Category Archives: Storage

ioSafe Rugged Portable

Tough, Tough & Tough!

ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe describe their Rugged Portable drive as an aircraft black box for mobile date; I must say that I agree. I’ve been using their 500Gb model for over three months now and I am very impressed. From the moment you pick it up you realise it’s no ordinary portable drive. It is solid; really solid, yet not too heavy. The case is a solid piece of aluminium covering the top and the sides, with another solid piece of metal covering the bottom. Just by knocking it you can feel that this thing is built to last and designed to take knocks. ioSafe say that it will withstand a three meter drop and is crush proof withstanding up to a ton of weight. It’s also water proof! Yes, a waterproof portable hard drive! It can withstand being immersed in up to three meters of water (salt or fresh). The titanium and SSD versions of the drive can withstand even more abuse. To top things off data recovery and a no quibble warrantee finish things off nicely.

I took this drive on assignment to Cancun. As with my G-Tech Minis, it stood up to the knocks of travel well. One thing however I would not do to any other drive out there is take it to the hotel pool. I even immersed it in the pool, threw it around underwater and knocked it about a bit. Some bubbles escaped from the interface sockets (FW800 and USB 2.0), but that was it. I was absolutely certain though that I had killed the drive! I then took the drive out, dried it up and went back to my room, where I washed it in the sink! After drying out the contacts, I plugged it into my MacBook Pro using FW800 and it started up without issue, mounting on the desktop immediately. Checking through my data, all was safe; no issues at all. I for one was absolutely stunned, shocked and in a state of disbelief.

ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool side, dripping with water after being submerged. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My only wish would be for a faster drive, as the one used runs at 5400rpm. My guess is this is purely to manage heat build up, as without ventilation slots a 7200rpm would probably fail. Having said that, 5400rpm is more than adequate for backing up. Our data is important to us; for most, it is vital. Most of us work in hazardous environments from time to time and on top of this, accidents will happen even in normal surroundings. I’m so impressed by the way this little yet solid drive has worked that I will definitely become a customer of theirs. With the SSD and titanium versions offering even more protection, it comes as a no brainer for me to recommend you look at this range of Rugged Portable drives by ioSafe. Very impressive indeed. Amazon UK price this drive at under £195 which is good value in my opinion. You can find other UK stockists here.

ioSafe Rugged Portable is washed in the sink. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The company also has a range of desktop solutions, which add fireproofing to the mix. Lastly, they are on Indiegogo crowd sourcing funds for their new Disaster proof private cloud NAS RAID box.

ioSafe Rugged Portable plugged into a MacBook Pro after being dunked int he pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

SD Card Holder

SD Pixel Pocket Rocket

It’s often the little things that make life so much easier for the working photographer. Carrying memory cards has always been an issue. Personally, I found the perfect way to carry mine when Think Tank Photo came out with the Pixel Pocket Rocket; a way to carry ten CF cards and some business cards, in one nicely made, slim, wallet. The cards themselves came together in their individual pockets when the wallet was rolled up, making the wallet extremely rigid.

The new Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket. September 14, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

As we now shoot much more SD cards, the company has thankfully addressed that issue too with their new SD Pixel Pocket Rocket which can accomodate nine SD cards as well as some business cards. Any digital Leica M, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX or small DSLR photographer is going to love this. Small, compact, well made and extremely useful and usable. Lastly, as with the other Pixel Pocket Rockets, it has a loop which makes attaching it to the inside of your bag or pouch extremely easy.

The new Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, which can carry nine SD cards. September 14, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My workflow is that I put my empty, formatted cards in face up (with the logo on the front showing). When I’ve shot a card, it goes into the wallet face down. That was I know which cards are used and which are blank.

It’s a simple accessory, but I can’t emphasise just how totally useful this is; get one!

For the UK, check out the local distributor Snapperstuff for your local retailer or to order direct. Other countries can check out Think Tank Photo’s website to find their relevant source.

Other World Computing

The Fastest; Accelsior PCI Express SSD

Long Term Test

OWC stands for Other World Computing, a title which I felt was very apt for this article. Since I started using OWC’s adapter for modifying my Mac Pro to take multiple SSDs in the optical bay and installing their blisteringly fast SSD into the optical bay of my MacBook Pro, I’ve become a fan of this company. Their adapters and SSDs just seem out of this world; great design, well made and extremely fast.

It was with great interest when I first heard that a PCI Express SSD card was going to be introduced by the company. The advantages of using a PCI Express SSD card are numerous. Firstly, one is directly plugging into the motherboard, using the fastest interface, without having to go through the SATA connectors, adding some speed to operation. Secondly, it frees up your SATA connectors and drive bays for more SSDs or conventional hard drives for storage. In my Mac Pro, I now have four conventional hard drives in the drive bays which I use to store my RAW files amongst other data including documents, music, video and so on. I also have two SSDs installed in the optical bays. One is used to clone the Accelsior every night which is my OS drive, and the other is used for video files when editing  a project. Having FCP X run on the OWC Accelsior and the ProRes 422 video files run from a OCZ 120Gb SSD makes for a very fast and fluid editing experience.

If you’re on a PC, the Accelsior will also work. Regardless of which system you’re using, the helpful thing is the card does not need a driver, so will just work once installed. On a Mac, you will naturally need a Mac Pro as the iMac does not have PCI Express slots.

I decided to go for the 240Gb version which is enough space to store the OS, applications and Documents. Via iTunes I did move the iTunes folder to another drive though as it was simply too big. The card uses Sandforce controllers and several systems to ensure that the SSD chips are used efficiently and kept running smoothly. The SSDs themselves are on smaller circuit boards which clip into the PCI Express daughter card; this means that in time if you want to upgrade to a larger size, it’s easily done.

Speed

Using OWC’s own figures, comparing their top of the range traditional SSD (Pro 6G) to the Accelsior makes interesting reading.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G – Read 559MB/s Write 527MB/s (Peak Data Rate)
OWC Mercury Accelsior  – Read 762MB/s Write 763MB/s
Traditional 5400rpm Hard Drive – Read 75MB/s Write 77MB/s

These are test figures so real life use will vary, but it will vary proportionally, so the speed advantages are clear to see.

Compared to my previous OS SSD, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS which was very quick, the speed advantage of the OWC Acceslior is immediately noticeable, even without timing.

I did perform some comparisons though using my early 2009 model Mac Pro.

Reliability

Speed isn’t the only consideration to have though. I’ve had the Accelsior installed in my main imaging workstation, a Mac Pro, for three months now. It has performed without a single hiccup. I installed it when running OS Lion, cloned the OS drive onto the Accelsior using the superb CCC and upgraded to OS Mountain Lion a few days after it’s release. My Mac Pro is on 24/7, used for photo editing, photo archive use, Giclée printing, video and audio editing and general computing too. It’s hooked up to a Sonnet D800 raid with a PCI Express RAID card as well as countless other peripherals and I didn’t have a single issue at all! The Accelsior just performed with 100% absolute reliability and speed.

Final Thoughts

As new technologies come and go and we take leaps forwards, some leaps are giant. The leap to SSDs being one. They are still too costly for storage, but for using as our OS and program disks, the capacities are more than there and the prices have dropped to affordable levels. Although purely on paper the jump to PCI SSD doesn’t appear huge, it is much more than just the speed increase; it’s the convenience increase of freeing up a drive bay for storage too. I for one can’t recommend SSDs highly enough; however if you have a machine with compatible PCI Express slots, then the OWC Accelsior is an absolute no brainer. You’ll love it!

European Buyers – Macupgrade has kindly offered readers of this blog a 10% discount with the code: macupgradephoto

Behind The Scenes

The RNOH Appeal Film

I was very honoured when Neil Patience (an extremely talented video editor) invited me to take part in a project he was going to be involved in. He mentioned it was the RNOH, a hospital which I had already done several assignments in (photographing Princess Diana and on a separate occasion my first ever award winning picture; a wheel chair basketball game, to mention a couple).

In April 2011 we had a meeting with Rosie Stolarski (Head of Fundraising, RNOH Charity) and Professor Tim Briggs (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon), the subject of which was to make a fundraising appeal film. The original brief was for a very short, straightforward appeal type film, but after the first few days of shooting, Neil and I had decided to go for more of a documentary feel. Neil put together a rough cut of what we had already and we were overjoyed when the RNOH went for it and changed the brief.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in an operating theatre with two Canon 5D MkII camera, one on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) and the other on a Zacuto Striker with the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro attached). Both cameras have Rode microphones attached for ambient sound recording. The VideoMic (closer) and VideoMic Pro. A Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10 belt pack is also being used. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

We spent a long time planning various aspects of the film, including the patient interviews. With the hospital team, we chose a cross section of their previous patients who had had the full gamut of operations, thus transforming their lives. We covered a wide age range and conditions to paint a full picture.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in an operating theatre with a Canon 5D MkII camera on a Zacuto Striker with the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro attached and the Rode VideoMic Pro. A Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10 belt pack is also being used. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

The flip side to these life changing stories though was the conditions in which this amazing staff have to work. Huts that serve as wards dating back to the 1940s, crumbling, leaking building, sloping corridors that require special locomotives to pull beds along. A truly extreme juxtaposition of amazing medical work in such atrocious conditions.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in a prosthetic limb manufacturing section run by Blachleys. A Canon 5D MkII camera, on the Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod, with a Rode VideoMic Pro microphone. Extra equipment needed for the shoot is carried in a Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

Having an amazing client though is the start of great work and I really must thank the RNOH in helping us be creative, change the brief to make it a more powerful film and for all the logistical help. All the coordination by Rosie Stolarski for the entire project and the patience of her team members Jenny Blyth and Sam Bowie when they accompanied us on site was paramount. A huge word of thanks goes to head of communications Anna Fox who spent the most time with us on site, making sure everything was planned and helping us get the shots we needed. We’d like to thank all the amazing surgeons who invited us into their operating theatres and all the physiotherapists, nurses, prosthetics team and other medical staff for their help. A big thanks also go to the ushers and the security team for all their help.

The biggest words of thanks go to the former patients who let us into their lives and inspired us with their strength and courage. Our thanks go to HRH Princess Eugenie of York, Molly Poole, Carol West, Phil Packer, Phil Coburn, Kat Reid and the amazing Caitlin Kydd.

Camera assistant Nicola Taylor recording audio, using a Rode NTG3 on a Rode Mini Boom pole, onto a Zoom H4n audio recorder. This is in a Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10. Edmond Terakopian uses a Canon 5D MkII and 135mm f2L and Rode VdeoMic Pro on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. RNOH Children’s Ward, Stanmore. July 19, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

Along with the invaluable help of my assistant Nicola Taylor (an amazingly creative photographer in her own right), Neil and I shot the project over a nine month period.

If you haven’t yet seen the film, you can watch it HERE.

Techniques & Technical

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian & Editor and Producer Neil Patience. An iPad is used for interview questions. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

I shot the entire video using two Canon 5D MkII cameras, using a range of Canon lenses; 15mm f2.8, 16-35mm f2.8L II, 24-105mm f4L, 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.2L and a 135mm f2L. My main tripod was a fluid head Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head). For the locked off shots with the tighter lens (135mm f2L) I used a carbon fibre photographic Manfrotto tripod. For the handheld shots, I used a Zacuto Striker and Z-Finder Pro eyepiece. Having to cover long distances across the hospital grounds and wards with the kit meant needing to plan not only the right and relevant kit, but the right bags too. We used a Think Tank Photo Airport Internal v2 and also a Multimedia Wired Up 10. On the last interview with Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor Briggs, I also used a Marshall 5” monitor (V-LCD50-HDMI).

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian, editor and producer Neil Patience, Rosie Stolarski (head of fundraising) and ex-patient Phil Packer. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian and ex-patient Phil Coburn. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Operating Theatre 4 with Prof Tim Briggs. A Marshall 5″ monitor (V-LCD50-HDMI) is used to check focus, lighting, composition and exposure). The light on the left is a Kino Flo Diva Light supplied by New Day Pictures. September 21, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

To keep the same feel and uniformity with the ex-patient interview scenes, we decided to shoot them against a black background. One of the problems though was that although some interviews would be done at the hospital, these were at different days and in different rooms. The other interviews would be on location at ex-patients’ homes. We needed a proper light absorbing black, but also a background which was sturdy and stable. On top of these requirements, it also needed to be highly collapsible and portable. After having a chat with our friends at Lastolite, we found just the trick. The Lastolite Plain Black Velvet Collapsible Background (which has a collapsible frame) and the Lastolite background support (1109).

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Prince Andrew being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera further away (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

The other aspect to keeping this consistency was to make sure the lighting was as identical as possible. After consulting with the specialist hire company New Day Pictures, we went for a Kino Flo Diva Light (shot through it’s softbox diffuser). This has been the most amazing light I’ve ever worked with.

Audio

For audio, I used Rode microphones throughout. The cameras where fitted with the Rode VideoMic and VideoMic Pro for all of the cutaway and GV scenes. Although we had originally thought that all their audio would be replaced with the interviews with Professor Briggs, Neil ended up using a fair amount of the audio from them. The main audio, which was for all the interviews, was done using a Rode NTG3, recoding onto both camera A (using a Pinknoise splitter cable) and onto the Zoom H4n (in WAV format). We mounted the mic on a mic stand and had it just outside shot.

The Royal Connection

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Prince Andrew being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera further away (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

The first of our interviews was with HRH Prince Andrew, who not only only was the patron of the hospital, but is also the father of a former patient; Princess Eugenie. We also did an interview with the Princess and both pieces added so much to the film. These weren’t only essential, but were also an absolute joy to shoot.

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Princess Eugenie being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera to the left (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Editing Workflow

Editing the fund raising video for RNOH at New Day Pictures’ Final Cut Pro editing suite in Surrey. Assistant Nicola Taylor and video editor Neil Patience at work, discussing the interview transcripts. November 08, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

After every day’s shoot, we would make copies of all the CF cards (video) and SD card (audio) onto both Neil and my MacBook Pros. Once back at our respective offices, we would both also make backups onto our Mac Pros and RAID systems. On top of this, I also made multiple off-site backups. With a project that has so much data and is shot over such a long period of time, it’s not worth risking losing something before delivering the final cut to the client. With this workflow we had multiple copies (RAID 1 and RAID 5) across three geographical locations.

Editing the fund raising video for RNOH at New Day Pictures’ editing Final Cut Pro suite in Surrey. L-R: Cameraman Edmond Terakopian, assistant Nicola Taylor and video editor Neil Patience at work. November 08, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Once Neil had put together a long assembly, Nicola and I met with Neil at the New Day Pictures’ editing suite. Although able to edit video myself, I never thought of myself as anything but having rudimentary skills. Watching Neil at work was an amazing education. The philosophy behind editing is the most crucial thing; watching him operate the keyboard, mouse and various break out boxes full on knobs and sliders like a concert pianist was amazing, but understanding the reason behind constructing edits was just mind blowing. The three days that I spent with Neil were invaluable. The film naturally did take much longer than that to do though. If you’ve never worked with a professional editor, I highly recommend it; in fact, it’s essential.

To find out more about the editing, have a read of Neil’s post, Making The RNOH Appeal Film.

The Premiere

Our first screening was for the RNOH fundraising team. The silence and sniffles, combined with the teary eyes confirmed for us that we had succeeded in making a powerful and emotive documentary. It’s always difficult to fully judge a project until you’ve shown it to someone outside of the team. Close colleagues who had seen it had all been positive, but it was only when our clients at RNOH approved, that we were completely happy.

The premiere of the film was at the launch of the RNOH Funding Appeal at St James’s Palace, at an event hosted by HRH Prince Andrew and Princess Eugenie. Along with the screening was also a photographic exhibition of my work documenting the hospital. I must admit to being quite nervous when the film was shown; it’s again the fear of not knowing how it will be received. The huge room (bigger than a typical hall) fell quite and stayed quite for the entire length of the film, the silence only being broken by the occasional sniffle. As the film approached it’s end, the sniffles grew not only more frequent, but louder. A gentleman in front of me, who is the father of the amazing Caitlin who is featured in the film was in fact crying fully. It’s hard not to be moved and humbled when witnessing such an amazing reaction to one’s work. After the film finished, there was silence; a silence which carried on for a good five seconds and then the room burst into applause. Later, Neil and I shook hands.

Proud. This is one word which kept coming up between the TAPTV team; we were all proud of what we achieved with this project. When I look back at my career which started in 1989, although I give my all to everything I do, certain assignments stand out and I feel proud; this is certainly one of them.

My hope is that we have helped this amazing hospital to raise some of the money they need; they do amazing work there. I hope that you will help by making a donation HERE.

Chase Jarvis’ Photo & Video Workflow

“Nessie” Proof Backup Strategy

I’m a big believer in having a good backup strategy; it’s absolutely essential in this day and age of digital everything. My friend and colleague Chase Jarvis has put together a great video showing how he approaches the challenges of photo and video backup workflow; definitely check it out.

Installing an SSD into a MacBook Pro

Following on from my previous post on installing an SSD into my Mac Pro by utilising the optical bay (allowing a total of six drives to be installed in all) I decided to do a similar thing to my Apple MacBook Pro.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

With cloud computing (storage of data, transferring data with services such as Drop Box and buying of software) and USB keys, we have become less reliant on optical drives (CDs or DVDs). It makes absolute sense to utilise this space by fitting a second hard drive. Other World Computing, or OWC, have a genius adapter called a Data Doubler which has the form factor of a laptop internal optical drive and is a bracket for holding a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; the DVD drive where the SSD will be installed is on the bottom left. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Having found a European dealer, Macupgrade (superb service), I decided to order the parts needed for this project (You can also order direct from OWC):

OWC Data Doubler & optional USB SATA Optical Drive Enclosure
OWC Mercury Electra 6G 120Gb SSD
 

Rather handily, the Data Doubler comes with a full toolkit as well as extremely comprehensive instructions on how to fit it, covering a very large range of Mac laptops. What I found even more useful were the excellent instructional videos on the OWC site.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; with the DVD drive removed. This is where the SSD will be installed. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

All in all, it took around thirty minutes to take out the DVD Superdrive, install the SSD and finally install the optical drive into the external USB case (which is also powered by the USB port, so no need for AC adapters). Whilst not complicated, it pays to take things slowly and follow the instructions to the letter as one is dealing with sensitive equipment with fragile wiring and circuitary.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket and SSD installed, with the conventional hard drive on the right. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

What’s fantastic about this upgrade is having two separate hard drives inside a laptop. The SSD now contains OS X Lion and all my programs. It also contains my Aperture Library and images are downloaded onto the SSD for extremely speedy editing. Once I’ve done my edits, these are then exported as Projects to the conventional 500Gb internal hard drive. Also as I approach getting the SSD full, images in the Aperture Library, after backups, can either be deleted or stored on the conventional hard drive as Referenced Files and thus, still appear in the Aperture Library.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The DVD Superdrive is then installed in the OWC external optical drive case. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The same workflow will apply to video editing with Final Cut X; small projects will have video initially loaded into a Project on the SSD for speed and then moved onto the conventional hard drive for storage. Bigger projects will just be downloaded onto the conventional hard drive.

I’m extremely impressed with this upgrade; it has brought even more usability to my MacBook Pro and made it blisteringly fast too. Previously my boot up time (from cold) was 37 seconds; with the SSD, it’s now 12 seconds! Programs open in a flash too. I for one am hooked on this latest generation of SSDs with Sandforce controllers. Completely recommend the SSD path to anyone for whom time is precious!

Addendum:

Great news; the fabulous folks at Macupgrade have offered all readers a kind 10% discount on all items in their shop. Discount code: macupgradephoto

IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on your model of MacBook Pro, installing the SSD in the optical bay as shown will not harness the drive’s full speed. Certain MacBook Pro models have a faster SATA speed channel for the hard drive bay than the optical bay. It’s worth researching your model of computer to ensure you gain the maximum speed benefit. For my particular laptop, the speed is identical on both SATA channels.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.

SSD – The Need For Speed

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSD

The main cause of a sluggish computer is generally a low amount of RAM, slow processors and slower hard drives. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to speed up their machine and also make it more stable, is to upgrade the RAM to as much as can be afforded. Processors are generally hard to change out or upgrade (as this will often mean either complex adapters or a new motherboard) and hard drives usually do make a noticeable difference when going from 5400rpm to 7200rpm and then to 10,000rpm.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. After opening the side, the DVD drawer is slid out half way to allow the bable to be unplugged from the rear of the drive before fully removing the tray. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

A few years ago I got my first ever computer with an SSD; the original MacBook Air. The speed with which it booted up and programs started up was stunning. Roll on a few years and SSDs have come into their own. They are not only much faster but have also dropped significantly in price and the best ones even maintain themselves.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. Rather helpfully, the late 2009 Mac Pro has two SATA cables with power connectors in the DVD drive bay. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I recently decided that I was going to upgrade my Mac Pro to an SSD drive. I use my machine to do image processing (using Aperture), hold my fully searchable archive of around half a million images (using Aperture) and also edit video using Final Cut Pro. The launch of Apple’s OS X Lion seemed like the perfect time and I set to researching the SSD market.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. The OCZ SSDs; primary boot disk will be the 240Gb Vertex 3 Max IOPS and the secondary will be the 120Gb Agility 3 - shown with a traditional 3.5" hard drive for size comparison. The DVD tray is to the right. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I decided to go for an OCZ Vertex 3 240Gb Max IOPS SSD. This has a Sandforce controller (fast becoming a standard and something you should go for both for speed and also maintenance abilities – basically cleaning out any garbage that is accumulated as files are deleted). This would be my boot drive. Thinking things through and being a huge fan of Final Cut Pro X, I wanted to use it as my main editing program, so realised that having a dual boot system would be best as I could then install Final Cut Pro Studio (FCP 7) on the second boot drive, giving me full access to my older video projects (Apple recommends using separate partitions or boot drives for best results). For the second drive I went for a smaller and cheaper drive; a 120Gb OCZ Agility 3 SSD.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. The OCZ Vertex 3 mounted in the OWC Multimount. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

With my Mac Pro already having all four drive bays filled, I looked to OWC for a solution. They have a very neat adapter that lets a 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drive get mounted in the CD / DVD drive bay of the Mac Pro. I had seen this several years ago and feared it unstable because of heat buildup (This bay doesn’t have an intake fan) but knowing that SSDs produce practically no heat (and consume minimal power) meant that it was the perfect solution. Alas I ordered the mount before I had decided on having two SSDs so I also found a similar adapter in the UK made by Akasa which I promptly ordered. I must say that I do prefer the OWC method and may well get another one of their multi mounts!

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. The OCZ Agility 3 mounted in the Akasa SSD & HDD Adapter. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My machine is an early 2009 Mac Pro which very usefully already has twin SATA and power cables coming into the DVD drive bay. Earlier models will have the cable for the optical drive and a spare port on the motherboard, for which you will need a SATA cable and a power cable (probably with a MOLEX splitter). My other problem was that as all 4 HD bays were populated and I wanted to use both the DVD bay cables for the two SSDs; what to do about having a DVD drive? I decided to do away with it! With most software being downloaded and image delivery to clients via Cloud drives (like MobileMe and DropBox) the need for a DVD drive was not a priority. For those occasions when I might definitely need one and also for exploring making BluRay films, I decided to get a portable slimline LaCie x6 BluRay drive. This would also come in handy if I decide to fit an SSD drive in the DVD bay of my 15″ MacBook Pro someday!

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. Both OCZ drives in their adapters, fitted to the DVD tray, ready to be installed. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Mac Pro case (which is a work in design genius on every level) was opened and the side taken off. The DVD tray was then pulled out sideways but only half way. The cable was pulled out from the DVD SuperDrive and the tray was removed fully. The SSDs were then installed, leaving a lot of space between them for air to circulate (even though they do run cool – the cooler, the better in my opinion). The tray was put in halfway, both SSDs were attached to the cables, tray was pushed and everything closed up.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. Both OCZ drives in their adapters, fitted to the DVD tray, ready to be installed. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I first started with installing Snow Leopard onto the Vertex 3 SSD and then upgrading it to OS X Lion. Setting were transferred via transfer wizard and I installed all the programs from scratch (using remote disk to access the DVD drive on another machine). I then emptied all the excess stuff from the old hard drive to make it smaller in used capacity and cloned it,  using Carbon Copy Cloner, onto the Agility 3 SSD.

Upgrading the Mac Pro to SSDs. Both OCZ drives in their adapters, fitted to the DVD tray, being installed in the Mac Pro. August 02, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The speed difference is amazing. The OS boots up in a matter of seconds and programs open up in a flash. Extra RAM is definitely the first step to a faster and more stable system; changing out your hard drive for an SSD is a very close second!

To give an idea of speed, my old drive was an extremely fast, enterprise class WD VelociRaptor HD spinning at 10,000rpm. It has a sustained read and write speed of 126MB/s. The OCZ 240Gb Vertex 3 Max IOPS has a maximum read speed of 550MB/s and write speed of 500MB/s. That is some speed increase!

Addendum: Although for this project I used a Mac Pro, the same principle is true when  installing a compatible (most 2.5″ drives will be) SSD into a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac (although much more complex & possibility of voiding warranty – so do check) and PCs of most shapes and sizes. An SSD will speed up your boot time, the startup of any programs, access to any files on the SSD as well as faster shutdowns. You will also gain from less heat, no noise and less power being consumed.

Since writing this article, I have found a European dealer for OWC products called Macupgrade. The team there have kindly offered readers of the blog a 10% discount across the store. Code: macupgradephoto