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Glyph Technologies DV Project Raid Array

Glyph Technologies, a developer of digital storage solutions, is new to the digital video scene, but not to media storage. For years Glyph has been one of the leading providers of high-performance storage products in the digital audio market.

The company recently developed a line of disk arrays for digital editing. This is a natural step, since both audio and video demand sustained fast throughput for realtime performance in digital audio and video editing environments. I looked at Glyph’s 160GB DV Project FireWire RAID array as a solution for DV editing and compositing to see how it performed on a Mac system set up with Final Cut Pro.

Frankly, with the cost of hard drives continuing to drop while performance improves, disk arrays providing transfer rates capable of supporting uncompressed D1 resolution video (720×486 pixels) are no longer the high-wire act of five or even four years ago. DV is compressed at a ratio of about 5:1 (approximately 3.6MBps), which means that any modern hard drive can play back DV footage. DV Project promises data rates of approximately 40MBps, far in excess of what is needed for DV, and even has bandwidth to spare for uncompressed CCR 601 (D1), which requires approximately 24MBps.

Glyph also makes Fibre Channel and SCSI products, but DV Project is a FireWire device aimed at Mac users of Premiere, Avid Express, Media 100, Final Cut Pro, Matrox RT, and CineWave. DV Project is also compatible with Windows, but Glyph is approaching the digital editing market by building on its base in the Mac MIDI and Pro Tools communities. In these areas, Glyph’s products have considerable market share and a reputation for excellence.

Using FireWire, DV Project is hot-pluggable and can be daisy-chained with up to 63 other devices. FireWire-based storage attaches to any G4 Mac right out of the box, while SCSI arrays generally require a fast SCSI card. Bear in mind however, that with a SCSI card and array, SCSI will outperform FireWire. This is an issue if you plan to run dual streams of NTSC video or HD video.

DV Project comes in a slim, black tower supported by a base that is detachable for rack-mounting. There is an illuminated power switch on the front panel, and there are two FireWire sockets on the back. A single short FireWire cable connects the two drives in the tower. Glyph’s DV Project packages two drives in a RAID configuration, but to gain the most performance and disk space, it is not striped for data protection. The product comes with RAID and a disk utilities package, so you can reformat the drives in any RAID configuration you require. Glyph tech support recommends installing Alsoft Disk Warrior in case you encounter problems with the drives. (By the way, Disk Warrior is an excellent product particularly suited to the needs of video production.)

DV Project comes in several flavors, including 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB configurations expandable up to 500GB. Add the ability to easily daisy-chain the drives, and you have high-performance storage for hours of DV editing.

After loading the drivers from the Glyph installation CD, DV Project mounted easily on our dual 800 Mac G4 under system 9.2. OS X drivers are also available, and the system has to be set up for either System 9 or OS X. You can’t just reboot and switch systems. Setting up means reloading the drivers and cleaning data off the drives. I used DV Project with both Mac operating systems, and I was surprised to find that over the course of several days’ use, the system froze twice in OS X while opening FCP 3. Rebooting the system solved the problem.

In cases like these, it’s virtually impossible to know if the problem was with the drive, FCP, or OS X. I was unable to repeat the problem. In any event, DV Project performed flawlessly under System 9.2.

I used Glyph’s DV Project with both Final Cut Pro 3 and Premiere 6.0, continually adding and deleting files, which fragments the drive over time. Long and short DV files were moved on and off the drive without dropping frames. DV performance remained stable over the course of 14 days, and there were no problems with dropped frames. Glyph recommends reinitializing the drives after a long editing project to ensure performance and reliability. This is standard operating procedure when working with any NLE system.

I also used DV Project with short clips of 1920×1080 24p HD footage. Naturally, it could not play this footage back. However, QuickTime movies of this material played faster from DV Project than from a single FireWire Mac drive, but the difference was less than 10%. This is due to the bandwidth limitations of FireWire, not the array.

While using DV Project, an animator who was visiting me mentioned that the portable FireWire drive he had in his pocket could also play back video with ease. I told him there is more to video editing than just playing back files. As a comparison, we tested the portable drive and DV Project in FCP. Indeed, both drives worked fine when it came to playing back video. But when we began scrubbing video, the single drive was only able to play back footage haltingly, while DV Project permitted smooth scrubbing in the timeline.

DV Project also performed flawlessly in laying off 720×486 uncompressed video to a VTR via a CinéWave card. Having tested and sweated the imperfections of desktop video systems since the early ’90s, the ease of setup and simplicity of FireWire products like DV Project have greatly added to the efficiency of operating a desktop production studio. Capturing, editing, and laying off video is finally a routine procedure.

The Glyph DV product line boils down to this: Superior performance with DV footage and the array-recommended capability of reading and writing uncompressed D1. Glyph also provides extended warranties with a 24-hour advanced replacement option. My experience with tech support personnel was very good, and it was clear from their detailed knowledge of video systems and software that the company specializes in products for digital audio and video users rather than the general storage market.