As camera resolutions improve and file sizes increase, filmmakers need more and bigger hard drives. But we have a variety of requirements of a device to store our media, for example:
- It needs to have the capacity to hold a lot of very large files.
- It needs to have a fast read speed, so that you can edit at 4K, or transcode quickly.
- It needs to have a fast write speed, so that camera originals can be copied on to the drive fast.
- It needs to be hardy, if it’s to be taken on location and transported back and forth to the editor.
Of course what exactly you’re using the drive for will determine which of these is your key requirement. If you’re a grader, you’ll need high capacity and high read speed. If you’re a DIT, you’ll need a rugged drive with a fast write speed for backing up rushes (anyone who has ever waited for a drive to finish copying at the end of a long shooting day, so that they can go home and get warm, understands the need for speed).
So how does the drive I’m reviewing today – the G-Drive mobile SSD Rugged – score on these factors?
On the whole, very well.
I’ll go through in order:
This is the weak point of this and all other SSD drives. Solid state drives are a lot more expensive to produce than disk drives, particularly high capacity ones. This is why the G-Drive SSD only gives you 500GB for about the same price as Lacie’s 2TB rugged disk drive. The 2TB version of the G-Drive, however, coming in at over £500 (inc. VAT) is beyond most pockets.
Here things start to look up. SSDs may not be cheap, but they are fast. These are USB-C drives, so they don’t reach the whiplash-inducing speeds of their older brother, the G-Drive Pro with its Thunderbolt 3 connection, but at a third of the price that’s okay. They compete favorably with original Thunderbolt for speed. On the read side I found that a cinema DNG sequence in Resolve would play from the drive at 25fps without a moment’s hesitation. As the speed test below shows, this is more than fast enough for editing 4k footage at a decent resolution.
The write speed is considerably in excess of its Lacie competitor too. A 70 GB sequence took 9 mins 18 sec to copy to the Lacie, but only 6 mins 20 to the G-Drive, through the same USB-C connection.
G-Tech claim that this drive is water and dust resistant, that it can be dropped 3 meters and sustain 1000lb crushing force… and presumably function thereafter. I went to hire a 1000lb weight from Acme, but all theirs were hired out to Wile E Coyote, so we’ll have to take G-Tech’s word for these stats. Having handled the drive I believe them, despite the lack of a reassuring rubber case. On the up side, this means that the G-Drive SSD looks less like a toddler’s toy than the now-ubiquitous bouncy orange Lacie drives.
So far, so impressive, but who’s the G-Drive SSD rugged for?
If you’re looking for a drive on which to archive material, this is not the obvious choice: the price per GB is too high. It feels like a natural drive for DIT usage to me. If you were working on a feature film where footage needed to be transcoded on set, sent to the cutting room to be copied off the drive, before the drive would be returned to the DIT for reuse, then two or three of these would really speed up the workflow.
I could also see short-form filmmakers using them for fast-turnaround jobs where the footage is copied onto the drive and then edited using that drive in the hotel room that evening. You might also use it for transporting footage to a grader so that she or he could work direct from the drive and return the finished version to you on the same device.
There is, however, one other very specific application suggested by a factor I haven’t yet mentioned: the size of the drive. Portable drives has long been sufficiently small and light that you can throw a few in your bag and not notice the weight. However the G-Drive SSD is properly pocket-sized – about the dimensions of a bar of Fry’s Turkish Delight (but not for human consumption). To me this suggests that its natural companion might be the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera or the just announced Ursa Mini Pro G2. These cameras can record direct to USB-C drives. While it might not be ideal strapping the drive to the camera so that it doesn’t fly off during hand-held camerawork, having a large capacity (by camera card standards) drive for a day of talking-head interviews would allow you to keep recording for hours, potentially.
Given that camera manufacturers are turning their eyes to hard drives as an alternative to data cards for high-capacity shooting, it’s easy to believe that others might follow Blackmagic in adding a USB-C port. So there might be increasing demand for drives like the G-Drive mobile.
To sum it up, the G-Drive mobile SSD rugged feels like a drive built for film industry usage. There are faster drives out there and cheaper ones, but this drive provides an excellent balance of speed and affordability… while offering the reassurance that your two year-old won’t be tempted to re-purpose it as a bath toy.
Copyright © Guy Ducker 2019
Edited by Dr Sara Lodge