iMac storage for 4K editing

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by steveash, Aug 26, 2015.

  1. steveash macrumors 6502

    steveash

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    I'm a commercial photographer who also dabbles with video. I have produced a few short promotional films for clients as well as doing some broadcast press coverage. I hope to develop this further and push this service to some of my larger clients so have been looking at upgrading my editing hardware with view to moving to 4K over the next 12 months. I'm considering a 5K iMac with as much ram and graphics memory as I can get, but am unsure of which way to go with storage. I currently run a Mini with an SSD startup drive with a second disc for files. The iMac has only one drive space which looks pretty complicated to change. I'm considering a 256MB SSD internally for OS and Apps and then an external drive for files but I'm concerned that this won't be fast enough for editing and playback of 4K. Should I use Thunderbolt, SSD, a Raid 0 system or is a good USB 3.0 drive fast enough? Or would I be better off with a bigger internal drive to use for the files I am working on and then archiving them when I'm done?
     
  2. Flunkyturtle macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2011
    #2
    i'd go with as big as you can afford for the internal SSD and use external through thunderbolt or USB 3.0 for everything else.

    I used thunderbolt and it's rapid, but at the end of the day if you have a 2 TB file to move across, it's still going to take time.

    I haven't tried the fusion drives but perhaps someone can comment on whether this would be a good solution/
     
  3. HobeSoundDarryl, Aug 26, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

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    #3
    If money is not an object, get a RAID drive made of SSDs to use as the drive on which you store the 4K video to be edited. Connect via Thunderbolt. If your future work is likely to continue to be "shorts" (promotional films & press coverage), you don't necessarily need HUGE storage in these SSDs- just enough to cover whatever number of simultaneous video editing projects you can anticipate. The editing is where the speed really helps. Once the editing is over, you render once and that render could be stored to anything (even a relatively slow hard drive).

    If I was doing this, I'd get fastest Mac, third party (max) RAM (because it will cost less than stock RAM from Apple), big(gest) internal storage, 1-2 external hard drive(s) at least as big as the internal storage, and a 4-8 bay RAID to load with 4-8 SSD drives, setup as RAID 0 or probably RAID 5 (so that I'd have some protection for this big scratch RAID of SSDs, something I would NOT have if I set up as RAID 0). The big internal drive would hold OS X, FCPX and all OS X software while that RAID box would be pretty much dedicated to being nothing but a big video editing storage box. I generally find OWC as a great source of such hardware and they do offer this: http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Thunderbolt/External-Drive/OWC/ThunderBay-4-mini-RAID5 but there are likely other competitors out there.

    One external hard drive would be allocated to Time Machine backing up the internal drive but ignoring the RAID box (I'd lean on RAID5 for protections of that generally throwaway data... when the editing is done and the final render is realized). If you can afford a second external, I'd use it as an offsite backup of the internal drive (regularly bringing it home, updating the backup, then getting it back offsite).
     
  4. Gwendolini macrumors 6502

    Gwendolini

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    #4
    You can manage with USB 3 or TB enclosures and speedy HDDs, as many seem to be capable of offering 150 to 180 MB/s nowadays and a UHD ProRes 422 (HQ) file has a data rate of around 105 MB/s.
    You could even use ProRes Proxy files, which use around 22 MB/s, depending on what footage you have.
     
  5. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
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    NH
    #5
    Scrubbing 4K video demands a bit more data rate. Stay away from USB drives, not ready for such demanding work. How much is your time worth?

    The iMac may be suitable for editing, but if you are going to do any transcoding you may want to think about something more powerful.

    I use a performance Samsung SSD as a scratch disk in an external TB enclosure and it is adequate for HD video as a hobby but perhaps not for pro work where time is money. A better performing system for routine editing is an external TB enclosure with at least 2 SSDs in RAID 0 (use disk utility). I'd buy well rated RAID compatible SSDs like Samsung Pros and forget about RAID 5. RAID5 and SSD sometimes don't mix well. OWC sells a nice 4 bay for 2.5 inch SSDs. The sum of the SSD capacities should be twice the size of the video source files you are editing. If you are editing 1TB of Video and use 4 SSDs, they need to be ~500GB each for best performance. Using 2 SSDs they need to be ~ 1TB each. Its not going to be cheap, and you can certainly get away with less scratch disk performance at the expense of your time. I would not fall back from TB, however. Then there are options for proxi files which you should read up on.

    Your finished video could be exported to about anything, but TB storage devices will work best. And don't forget about a backup strategy.
     
  6. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    dolphin842

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    #6
    I'd recommend waiting until Skylake-based iMacs are released. While it's true that "just wait for the new ones!" is a common refrain, the next iMac will likely have two significant upgrades relevant to your use case:

    1) Faster internal storage: If the iMac adopts the updated PCIe SSDs used in the new MacBook Pros, sequential speeds will increase to between 1 and 2 GBps, which is faster than the Thunderbolt RAID setups on BareFeats. If your internal storage is your scratch disk, that gives you a lot of flexibility as to what your bulk storage can be (USB drive, NAS in the closet, etc)

    2) Hardware encoding: The Skylake CPUs have a lot more hardware-accelerated video features, including realtime 4K h265 decode, accelerated h265 encode, and realtime+accelerated 4K h264 encode/decode. This all happens with minimal impact on the CPU, so a Skylake iMac could theoretically be quite an editing powerhouse. Of course, these features would have to be implemented by Apple, either at the system level or in specific apps like Final Cut/Compressor, but they've taken advantage of Quick Sync in the past, so I'd imagine they will do the same for these new features.
     
  7. steveash, Aug 28, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015

    steveash thread starter macrumors 6502

    steveash

    Joined:
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    Location:
    UK
    #7
    .
    At the moment they offer a 1TB SSD or a 3TB Fusion. The SSD is silly-expensive and I also have no experience of if the Fusion drive is anywhere near comparable. I've got rather used to SSDs and appreciate their speed as scratch disks.

    Sadly money is always an object, that said, I'm not going to cut corners if it is what I need. Your suggestion isn't far from what I was thinking but I was looking at a smaller TB 2-bay Raid 0 with either 7200 or SSD drives. The performance figures I have seen from these just seemed a bit disappointing considering the outlay.

    Thanks, that's interesting, I hadn't seen these figures.

    I'm not doing a great deal of this work at the moment so I don't really want to invest too much in a system at this point. Looks like the Lacie D2 USB 3.0 drives which are rated at (up to) 200 MB/s could be enough but a couple of SSDs in a RAID 0 enclosure would make things run a bit quicker. I am starting to think though that if I can have the current project on the internal SSD with all other work on the external, I'd get the best performance. Unfortunately, that would mean paying the Apple tax for the 1TB SSD.

    Everything is backed up nightly to Backblaze and I have external disks that get updated each weekend.

    Agreed. I usually wait for the latest product launch to either buy the latest or the outgoing model at a discount. I hadn't realised the benefits of Skylake though so this is definitely worth waiting for, particularly as though I'm not in a desperate hurry.

    Thanks for the info everyone. I really appreciate it.
     
  8. ProjectManager101 Suspended

    ProjectManager101

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2015
    #8
    Do not use USB 3 if you have Thunderbold, is stupid. Then consider creating proxies for the 4K to edit and then replace with the original to reduce all sort of lag in the system. Sort your footage and create proxies from it.
     
  9. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #9
    Agree, I tried USB3 with editing and was very disappointed. Its more than simple data rate, the protocol makes a mess of things. The combination of USB3 and storage are an abomination, although for portable device applications it might be acceptable (but you will have less problems using the simpler USB2 devices). Just trying to save some aggravation and money for the OP, but some have to learn the hard way anyway. :)
     
  10. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #10
    I'm a professional video editor and handle a lot of 4k on a top-spec 2013 iMac with Fusion Drive and an 8TB Pegasus R4 Thunderbolt RAID5. It works mostly OK and is not generally I/O limited -- rather it is usually CPU and GPU limited.

    I'd recommend you get (a) The fastest Retina iMac with m295X GPU (b) a 256 or 512GB SSD boot drive (c) A thunderbolt RAID array (not SSD), (d) A less-expensive RAID array for backup, and (e) Multiple fast USB 3.0 bus-powered portable drives for backing up/transporting individual projects. The fastest one I've tested is the 1TB HGST Touro S: http://amzn.com/B00IVFDQ48

    You need the fastest iMac because so many operations are CPU and GPU-bound. This can be clearly seen in any monitoring program like iStat Menus while doing typical editing operations. The iMac has a big advantage over the Mac Pro for exporting single-pass H.264 because it supports Intel's Quick Sync, which is about 4x faster for that operation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Quick_Sync_Video

    You can't remotely fit enough video storage on an internal drive so you may as well get SSD and have it boot faster and put most of your video storage externally. You'll have to evaluate this but a 256 or 512GB boot drive might be enough.

    FCP X and Premiere Pro both do a great job of editing camera-native codecs. It is not generally necessary (even in FCP X) to transcode or optimize to Pro Res. This greatly reduces the I/O rate. You can edit multiple HD streams of H.264 on a single fast HDD, although RAID is better. 4k is harder but the data rate isn't extremely high for H.264. E.g, the highest bitrate in the highest 4k mode of my Sony A7RII is 12.5 megabytes per sec.

    Re external HDD, the main issue with video is capacity not speed. Yes you want decent speed but with HD and esp 4k, the volume rapidly builds beyond any affordable SSD solution. This is due to all the support files besides the video data: scratch files, optical reflow files, render files, library files, etc. Also your budget and planning must include a means to back *everything* up, whether it is RAID or SSD, etc, because they can all fail.

    Some good external RAID solutions include the Promise Pegasus series: http://www.promise.com/Products/Pegasus/Pegasus2
    OWC Thunderbay 4: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB2SRT08.0S/
    G-Technology: http://www.g-technology.com/products
     
  11. ProjectManager101 Suspended

    ProjectManager101

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2015
    #11
    USB 3 is good but is not for that. If you where editing standard definition it would be ok OR probably simple HD. But as far I remember the USB ports uses one bus, that means that if you have 4 USB devices connected the band width gets divided. USB is good for audio peripherals but remember that video will always be slow, video is the most demanding media in any computer.
     
  12. steveash thread starter macrumors 6502

    steveash

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #12
    Looks like I'm going to go with a 256GB internal SSD and a Thunderbolt 2, 5 disc RAID 5 system. I'll use normal hard drives for now with the option to drop in SSDs if I ever need them. It isn't the cheapest setup but will be fast and should last me a good long time.

    Thanks again everyone. Now to try and do some work that justifies the gear...
     

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