External solid state drive

Matt Davidson

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Mar 21, 2016
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South Bend, IN
A smaller theatre I work with has a lovely iMac 5k that has the high end specs that had been refurbished so we got it on the cheap. The only flaw with it is it carries a regular 7200 RPM hard drive. I'm already aware of how difficult it is to open a new iMac ("moderate" actually) so I was thinking concerning playback of large video files would I get any benefit from using a external solid state in a enclosure? Or does everything get routed through the hard drive on its way to whatever its doing and wouldn't matter anyway? Would getting a thunderbolt capable SSD make a difference over USB3 also?

If thats not a option then I'll just wait until the next show closes and give myself a couple of days to tear it open and replace the drive.

Thanks!
 

JD

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Jan 1, 2005
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North Wales PA
The problems with externals is there is usually a communications bottleneck between the external and the unit. Keep in mind, bit-rate and throughput are two different things. Any communications protocol eats up clicks. For example:
Internal: Drive>controller>RAM>Program
External: Drive>controller>Protocol converter>link>Protocol converter>RAM>Program
As long as the video feed does not exceed one of the bottlenecks then it will work. Just be aware it's going through a longer process.
 
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techieman33

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topeka, ks
There isn't much to be gained by running an SSD for video playback. A regular hard drive is more than fast enough to play even 4k video. If you were jumping around/through the video there might be a slight speed increase there, but not really enough to notice.
 

ruinexplorer

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7200 RPM drive should be sufficient for most video. Obviously it depends on what you are doing with it. As soon as you add new variables from the program, then you have to see if a different drive may help. That also has to do with how the program handles the video, such as using the GPU over the CPU. Each program may also do better with different codecs than others. If you are not scrubbing the video at all, sticking with something like h.264 might be fine. If you are doing something that requires full frame and jumping around in a clip, then you will likely be using a heavier codec, which could slow you down in pulling data from the drive.

If you do start with an external USB3 SSD, let us know what you find. This is something that I have been playing around with for a while.
 
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Matt Davidson

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Mar 21, 2016
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South Bend, IN
I'll probably get the external anyway just as a extra thing to backup the show with and also I'm curious myself how it'll really do. I think at the very least I'll try a couple of rehearsals with video getting pulled off it and see what happens. In my mind I thought 7200 was going to cause some slowdowns with full 1080 prores video but I suppose in reality the video that's outputted with prores is the same as h.264 just without the processor having to decode it. I'm not really even going to be doing anything hard with it. Simple play and fade outs. Maybe some repeating clips so nothing really taxing.

It'll be a while before the next show with video in it but I'll post a update when it happens to let you all know how it did. Thanks for the responses and input! I appreciate it greatly!
 

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You will notice a big difference in how you work with the files. I would also really push you to open that thing up and get an SSD in it. The difference in speed of the machine will be night and day. If you are not getting any lags now then stay the course... but if you are do it. As macOS goes further down the road the SSD will be needed to keep up.

I would at least get the external drive to run your media off of. I never like to see show media ran off the OS HD. That external drive will be much faster then your onboard drive. Thunderbolt is essentially external PCI express which runs much closer to the processor then SATA. You can get about twice the throughput through a thunderbolt drive then a SATA drive.

In my view this is a no-brainer. Get an SSD in that machine and get a thunderbolt drive for your content. It is also possible to boot off an external thunderbolt drive....