Near Thunderbolt Speeds with USB 3.0

If you do a lot of video or photo editing you will find out quickly how important a fast hard disk becomes.  The ability to read and write massive amounts of data is a must.  Depending on what kind of work you do a simple USB drive may be fine.  For those who need more may need an SSD drive or even a thunderbolt connection if you have a Mac or a PC with thunderbolt.  What is thunderbolt and what is USB…

USB 3.0

Right out of Wikipedia…

“USB 3.0 is the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices. Among other improvements, USB 3.0 adds the new transfer mode SuperSpeed (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), which is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard.”

Thunderbolt

Right out of thunderbolttechnology.net…

“Thunderbolt™ technology is a transformational I/O innovation that provides a leap in performance over current I/O technologies with 10 Gbps of full-duplex bandwidth per channel. It significantly simplifies the end-user experience by concurrently supporting data (PCI Express*) and display (DisplayPort) connections over a single cable. Thunderbolt products may be connected using electrical or optical cables. Thunderbolt technology enables flexible and innovative system designs by allowing multiple, high-performance, PCI Express and DisplayPort devices to attach to a computer through a single physical connector.

Gbps and Gbit mean the same thing…gigabit per second.  So on the surface it seems that thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB 3.0.  Before we go much deeper lets put the gigabits into a measurement that we can deal with.  I use the black magic drive disk speed test software for my tests and it measures in MB/s or megabytes per second.  So 5Gbps would be equal to 625 megabytes and 10 Gbps 1250 megabytes.  Both are very very fast.  So lets get a relative sense of speed.  Here I have tested a western digital 2.5″ backup hdd using USB 3.0 interface and lets measure some speed.

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So indicated by the Black Magic disk speed test this drive would not be suitable for editing video.  It is able to write 86.5 megabytes per second and read 93.4 megabytes.  It works just fine for moving data, data storage and files that are smaller in size but not good enough for the huge throughput that A/V requires.  The main reason for this lack of speed has nothing to do with the interface.  We know that the USB 3.0 interface can handle more but the drive is a basic spinning disk at 5900 rpm and is slow in todays world.  No matter how much throughput you have the disk will only provide so much.  We are limited at the disk.  Think of it like driving a Yugo on the Audubon.  You couldn’t go 150 miles an hour if you wanted to.

So the obvious next step would be to use the USB 3.0 interface with an SSD drive to reduce the bottle neck.  I did just that.  I found the most highly rated, least expensive, drive on Amazon.

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I mounted this silicon power disk into the inateck case and gave it a whirl.  The drive on the Black Magic now performed very well at speeds of  about 400 megabytes per second.  This is easily enough to edit video except for some of the most demanding resolutions and color depths.

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With the new 4k resolution craze and some new video formats around there still could be a need for even more speed.  I started looking at thunderbolt devices and specifically 2 drive bay cases.  I found out quickly that thunderbolt is very expensive.  Even thunderbolt version one products cost 3-5 times as much as the equivalent usb 3.0 devices.  I decided to try a test to see what kind of speed I would get if I created a raid 0 array with a second SSD drive and case and this is how I did it.

With the Mac and OS X you can actually create various raid arrays through the disk utility and their software controller.  This is called a software raid.  A hardware raid is made by the actual hardware or disk cases having various switches and settings.  Hardware raids are more versatile but I am on a budget.  Software raid it is.

What is raid 0?  Raid 0 is a way to “tie” together two disks and letting the computer see them as one “virtual” disk.  Why would you want to do this?  Allowing the computer to access two disks allows it twice as much space and throughput as the normal configuration.  Example:  lets say the computer has to send 10 pieces of data to the drive.  On a normal single drive system it would send them 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, then 9 and finally 10.  Now if it had two drives to write to it could send by twos… 1,2 then 3,4 then 5,6 then 7,8 then 9,10.  More lanes, bigger roads easier to drive fast…

Pro’s and Con’s

A risky con…A normal single drive is a bad idea for back up.   If the drive dies, the data dies with it.  In a Raid 0 scenario if either of the drives in the array dies then all of the data dies with it.  Even if the other drive is working it only has pieces of all the data it needs and can’t make any sense of whats left.  So in effect by having two drives represent one whole set of data you have doubled your risk of drive failure because now you depend on two.

Another smaller con is that you use up two usb ports because you’re using two drives and this software raid will only work with the software that created it and not on all computers.

BUT

Lets look at the pros

SPEED…Check this out.

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With both drives in a Raid 0 array they achieved more than 700 megabytes throughput!  That is ready for any kind of video or photo editing you can throw at it.  WOW!

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I literally strapped the two drives together to keep movement to a minimum so cable wouldn’t come loose.

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I then went into the Disk Utility on my mac arranged the two drives as Raid 0.

The new Mac OS x made things a little more complicated for me.  There is no longer a user interface for creating Raid arrays in disk utility.  I had to go to the terminal window and type:

diskutil appleRAID create stripe [arrayName] JHFS+ disk0 disk1

** ! make sure you select the correct drives for the array…mine happened to be disk0 and disk1 yours could be different ! **

Disk0 being one of my SSD drives and Disk1 being the other SSD.  Once I hit return the array was created and showed up as one drive on my desktop with the name I gave it.

 

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You can plug in the usb cables for the array in any order.  They did not however work through a usb hub.  I plugged them directly into the back of my machine.

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Now make sure you don’t just yank the cables out when you’re finished using the drive.  You want to eject the drive first…let it complete the exit and then pull the cables out.  Remember if you corrupt the data on one drive its ALL gone!

Anyway at these speeds I am comparable to most Thunderbolt 1 drives that are similar that I have seen.  Yes there are combinations that are faster but not for this price.  I paid a grand total of $312 for all of this and a thunderbolt drive setup similar would cost double or more.  Its a good option if you’re on a budget so try one on your Mac.

Feel free to ask any questions.

 

SMOOTHIES…

Recently I purchased a new toy.  

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My new Blendtec high-powered blender.  About 10 years ago I used to enjoy smoothies quite a bit.  I was doing a tough workout and needed to get nutrition that I wasn’t getting through my normal diet.  The biggest problem was it just seemed like I was focusing on when, where, how and what to eat way too much.  I quickly learned by making a smoothie and jamming a bunch of different ingredients into it you can cover a lot of nutritional ground very quickly.  Not to mention the broken down food for easier digestion and the ingredients were raw and better for you.  My friend left a blender at my house that I used on a daily basis and I really enjoyed making my berry smoothie every morning.  That blender finally failed and I never replaced it.

A week ago I was walking through Costco and came across a section with a blender by Blendtec.  Prior I had researched a little and knew that Blendtec and Vitamix are the two that are always talked about when it comes to professional, high power blenders.  The price was right so I picked one up.  When I first got home my wife was a little “unhappy” at the fact that I just purchased a $250 blender.  Actually they retail at $329 so I thought it was a good buy.  Not much different from her justifying her purchases by saying “it was on sale”.  🙂

I have to say WOW!  This thing is a beast.  It will munch up just about anything you put in it… in seconds.  I have even won my wife over with the new Oreo Blizzard knock off I have created.  The thing spins so fast that on the right setting it will heat your mixture into a hot soup.  There are actually some funny videos produced by the Blendtec company called “will it blend…?” on YouTube.  They blend everything from iPhones to rake handles.  Amusing to watch for sure.

There seems to be a rivalry between the Blendtec camp and the Vitamix camp as to which one is better.  It’s similar to the Iphone vs. Android battle.  And much like the phone controversy they are both good just depends on what you want.

If you want to make a quick, nutritious and portable meal, a smoothie is a great way to get it done.  Try one of these new high-powered blenders they are a blast!

My Breakfast Berry Smoothie Recipe:

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1/4 cup frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup milk or almond milk

One large spoon full of greek yogurt

One spoon full of peanut butter

1/8 to 1/4 cup of dry uncooked oatmeal

1 scoop of protein powder

A few ice cubes

 

 

SONOS – SIMPLY MUSIC

 

 

 

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I thought with the recent sale going on with Sonos it would be a good topic for a blog entry this week.  I have had Sonos now for about a year and I have to say its been very enjoyable.  A few years back Sonos took a different approach to music and I think it has really paid off for them.  Until Sonos there were speakers that needed wires and/or bluetooth to operate and play music.  Sonos did away with the connection point and created a listening “ecosystem” for music.

What is Sonos?

Keeping it very simple, it’s a wireless speaker that uses you’re in home network to play music.  That doesn’t sound too impressive.  Sonos isn’t even battery operated or portable.  It needs to be plugged in all the time.  It doesn’t use bluetooth and only a few devices allow for a wired connection.  Who would want that you might say?  A lot of people!

This is why…

Sonos uses you’re in home network to connect to the internet.  The Sonos is independently smart.  What I mean by that is even though it can be controlled by a device (iPhone, iPad, smart phone etc.) it doesn’t need one to operate.  Sonos has its own “brain” and uses music services as its source for music and playback.  Setting up Sonos is super easy.  You plug it in, download the app on your iPhone or smart phone and follow the steps.  It will connect to any in home server you may have with your own music as well as any music services you are a member of.  The services include but aren’t limited to Pandora, Spotify (paid account only), Slacker, Iheart Radio, Songza just to name a few.  There’s a bunch to choose from.

Versatility  –  Lets say I am having a party at my house.  I have a Sonos (doesn’t matter which one) in the family room, living room and study.  To get things going I decide to connect all three to the same music source (rock).  Into the app I go and I can choose all locations and set them to play the same music.  It will play in synch perfectly in all three locations.  I can adjust the volume in each location independent of one another or all together at once.  Now, once the music is playing and I have set it up on my iPhone, my wife says she needs ice.  I run out the door like a good husband and guess what.   Nothing changes, the music keeps playing.  A bluetooth or wired speaker couldn’t do this.  Sonos has it own connection and internal “brain” and software so the music is being streamed to and through the Sonos not the phone.  The iPhone app is simply a remote control.  Now, my wife goes into the living room with a friend and decides to change the music to classical.  She grabs her phone, picks the zone, chooses the station and done.  Now you have rock in the other two rooms and classical in one.  Anyone with the Sonos app can connect and change channels, volume or whatever they choose.

Configuration  –  I would say the single greatest selling point to Sonos is the ways it can be configured.  So its Sunday morning and I want to listen to some smooth jazz in stereo.  The Sonos devices are mono so how the heck do you do that?  Simple, into the app and pick the two Sonos devices you want to use as a stereo pair and bingo, you have left and right stereo channels.  Sounds nice but I need more bass.  Open the app and add your subwoofer to the mix and now you’ve got a stereo pair with a subwoofer.  All wireless, all in synch and guess what…the Sonos stuff sounds great!  I would put it on par with anything built by Bose with similar sizes and configurations.  Too bad it doesn’t handle surround sound.  It does!  You can use the sound bar, add the sub, add two like Sonos units for the rear and you now have 5.1 sound.  See sample configuration photo below.

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Scalability  –  This ties into configuration but this I wanted to break out to discuss two points.  Low cost of entry and limitless growth.  I really like the Sonos system as it allows you to grow when and how you choose.  You can buy the least expensive product and its only $199 which is a deal for what you get.  Right now you can get two Sonos Ones for $349 which is $50 savings.  I have had my “one” for a year and haven’t purchased another Sonos yet.  It has a really full and nice sound and I haven’t really needed to add another yet.  When I am ready I can just pick my product and I know it will integrate seamlessly.  I can have one or thirty Sonos in my house.  It’s up to you and what you want.

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It’s not all perfect.  Yes, no battery means you’re always tethered to a wall outlet but there are many of those in a house.  The surround configuration has two limits…its only 5.1 capable not 7.1 but for me that’s good enough and it will only play surround with the surround bar being fed a 5.1 signal from a TV, Blu-Ray or TV Box optical output.  The best way to configure for surround is using a TV with 5.1 pass-thru but that TV is not easy to find.  Vizio and Sony are a couple of brands that can do this but that’s a little limiting.  It will play sound out of all speakers if its being fed a 2.0 channel configuration but it will be simulated surround but that sounds ok.

One last thought…Sonos is a perfect gift for Weddings, Graduations, Students…if they don’t have one they’ll love it and if they already have one they can add to their network!  You can never have too many :-).

If you haven’t experienced Sonos get a Sonos One to start and give it a try.

 

See how the application works on an iPhone.  Click either link below.

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Video to Demonstrate the Sonos App

 

 

 

Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store on iTunes

 

 

 

This is a cool new app that was brought to my attention by Chris Fenwick who hosts one of my favorite podcasts (FCPX Grill).  Meerkat is a live streaming app that uses the twitter servers to stream live video and audio.  The cool thing is once you have an account and you go “live” it notifies all of your twitter followers that you’re sharing an event live.  You can also announce and schedule events so viewers can plan to watch.  I think of it as turning your iPhone into a news van.  You can up link and stream anything anytime to the entire twitter world.  The uses are in their infancy but I expect cool things to come.  Check it out.

Read reviews, get customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store. Download Meerkat – Live Stream Video and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Source: Meerkat – Live Stream Video on the App Store on iTunes

Royalty Free Music Library from PremiumBeat.com

One of the hardest things for videographers is finding reasonably priced and good quality music.  Premium beat is one of the best websites I have ever used to find great audio tracks.  The prices are very reasonable and once you purchase the music it is royalty free.  They also offer loop packs to allow you to make transitions and complimentary passages within your edit.  It is extremely easy to preview music with their built in web player and you can even start a “wish list” or a collection of music you like for easy reference.  If you’re struggling to find just the right song try them out!

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Source: Royalty Free Music Library from PremiumBeat.com

Final Cut Pro X Plugins and Effects by Pixel Film Studios

For All the FCPX editors out there you may want to check out Pixel Film Studios.  They offer a wide range of editing effects, tools and transitions all made to work directly with FCPX as well as other software.  Most plug-ins are reasonably priced and some are really powerful.

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Source: Final Cut Pro X Plugins and Effects by Pixel Film Studios. FCPX Plugins and Effects

NEAT VIDEO…”Bring da noise!”

Ok, corny title.  Met a nice guy at my niece’s wedding this weekend.  He is going to produce the video for the event and we got to talking about Neat Video.  Ya see, with digital cameras and a dark event like a wedding its not uncommon to experience noise (grainy image) in the darker scenes.  Some of you I am sure know what I am talking about and have experienced this with your phone or even low priced cameras.  There is only a couple ways to get around this… add light or increase the cameras ability to bring in light.  Both of these options are limited.  I am sure if you cranked up the candle power on your lights at the reception you’d piss off the bride and the camera can only do so much to bring in more light.  In comes Neat Video.  Just like Dolby Noise Reduction used to reduce the tape hiss or “noise” of your old cassettes, Neat Video reduces video noise.  I know, I know not “just like” but its a simple way to look at it.  Neat Video is available as a plug in for many editors and the way it is used is generally the same for all.  It goes for $99 and it is available at www.neatvideo.com.  Take a look below at my sample of it being used in FCPX.  Its fairly easy and may help you save that shot.

 

Canon 70D vs T2i – Video Noise

All digital cameras when faced with dark areas try to artificially add brightness.  Some do it better than others.  To see what I mean take your iPhone into a dark room and it will get all grainy.

In a DSLR you increase your brightness by using a couple of settings but raising the ISO is the most common way.  ISO’s above 800 are considered fairly high in the Video World.

I recently upgraded from the T2i to the 70D.  I wanted to see if there was any significant improvement in noise levels at high ISO’s.  I did a quick non-scientific test of both cameras  of ISO’s 800, 1250, 1600, 2500 and 3200.  I would never use the T2i over 1600 but with the 70D I might just be able to.  Take a look at the video and see what you think.

You will want to view the video in full 1080P and on an iPad retina or desktop computer.  It will be hard to see any difference on an iPhone.

 

Hackintosh-How to get i-Message working on Mavericks 10.9

If you don’t build Hackintosh’s then this entry may be boring for you…

Its no secret that I am a total nerd and love to build computers but about 3 years ago I built my first Hackintosh.  Hackintosh is a normal computer with standard PC parts that will run the Mac OS and function just like an iMac, Mac Mini or Mac Pro depending on the parts you choose to build with.  Sounds easy.

It happens to be one of the most frustrating and tricky builds you can do.  There are so many variables from component to component there is no guarantee that everything will work.  Thats actually what I like, the challenge.

The only way to fix some things is to use other peoples ideas and fixes (forums, vids etc.).  I had my latest Hackintosh build working perfectly BUT my iMessage wouldn’t log into my Apple ID account and work properly.  Thanks to the fellow in the video below I have conquered.

Wanted to share with everyone because I know I am not alone.  It may not work for you but keep trying.

Enjoy.

Best headphones for the money…No question!!

UPDATE:  I have now had these for a few months.  After a run through the washer and dryer, sitting in my car in the freezing winter temps, I can say they still keep cranking out great sound.  Seem to be tough, wires arent broken so big thumbs up to durability.

Some things are worth an honorable mention and some things are worth raving about.  Well, these little guys are fantastic!…I am raving!!!  I bought the Panasonic HJE120 headphones off of Amazon because they had over 4 stars with over 8,000 reviews.  I have been using my Sennheiser cx300’s for 5 years and don’t get me wrong, they are awesome but I have to say these Panasonic headphones are really good, maybe better.  A little unusual with the shape and fit but once you snug them in you get deep rich bass (not overdone) and a wide open clean soundstage.  I couldn’t be happier.  Oh…Did I mention $5-$7 on Amazon.  Click the link below and buy direct from my page.  Enjoy!

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Available in a rainbow of colors too!

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