Video editing remotely has never been in higher demand since the pandemic of COVID-19 but what is the best setup for your post team to edit remotely from a NAS or shared storage?
Back in the hazy days of 2019, pre-pandemic, I had a team of 12 post-production professionals all working from shared storage in the office over 10GbE connections for blazing fast connections and reliability.
Yet, even then I had days where I needed to work remotely or members of my team who needed to work from home etc.
With that in mind I decided I needed a reliable set up for them to be able to do that and still work from the same shared storage as everyone in the office.
The truth is, there’s not a solution that beats being connected physically in the office… However, there are solutions that work well. I’ll walk you through how I have my team working below.
How do I know what I’m talking about? Head to the DigiProTips Experience and Background page to find out how I’ve built up my knowledge over a career spanning feature film, broadcast TV and digital content production.
Your Home Working Environment is an Important Factor
Where you work is incredibly important to the efficiency of a remote worker.
Working in a busy coffee shop, on throttled WiFi, is never going to get anywhere near the editing experience and efficiency levels that an editor working from hard-wired, high-speed internet and with distraction-free surroundings can get.
You need to ensure that your editors/motion designers/audio editors etc all have a good working environment.
Maybe they need to invest in a new monitor, desk, speakers, or chair for example. They all play a vital role, but the main factor in all of this is how they are connected to the internet and their speed.
It used to be that the speed of your office ethernet connections to the server were the bottleneck in the system, now it’s going to be your worker’s upload and download speeds.
At all costs, they need to be connected by Ethernet to their router. This setup is not made for WiFi working, the reliability is too unstable. If this was a consideration for you before then I’m afraid this may come as bad news.
I’ll get onto why upload and download speeds matter a little later, when we talk about the storage and editing workflow.
What Type of Shared Storage You Have is the Next Piece of the Puzzle
Before we look at the workflow it’s worth talking about the type of shared storage you have for your office and post team to work from.
If you don’t already have any shared storage in place and are looking to implement this workflow then it’s worth spending some time reading up on my articles ‘Post-Production Storage Solutions’, ‘Which Synology NAS is the Best for Video Editing’ and ‘Which QNAP NAS is the Best for Video Editing’. They will help you decide on the best course of action for your specific setup and team size.
You should also note, that while QNAP NASs are perfectly good for setting up your team with shared storage in the office, I will be using a Synology NAS as my preferred storage solution later in this article. This is mainly due to the great personal cloud feature that it has with it.
For that reason, I would suggest you look at Synology for your shared storage solution. They are great for first-time NAS users and have an abundance of in-built features for enhanced working.
Whichever route you take with your shared storage make sure it has some form of remote access to it. After all this is an article about remote editing.
By that, I mean that you can connect to an FTP server it runs, it has a remote access web browser client, it has a cloud sync server and client function, or that you can access it over your company VPN.
VPN vs Cloud vs FTP vs Remote Access
Ok, a big one here.
This will determine how you work going forwards.
There are benefits and limitations to each of these options but I’ll quickly run you through them and then go through how I decided to set up.
This may seem like the best way to connect to your shared storage and edit remotely because your connection mirrors that of your office LAN and as such your NAS is available to you as a network drive.
However, all is not as it seems.
VPN is a fairly old protocol in the days of internet technology and the bandwidth limitations that come with VPN will make working in this way pretty much impossible.
I initially used this route and would have transfers going overnight so that editors could have all the files they needed ready in the morning but this is slow and inefficient.
VPN bandwidths throttle you so much that even with a healthy home connection of 67Mb/s down and 17Mb/s up you would only get around 10-15% of that when working on a VPN, which is far too slow for real-time video editing.
Trying to transfer files up to 100s of GBs in size was not an option either.
Unless your company office VPN connection is super speed then this won’t work for you.
FTP was and still is an option to use for your remote editing workflow, especially if you are mounting the FTP drive as a virtual drive on your system with something like Mountain Duck.
The benefits of FTP are that you can have more of your bandwidth for transfers and you can connect your FTP server as a virtual mount but getting consistent two-way sync is where it falls down.
When you are working with a team of post-production professionals who are all working on different parts of a project, i.e. edit, graphics, audio or grade. Then you want to have their project files and output readily available to use between each other in that shared storage.
Having to manually upload or send files to each other is not conducive to an efficient way of working remotely.
Having your FTP mounted virtually with a service such as Mountain Duck is a great way to access all of your files and have changes made to those files in real-time but the speed restrictions of your internet connection will ultimately stop you from editing remotely from FTP in real-time.
Syncing your media first ensures you are reading and writing from your local disks but using the shared storage files. Which is where cloud services come in.
So then, that leaves cloud services.
But not just any old cloud service, no, no.
Our own private, personal, cloud service hosted directly from the NAS itself.
I initially disregarded this as a means of working back when I was looking into remote editing setups but that was actually foolish because, in the end, this is the route that saved me the most time and enabled the most efficient way of working.
As I mentioned above, Synology has an in-built cloud service called ‘Synology Drive’.
The Synology NAS installs a server application and then each computer that needs to have access downloads a client application.
You then link the client to the server and choose which folders and sub-folders you want to sync and where to.
This now means you have direct two-way sync to your project folder and any changes made by you or your team are synced back to the main root folder on the Synology.
Meaning you have access to all the working files you need and any changes you make your colleagues have access to too.
*Important note, use the Advanced tab to ensure ‘On-demand Sync’ is turned off. Leaving this on will mean files are only downloaded to your PC when you click them. You need them to be there all the time when editing. Otherwise, it can result in missing media errors.
The best part is, you can leave it overnight or in the background and any large files created, rushes shot or edits exported will sync to your computer for you.
Which means, the only real bottleneck is the one I mentioned at the start, your internet speed.
Because the cloud service is using the external internet to transfer your files (encrypted of course) then it’s your home internet speeds that determine how fast you’ll send and receive files.
But don’t let that be the thing that stops your editing workflow dead in the water, there are editing workflows (that you are probably already employing) and file management strategies that you can use to make this as smooth as possible.
Read on below to find out more.
I’ve thrown this in here as a bit of a wildcard for smaller teams who may not need constant access to their NAS and only need specific files throughout the day.
If this is you, then being able to access your NAS from a web browser and pull files from it that way could be a way forward for you.
Synology’s QuickConnect feature can let you do just that.
Are you using proxies?
If not, you will be now!
Using proxies as part of your workflow, and only syncing those as opposed to the full media, could be the difference between a nightmare editing experience with files not downloading and slow connections everywhere and the smooth running of a post-production project across teams.
The way I have my team’s workflow set up is that whoever shot the footage and is in charge of ingesting it to the shared storage for others to use, is also in charge of creating the proxies for that media as part of the ingest process.
Because you can pick and choose the sub-folders you want to sync in the Synology Drive settings, editors can uncheck the main media folder and only sync the proxies, which not only are far smaller in file size but they will be quicker and easier to edit with too.
The editor who will be creating the master edit with the original media then has the option to sync the original files at a time that suits or go to the office to export the full edit that everyone has worked on using the proxies.
That’s working smarter and not harder!
The last part of this seemingly large puzzle, is to ensure your team are using the same file management workflows.
By this, I mean that the folder structure of your projects is the same, your project bin set up is the same and that your naming conventions are the same.
This ensures that if any one of your editors needs to open up anybody else’s project then they won’t be confused by the organisation of it all and can get straight to work.
It’s all about efficiency when working remotely.
I have a post-production guideline document that I run through with all new starters and that all my team work to.
This keeps everything in line and nobody’s bad habits get in the way of others working.
A small but important note if your team uses Premiere Pro’s Team Projects function… it won’t work with the cloud setup mentioned above.
With Team Projects Premiere Pro is referencing and looking for media at a specific location, i.e. your office shared storage. When you sync with the Synology Drive client your changes are synced back to the Synology NAS but your synced files are still stored locally.
This means the directory Premiere Pro would be looking for wouldn’t be there as it will be different on each editor’s home workstation.
You could ‘Link Media’ each time but that’s not efficient and when everybody is working on an open and live project file it would get very messy, very quickly.
Instead, you’ll need to work on individual project files that are either condensed into one at the end of the project or that your editors work on one sole project at a time and you don’t have joint projects while working remotely.
Finding Your Own Balance While Video Editing Remotely
Every teams’ setup will be different and the things that work for one might not work for another.
There will be trial and error with this but the main thing is that it is possible, It does work, and with the right workflows in place, it can be just as efficient as working from the office.
I’d suggest your Head of (Post) Production and IT/Support team work together to find the best setup for your company and then walk your team through it. You can’t expect everyone to jump on and immediately know how it’s going to work.
Here to Help
Now, of course, there is a lot going on with this workflow that I have been through above. If you would like assistance with any of it or detailed recommendations on kit and/or protocols to put in place then I do offer Consultation Services:
If you don’t have a large team but want to get set up editing remotely then I can guide you through the process and even help you get set up, remotely.
Book in a call and we can run through it all together.
I hope you have found this article useful and that it will enable you and your team to work effectively and efficiently from home.
If you want to know more about working from shared storage then I have an article on getting set up with 10GbE networks for 4K editing from a NAS:
If there’s something you’d like to learn that I haven’t covered already then please let me know in the comments below.