Affordable Shared Storage Solution for Video Editors

Affordable Shared Storage Solution for Video Editors

In 2016, The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be opening on the National Mall, in Washington, DC, right next to the Washington Monument.  I was honored to be hired by Black Robin Media as a DP and chief editor for a series of videos that will be part of several featured exhibits in the museum. This project has been a giant adventure, covering music, movies, TV, sports and many other aspects of Black life over the centuries. Our post production team consists of three editors working on three separate Mac based edit systems.  Because of a combination of ever-shifting delivery schedules and client approvals, we wanted to design a strategy that would allow each editor the ability to access any project at any time and pick up right where the last editor left off. We also wanted to be able to seamlessly work on all the projects from any of the three edit systems.

Our main challenge was to keep all three systems in sync and up-to-date at all times.  An ideal solution would be to employ a system likeEditShare or Avid Unity ISIS.  Even though we’re working in Adobe Creative Cloud, specifically CC, ISIS could have proved a powerful solution. and have collaborated to make it possible for Premiere Pro to take full advantage of the ISIS Shared Storage.  Sadly that solution was financially and technologically out of reach. A simpler and more affordable option would have been to employ a single network attached storage device like a Drobo, Synology orQ-Nap, as a central repository of media assets and project files, that all three edit systems could source from.  Unfortunately, the network connection in our offices is not reliable enough to sustain the data throughput necessary for smooth and efficient . Alternatively, we could have executed nightly back ups to a central NAS. That way, if one of us needed to pick up on a fellow editors project, we could just pull from the previous night’s backup.  While that is a workable solution, we feared the slow ramp-ups with all the file transfers and re-linking, not to mention the potential of getting out of sync with which version is the most recent – the one on the edit system or the one in the NAS.

The Solution – BitTorrent

Our team is a lean, effective and creative operation, as such, we were searching for the most efficient and cost-effective system that would allow any editor to work on any project, from any machine in the office at any time. (I know, that’s a lot of anys.)  Each edit system consisted of some variety of iMac or MacPro, with a 12TB Promise Technologies Pegasus 5 attached, running the latest versions of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of applications. After exhaustive research, we decided on a product call, Sync by BitTorrent.

What is Sync?

Sync is a simple, fast and secure way to share and sync files, leveraging the of BitTorrent.

According to Wikipedia:

BitTorrent is a communications protocolfor the practice of peer-to-peer file sharingthat is used to distribute large amounts ofdata over the Internet. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and peer-to-peer networks.

Yep, that’s right, this is the technology that powers all those pirate movie sharing services, but Sync has nothing to with that behavior.  What BitTorrent technology offers us with Sync is, it allows for virtually real-time syncing of all the data related to every project.  It’s sorta like an automated, shared cloud storage – without the need to actually store anything in the cloud.  So, as new data is created on one of our edit systems, that data is synced over the Internet to a mirrored project folder on the RAIDs attached to our other two edit systems.

Advantages

One of the advantages of BitTorrent technology is it’s blazing fast. Sync advertises its file transfers as 16 times faster than most cloud services. Along with that speed is that fact that the data transfer does not need to be contiguous. So if a large file transfer is interrupted by a power outage, network failure, or simply one of the other systems be rebooted, the transfer does not need to start again from the beginning. The data transfer picks up where it left off, the next time the network connection is reestablished. The really nice thing about all this is, none of this activity seems to have any negative impact on core system performance.

The advantages go far beyond being able to pick up and work on any project from anywhere. We’re also all able to easily access and use assets from any project, at any time. Since each edit system is working off its own directly connected RAID, There are no issues created due to network lag or congestion. And most important is the redundancy. Since the data syncing is happening virtually in real-time, each time a project is saved, a new file is created or a new piece of media is added – a copy (or backup) is synced to each of the other two system’s RAIDs.  There’s no worry of lost project data at any point in the process.

How Does It Work?

Sync’s user interface is very clean and intuitive. Once installed it’s as simple as identifying a folder to sync (share) and sharing the folder with teammates.  There is a key associated with each folder you choose to share.  You have the option of sharing that key link via email, copy and paste the key or via a QR code, which can be scanned with a mobile device. (Did I mention that Sync also works on mobile?)

Before sharing you also have the option to set permissions to a read/write for read-only mode. This is very handy for working with partners who may need to track the progress of the project but are not active contributors. Once the key link is received at the other end. The user simply clicks on the link to activate syncing.  If Sync is not already installed, the user is prompted to download and install the app.  Once installed, it’s just matter of pointing to where you want to store the synced/shared data and Sync starts the initial data transfer. It’s that simple.

Although we didn’t do it for this project, now that we have the system in place, it makes it much easier for us to work with collaborators at remote locations. We can easily share our projects with colorist, designers, composers, sound designers and of course, other editors.  They can have access to all the same assets that we have in the office and we all can collaborate effortlessly.

Cost

Did I forget to mention that everything described is in the free version of Sync?

The free version offers:

  • No file size limits
  • Unlimited number of folders
  • Sync across all mobile platforms

For $39.95, the Pro version offers:

  • All Free features +
  • Automatically add folders across all your devices
  • Save space with Selective Sync
  • Dynamically control access permissions

The needs of our project only scratched the surface of all that Sync offers. For more information about Sync visit https://www.getsync.com/