster. We have found that many 5400 RPM drives do not have the sustained throughput required for NLE work.


If you are getting a new computer, make sure you go with 7200RPM SATA drives. We have been getting performance with SATA drives in our DIY systems. SATA drives offer outstanding sustained throughputs. They also have another advantage over EIDE, that we feel is worth noting here. SATA cables are round and much smaller then the EIDE ribbon cables. As a result they are easier to place within your computer case and even more importantly, they allow for dramatically better airflow. Heat is the enemy of your hard drives. The hotter it gets inside your case, the more likely you are to run into performance issues. If it gets hot enough, you drives will fail. With SATA cabling, you get much better airflow, which helps keep everything cooler inside your case.

While you can save a few dollars by going with an EIDE drive for your boot drive and SATA for your video, we recommend going to all SATA. The cost premium is minimal. Storage is not the place to cut corners when you're going to be editing video with your computer.

4) A single drive will get slower as it fills with data.

This is because a hard drive is a spinning disk. Back when we all had turntables and records, this was very easy to explain. If you placed a penny on the outer edge of the record, it would travel a much greater distance in a single rotation then a penny placed near the label on the inside of the LP. More distance over the same period of time equals greater speed. Using this analogy today just gets me a strange look by most people. But the reality is still the same: A single EIDE drive will get slower as it fills with data.

Drives are so big, affordable & fast today that this rule at times does not even apply. You can buy a 250GB drive for around $200, that's big enough to store over 9 hours of video. Lets say you can only use 75% of the drives capacity. That still leaves you with enough room for 6 hours of video!

5) RAIDs are GREAT for video!!

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. What it means is that 2 or more drives are grouped and formatted together in order to provide greater storage and performance. There are several different types of RAID. Servers typically use RAID 1 (mirroring) or RAID 5 for data protection. For video we use something called RAID 0 (striping) for speed. The computer sees the striped drives as a single drive and the data is split between the drives, making the sustained throughput much higher. Two 120GB drives striped together result in 240GB of storage!!

Setting up a RAID is very simple and easy to do. If you can, get a motherboard that has a built in SATA RAID controller. Not only will this work great, but you'll find it also comes with very easy to use and follow RAID configuration software.

For video editing the Videoguys recommend the following RAID storage configuration:

1. SATA Boot drive (40GB or larger)
2. Pair of Identical SATA drives striped in a RAID0 configuration (2 x 120GB = 240GB)
3. (optional) 4th SATA drive (40GB or larger) for back-ups, digital photo library, MP3 library

6) If you plan on creating your own DVDs, you need plenty of storage!!

At best quality a single sided 4.7GB DVD holds just under 2 hours of video. To make a 2hr DVD is going to require a very large amount of disk space. Here is a little math exercise that will explain just how much storage you will be needing.

1. If you are starting with DV footage, you need 13GB per hour of video.
2. This means a 2 hour DVD is 2 x 13 = 26GB of footage.
3. Add in the extra unused footage and it's more like 3 x 13 = 39GB.
4. Figure that you'll be adding some extra graphics and audio tracks. Let's say another 2GB for these.
5. Now you need room for the MPEG2 footage for the DVD, that's 4.7GB more.
6. If you plan on creating the DVD in a folder first (we recommend this) that's another 4.7GB.
7. Add it all up and it comes to over 50GB of high speed video storage to make a 2 hour DVD!!

7) Resolutions beyond DV25 DEMAND better storage!!

HD, HDTV, Hi-Def, High Definition - call it what you want. If you plan on going to these new, more professional formats then you must give them the storage they require. Uncompressed video requires throughputs only possible with a very serious RAID configuration. You'll need sustained data rates above 120 MB/second.

Plan on RAID 0 striping a pair of SATA drives at a minimum if you are going to edit HiDef footage. For best results look into getting an external storage solution like our Medea VideoRAIDs - especially if your needs will be a terabyte or more. By having your storage outside your computer you avoid all the extra heat inside it. VideoRAIDs are designed with exceptional airflow and cooling, making them very reliable.

Which storage system should I buy?
Here is our recommendation based on the current pricing structure

  • If you want the lowest possible cost, get a pair of identical 7200RPM SATA drives (80GB or larger) and stripe them together yourself. This increases the thorughtput of the drives and lets you use the entire capacity. This is called a RAID-O stripe. Striping together a pair of 120Gb drives will give you 240Gb of screaming fast storage. You can stripe them together using the Disk Management utility in Win2K or XP, For even more performance get a motherboard with a built in SATA EIDE RAID controller or add a PCI SATA RAID controller card.
  • If you want to add external storage, we now recommend FireWire drives and drive kits with our software based NLE solutions. Make sure you get a drive that spins at 7200 RPM and has at least 2MB cache. We have found that for best results you will want to have an additional FireWire controller card in your computer. Attach your DV camcorder to the first FireWire card and hook up your external FireWire storage to the second card. Using this configuration helps to avoid potential PCI bottlenecks that occur from using a single card multiple ports or daisy chaining on a single FireWire connection. Note: We do not recommend FireWire drives with PCI based hardware accelerator cards.
  • If you want the best professional solution, SCSI is still the king. SCSI has the advantages of being internal or external and totally expandable. External drives can be easily moved from machine to machine and they can be disconnected or turned off when you are not doing video editing. External drives also have their own cooling system and power supply, so your PC doesn't have to work harder or hotter. Most of all, you don't have to worry about whats crammed inside your PC!! SCSI drives are also more reliable then EIDE and most SCSI drives come with a 5 year warranty, versus 1 or 2 years for most EIDE drives. SCSI drives spin at 10,000 or 15,000 RPM, so they are capable of higher sustained throughputs.
  • If you want the best possible performance for the best value, G-Tech G-Raids are the best deal around!! G-RAID units are external FireWire RAIDs striped for speed. Our VideoRAID RT3 units have up tp 125 megs/sec sustained throughput!! Enough for dual stream, real-time or uncompressed video editing. Each VideoRAID unit hooks up to your SCSI controller just like an external SCSI drive, and the best part about it is that each unit looks like a single drive to your computer. So you can add multiple units to the same controller for over a terrabyte of total capacity!!

We've got the video storage solutions you need to get the most out of your NLE system!!

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