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Old June 16th, 2008, 07:03 AM   #1
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FireWire Drives Explanation

I'm suddenly in the market for an additional external FW Drive. My present 3 drives are FW-400 and run at 5400 RPM. I use one of them as a scratch drive and get a lot of dropped frames during playback.

I was wondering if using a 7200 RPM Fire Wire drive would prevent dropped frames. The other problem I have is that FCP 6 doesn't respond right away when I give it a command. The Mac is a new intel based, so maybe its tripping over its feet when it tries to access the media on the slower drives.

Also, is there any benefit in FW-800 over FW-400?
Thanks,
sr
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Old June 16th, 2008, 07:17 AM   #2
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Hi Scott,

Yes and yes. You should be using drives that are 7200RPM and you should get FW800 rather than FW400 as they're faster.

Do a forum search, there's lots of good advice on which drive to get - G-Tech are a good bet.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 08:47 AM   #3
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External hard drives are good for archiving, backups and temp storage space, but I wouldn't work off of one.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:00 AM   #4
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What type of source footage are you using(HDV, DV, etc..)? Just curious.

I think you will find this article helpful:

http://www.larryjordan.biz/articles/lj_dropped.html
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:02 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by John C. Plunkett View Post
External hard drives are good for archiving, backups and temp storage space, but I wouldn't work off of one.
I can understand that sentiment, and all things being equal would agree. But I have been editing standard definition DV off a bunch of firewire 400 drives for several years on a dual G5 with FCP 5 and have never seen a single problem. And this includes either my camera connected via FW400 for capturing or my DVD recorder connected to FW400 for printing to video. I try to avoid it, but I often forget and have more than one drive connected to the firewire 400 bus as well. All my external drives are 7200 RPM.

As they say, "your mileage may vary", but this has proved very reliable for me. Will be migrating to FCS 2 on intel soon, so perhaps my experience will be different there. I haven't worked with HDV enough to know whether that's an issue, but I edited a one hour HDV project on the dual G5 using an external firewire 400 drive and didn't have any problems.

But I'd agree: faster is better whenever possible.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:47 AM   #6
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And the simple solution becomes more complicated.

Like Boyd said, I too never had a problem with FCP5 and FW-400 (using a non-intel Mac). I've got problems now that I upgraded to FCP6 and a faster intel Mac. Not only does the program become unresponsive (fine tune a filter and then have to wait 3 seconds to use the scrubber on the time line to see the effect) but even the filter window gets too big after I apply a filter. I actually have to go to the bottom corner of the filter windows and resize it to make the filter controls fit. This has never happened in my 7 years of FCP/Apple experience.

It's akin to typing in Word and having the letters be 4 keystrokes behind the physical typing.

I'm using plain old 4:3 SD media.

I'm dissapointed but at the same time, what used to take one hour to render now takes 4 minutes.

And what's this about John saying he uses his internal hard drive instead of an external fire wire for capturing? Oddly enough, in an attempt to avoid dropped frames during print to tape, I placed a copy of the movie on my desktop and referenced it and I still got a dropped frame warning after print to tape. But there was no problem with the tape when I played it back.

I'm used to feeling ignorant in regard to some aspects of my hardware and software but being baffeled by the performance and results of what I have now is new to me.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 02:03 PM   #7
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I've used external 7200rpm FW400 drives on SD material for years with nary a hitch. I've also daisy-chained several FW800 externals together without a playback hit.

I've also been able to get acceptable performance on 7200rpm external FW400, even with HDV, ProRes or DVCProHD footage.

By far, the most economical/flexible way to go is to choose an external enclosure (many often have dual or triple interfaces like usb-400-800 or usb-400-esata), then populate it with your own hard drive. My externals all take IDE drives inside, but now with SATA drives the norm, you should see even better performance.

As to your performance problems, a 5200 rpm drive may be the culprit, but it almost sounds like something larger is going on. You mentioned "upgrading" to FCP6. Did you install FCP 5 on your intel mac first, then upgrade it to 6? Because the recommended path is a clean install of both the OS and the newest version of FCS. That way, you don't have any legacy code or extraneous files left over from the previous installation. It's a pain, but it's just cleaner that way.

Try copying some actual media (not by-reference files) to your internal drive, which is probably 7200rpm. Then, create a new test FCP project and see if you have performance issues. If not, you can bet it's your external drives mucking up the works.

It used to be generally safer to not store media on your internal system drive. The idea was that a HD was not fast enough to serve up media and access the HD for the OS and Applications. Not so much of a real issue anymore with fast internal SATA drives, but many people still reserve the MacintoshHD just for the OS and apps, and put all media on additional internal HD's or externals.

Of course, all this flies out the window when you start to work in 10-bit uncompressed HD or just have to have 15-layer composites run in RT on the timeline. There's a reason why there's still a brisk market for hardware acceleration like AJA and Blackmagic, and fast SCSI or e-sata arrays.

BTW, you never said what kind of intel Mac you were working on - Mac Pro?
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Old June 16th, 2008, 04:14 PM   #8
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Hey Scott, its an iMac-24" with 4gb Ram. And I did do a clean install with a new retail version of FCS2. I didn't even migrate anything over from the old non-intel mini.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 04:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Scott Routt View Post
And what's this about John saying he uses his internal hard drive instead of an external fire wire for capturing? Oddly enough, in an attempt to avoid dropped frames during print to tape, I placed a copy of the movie on my desktop and referenced it and I still got a dropped frame warning after print to tape.
I was having major problems printing to tape when I first got my dual G5. I thought it was related to the external drive, so I copied everything to the fast internal media drive (the dual G5 towers only had room for two internal drives). Still the same problems. Finally, I reformatted both the internal and external drives with journaling OFF. Ever since then I haven't had any dropped frame problems on external or internal drives.

Go figure - do a search and you'll find a lot of discussion on the topic here. Of course on an iMac you don't have the option of a second internal drive, so that isn't going to help you. Also, unless the newest Macs have changed (and I don't think they have), there's only one internal firewire bus on all models and it supports both firewire 800 and 400. So you are limited to the speed of the slowest connected device as I understand it. IOW, if you have your camera or a deck plugged into the firewire 400 port, it will throttle down your firewire 800 drive to 400 speed.

While I'm looking forward to upgrading to the newest FCS on Intel, I'm also dreading all the new issues that I'm sure it will bring...
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Old June 16th, 2008, 05:13 PM   #10
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Scott: dumb question: is the external a Western Digital MyBook? If so, they spin down after 10 minutes of no use and will require time to spin up before the media is accessible. And no, the spin down time is NOT user controllable on these drives.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:45 PM   #11
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Haha, I have three of these and learned that the hard way myself. There may be some utility out there to address this problem, haven't really looked into it myself.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 03:10 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by John C. Plunkett View Post
External hard drives are good for archiving, backups and temp storage space, but I wouldn't work off of one.
Really??? You've heard of Xsan right?

So, I guess I've been doing it wrong all these years and Avid and Apple have been giving bad advice and selling people external hard drives that they don't need?

How very silly.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 04:56 PM   #13
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Haha, I have three of these and learned that the hard way myself. There may be some utility out there to address this problem, haven't really looked into it myself.
There may be a utility but after searching WD's website and FAQs long enough, I DID discover that WD has not accommodated users setting spin down to "never", at least on the MyBook line.

PS. I use mine for archiving Disk Images that I create in DVDSP. Works fine for THAT.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 05:01 PM   #14
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Really??? You've heard of Xsan right?

So, I guess I've been doing it wrong all these years and Avid and Apple have been giving bad advice and selling people external hard drives that they don't need?

How very silly.
I suspect he was referring to consumer level individual drives and not pro level RAID arrays. I will agree that "bargain basement" external drives (especially off-brand enclosures) CAN be poorly designed for the rigors of heavy sustained throughput of digital video editing. Having said that, ALL my media drives for the past 7 years have been external FW400 LaCie drives and I haven't had a single external fail (knocking on wood!) while I had two Seagate internals fail after only a year and a half.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 02:02 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Scott: dumb question: is the external a Western Digital MyBook? If so, they spin down after 10 minutes of no use and will require time to spin up before the media is accessible. And no, the spin down time is NOT user controllable on these drives.
It's interesting that you say that, Shaun- I have 2 externals- 1 WD My Book 1TB drive (with the very same & incredibly irritating 10 minute idle spooldown) and a G-Raid 500GB drive. Needless to say, I've transferred all of my media to the G-raid & now just use the WD as my Time Machine backup disk... :)

Incidentally, Both drives are FW-800, and I've had very few "dropped frame" messages. When I do, I just hit the spacebar again, and it plays through just fine. The G-raid is 7200 RPM, and it's a fantastic drive.
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