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Traveling Drives

August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

Transcend 500Gb drive


Traveling the world shooting video, we have seen cameras evolve from shooting on tape to card based memory such as SD, CF or even the latest like CFast cards. While its great to see the results of each day’s shooting, it also means that you can no longer simply hand a shot tape to the producer to take home to the edit room. Instead, it means late nights backing up to drives. That means fast write speeds are essential if you want to enjoy dinner, a good night’s sleep and to avoid hovering over your computer.

I set up a nightly routine of backing up both video and photographs to a drive. Starting with a folder for each day, I then create sub-folders for each camera. I also take the precaution of taking the drives in pairs and cloning the folders, so I have a back-up in case a drive is damaged or lost.

With growing file sizes from both video and still cameras, this means I can easily fill a 1Tb drive on a shoot, along with its twin for safety. On documentary shoots for television clients, it can easily exceed this….

I often travel to places where there is no replacing items in the field. This means the drives have to be reliable to minimize the chances of one failing. While I try to hand carry the drives, it also seems gate checking bags on small planes is getting to be the norm. I split the cloned pairs across my two bags, so sometimes get forced to trust one set to the airlines. Seeing the injuries that baggage handlers can inflict on my otherwise indestructible Pelican cases, I was immediately drawn to the products from Transcend when I saw that they are rated to withstand use by the armed forces. Although the jury is out to whether they are as dangerous as the airlines! But so far, so good….

As a result I just took a pair of Transcend drives on our expedition to the Russian Far East. Shooting images of the wildlife, landscape and people of the region was a great experience and detailed in two previous stories on Tymlat and Lorino villages.

Each unit worked flawlessly and with a USB3 connection, cut down the transfer time from my memory cards to the drives.

Transcend make a wide range of drives and I would recommend heading to their website for specifications. In general I would recommend the 500Gb or 1Tb units with the fastest connection that can be utilized by your computer. Bottom line…. I would thoroughly recommend these military spec drives to anyone and will be buying fresh units for each of my upcoming expeditions.

One addition to the mix would be a small USB hub if your computer has limited built-in connections when cloning from one drive to another. It seems Apple are saving money by limiting the connectors on their new designs…

After being too far south in the Antarctic to be able to connect with the satellite for the last few days, Cotton is making his way back north to Argentina on board the National Geographic Explorer and just re-connected. Here is his report on the best external hard drive to take on an expedition.

“This morning I am heading back to Ushuaia, Argentina, after completing our first Antarctic Expedition in the 2013 season. What a trip it has been. We have spent time with Humpback, Finn, and Killer whales, seen all the Penguins, including the Emperors, and sat quietly close to sleeping Leopard Seals on their protective bits of ice.

For these trips I wanted to field test the new Drobo mini, to see if this product could satisfy my needs as a photographer and filmmaker working in remote locations. I thought an expedition down to Antarctica might just be the place to see how it worked.

What’s new about this model is size (form factor) and speed. Its running via Thunderbolt off my new MacBook Pro 15” and Final Cut X. The Drobo mini is targeted for laptop users, like myself, who want safe and reliable storage on the go. Back home I will transfer my precious digital assets over to my Drobo 5D, but here in on board the National Geographic Explorer, I really need the small form factor, for space is at a premium. The Drobo mini can hold up to four 2.5-inch hard drives for a maximum capacity of 4TB, plenty of space to hold my AVCHD Sony clips and stills.
My set was the following: Four 750 GB Drives giving me a total of 3TB (2.72 TB actual)

I had no problems at all editing ProRes 422 (HQ)-quality 1080p HD. For those of you of have worked with Drobo’s in the past, their technology is truly unique. With their propriety technology at work, I know that I am safe, even if one drive were to suddenly fail. My Drobo lights will turn from Green to Red, letting me know which drive needs replacing. All I need to do is swap out the bad drives, slip in a new one, and Drobo will take over and automatically rearrange the data across all the drives, keeping all my data safe and secure. They call it the “beyond RAID” philosophy. These new models are now focused on making sure the drives are fast enough for constant video editing and rendering.

Faster speed transfer takes place using Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, as well as using a small mSATA solid state drive into the underbelly for faster speed. Drobo calls this their Drobo Accelerator bay which uses the SSD to buffer the data between hard drives and my laptop for fast transfer rates.

I have been out shooting all throughout the day, in all kinds of inclement weather, and the Drobo mini has performed just as I had imaged it would. I am very happy to know that my creative material is safely backup up, and I no longer have to carry with me 4-5 separate back-up drives. It also saves me a lot of time being able to store the data in one secure place. Will of course keep this blog updated as I continue to sail and shoot in the Antarctic peninsula on board the National Geographic Explorer.”

PS- We should also mention that it is a busy day over at Drobo as their new product the 5N starts shipping today. Its a perfect solution for connecting a drive to your network at home or for business. Check out their website for details.

Photo credit: Sisse Brimberg