Join Todd Kopriva for an in-depth discussion in this video Optimizing hard disks, part of After Effects and Premiere Pro: Optimizing Performance (2011).
A crucial but often overlooked component of optimizing performance for video applications, such as Premiere Pro and After Effects, is hard disk setup. It doesn't matter how fast your processors are. If they're waiting for data to be served to them from a slow hard disk, or after they've processed data, they're waiting to write that data to a slow hard disk. The whole system is going to be slow, and performance will suffer. Ideally, you hard disks will be serving data, as fast as is needed by the processors. And then, when the processors are done, and they need to write data to a disc.
The disk that they're writing to will be able to take that data as fast as needed. This requires fast disks, fast connections between the disks and the computer. And ideally, multiple disks so that you weren't trying to read from and write to the same disk at the same time. There's no one best setup. Setups differ depending on individual needs and individual budgets. Let's look at the disk setup that I have in the computer system that I'm using right now. I'll open Windows explorer and we can see that I have my source media on my footage disc B.
I have my programs and operating system on C, and I have my outputs files written to D. B also includes my captured media, and my preview files, and C also includes. My media cache. And in the case of After Effects, my disk cache. If I wanted even better performance, then my footage and my output drives could be RAID. RAID standing for redundant array of independent disks.
A RAID array, is simple discs that are working together as if they're one disc. In some cases the data is redundant across some of the disks. So if you lose one of the discs say it simply stops working then the data can be reconstructed from the data on the other discs. In the case of RAID 0, you have multiple disks that are working together, but there is no redundancy between them. So it just makes things go faster. Many people have RAID 0 for their footage drives, a single 7200 RPM disk drive, conserve multiple streams or multiple files of high definition footage.
But can really struggle the serve more than two streams of digital cinema sized footage. So for example, if you're using red footage and you have three or four or even more tracks overlaid on top of one another. So that you're reading from three or four or more red files at a time, you'll definitely want to have RAID 0 or greater. And of course, nothing says that you have to stop at a 7,200 RPM drive. Drives come in much greater speeds. But you certainly don't want to use anything slower than 7,200 RPM. If you'd like to see what kind of recommendations various video professionals make for their disk setups, go to Help > Adobe Premier Pro Help. And search from here for, generic disc setup.
And click generic guideline for setup in the Adobe forums. And here, you can see an extensive thread, in which various video professionals, talk about their disk setups, and how they've optimized for performance. In the first post, there is a chart, with recommendations, that are in general quite good. And notice, that the recommendation for one disk, if you only have one disk drive, is to get, at least, one other disk, saying a single disk will not work. That is somewhat strong, but in general, it is good advice. A single disk will work, but it won't work in a way that will make you happy. And notice that the recommendations for three disks are the recommendations that I followed for my set up.
Going back to Premiere Pro. You can specify in Premiere Pro, where various things are written in Project Settings. So go, Project > Project Settings > Scratch Disks. And here, you can specify where captured video, captured audio, video previews, and audio previews are stored. Here, you can see that I have stored capture video and audio in the same location as my project and my footage. I'm treating captured video and audio, just as I would any other source footage.
However, I'm storing my video previews and audio previews on the same disc as my output files. The reason for this, is that I want to make sure that during any operation, the data reading and writing is spread across the largest number of disks possible. And so that reads and writes that are happening at the same time, don't interfere with one another. Because I never use my video previews for creating output files, storing my previews on the same disk as my output files isn't a problem. Because I will never be reading my video previews at the same time that I'm writing output files. And captured video on audio, these are being used in much the same way as source media.
So it makes sense. That would be reading my source media and my captured files from the same location. And let's cancel out the projects settings dialog box. And go look at some preferences, for the media cache. When Premier Pro imports some kinds of files, it creates index files and peak files so that it can play previews back more quickly. You can specify where to store these files. I specified to store them at a location called caches on my C drive, which is the same drive from which I'm running my program and my applications.
One of my reasons for making this choice is data saftey or data security. I'm very careful about backing up my source media. I'm also careful about backing up my export files. I'm not very careful about backing up my C drive, which is where my program and my operating system are. Because I have DVDs from which I can reinstall those at any time. I don't need to back them up. However, I don't have source DVDs for my source media. If I lose the media that my client has given me, I don't really have any way to get that back. So, I need to back that up.
Same with my output files. I'd be rather upset if renders that had So, I am not terribly concerned about whether my media cache goes away. So if I happen to lose a hard disk in a crash. I don't mind that it's here. And I tend to clean my caches out on a regular basis anyway. The media cache preferences are shared with After Effects. So, if I open After Effects. I'll see that the same settings that I've made in Premiere Pro appear in After Effects. Let's cancel out of this dialog box. And go to After Effects, pressing Alt+Tab, switch applications and here we are in After Effects.
So if we go to Edit > Preferences > Media and Disk Cache, we see the same settings for the media cache, but we also see a setting for disc cache. When After Effects renders things for ram previews or final output, it can store much of the data including the data about rendered frames. And intermediate results for those rendered frames on disc. I've chosen to store the disc cache information in the same high level folder that I'm storing the media cache. And After Effects CS5 the disk cache is not enabled by default. In After Effects CS5.5, it is.
Let's cancel out of this. One question that comes up a lot regarding disks is about SSDs, or solid state disks. SSDs are, unlike magnetic media disks, which are spinning disks that actually have playheads, somewhat similar to, in fact, an old record player. SSDs are appealing to many people because they have no moving parts and because their read speeds are very fast. So, we're often asked whether people should use SSDs for their media. In general, because SSDs are much more expensive per GB than mechanical discs, at least currently.
It doesn't make much sense to use an SSD for your media files, so I would not put my source media on an SSD, nor would I be writing my export files to an SSD. However, if I did have an SSD. Say, built into my laptop, I would be more than happy to use the SSD to run my programs and my operating system from. Also, some reports say that SSDs are not quite as reliable as mechanical magnetic media devices. This may change in the near future, but for now I wouldn't put my very valuable source media.
On an SSD. Another question that comes up a lot, is about what people should do if they have a laptop that does not have the ability to install more local disks. Is it better to continue running from one local disk or to connect to an external disk? To have multiple disks even though the connection between the disk and the computer might be somewhat slower? In general, a USB 2.0 connection to an external disk, will still make things faster than trying to run everything off of a single disk. And if you can have an even faster connection such as firewire, so much the better, but in general you want to pay as much attention to the speed of your connection as to the speed of your disk.
Which really means that the answer to the original question is, If you must do your work from a laptop, then, yes, use an external disc connected with the fastest connection that you can. But do your serious work on a workstation in which you can install multiple discs. And if you're doing your work over a network, consider collecting files to a local location before doing a render. So, to sum up. You want to have fast disk drives. You want to have multiple disc drives. You want to connect your disk drives to your computer with the fastest possible connection. And you want to distribute the load across multiple discs.
So that you're not reading from and writing to the same location at the same time.
- Planning your work, updating, and auto-saving
- Learning and customizing keyboard shortcuts
- Optimizing hard disks and CPUs
- GPU: CUDA and OpenGL
- Using "Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously" multiprocessing
- Pre-rendering and proxies in After Effects
- Lowering resolution for previews