A 10Gbit Ethernet Setup Could Drastically Improve Your Video Editing Performance from Shared Storage
When you are building a scalable editing team or post-production house, the ability to have scalable storage is also a necessary part of that.
You’re here because you have, more than likely, come to a bottleneck in your networking capabilities.
You may also have come from my post on which Synology or QNAP is the best NAS for video editing and want to get established with 10Gbit Ethernet networking.
You have the NAS and computers set up but you’re still not getting the speeds you thought you would be able to get.
Or, your team can edit but only one at a time.
‘It was fine when it was just me and my assistant, so what’s happened now that we’ve expanded?’
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.
What was it About My Video Editing Storage Workflow That Wasn’t Working?
Well, just like you, I also asked the same head-scratching question when my team expanded and I had increased the storage to match.
It wasn’t for a few painful weeks later, after testing different settings on our NAS and computers, that I stumbled upon the answer…
It’s our network switch and cabling!
I Needed A 10Gbit Ethernet Network!
Yep, that’s right, it was nothing to do with the NAS or computer set up. It was about the bandwidth capabilities of our office network switch and the cabling we were running between it and the NAS and computers.
If you’ve read my article on how a growing post team can scale their storage then you’ll already be familiar with the options and now want to know how to implement the solution to your network problems:
A World of 10G Video Editing Possibilities
So, my next step was to invest in a 10 Gigabit switch and update our old CAT 5 Ethernet cables to CAT 6.A. From what I had read, this would solve all of my problems.
And it did!
But… Only for the editors on the newest computers.
I thought this would solve everything?
Rebuild, Build Better and Build for 10Gbit Ethernet Editing
The next, and final, piece of the puzzle presented itself at this point.
Your computers need to be able to handle 10GbE connections.
My editors who were editing on the newer iMac Pro’s were getting amazing speeds because they have 10GbE network cards in them, not Gigabit Ethernet connections.
So, to overcome this particular issue, I needed to do some digging and find out the best way of adapting our older editing PCs to be able to accept the 10 Gigabit connection from the switch and get that blazing fast speed from the NAS.
I found a few options and each is preferable in different situations and setups.
The first, was to get Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE adapters from QNAP or Sonnet and use those to bridge the gap.
This works because Thunderbolt 3 connections are capable of carrying 10Gigabit speeds whereas USB3.0 is not.
Another issue then arose, a couple of the older Windows PCs didn’t have Thunderbolt 3 ports.
My next move was then to install 10GbE NIC cards in the available PCIe slots within the PC to get those particular PCs running 10G speeds.
I was so nearly there, apart from one very old machine that one of the junior editors was still unfortunately using. It had no PCIe slot capable of taking 10GbE connections and certainly no Thunderbolt 3 ports.
I had to face facts and go with a 5GbE connection instead, via a USB3.0 to 5GbE adapter from QNAP. This was still 5 times the speed with which that particular PC was able to access the NAS before, and so that was plenty for that editor.
Finally, Editing 4K in Real-time, for Everyone!
Ok, so now I’d cracked it.
I had a team of 10 post-production staff all working on 4K footage, in real-time, at high speed, through a 10 Gigabit network setup… success!!
I really didn’t look back after that.
The team were all super happy with their new and improved speeds and I was able to deliver versions faster to directors and clients because we had the bandwidth available to ensure there were no bottlenecks anymore.
Learn From My Mistakes, Setup 10Gig Switches the Right Way
So, save yourself the headaches I went through and use the below options to create your own high-speed editing 10 Gigabit network setup.
And don’t worry if you’re thinking, ‘I know nothing about networking, how am I going to set this all up?’
A lot of this is plug ‘n’ play and if you have no need to split your local network traffic up for different departments of your company etc then you really can just leave the equipment in default mode and off you go!
The Future is Bright, the Future is 10Gbit Ethernet Video Editing
So, to save yourself the pain and lost time that I had, and instead get your team up and flying with 4K real-time editing from shared storage then these are the things you need in your life.
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10 Gig Switches
At the very heart of this setup is the network switch. It is the brains of the operation and it is what allows your editors’ computers to communicate with the NAS at high speed and deliver the information to each computer at the same time.
There are varying sizes of switches, to accommodate small to large teams of editors.
An important but often overlooked aspect of choosing a switch, is to make sure you have enough ports for not only your editors PCs but also the connection(s) to the NAS and a connection back to the main switch (which is probably a gigabit switch that your router and the rest of the office IT infrastructure is connected to).
This ensures your editors PCs still have access to the internet and so does the NAS for external access and updates as well.
I have chosen NETGEAR switches below because in my experience they are incredibly easy to set up and use. When you are leaving them in a plug ‘n’ play state AKA, ‘unmanaged’, then NETGEAR do a great job of getting you up and running, straight out of the box.
10Gbit Ethernet switches do cost more than Gigabit switches but the investment in 10G cannot be underestimated and for future-proofing your setup you want to put the money in now to reap the rewards later.
NETGEAR XS708T 8 Port 10 Gig Switch
The lowest I would start with for 10GbE switches is an 8 port. Even if it’s just you and one assistant or another editor, you still want a couple of ports spare for expansion in the future.
8 ports should should allow for up to 4 users/Editors to all be connected to this switch at the same time as your NAS and main network switch.
The XS708T retails for around $1,000/£700 and is the lowest entry to 10Gbit Ethernet networking.
NETGEAR XS716T 16 Port 10 Gig Switch
Then the next step up is to go with 16 ports. This may seem like overkill but if you have 10 users all connected to this switch then it still gives you enough ports to have two bonded 10GbE connections from your NAS, a connection to your main network switch and also a connection to a backup NAS if you have one.
The XS716T retails at around $1,350/£1,000.
NETGEAR XS728T 28 Port 10 Gig Switch
If you have a team of more than 10 post-production professionals like I did, then you will be wanting to bond your 10GbE connections to your NAS, potentially have a backup NAS and then there may be more than one other switch this one needs to loop into. 16 won’t cut it, so 28 is the next size up that switches generally come in.
The XS728T is no small-fry when it comes to network switches. At this point, you will want to stop using this as a plug ‘n’ play device and most likely start using some of the advanced ‘smart’ features inside it. Creating VLANs for your traffic would be a good idea at this point to ensure the bandwidth is being used as efficiently as possible.
With two 10GbE bonded connections from your NAS you should still have no issues with this amount of ports and users.
The XS728T retails for $2,100/£1,500.
As I mentioned above, once you start to go down the path of 10Gbit Ethernet networking for video editing, you have to upgrade and invest in your cabling. The standard CAT 5.E Ethernet cables you are most likely using right now aren’t capable of carrying 10Gbps speeds.
I suggest moving up to CAT 6.a for the best speeds possible when working at 10G.
There are many different brands, lengths and prices available for ethernet cabling these days, so measure up what you need for all of your connections and go from there.
So, a piece of the puzzle that is incredibly important but that I overlooked, is whether or not your PC has the ability to accept 10GbE connections or not. If you are on newer PCs like the iMac Pro then this won’t be a concern but if you are using older PCs and/or you know you don’t have a 10G network card then you will definitely need to invest in one of the below options.
For Windows PC users (Macs don’t allow for upgrades such as this) then you should have the option of installing a network card to your motherboard in an available PCIe slot.
This will allow you to connect your PC at 10GbE rather than the standard Gigabit connection.
The QNAP QXG-10G1T is a trusted 10G PCIe card. QNAP are well known, not only for their NAS’ but also for their networking peripherals.
The QNAP card retails for around $110/£80.
Thunderbolt 3 to 10G
For Mac users, predominantly, the best option for getting 10Gbps editing speeds is to get an external Thunderbolt 3 adapter.
My go-to, again, for this is QNAP. I have used other makes in the past but have found that they are unreliable and degrade over time. QNAP adapters just work, as they should.
A QNAP Thunderbolt 3 to 10G RJ-45 adapter will retail for around $220/£190.
USB-C to 5GbE
If your editing PC is older than both 10G network cards and Thunderbolt 3 then your next option is to use USB-C.
Because USB interfaces can’t carry the same speeds as Thunderbolt this external adapter will only allow your PC to connect at up to 5Gbps. That is still 5 times faster than it could connect before but it won’t be as fast as the other adapters mentioned above.
Again, there really is only one clear winner in this category, QNAP.
Their 5GbE adapter is tried and tested.
It retails for $118/£90.
Everything You Need to Get Your Shared Storage for Video Editing up to 10Gbit Ethernet Speeds!
I hope by now you are armed with everything you may need to get your post team up and running at 10G.
For even more use out of your new network setup why not learn how to achieve multi-machine network rendering in After Effects:
If you would like to learn more or have any the need for some help getting it all configured then my consulting services are always available.
Let me know in the comments below how you get on with your new found editing prowess at 10G speeds.
Remember, we work smarter, not harder at DigiProTips.