Tips & Tricks: Hard Drive Configurations for Faster Renders

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If you’re like me, you’re always up for learning new techniques on how to make your workflow more efficient. In this case, we’re talking about hard drive configurations. Now while one configuration isn’t going to solve everyone’s needs, I can take you through a 3-drive scenario that will make your computer run through that render queue a bit faster. But first here’s a question: what slows down a hard drive when you render a project out? Well, if you’re only using one hard drive for everything, it’s because you’re constantly reading and writing to different parts of the same drive simultaneously. See where I’m going with this? Let’s take it a bit further… Drive 1: SSD Solid state drives are amazing. They’re great for laptops because there are no moving parts and therefor much harder to damage than a traditional spinning drive. They’re also fast. How fast? 4-5 times faster than a top notch 7200rpm SATA III drive of the same size. Sound expensive? Well yes, but in our configuration we’re only using the SSD for our operating system and applications so we won’t need anything too large. Probably a 128GB drive. The important thing here is to do your research and make sure you have some extra space left over – at least 50GB just to be safe. In my case, I would install my OS, Adobe apps, etc. on the SSD. The SSD clearly is not large enough to dump footage onto, so where do we go from here? Drive 2: SATA III 7200rpm Our second drive is a 2TB SATA III 7200rpm. This is the drive we’ll use to dump our footage too. Now for some, 2TB is nothing. If you shoot serious footage (RAW) you’re going to need some serious hard drive space. In that case, you’re going to need a RAID array. There are also great alternatives to traditional RAID arrays like DROBO, which you can read about on their website. In any case, the general 3-drive configuration still applies. The raid array would be best mounted in your tower, if there’s enough room, or you could go with a thunderbolt RAID array which is also incredibly fast. Just make sure the drives you put in it are SATA III. The more data throughput the better. And if you have the budget, skip the 7200rpm and go for the 10,000rpm. Drive 3: SATA III 7200rpm (again) That’s right, your third drive should be roughly the same as your second, except this one we’re going to use exclusively to render video to. So whether it’s a single drive, a RAID or DROBO, it’s going to hold all of your renders. You could also use it to store your projects or go for a fourth, slower drive just for backup. Proper backup is a very important thing but that’s another post. Explanation So you have your three drives. Woohoo. Why is this going to make my renders faster? As I said before, reading and writing all of that information to one drive is going to slow things WAY down. So we’re splitting up all of these processes between three drives. Drive one will read the data from Drive 2, perform the render process and dump the files to drive 3. Now is this going to revolutionize your workflow? Are you going to render out a 4K feature in 10 minutes? Well, no. Your hard drives are just one piece to the puzzle but a config like the one here is a step in the right direction.

JoshMcDarris

Josh is an independent DP, editor and motion graphics designer in Austin, TX. You can read more about him and check out his work at joshmcdarris.com

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