ROAD TEST: Filmmaker and owner of Capture.Ink, Lee Herbet, Road Tests the SanDisk Professional G-RAID™ Shuttle SSD

If you’re a studio with demanding production workloads, a scorching fast, transportable solution with plenty of storage may be just what you need.

Being a filmmaker is no longer just about cameras. It hasn’t been for a long time. One of the biggest challenges of being a filmmaker in the digital age is data wrangling. As the owner of Melbourne-based production company Capture.Ink, I shoot a lot of corporate video and travel content where we do just that.

Over the last 10-15 years, cameras have gotten smaller, whilst at the same time more powerful and cheaper. These are all good things. If you had told me 15 years ago that in 2022, you’d have multiple prosumer cameras on the market that could shoot 4K RAW, I would have thought you were mad. Yet here we are.

One of the challenges of shooting this beautiful RAW footage is finding hard drives that can both hold copious amounts of data, whilst being fast enough to edit multiple streams of 4K or more-K RAW. This is particularly important for me as a teacher on Final Cut Pro and HDR workflows -I need drives that can keep up!

I have a drawer full of 2TB portable SSDs that I use when traveling, but these drives simply aren’t big enough to hold multiple projects at the same time. This is where the SanDisk Professional G-RAID™ Shuttle SSD comes in, so read on to hear my thoughts on this beast and how it fits into our storage workflow at Capture.Ink.

SCORCHING FAST SPEEDS

For any filmmaker with demanding production workloads, it goes without saying that having a speedy and efficient storage workflow is essential to make sure it can keep up with the speed you’re working. Whilst the G-RAID Shuttle SSD does cost a bit more than your average drive, I can assure you there is a good reason for that. It all comes down to the old saying of “time is money” and if a purchase is going to save you time, in the long run it’s going to save you money.

SSDs are way, and I mean WAY faster than the old style drives. I may not get as much storage for the same price, but it’s more important for me that the storage is super fast.

Thunderbolt™ 3 can achieve some great speeds, so fast in fact that sometimes your drives can be the bottleneck. With SSDs as your drives, this isn’t an issue. It’s not just being able to edit without any bottlenecks, it’s being able to transfer data onto the drive that makes a big difference.

My team and I have a few events every year that we shoot for. A big part of events these days is being able to deliver content for online and social media as the event is taking place live.

With transfer speeds of up to 2800MB/s1 with the G-RAID Shuttle SSD, we can transfer footage at rocket speeds and go full speed ahead on editing. When you’re editing to a deadline, this makes a huge difference.

LeeHerbet-shuttlessd

CAPACITY IS KING

As I mentioned over the last few years, cameras have gotten cheaper whilst at the same time improving specs. These specs mean I can now shoot anywhere from 4K 12-bit RAW up to 8K on the cameras that I have. This is great, except it means that my team and I are now creating huge amounts of data on each one of our shoots.

There just aren’t any single style drives out there that can store everything we need to store.

For example, back in 2019 we worked on a project in Africa shooting 8K RAW footage for most of the shoot. We ended up with 23TB of footage.

Now, most jobs aren’t going to have that much footage, but we regularly create anywhere from 3TB -7TB of footage per project. Note that is just the RAW footage, and we still need storage for the render files when editing. So a big and fast solution like the G-RAID Shuttle SSD is perfect for what we need. For those that need even more than 32GB2 of storage, Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports allow for daisy chaining of up to 5 more devices too.

TRANSPORTABLE DESIGN, ROAD AND AIR

Considering this Shuttle holds so much data, it’s quite a compact device -about a third of the size of the previous 8-Bay solution I used. Now, this is not a complete replacement of the 2TB portable drives I use, as it’s not going to fit in my carry-on for on-flight editing. In saying that, I can absolutely see myself putting the Shuttle in my check-in baggage and using it on location for storage and editing.

The fact that SSDs are so much lighter (this Shuttle is just over 13kg) is a big tick for checking in your baggage. If I have to fly anywhere with my other storage solution, it would have to go into its hard case and weighs at least twice as much as the SSD unit, if not more.

I can see myself unplugging the G-RAID Shuttle SSD, grabbing it by the handle and taking it along to shoots as it’s so compact and convenient to transport.

Having it with my crew on set means big time savings, as my assistant can be transferring footage to the Shuttle as we are shooting. I can then get started on editing as soon as we get back to the edit suite. This saves me loads of time instead of having to do it after I get back.

RAID CAPABILITIES FOR PEACE OF MIND

After hours of time put into a shoot, the worst case scenario would be having an accident and losing footage that is impossible to replace. The G-RAID Shuttle SSD gives me peace of mind in that inbuilt hardware RAID capabilities provide an added layer of protection.

At Capture.Ink we use a RAID 5 setup which allows for one drive redundancy, so if one drive fails, you don’t lose any data. You replace that drive, quickly, and the RAID will rebuild itself and you have redundancy again. Under this setup I was reaching 1551 MB/s write and 2390 MB/s read speeds, which is more than we need and will need for some time to come. Now, I could get even faster speeds if I set it up in RAID 0, but with that setup you run the risk of losing all your data, if you lose even just one drive. That’s why it’s also called “scaryRAID” and most creatives avoid this system.

So what do those speeds mean in actual use scenario? Well, I was editing a project with multiple streams of 4K RAW footage and at no point did the footage give me any issues being edited off of the G-RAID Shuttle SSD. I also never heard the clunk, clunk of drives spinning that I normally do from my other storage solutions. 

In summary, the speed is great and will future proof me, but it’s also the weight and relative portability of the G-RAID Shuttle SSD that I am particularly excited about to improve my workflow going forward.

Lee Herbet

Cinematographer

Through his production company, Capture.ink, Lee and his team have helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their stories. He’s a cinematographer with a passion for teaching photography/video and editing. He delivers workshops all over the world and writes for a number of online photography and video sites on topics ranging from reviews to “how to” articles.

1 1 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.

2 1 TB = 1 trillion bytes. Actual user capacity may be less depending on operating environment and RAID configuration. For RAID products, storage capacity is based on RAID 0 mode.

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