MacBook Pro Storage Solutions for Final Cut Pro X 10.3
In this article, we’ll survey Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C professional MacBook Pro storage solutions for Final Cut Pro X 10.3.
The New Way
We’ve been here before: Apple removes a venerable interface standard in favor of innovation and elicits a spectrum of reactions. But let’s ask an honest question: do you in 2016 have a serious need for floppy drives, SCSI ports, CD-ROM burners or Firewire? Or have updated technologies taken their place and improved over their original function? For most of us, that answer is yes.
With the 2016 MacBook Pro, Apple has taken its boldest leap yet (well maybe after that earphone jack on the iPhone). By removing the USB ports, Thunderbolt/Displayport ports, SDHC card slot, HDMI port, heck even the MagSafe power connector from the previous generation, Apple has gone all in with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. You need to know that USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 in its native form is blazingly fast and opens up an incredibly versatile swath of options via dongles,hubs and adapters to connect to legacy devices.
USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 in its native form is blazingly fast and opens up an incredibly versatile swath of options via dongles, hubs and adapters to connect to legacy devices.
CNET wrote about the advantages of Thunderbolt 3 and here are some important factors to digest:
- The Mini DisplayPort connection type has been ditched in favor of a USB-C connection type.
- All Thunderbolt 3 cables will work as USB-C cables.
- All USB-C cables will work as Thunderbolt 3 cables as long as they are good quality cables.
- Thunderbolt 3 has a top data transfer speed of 40Gbps as long as the cable is 0.5m (1.6 ft.) or shorter.
- For 1m (3.2 ft.) or longer cables, Thunderbolt 3 supports passive (cheaper) ones that have a top speed of 20Gbps, and active cables (more expensive) that retain the 40Gbps speed.
- Thunderbolt 3 is backward-compatible with earlier versions of Thunderbolt, but due to the new port type, adapters are required to use legacy Thunderbolt devices.
- Any USB-C device plugged into a Thunderbolt 3 port will function normally.
- Since Thunderbolt 3 devices use discrete Thunderbolt chips to function, they will not function if plugged into a USB-C port.
- All versions of Thunderbolt allow for daisy-chaining up to six devices together to a host and in addition to data, can also carry HD video and audio.
The key takeaway is you don’t need a huge box to hold multiple interface types anymore. This is one connector and one nice compact laptop to rule them all. So let’s dive in first to converters that get you USB-C on one end and just about any legacy device on the other.
•USB-C Adapter Options
The MacBook Pro is not the first Mac with pure USB-C ports. That honor goes to the 2015 MacBook, in many ways the spiritual predecessor to the MacBook Pro. This is a little ironic, as advanced features and interfaces generally debut on the flagship MacBook Pro and then trickle down to the Air/MacBook.
But as you know Apple likes to shake it up. So, that yearlong period since the USB-C MacBook’s debut has lead to a variety of USB-C adapters and hub you can use to greatly expand your interface options as well as support all of the gear you already have. Here are some of the better ones:
Anker Premium USB-C Hub with Power Delivery is a tiny unit, styled to fit well with the MacBook Pro and focusing on greatly expanded USB-3 ports and power delivery. If you’re willing to go all in with USB-3 hard drives and many Thunderbolt 2 drives are multimode, this is a solid opening option that won’t set you back much.
CalDigit USB-C Docking Station promises full Thunderbolt 3 cross-compatibility and giving you MacBook Pro audio i/o, Ethernet USB 3.1, HDMI and more. As CalDigit is long known for being Mac-focused, the Docking Station will even connect to an Apple Superdrive for those legacy DVD and CD burns some of us still have to deliver.
The HooToo Shuttle 3.1, with its silver finish and rounded edges is clearly styled to look right at home next to Apple devices. It offers power passthrough, HDMI, USB-3, HDMI and SDHC ports. This would be a solid option for the traveling videographer/photographer as so many DSLRs and compact camcorders rely on MicroSD/SDHC cards.
Apple’s own Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter succeeds mainly on its compactness. With just one port, charging and HDMI connectivity this is more aimed at increasing the relatively paltry amount of ports on the MacBook and probably not as useful for the MacBook Pro.
•MacBook Pro Storage Solutions In Depth
So now you can see the clear path toward leveraging your existing peripherals with your shiny new MacBook Pro. But let’s say you’re ready to make the leap into purpose built storage for higher levels of performance than previously possible.
•Thunderbolt 3 Native Solutions
LaCie is a storage provider long associated with Apple, you’ll find their stylish external Rugged and D2 Thunderbolt 2/USB-3 hard drives on the shelves at the Apple Store. For Thunderbolt 3, they’ve come up with the 12big Thunderbolt 3. As the name implies, this is a stack of 12 hard drive bays connected to a Thunderbolt 3 bus. You can count on this low footprint setup to achieve read speeds of up to 2600MB/s.
Of course the 12big is intended as a single user, direct attached storage device. So if you’re of the lone gun variety of producer this is right in your wheelhouse, as opposed to a larger workgroup needing to share. You can daisy chain up to 6 12bigs to each other via Thunderbolt 3, which results in a whopping 576TB of total very high speed storage space.
•Promise Pegasus 3
Promise’s Pegasus line of RAIDS has always been among the top-rated go to direct attached storage solutions and is perfectly suited to Final Cut Pro X. With the Pegasus3 and SANLink3, Promise has upped the ante to full Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, for up to 40 Gbps throughput.
Let’s unpack that for just a second. 40 Gbps throughput is a doubling from Thunderbolt 2’s 20 Gbps throughput. In practical terms we like to think of streams. The R2 was already capable of multiple 4K ProRes streams in Final Cut Pro X. With the doubling of throughput we can only expect to see a nice bump on the number of streams with the R3. That means more angles of multicam, more live effects/filters, you name it.
It would be impossible to mention Promise on the one hand without mentioning its newly merged partner Symply on the other. Symply launched in April at NAB but a lot of its team members hail from the likes of Quantum, Active Storage and even the original Apple Xserve team. With that kind of pedigree you’d expect some next level products in the mix and Symply has done its homework.
Of interest to the Final Cut Pro X editor are the SymplySTOR and SymplySHARE solutions which are tailored to function both as single user direct attached storage and as shareable NAS network devices, both leveraging the full power of the Thunderbolt 3 standard. Check out a video about Symply here.
Think of the SymplySTOR as a Pegasus on steroids with Thunderbolt 2 and 3 connectivity, easy device management via iOS/Apple Watch apps and up 64TB of RAID storage. Intended as an onsite ingest and edit/DI playout solution, SymplySTOR brings robust performance ready to roll to the new MacBook Pro. SymplySHARE takes that power to the next level by connecting it to the network as a modular dock for the SymplySTOR.
SymplySHARE enables up to 8 Thunderbolt 2/3 workstations and 20 10Gb IP clients to share a single or dual SymplySTOR units over a network. With Xsan and StorNext protocols, the SymplySHARE brings enterprise class performance much more into the reach of small and mid-sized production teams. If you are running a production facility that’s been used to sneaknet and NAS level performance, this is a way to get almost all of the power of very high end SAN solutions at a fraction of the price.
•Thunderbolt 2/Ethernet Solutions
Lumaforge is another newish player to the storage business with an intriguing Final Cut Pro X pedigree. Created by our own Sam Mestman and backed up by his formidable expertise in Final Cut Pro X. Jellyfish is highly optimized for the app (though not limited to it). With ShareClient, a custom volume mounting app, Jellyfish is designed to be as easy to setup as a directed attached drive while offering the sharing power and flexibility of a NAS solution.
The Jellyfish 4K variant is rated for simultaneous 1600 MB/s (12.5 Gbps) reads across a mix of 10GbE and 1GbE connections while simultaneously ingesting over a 10GbE connection with no interruptions in playback. While this is well below Thunderbolt 3’s 40 Gbps throughput in practice it’s well within the parameters for sufficient 4K ProRes streams for multiple Ethernet connected users simultaneously. Sam’s provided a friends & family discount: just mention FCPWORKS to receive 10% off any Lumaforge system. More info here.
QNAP’s TVS-882T is a hybrid NAS/DAS that channels the Thunderbolt connection as a network interface, providing connectivity across the network. It does interfere with other Thunderbolt traffic on the same bus. So if you are planning to use this model for shared storage it needs to be on a MacPro with its multiple Thunderbolt ports. Check out our article about those ports for more details.
On the subject of workflow, the QNAP is a great deal for the money and offers the promise of a NAS in a Thunderbolt case. Configuring the network share for OSX/FCPX is not the easiest setup in the world but you only have to do it once.
That’s just a taste of what is out there and more to come on the horizon on the connectivity front for the new MacBook Pro and Final Cut Pro X.
The USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 interface standard for the MacBook Pro is a clean slate for content producers.
•The Bottom Line
The USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 interface standard for the MacBook Pro is a clean slate for content producers. If you are interested in upgrading your performance to the next generation there’s plenty to work with here and much more to come. Whether you’re at the one-person band, multiuser enterprise facility level or somewhere in between- this single laptop can become your high speed content creation hub. We hope you found our guide to MacBook Pro storage solutions informative and we’ll continue to update it as new Thunderbolt 3/USB-C gear appears. Please sound off in the comments.