I haven’t done a gear review in a while, but after putting my new Lacie 4TB Mini RAID to the test this week I was inspired to share my results.
As you read my thoughts below, know that this is not a sponsored post. I’ve never done a sponsored post (and don’t plan to)… I only ever want to share my honest opinion on whatever I’m reviewing.
So don’t let my lack of criticism of this RAID lead you to believe this is a paid endorsement. I’m just excited to have finally found the perfect solution for my off-site video editing work.
We’ll start by looking at the RAID itself, and then I’ll outline how I’ve integrated it into my post-production workflow.
LACIE RUGGED RAID PRO 4TB
Rugged RAID Pro 4TB specs:
- USB 3.0 Type-C Interface
- Integrated SD Card Reader
- Hardware RAID 0/1 & JBOD
- Data Transfer Rates of up to 240 MB/s
- Shock, Dust, & Water-Resistant
- Windows and Mac Compatible
The obvious highlights of this RAID are the capacity (4TB), speed (240 MB/s), and RAID 0/1 capabilities.
Video files are getting larger every year, which is why I typically only buy portable drives that have at least 4TB of space. I’ll only ever buy 1TB or 2TB drives if they are intended to use as a backup for a single day of shooting. But if I expect to use the drive on multiple projects over a longer period of time, I always go for higher capacity.
With 4TB, this RAID gives me plenty of room to work with. I currently have my entire feature film Psychosynthesis loaded on the RAID, and am using it to edit the film remotely on my laptop. I’ll share some more detail on that workflow a bit later.
With 240 MB/s read & write speeds, the RAID is exceptionally fast – especially for a portable solution. This is crucial for me, not only as I need the ability to edit my material remotely, but also to offload while on set.
So naturally, if you do your own DIT, this is a great tool to have. It even has a built in SD card reader –
I wish the RAID had the ability to automatically transfer an SD card without needing to be plugged into a computer. There are now other drives that can do that, such as LaCie’s DJI CoPilot –
When using the Rugged Raid Pro, you need to plug it into your laptop or desktop, and pull the files off the card manually. You can also use LaCie’s Toolkit desktop app to automate this process for you, or to perform other tasks – such as mirroring a folder between your RAID and your internal hard drive.
So really, the SD card reader is simply there for convenience. It lets you leave your old SD card reader at home, and use a single connection on your computer to both access the RAID as well as the files on your memory card.
RAID 0 VS RAID 1
Another great feature worth discussing is the product’s ability to be configured to RAID 0 or RAID 1.
If you’ve never used a RAID before, it’s simply an arrangement of 2 or more hard drives that work in tandem to help you achieve faster speeds, or to offer redundancy.
A RAID 0 configuration will transfer your data only once, but will do so very quickly as it is leveraging both drives. If you are rendering 10 frames of video for instance, it will write frame 1 to the first hard drive while simultaneously writing frame 2 to the second hard drive. This effectively cuts transfer speeds in half (or close to it).
The downside is that if one drive fails, you lose everything. But if safety is what you’re after, you can use a RAID 1 configuration. This will give you a redundant backup of your files on both drives. You only can access 2TB of space total, and your transfer speeds are cut way down, but if one drive fails you still have a backup.
Whichever option you choose, it’s nice to have the ability to use both in different scenarios. For instance, if you already have all your source material backed up for a project, you might set it up as RAID 0, so you can take your project on the go while still benefitting from fast speeds.
But if you’re using it to dump footage on set, a RAID 1 is optimal as it will give you a second backup when you transfer your material.
In comparison to my OWC RAID (which uses 4 drives), it’s not as fast. Not even half the speed. Just take a look at my disk speed test using the OWC –
600 MB/s is far more than I need most of the time, but certainly great to have when I do.
In comparison, most external hard drives typically clock in anywhere from 90 – 140 MB/s… So using that as a baseline, the 240 MB/s speeds the Rugged RAID Pro offers are still pretty fantastic.
HOW I USE IT
Originally I bought this Mini RAID for one specific purpose – to create an identical working copy of my feature film project.
After several months spent editing my feature film Psychosynthesis, I decided I needed the ability to take the project on the road. Although the edit is now virtually complete (including most of the finishing work), I am still making minor changes here and there.
I wanted to be able to make these changes any time, anywhere. If I were to get called out of town for a shoot, I wanted to know I had a full version of the movie with me, so I wouldn’t delay any changes I’d need to make before festival submissions, or if I had to do a last minute output for VFX or sound.
Once I had the Mini RAID configured to RAID 0, I transferred all my footage, project files, and other assets from my main system to it. Luckily, all the files only totaled about 3.5 TB of space, so I still had some extra room left over if I needed it.
I’ve since used the RAID to edit the feature right on my laptop (on multiple occasions), and it’s been an incredibly smooth process.
I’m planning to replicate this workflow in the future for other projects too, as it’s quite liberating to be able to move from my desktop to my laptop at a moment’s notice. Since both files are identical on both drives, I simply need to copy over my most recent project file and I’m good to go.
I only have a few criticisms of the Rugged RAID PRO, none of which are dealbreakers for me.
We’ve already touched on the fact that the SD card slot only works as a reader when paired with a laptop, but it’s hard to even qualify that as a negative. In many respects, having an SD card reader at all is a bonus – not a requirement.
The more frustrating issue for me, is that the RAID needs to be plugged into a wall outlet when using it with certain devices. Thankfully, with my MacBook Pro I can just plug it straight in with the USB-C cable, and it draws power from the laptop perfectly.
But since my MacPro doesn’t have a USB-C port, I have to plug the RAID into my Apple LG monitor, which has 4 on USB-C ports the back that route into my computer. This works as a connection point, but doesn’t transfer any power to the RAID.
So whenever I used the Mini RAID with my MacPro, it needs to be plugged into the wall. Not the end of the world (all that really matters to me is that I don’t need a power supply when using it with my laptop), but still worth pointing out.
I’ve also found the speed to be slightly inconsistent. When I first bought the RAID I ran a disk speed test that landed right around that 240 MB/s mark. But when I re-ran the test with the RAID nearly full, I had slower results –
The big decrease in speed must be a result of the RAID now being almost entirely full with files and footage. There is almost a full 4TB on it at the moment, which inevitably will affect the performance.
That said, I am still able to load/edit the project on my laptop easily, even at these reduced speeds. I’d love to see the speed hold at 240 MB/s (or at least close to it) as the drives fill up… But in fairness to the product, I didn’t notice this speed decrease until I had over 3.5TB of material on the RAID.
Despite the few drawbacks I outlined above, this is a truly impressive storage option that is a natural fit for filmmakers on the go.
I’ve always liked the Rugged drives from LaCie. Having the rubber shock-resistant shell has made them a staple for on-set work – And with RAID capabilities now integrated, they can be used effectively in more aggressive post-pipelines too.
I can see picking up a second one, and using one for working projects (like my feature) and the other for data transfers on set. One would be configured to RAID 0 and the other to RAID 1, giving me both options at all times.
If you’re shooting 6K or 8K footage and editing that natively on a fast desktop system, you likely won’t be able to pull off the workflow I’ve outlined above. That said, if you work in HD or 2K, shoot to ProRes, or have a proxy workflow, it may just serve your needs perfectly.
It’s currently selling for just under $300, which isn’t cheap by any stretch, but still reasonable considering what you’re getting.
Let me know what your favorite drive is to edit with remotely.
Leave a comment below!
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!