External hard drives have been around for some time now. Their overriding purpose was and is data backup and archiving, and with file sizes as large as they are today, external hard drives are now synonymous with any serious collection of movies, music, and photos. For such everyday purposes as storage and playback of collected files, virtually any type of external hard drive can suffice, with some notable differences in speed performance between them. eBay contains a great selection of external hard drives that reflect the huge diversity among them.
The other side of external hard drive use is video production. This presents a somewhat different set of hard drive requirements from the standard data storage and playback usage. Hard drives used exclusively for video production and editing purposes need to be considerably faster and with faster connections. Video producers need to consider drive stability, connection speed and the read and write speed when choosing the right drive for the task. They should understand the different connections available, and take into account their data security through the various redundant arrays of independent discs (RAID) options on a particular drive.
Comparing the Best Hard Drives for Video Production
Professional video production at today's high definition standard requires both a fast drive and fast connection. Hard disc drives run at either 5,400 or 7,200 revolutions per minute. A solid state drive (SSD), an internal drive with no moving parts, is often considered the most highly efficient; however, this is of little use to video producers who need the portability of an external drive.
External drives connect to various motherboard ports that are either USB 2.0, 3.0, eSata, Firewire 400, 800, or Thunderbolt. The majority of consumer drives sold to the mass market have USB or eSata connections or both to hard drives that deliver either 5,400 or 7,200 revolutions per minute. For professional HD video production, Firewire 800, eSata, USB 3.0, or Thunderbolt hard drives are the more common choices.
Optimum speed performance is most achievable on a drive capable of 10,000 or even 15 000 revolutions per minute. However, these drives are usually only compatible with a Mac Pro, generally offering less storage space and requiring an SCSI connection.
The reason professional video producers need higher performance hard drives is because each process involved in video production demands greater editing precision and frame accuracy. The entire production cycle, from capturing the live event to final production, should consist of smooth and fast transitions for speed, efficiency and ease of handling. Those who produce large or bulk quantities of content testify to the time saving advantages of fast drives and their compatible connections.
Firewire 800 Hard Disc Drive
The Firewire 800 hard drive, a 7,200 revolutions per second drive that supersedes the half speed Firewire 400, is compatible with either PC or Mac. To make the most of this upgraded firewire drive and achieve the increased speed for data transfer, the user must upgrade their cables to match the newer nine pin bus and ensure that their computer's internal hard drive can make use of the extra bandwidth created, which amounts to an extra 35 to 40 Mbps. Nevertheless, Firewire 800 is still no match for eSata and Thunderbolt in terms of throughput data transfer, and it is likely better being limited to on-location use rather than studio editing.
eSata Hard Disc Drive
Sata technology is facilitated in the majority of today's professional and domestic hard drives. eSata external drives transfer data efficiently at 3 Gbps, although the actual speed depends on the exact type of data being transferred, and compatible cables and port connections are essential for eSata connection to a computer.
USB 3.0 Disc Drive
USB 3.0 external hard drives are excellent for data transfer with potential speeds of up to 5 Gbps. Achieving these speeds are of course dependent on the corresponding USB 3.0 port availability on the motherboard. USB 3.0 is a relatively new connection, so only newer computers are likely to have this facility.
Thunderbolt Hard Disc Drive
The Thunderbolt drives are the monsters of hard drives, whether external, internal or solid state (SSD). These drives prove to be fastest for most operations, but they come with a hefty price tag, not to mention their rather power hungry energy consumption.
The Thunderbolt drives are commonly set at 1,000 revolutions per second, so with the needed SCSI connection, they deliver the overall quickest results. Data transfer rates can be carried out at phenomenal speeds of up to 10 Gbps, but as with the other drives previously mentioned, there must be corresponding Thunderbolt ports on the computer motherboard to take advantage of this.
Thunderbolt external drives are the drives of choice for many professional video producers who work on a Mac. They can be used with a PC, but very few PCs come with thunderbolt ports on their motherboards. Thunderbolt drives also support multiple drive connections known as daisy chaining. This allows for immediate access to the greatest amount of content.
Hard Disc Drive Considerations for Video Production
Choosing an external drive for video production is not difficult, provided the customer knows what to look for. There is a list of criteria that should be met to ensure the customer is purchasing the highest quality and best performing product available. Not all of the below criteria is necessarily equally important, so making a set of priorities may be the best way to shop for this item.
Durability is an essential aspect of the product as it is used to produce original and therefore the most highly valued material. Some external drives are known as rugged drives, with rubber protection surrounding the enclosure to absorb any potential knocks, although this is rare on large external drives. Rugged drives are particularly helpful as the smaller, most highly portable drive that is often taken to on-location video shooting.
The chosen hard drive needs to perform consistently the same, irrespective of how full the drive becomes. The user needs their drive to deliver consistent data transfer speed at all points of the job and not become sluggish if available RAM decreases. Some drives also become slower as drive content increases. This is one drawback of the SSD hard drives, although high-end external drives generally offer very consistent performance.
As already noted, speed is one of the most essential aspects of video production efficiency. The speed of any hard drive is only as fast as the computer's connections allow, and so full compatibility must be checked with one's own computer before purchase. This may sometimes involve updating cables, plugs and adaptors. The read speed of the drive should be comparable to the write speed and be able to do both consistently fast, with competitive speeds of at least 5 Gbps.
Depending on the quantity and turnover of video being produced, the customer may be satisfied with a reasonable 1 or 2 TB hard drive, especially for on-location use. Studio production work, however, may well necessitate a larger drive. An 8 or 10 TB drive can hold an enormous amount of data with good RAID protection. However, an increase in storage size adds exponentially to the cost.
The RAID of a hard drive refers to the way a drive is configured to maximise backup security through data translation across an array of discs or between just two discs. RAID numbers in hard drives are 0, 1, 5, 6, 8 and 10. RAID 1 drives provide good general use, with data split between two discs within the drive housing, but higher numbers such as RAID 6 are ideal for editing, as the split data across the 6 discs increases the read and write speed. Not all hard drives are RAID protected, in which case the hard drive is a single disc. This option is generally not recommended for video producers. Some external drives come with options for setting the RAID different numbers, which is a great choice for video producers.
How to Buy the Right External Disc Drive on eBay
Once you know the hard drive you want, simply enter several keyword searches that match your criteria such as Thunderbolt external hard drive.. You can also use the filters to narrow your search for detailed drive specifications. On locating perhaps three or four hard drives that interest you, go through each listing and carefully take note all the details, preferably by writing them down.
It is also a good idea to determine the seller’s returns policies and postage options, remembering that hard drives are delicate. You can then make comparisons between the various items as well as the different sellers' terms of sale. Check to see if each seller has an eBay store, as this is another way to further your comparisons with many more options. Also, if a listed item lacks the specific information you need, do not hesitate to email the seller for this.
Before making a purchasing decision, you should endeavour to find out about your seller's reputation so that you can be confident in buying from them. Always run a routine check on the seller’s eBay ratings score and feedback page. Look for a score of 100 per cent positive feedback, as this is a good indication of the seller’s professional selling reputation.
Making the right choice on a hard drive can save you hours of work. Lower cost external hard drives are aimed at a nonprofessional market and should always be understood as such. Video production work must often deal with many huge files in quick succession; time, therefore, may be a critical factor. Just as important, however, is the quality and stability of the drive, and its ability to provide quick data backup. Reliability is the other essential criteria that the drive must deliver on, and this depends on the overall quality of the product which must not be compromised.
The choice of external hard drives on eBay is unparalleled in today’s online marketplace, and the right drives for any particular video production needs are well represented here. Although the choices are varied, the options for the best all-around performances are quite limited because the professional video producer wants a drive that can do it all when the vast majority of external drives do not.