Filmmaker uses NAS storage for better collaboration

With normal workflows out the window, horror filmmaker Damien LeVeck eased the collaborative movie editing process by going all-in with Blackmagic Cloud Store.

For filmmaker and editor Damien LeVeck, the COVID-19 pandemic upended every part of the filmmaking process, including the technology used to move and store data-rich files.

"There hasn't been a normal for the last two years," he said.

That included his recent use of Blackmagic file syncing and storage technology on his latest product. Blackmagic is known for cameras and editing software. In 2022, however, it expanded its portfolio to include portable NAS devices and cloud storage. This type of equipment is not new to enterprises. But it's new to filmmaking, where remote collaborative efforts are becoming more common.

Blackmagic Cloud Store uses services like Dropbox and Google Drive to sync a high-capacity, all-NVMe, SSD-based NAS device with smaller remote NAS devices. While the storage setup could be used for any type of file-syncing work, Blackmagic has targeted its Cloud Store to its primary customers by making its NAS devices portable and quiet. Cloud Store also included Blackmagic's video-centric software with the product at no extra price.

Cloud Store is considered a global file system, which puts it in the same category as Nasuni, Ctera and Panzura, according to Dave Raffo, an analyst at Evaluator Group. The other vendors rely on the public cloud storage whereas Blackmagic provides portable, on-premises storage.

But Blackmagic lacks the features common with enterprise NAS, Raffo said. It doesn't include capabilities to provide snapshots, replication, thin provisioning, deduplication, disaster recovery or encryption. However, Cloud Store does support flash drives, Ethernet networking and RAID, which provide critical performance and collaboration capabilities to video professionals.

The Blackmagic Cloud Store comes in 20 TB, 80 TB or 320 TB. Pricing for 20 TB starts at $9,595. The NAS connects to DropBox and Google Drive for syncing as well as to the smaller 8 TB Cloud Store Mini and the Cloud Pod NAS devices for remote use, all through 10 gigabit Ethernet.

Blackmagic Cloud Store Mini in use.
Blackmagic Cloud Store Mini syncs up the editing process.

Building on partnerships

LeVeck is no stranger to Blackmagic equipment, having used its cameras, switchers, cables and format converters -- both in front of and behind the scenes -- for his first short in 2016. In 2019, LeVeck expanded the short into a feature and used Blackmagic to do so.

Production began on LeVeck's upcoming film, "A Creature was Stirring," due out 2023, around the same time that Blackmagic unveiled Cloud Store. Weighing the costs of using his own production company and Blackmagic's new storage system, LeVeck chose the latter.

"I'm product agnostic; I just look for the best tool for the job," he said. "But I'm also a total tech nerd that likes to be on the bleeding edge -- finding new ways to work smarter, not harder."

The film project is using Blackmagic equipment predominately, including DaVinci Resolve 18 editing software, the Cloud Store NAS device, its proxy generator software and Dropbox cloud. Proxies are compressed video files that are easier to move between devices and edit. At the time LeVeck was using Cloud Store, the system was using Dropbox for cloud storage.

The ability to quickly move files to a centralized repository in the cloud was useful to LeVeck and his team, who was working on the film from different locations and sometimes from different states.

The team placed video and sound files on a Mini that loaded everything to Dropbox, LeVeck said. From there, the production team used the proxy generating software on Cloud Store to make proxies for editing.

In Los Angeles, the assistant editor cut in sound effects, and the files got copied to Cloud Store and synched by Dropbox. LeVeck had access to a synced-up file in Dallas, where he was editing the footage.

"You can have multiple people working in this [DaVinci] Resolve project at one time editing, doing sound, and doing color," LeVeck said.

On set with Damien LeVeck and Scout Taylor-Compton
Director Damien LeVeck and actress Scout Taylor-Compton on the set of

Dropbox tomatoes lean to rotten

The storage was all SSD and delivered enough performance for editing proxies, LeVeck said. The only thing lacking was using Dropbox, which slowed down the process.

At the time, Blackmagic didn't support Dropbox Pro, which offers additional collaboration features. Those include a teams tool that gives administrators more control over files and prevents issues like accidental deletion or the need to make duplications the data for each part of production.

I'm product agnostic; I just look for the best tool for the job. But I'm also a total tech nerd that likes to be on the bleeding edge -- finding new ways to work smarter, not harder.
Damien LeVeckCompany director and editor, Skubalon

"You don't want your composer to have access to all the original camera files," LeVeck said.

LeVeck said Blackmagic should consider a future integration with a more robust file-sharing platform such as LucidLink or a major cloud such as AWS S3.

With that aside, LeVeck said that using Blackmagic Cloud Store provided a net savings over the traditional way he shot, stored and edited films. But he still sees the product as niche.

"If you have a remote office or several users sharing the same media, Cloud Store is great," LeVeck said. "But normally [with] the kind of workflow on a small independent film, I don't know if I need something like the Cloud Store."

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at StorageReview.com.

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