Video editors now more than ever are constantly confronted with the problem of storage. In the fast-paced world of web media production, as production traffic increases, turn-around periods slim (shoot today for a next-week or even next-day delivery) post-production managers need to find resourceful (read: affordable) ways for fast, reliable and efficient storage. Here at Scribe Media, like other companies focusing almost exclusively on web-based media, where the work accumulates quickly and basic organization skills become something akin to divine virtue, searching for adequate storage space for new projects can be like scavenging for a full charge in a trash bag full of half-used AA batteries… another internal prod. company problem apparently (bad analogy perhaps but I tried really hard to think of something better…honestly). Sometimes the client will do the work for you by supplying a drive of their own if they’re interested in keeping all of the raw project data. Most commonly however you’ll have to buy a new drive (a cheap little 800FW box or something like it) or dust off an old one from the shelf that houses some archaic project long forgotten that nobody cares about; this is the web after all.
But for more prestige projects, like the six-part web series we’re currently producing for the FDNY, for which we’re accumulating hours of raw HD footage from multiple cameras, footage that needs to be transferred, catalogued, stored and ultimately cut down to a modest ten-minute running time, this method simply does not work. Enter CalDigit’s HDElement, a 4-bay SATA drive hardware unit that is not only affordable, but, most importantly, RAID equipped; the HDElement comes with CalDigit’s RAID Card.
Depending on your budget, CalDigit allows you to purchase the box starting with just one 1.0TB SATA drive (the one I’m currently working with), and from there stocked incrementally with up to four 1.0TB drives, or up to 4.0TB worth of space. The beauty here is you can start with one drive and add as your storage needs grow.
And even from there still, the HDElement is expandable. The CalDigit RAID Card’s multiple external ports allows you to connect up to three HDElements, or twelve individual drives, adding to a total storage capacity of up to 12TB. That’s a lot of space! You also have the flexibility to configure the RAID on different RAID levels for various workflows and projects. The 4-drive box I believe is sold preconfigured in a RAID 5 configuration, which, by spreading and replicating data across three or more drives safeguards the loss of data against the failure of any one drive, but this can be changed accordingly to the demands of the user. Here is where the RAID Shield Client GUI (graphical user interface) comes in handy. You can monitor your system, do performance checks, check hard drives, fan, temperature, power supply, configure RAID array, etc. all in an easy and accessible fashion. According to CalDigit’s website you don’t have to be an IT engineer to understand any of this, which, if you’re a layman like me and pick up the relevant bits of info as you go, is very important; I’m pretty much shooting from the hip here. Oh, and the HDElement connects via a miniSAS cable and is pretty fast too. Under RAID 5 it is said to do 300MB/s. It handled my HD 1080i footage like a champ!
As technology moves production toward tapeless workflows, which is becoming the norm more and more every day, this system for backing up data is not merely important, it’s essential. Without proper backup support and tapes to pull footage from if drives should crash and data be lost, it’s risky to go into post-production without taking the necessary precautions to protect your work. Fortunately I’ve never had to approach a client with the news that their footage disappeared due to a drive malfunction, and I hope I never have to. But finally, let’s talk about price. The HDElement now starts at $930.00 with the 1.0TB drive and caps at about $1,700.00 for the 4.0TB unit. There are other variations in price beyond these figures due to added features and goodies here and there, but I’ll allow the serious buyer the pleasure of doing that additional window shopping. All in all the CalDigit HDElement is a great product and should be of interest for anybody looking to make the leap into serious post-production. I myself look forward to moving beyond the 1.0TB unit given to me to test drive and building a more substantial system on which to really cut my teeth.