What you Need to Know on 4K Digital Storage

4K has brought new challenges to the post production world of digital cinema.

Brain Farm’s Post Production Supervisor, Danny Holland, and Media Manager, Justin Smith take a second to answer real questions on the best practice for storing data in 4K.

What sort of storage challenges did you have going into multiple productions in 4K ?

In pre production, we knew that storage was going to be an issue. We knew we were going to have multiple cameras shooting at 4K or higher for over 100 filming days for one project.  We also knew that the solution needed to be portable and could scale without being a pain to carry around.

Maxx Digital had just come out with their Thunder Raid minis that had thunderbolt connectivity and the ability to swap out internal drives. After testing we saw that they would be the great solution.

As an example, For our snow film we estimated we would need 70 x 4 TB drives for this winter season alone. We utilized 4x ThunderRaids and then carried pelicans of blank HGST drives to fill them with as needed.


How do you create the workflow for 4K storage?

Offline to online scenario:

Most of the transcoding happened in the field which helped speed up production. With some on location shoots being 2 months long, the editing media was almost ready to go and the raw was able to transfer to LTO.


Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 4.27.59 PM

How does Maxx work better than (Brand X) ?

We went with Maxx Digital because of their solid products we have used for years.  They have a great support system that helped us on each production with our 4K planning.


What tools do you need to make it all happen?

Starter Kit Details :

Thunder bolt mini

Thunder bolt chassie

Thunder raid


ShotPut Pro



How do you predict storage needs?

We have not taken on multiple films at this magnitude so we have to use our best estimates from previous shoots. We utilized what we learned filming and managing one recent film project .

Looking at how many cameras shooting per day, average daily media created and then applying the length of the trip. Adding room for on the road variables gave us the number of drives needed in the field.

How do you make the field DIT kit work for you?

We opted to go with the Rogue DIT kit to help keep our DIT needs in one package. The kit has RED ROCKET X and different types of I/O for monitoring.


How did the Maxx drives perform in the field?

The chassis’ (drives) performed extremely well given the conditions we were using them in. We were traveling with them constantly; through airports, on planes, helicopter, vans and snowmobiles to remote mountain lodges and locations all over the world. They were dealt a fair bit of abuse and were consistently reliable throughout the production. You need that kind of reliability when you’re in a foreign country or remote area because you know it’s not easy to get supplies in.

What was it like to deal with 50 TB of media in the filed?

It was definitely a full-time job and by that I mean, it’s a job that takes up the entire day; non-stop. It required a lot of late nights and early mornings, sleeping next to the DIT station. Because we’re shooting with cameras that capture an image up to 6K, we’d shoot anywhere from 3TB’s to 7TB’s per day. When you’re dealing with that much media you are constantly offloading magazines from the camera operators and backing up those files. Using software, I was simultaneously offloading media to 2 Maxx ThunderRaid Mini Chassis’ at once, ensuring that everything was safely backed up everyday. Traveling from location to location, you never take your eyes off of your media. We had 4 Pelican cases of hard drives; That media is your entire film so naturally you’re eyes are on that media case like an over-protective mother; You protect it like it’s your child.

How much did the chassis help with the transcoding?

The Thunderbolt chassis is lightning fast, making it possible for us to be constantly transcoding in the field. Offloading cards and backing up our footage was extremely quick too. We had 4 ThunderRaid Mini Chassis’ daisy-chained to a Macbook Pro and the system was cranking nonstop, 24/7. When you’re spending 16+ hours shooting and working during the day, a faster connection like Thunderbolt, means 1 more hour of sleep. The Maxx ThunderRaid Mini Chassis’ was an absolute necessity in the field.


Real Questions from Real Fans -

Ask: I just bought a gh4, I know it’s nothing compared to the phantom, RED or Arri raw 4K, but what changes should I expect in workflow in terms of importing/transcoding? I used to work with a 7D.

Depending on the NLE you are using little might need to change. Adobe Premiere for example has such a wide range of support for most native formats that it is likely that you can edit with the RAW material directly out of the camera.  That said, editing with the native material can be processor intensive and therefore might slow down your ability to edit. If this is the case going with HD proxy media such as ProRes might allow for a more efficient editing experience. When your edit is locked you could then re-conform to your 4K material and finish the project.

 Ask: Do you transcode RED footage, and if so do you do it in CineX, or edit natively?

We traditionally use a offline to online workflow for most of our larger project for a few different reasons. For RED material we do utilize REDCINE-X for transcoding to different flavors of ProRes. For smaller projects we sometimes edit natively just depends on the situation.

Ask: Something that seems to be a bit of a grey area on the internet is using LUT’s in Premiere grade S-Log. I have a found a few resources but it would be so nice to have a thorough understanding. Hoping Lynda tackle that soon!

We have utilized LUT’s mostly through our grading and transcoding process of ARRI RAW material. I am not as familiar with S-Log but guessing it is similar.  ARRI RAW material it comes out of the camera really flat and LUT’s allow for a quick and easy way to turn that really flat looking file into something much more viewable for editing or when finishing. When finishing in Resolve I like to use a 3 node system where the LUT is applied to the middle node and then you can make pre and post LUT corrections.

Ask: What storage systems are you using on the new movie with Travis Rice? G-Drive? Or…

We have been using Maxx Digital’s ThunderRaids for all of our latests productions. We choose these because of their thunderbolt connectivity as well as their ability to scale and expand by swapping out drives as they filled up.

Ask: What is the final editing best compression for a movie shoot in 4K ?

We have used DPX or TIFF sequence for all final outputs of 4K material, they are the highest quality output formats.

Ask: All your final export settings with example ( HD Vimeo, 4K youtube, HD Blu ray ….?)

Pro Res HQ is our main finishing format for most HD content. From a ProRes master we will then encode different web related formats.

Ask: In your opinion what is the most useful piece in a 4k editing computer, graphic cards/fast writing discs such as SSD’s, RAM, processor…? what do you use?

To work at 4K it is the right combination of CPU, GPU and storage speed. You can have the fastest graphics cards and processors in the world but if you don’t have fast enough storage then you are not going to get smooth playback of certain 4K formats.





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