MANUFACTURER: Blackmagic Design
PRODUCTS: Cloud Store Mini: $2,995 (8TB); Cloud Pod: $395
When Blackmagic Design announced its new cloud-based workflow, it looked like a game changer for cross-location production. It seems like this could only be accomplished if all of the right hardware and software were linked with the right cloud service. Add automated realtime proxy generation and synchronization, and it has the potential to completely change production timeliness and allow simultaneous collaboration between post production processes, which are generally restricted to a linear timeline. As it turns out, it is already changing exactly those things in productions, like the feature film thriller Good Luck, Nightingale, where elements of post production are not only spread across the globe, but are being developed simultaneously with nearly instant updates between all collaborators.
I’m not doing any projects right now where I can test that particular aspect of their workflow, but I do have a more localized application in my current setup. Traditionally, a review would tell you how well the product works under ideal situations, and there are already reviews and use cases like Good Luck, Nightingale, which show exactly that. I wanted to know what value it has for people who don’t have a 10GbE network option, especially those investing in the more modestly priced Cloud Store products, like the $395 Cloud Pod and the $2,995 8TB Cloud Store Mini.
Photo: The back of the Cloud Store Mini
To take full advantage of the Cloud Store products, you need a 10GbE network, but how does it work with slower networks and what are the limitations?
While 10GbE is becoming more affordable, it isn’t even possible for some computers, including many notebooks, because the maximum throughput of USB 3.0 is 5Gbps, which is why you won’t find 10GbE USB adapters. USB 3.1 and 3.2 10GbE adapters don’t exist because of various bottlenecks, which limit bitrate, including PCIe lane controllers, DMA and latency issues. There are Thunderbolt 3 adapters, but they are pricey and require Thunderbolt 3, which, while standard on Mac products, are rare on PC products. Fortunately, 5GbE USB adapters are available, are one-third the cost and will work in many situations.
The real question is: How fast do you need your network to be for the kind of work you are doing? Are you working with 4K or 8K footage, and how many files are you accessing simultaneously? Pretty much everything is at least 1GbE now, which means it can theoretically handle 125MBps, with real-life performance closer to 100MBps. 10GbE, on the other hand, translates to around 1GBps, which is fast enough for some pretty serious editing, depending on bitrates, as well as how many simultaneous streams are being accessed.
I am primarily using it as a NAS, transferring data from my memory cards over the network to the Cloud Store Mini (or Cloud Pod), and then accessing it on my main editing system, but I love having the ability to access proxy files from any of my other computers, or remotely working with collaborators, so this sets up a workflow that can grow into the capabilities as those features are needed.
Photo: Cloud Pod
There are a couple of critical feature differences between the Cloud Store Mini and the Cloud Pod, besides the 8TB of storage on the Mini. While the Cloud Pod only has one 10GbE port, the Mini has one 10GbE, one 1GbE, and a USB Ethernet port, allowing you to connect it to one device without an Ethernet adapter at max USB speed and still have a fast 10GbE port along with a 1GbE port to connect to your slower network devices. The Cloud Pod has two USB ports, allowing for an attached second drive that could be used by DITs for backing up media cards or cloning, but you may run into speed issues because of the 5GbE limit of the USB 3.0 adapters, maxing out at around 500MBps.
I also really like the HDMI monitoring output, which allows you to see what is happening visually. I only wish this display was also available over the network, so I could see it anywhere.
Photo: The back of the Cloud Pod
Setting up the Cloud Store sync with Dropbox is pretty easy, but requires a large Dropbox account. You can set up synced proxy folders, so it doesn’t have to accommodate the drive’s entire content.
Although the Cloud Store Mini has two USB ports, at this time they do not support attaching external drives to them.
Both of these products work awesome as NAS solutions, while introducing you to Blackmagic’s Cloud workflow. The Cloud Pod is similar to the price of a two-bay, 10GbE NAS server, so this seems like a great option in comparison.
Photo: Cloud Store Mini
The Cloud Store Mini is a lot more expensive, but the ability to connect via fast Ethernet USB, plus 10GbE and 1GbE connections freeing up network bandwidth, along with its high-end drives and cloud integration, make it a faster and much more flexible professional option.
So, these devices can change not only global and remote workflows, but also upgrade local NAS setups.
Heath Firestone is a longtime contributor to Post. You can check out his website (CinemaTechnica.com) and YouTube channel for related content.