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LaCie Bigggest Disk F800

CreativeCOW presents LaCie Bigggest Disk F800 -- Adobe Premiere Pro basics Review


Biscardi Creative Media
Buford Georgia USA
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.





See if this is you... You started editing a while back with a huuuuuuuuuge 250GB harddrive. Well, that drive turned out to be pretty small, so you added another huuuuuuuuge 350GB harddrive. Hmmmm, still ran out of room, so you added another huuuuuuuge, 400GB harddrive. Yep, you’re out room again so you’re about to add another caboose to the Firewire train sticking out the back of your computer. Kind of looks a little messy back there, eh? And of course, keeping track of all the footage on those various units can be a nightmare.

Enter the LaCie Biggest F800 . One to two terrabytes of Firewire storage in one slick looking box, which is small enough to sit nicely on top of a computer. The unit I’m testing today is the 1.6TB model which features 4 - 400GB drives. The unit can be configured as follows: RAID 0, RAID 0+1, RAID 5, RAID 5+ spare. This is great because it gives you the option of redundancy once only found in much higher end SCSI and Fibrechannel arrays. It’s target audience is the DV user, including DVCPro HD and HDV though it appears to have some appeal to the uncompressed user as well.


The Test System

The system we’re running the F800 on is a PowerMac G5 Dual 2.0 with 3GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 4.5 running on OS 10.3.8 with the Kona 2 capture card with the external K-Box. The F800 is connected via a single FW800 cable directly to the Mac’s own Firewire 800 port. You can get more speed out of the F800 by running via a PCI Firewire 800 card, but there are no open slots in this G5 to install the card. There is NO dual channel connection with the F800, if you want to run a dual channel setup for more speed, you need two F800 units striped together.



What’s in a name?

First off, I have to say the LaCie naming system on their drives is, in a word, confusing. Big Disk, Bigger Disk, Biggest Disk, Bigger disk with triple interface, Big Disk with triple interface, big disk with fries, bigger disk with cheese....... The names all kind of run together and make for a cluttered product line. A unique name for each product would certainly help make it easier to ensure you’re purchasing the correct product. But I digress....



Setting up your F800

The unit comes pre-configured as a RAID 5 Array. If this is what you want to run, you’re all set, but keep in mind, this kills a LOT of speed, so I would not recommend this unless you are ONLY going to run DV material on the system and you don’t mind giving up real-time functionality.

I re-configured mine to RAID 0. This involves an initialization procedure which you need to follow carefully. I reset the RAID Level Switch on the back of the unit, released each drive unit from the bay, powered up the system and re-inserted the drives into each bay. At this point, it takes approx. 90 minutes for the unit to complete the initialization procedure. Note that the unit should NOT be connected to your computer during this process, so you can simply plug in the unit anywhere in your shop to run the initialization procedure.



Some speed tests.

So how fast are these units according to a speed test? As noted above, RAID 5 kills a LOT of speed so I never even ran it that way after doing a quick speed test (13MB/sec Write, 30MB/sec Read) After re-configuring to RAID 0, here’s some results using the AJA Kona System Test:



Here is a test using the NTSC DV25 codec with the file size set to 512MB. Good speeds for DV and even DVCPro HD.




And here’s the same test using the uncompressed 8it codec with the file size set to 512MB. Slightly faster speeds.


Now I know what some of you are thinking and don’t get ahead of yourself. There are those out there who treat these tests as the “absolute law of the land” and the speed test does not lie. The speed test is merely that, just a test to see how fast in the most optimal conditions the drive can run. It doesn’t show what the performance of the drive will really be once you start editing.

Also, keep in mind that this unit is completely empty at this point. All drives will start to drop off speed at some point as they fill up. Due to my heavy production schedule at this time, I simply don’t have the time to fill up the drive for this review.

So let’s start testing and find out what we can and can’t do with this unit.


Capturing Footage .

I figured let’s just dive in and go for the uncompressed captures because I just know you saw the speeds back there on the tests and said “hey, that will support 10bit uncompressed!”

In short, No, 10bit uncompressed capture and editing is not supported with this unit configured the way it is set up on my system. Dropped frames and bogus timecode errors left and right when trying to capture. Then badly stuttering video upon playback. To ensure this was not a deck or Kona 2 issue, I switched the system over to my FCR2X Fibrechannel array and the 10bit captures worked perfectly again, so clearly the F800 is not built for 10bit SD.

Ok, let’s try 8bit. Much better. THIS we can handle with the F800. As you can see below, I captured several clips in the Uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 codec via Final Cut Pro. All captures were normal and all footage played back correctly both in the Viewer and the external NTSC monitor.

Obviously, DV-NTSC material captured just fine as did DVCPro HD material. This is to be expected since the data rates are much lower than 8bit SD.




Streams, what’s the deal with streams?

It seems most people equate drive performance with streams of video. “I got four streams, how many do you get?” “Well I get 5 so there!”

Not really sure why everyone gets so excited about video streams, unless y’all are cutting some new remakes of the Brady Bunch that I don’t know about, which of course you’d want 9 streams to be able to do that open in one pass or you’d have to render it, but of course if you had 5 streams in realtime and 4 streams to render it would only take half as long and of course if you could only get 2 streams in realtime but had to render the other 7 it would take a bit longer or of course you’d also have to add in the factor of one train leaving Chicago at 2pm and another leaving New York at 1am and if both of those trains arrive in LA at the same time on Tuesday how fast where they going or you could just forget the whole thing and cut something other than the Brady Bunch opens and maybe cut long form documentaries which should be good with 2 or 3 streams.

Got that? Good, here’s the “stream quotient.”


Click images below to see larger image

8bit Uncompressed - 2 streams, barely. This simple timeline of two video clips scaled down 40% plays for approx. 5 seconds and trips. The same also happens if I leave Video Track 1 at 100% scale and Video Track 2 at 40% scale.
DVCPro HD 720, 24p - 4 streams, easily. This timeline features 4 video tracks scaled down to 40%. This timeline played in a loop for about 5 minutes.
DV-NTSC - 6 streams, easily. This timeline features 4 video tracks scaled to 40% and 2 scaled to 25% along with 12 audio tracks and this played in a loop for 5 minutes. Hmm, I got a TV show theme song in my head now



Editing.

Now that we’ve got the streams out of the way, how about some real-world, day to day editing. For myself, I want to know how many filters can I stack up on a clip and are lower thirds and titles going to be realtime.

Let’s start with filtering on a single clip. I’ll make a little chart here so we can see how many filters we can stack up on one clip before real-time playback goes away:

8bit SD DVCPro HD DV-NTSC
Color Corrector, set mid to 120 x x x
Gaussian Blur, set to 2 x x
Desaturate x x
Perspective - Flop x
Sepia, set to 50 x
Broadcast Safe x



And there you go. I was able to stack up 6 filters in DV, including Flop which flipped the image horizontally, while staying in realtime. This is very impressive from a workflow standpoint and these are some of the more popular filters in our shop. For me, the ability to apply multiple filters and view the change immediately is far more important than having 6 streams of video.


Let’s try another “normal” day-to-day editing situation. Two clips, both color-corrected, a dissolve between them and a lower third revealed over the second clip.

Click images below to see larger image

8bit Uncompressed. As expected, not all that much real-time except for the Color Corrector. The dissolves and the lower third all need to be rendered.
DVCPro HD 720, 24p Only the dissolve between the two clips needed to be rendered so the two color corrector filters back to back cause the render to occur. Not bad as that dissolve takes 3 seconds to render on my system.
DV-NTSC. All real-time through the entire effect. Definitely DV is the biggest strength of this unit. In fact, I thought I’d just play a bit more with this timeline.
Here we have a 5 layer timeline with a Photoshop generated “bug” (or Cow if you will) in Track 5, FCP generated Lower Thirds is Tracks 3 & 4, and Picture in Picture videos in tracks 1 & 2. All real-time and played back very nicely. I DID get a render bar if I extended the Lower Third in Video Track 4 to pass over the Dissolve in Video Track 1. But overall, very impressive and great for the day to day workflow.



The Verdict

LaCie has targeted the F800 squarely at the DV marketplace by bringing these users a large capacity unit with a very small footprint. If your workflow is primarily DV, HDV or DVCPro HD and you’re looking for a lot of storage with considerable real-time functionality, this is definitely a unit to consider. Very solid performer, great speed for this DV workflow.

While the unit does work with 8bit uncompressed SD, I could not see using it daily for that as it does require rendering of just about everything in the timeline and that will really slow down your workflow. One thing for the uncompressed user to consider would be use this unit as a backup device to a SCSI or Fibrechannel Array. Pretty inexpensive compared to the cost of a secondary SCSI or Fibre unit.

So I’d have to give the LaCie Bigggest Disk F800 a clean 5 out of 5 Cows as they have certainly delivered a great unit for the heavy duty DV users.





Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Creative Director
Biscardi Creative Media
Creative Cow Final Cut Pro, CinéWave and Atlanta FCPUG Forum Host

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