How SSD vs HDD Affect Video Editing, and Which one You Should Use?
Time is money, the same goes for video editing. With the arrival of ultra-high definition 4K and 8K production workflows, editing now means working with extremely large file sizes — making storage the backbone of editing and presenting you with all kind of issues, from slow performance to reliability and mobility.
Do You Need a Solid-State Drive — SSD for Video Editing?
We need to understand the role of an SSD in a video editing lifecycle. To put it explicitly in a video editing environment the throughput depends on several factors, one of which is video files being read from and writing back the edited files on the storage disk — drive speed. SSDs access information instantaneously as they don’t have any moving parts — 4 times faster than an HDD, while HDD runs at moderately slow speeds with its mechanical moving parts limitation. Now let’s dive deeper.
Video is rather a unique type of file when it comes to storage, as each frame contains a lot of information i.e. visuals, metadata, audio, timestamps, and much more. Video editing requires quick access, fast transfer speeds, along with large capacity. It also has to be reliable over time. However, unless you have a very high budget, you’ll only typically get capacity OR speed. For this, there are some solutions, we’ll review a few of them here.
Video Storage Solutions
Now which one is the best drive for video editing, an SSD or HDD? You can employ different video storage solutions to accommodate a diverse workflow and volume requirements: Internal, Portable (external), RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), Server, LTO tapes, etc. depending on the following criterion:
This is the starkest factor you’ll notice. In terms of dollar per gigabyte, the SSDs are pretty expensive when compared with HDDs.
Speed is where one sees the real difference between an HDD and SSD. With SSD 4 times faster transfer rate and with NVMe SSD nearly 10 times the speed of the regular hard drive. The applications work blazing fast and workflow improves.
In the video editing environment, storage space is everything. But what about the editing process itself where a traditional HDD will fail to prove itself with HD video loading, rendering, and saving? Overall, an HDD wins in the capacity race.
Solid State Drives are Faster
SSD speed is particularly the most important factor where they shine. With the advancing SSD technology and bottlenecks removed the difference is now starker. SSDs can locate, retrieve, or write back data swiftly. While on the other hand, the HDDs have to mechanically move the read/write head to locate and then access the data.
Modern HDDs are capable of hitting 150MB/s, whereas an SSD can go up to 550MB/s read and 520MB/s write speed. This is a glaring speed difference. SSDs store data on flash memory, with access speeds of 35–100 microseconds in comparison to an HDDs 5000–10000 microseconds, virtually 100 times faster. With this speed, the programs and data load more promptly, which is applicable in our case of large-sized video files to be accessed instantly for editing.
CPU Processor Speed does matter in order to realize the full SSD potential
Editing experts have found that the full potential of an SSD is only achieved when the overall system hardware, particularly the CPU (processor) can handle the whopping data transfer flows. Most video editing softwares like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro cache the upcoming frames or the whole video file in RAM for rapid access, which makes RAM important as well.
Solid State Drives Are Noiseless & Smaller
By nature, HDDs are rackety and bigger in size, as they have to spin the read/write head on the platter to retrieve or write data. The SSD, on the other hand, has no moving parts to make any sound. This becomes significant if you need a peaceful space to record audio, or for freelance videographers and vloggers, the portability matters a lot as they have to move around shooting and editing on the go.
Solid State Drives Are Safer
SSDs can withstand severe temperatures, can’t be erased by magnets, survive shocks and accidental drops & vibrations way better than HDDs. By design, flash memory can last longer times compared to an HDD whose lifespan is only 5–10 years. Mechanical moving platter and head make HDDs more likely to fail sooner.
Solid State Drives Are Energy Efficient
The SSDs use far less energy than a traditional hard drive because SSDs don’t have any moving mechanical parts. Fast data read/write speeds and no platter spinning even after the read or write makes them more power saving. And power utilization is a key aspect for the use of solid-state drive in portable computers. For video editors, it is more of a blessing to work more with less power consumption.
Solid State Drives Are Reliable
For portable devices, reliability is a crucial factor. The HDDs are fragile and sensitive to even low drops or shocks. While portable SSDs are mechanically better, though can wear out over time by extensive use, defined by P/E cycles (programmed and erased). As opposed to hard drive disk, SSDs have a software mechanism that can usually predict failure for you to prevent permanent data loss. Even if an SSD does fail you will be able to read data written on it and can be configured to store data in cache memory in case of unanticipated power loss.
Though Solid-State Drives Are More Expensive…
The SSDs are pricier than their HDD counterparts but the trends are now changing and SSDs are becoming more economical. For the reliability and durability of SSD, you have to pay more per gigabyte (1TB drive) while the per gigabyte of HDD is less (4TB model). It’s typically 4 times more money for the same size SSD compared to HDD, but worth it. SSDs are more robust, faster, and power efficient, HDDs are more affordable — especially when it comes to larger capacities.
Solid State Drive Types
There are a number of connector interfaces used by SSDs such as SATA, PCIe, NVMe, M.2, mSATA, etc. I’ll discuss the two most prevalent here.
The Serial ATA (SATA) connection interface used by SSDs to communicate with computers has been around for a while now. With the theoretical speed of 700MB/s and real-world speeds of around 550MB/s read/write, are the most prevalent storage drives nowadays.
NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSD
The NVMe is a communication standard developed specifically to allow SSDs (flash memory) to operate at speeds they are capable of — fastest SSDs. Operating directly through the PCIe interface and not the limited SATA interface. It gives 7x speed over SATA III i.e. at 3500MB/s with superior storage and compatibility.
So, what do you think? Consider having breakneck speed, reliability, noise, ruggedness and much more with multiple SSD drives. Or would you do the same as some editors do, having multiple HDD and SDD systems, one SDD for your operating system, one SSD for active projects you’re currently working on (can be internal or external SSD), and high capacity HDD for backup to archive your previous projects…
By and large, for professional video editors out there HDD is the thing of the past. If they want to compete in this constantly evolving and rigorously combative world, to ease up workflows SSD is the key to improving the working environment.