[00:00:00] About a year ago, I set out to create the perfect system. The perfect system is of course unknowable but I had a clue of what it would take and so I set out to build it and I think, I think I have done a pretty good job. What I’m talking about, of course, is my editing system and it don’t just mean my computer. In fact, this system is largely platform agnostic. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a Mac or PC, desktop, or laptop. It’s the same system.
[00:00:25] The editing system I’m talking about is my Global Collaborative Workflow. You see, I work with editors all over the world. In the past 12 months, I’ve hired or collaborated with editors on nearly every continent. On an almost daily basis, I work with an editor in Europe and nearly every YouTube video I make today, it’s localized by a team in South America.
[00:00:44] We’re all working from the same Resolve projects and everyone has access to the same proxy media. I have access to my source media at uncompromised speeds and I can grab my laptop and get on a plane or head to a cafe or just head home and work off the same proxy media that everyone else does.
[00:00:58] So, let me back up and tell you what my objectives were in building this perfect system.
1: I wanted editors, including myself, to be able to access my projects and my media from anywhere in the world with minimal additional effort on my part.
2: I didn’t want to sacrifice my local performance. I work with mostly 4K ProRes and 6K RAW footage, often multicam, so bandwidth and storage capacity matters.
3: I wanted a backup system that was automated and fast and didn’t want to come into the studio the day after a shoot and find media is still backing up and that backup needed to be both on site and offsite.
4: I wanted access to all of my files, even the originals from anywhere in the world if I needed it. Too many times, I’ve needed a file that was on a hard drive on my desk 3,000 miles away with no computer plugged into it so no way to access the files. No more… and that’s it. Global access for any editor, super high performance, automated backup, and persistent file access and I got it.
[00:01:58] Is it perfect? Well, no… Throughout this video, I’ll point out specific features that I’d really like to see added or improved but it works and it works really well. Okay, let’s go through it all starting with the editors.
[00:02:16] As of DaVinci Resolve 18 released as a beta at NAB of 2022, Blackmagic also released the Blackmagic Cloud Project Server. A project server has been around for a long time. It’s a system you’d host on a local network so editors in a production facility could access the same project even simultaneously.
[00:02:32] Blackmagic added a cloud option to that so projects can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection and unlike the local project server, there’s no server setup required. All you have to do is create an account at cloud.blackmagic.com then log in with that account in the cloud tab in the Resolve project manager.
[00:02:49] A project library in the cloud cost only $5 per month and you can have as many projects as you like in it. You can add all of your editors or collaborators to that library at no additional cost by simply inviting them here. If they don’t already have a free Blackmagic Cloud account, they’ll be prompted to make one. They don’t have to pay. Only the library owner has to pay the $5 per month per library and again, that is not per editor, just one $5 charge for the library and all of your editors.
[00:03:14] In fact, the only reason you’d need to make more than one library is if you needed to sandbox certain projects, limiting access to them. I usually just have one library. Any project created here is automatically available to anyone you’ve given access to the library to and here we have one of the first improvements I’d like to see. I’d like to be able to set project level restrictions so I could grant or restrict access to specific projects for specific editors but for now, everyone sees everything.
[00:03:39] There’s nothing else you have to do for your remote editor to have access. However, if you want to allow multiple people to open the same project at the same time - say you’re working collaboratively with your editor and are both looking at the same project or you have a colorist and an audio mixer working simultaneously then you just need to enable Multiple User Collaboration.
[00:03:57] There are couple of other features that the Blackmagic Cloud Server desperately needs. It does have a backup system but it’s completely manual. You have to go to the Cloud Server website and back up the library there. You get a time-stamped archive that you can restore at anytime into a new library but again, you have to do is backup manually. This really needs to be automated. I should have hourly, daily, and weekly backups happening without even thinking about it.
[00:04:20] Since any editor has the ability to alter or even delete an entire project, this is a massively missing feature in my opinion. It also needs an offline mode. The only way to work on a project without internet access is to copy the project to a local database while you still do have internet and then copy it back to the cloud when you’re back online which is workable unless someone else accesses the cloud project at the same and you end up with conflicting versions.
[00:04:44] I’d love to see a way to check out a project so you can take it offline and when checking it back in, have it compare and sync the cloud project and that’s all there is to remote project access. It’s super simple. Just create an account, create a library, invite some collaborators and that’s it. Of course, this is giving them access to the library and the projects themselves but not to the media. No media is stored in the Blackmagic Cloud. That’s why it can be so cheap. So, next, let’s move on to media storage and sharing.
[00:05:14] Media is handled by the Blackmagic Cloud Store. The Cloud Store is effectively a 10 gigabit NAS or Network Attached Storage and ten gigabits is a lot of bandwidth. I routinely edit six angle multicams with 4K ProRes without issue. You might be wondering why bother with the Cloud Store. Why not just use any fast NAS? You certainly can but there are significant convenience features unique to the Cloud Store that make it, in my opinion, well worthwhile. We’ll get to those. But first, the hardware.
[00:05:41] There are multiple versions of the Cloud Store available. The least expensive one is the Cloud Pod which is a BYO storage solution. Just plug in an SSD drive and add the Cloud Pod to your network and off you go. The real limitation of this is performance. Even though it’s a 10 gigabit network connection, you only have access to a single SSD on a USB-C 5 gigabit connection but it’s a really great way to start if you just want to dip your toes in the water.
[00:06:04] The middle model, the Cloud Store Mini is the one that I use. It has eight terabytes of NVME storage, a ten gigabit network connection and a USB-C connection for Ethernet over USB if you want to take it on the road and use it as direct attached storage. Or if your one computer is the only one accessing the cloud store, that Ethernet over USB connection is just fine. But you’ll see in a bit why adding this to a 10 gig network really is the best way to go.
[00:06:29] Then they make the big boy with multiple 10 gigabit network connections and configurable up to 320 terabytes. Yikes. To add a ten gigabit NAS to your network, you’ll need to add a 10 gigabit network switch as well. Now, these can be quite expensive. However, the one that I’m using is one of the most affordable - un unmanaged NetGear XS505M 10 gigabit switch that cost about $400.
[00:06:51] I have two Macs with 10 gig network connections, the Cloud Store and my Synology NAS which will come to next on this switch and it works perfectly. So, let’s talk about the advantage of using the Blackmagic Cloud Store over a standard NAS specifically for editing from Resolve.
[00:07:06] The biggest challenge with a collaborative workflow is of course the media. The video files can be massive and the fastest internet connections are no match for tons of video data. So, proxy files are the key. Proxy files of course are smaller versions of the original video files that are lower resolution and bit rates so are much easier to sync over standard connections.
[00:07:26] As an example, one of my projects that has 500 gigabytes of original media only takes seven gigabytes of proxy media. The proxy media can be generated by the Blackmagic Proxy Generator app which comes with Resolve or from within Resolve directly if you prefer but I like using the app for several reasons.
[00:07:42] With the Proxy Generator app, you choose an entire project folder to generate proxy footage within and any video media you add later to that folder automatically gets proxies. If you make proxies in Resolve, you have to explicitly generate the proxies as you go. Also, when you’re done with the project, if you use the Proxy Generator app to make the proxy footage, you can easily delete all the proxy footage once it’s no longer needed.
[00:08:04] So far, you can do all this with any NAS. The Proxy Generator app can be pointed to any folder on any volume but here’s the unique trick of the Cloud Store; it can sync all media or just proxy media to either Dropbox for Google Drive but most importantly, it knows to also sync non-proxyable media. Let me reiterate that. If you tell the Cloud Store to sync just the proxy footage, it knows to sync the small proxy video footage and not the huge original media but it also knows to sync all the media that can’t be proxy. That includes your audio files, graphics, text files, and any other non-video media you might have in your project folder. That’s what makes the Cloud Store so special.
[00:08:41] Without that, you’d have to store all your non-video assets and your proxy media in one folder that’s sync to the cloud and then keep your original media in another folder that’s not synced and manually generate the proxies ensuring they went into the correct sync folder each time. The Cloud Store manages all of that for you. Let me show you how to set it up.
[00:08:58] We’ll start with making the proxies. Within the Blackmagic Proxy Generator app, you have four choices for the proxy format. I use H.265 1080p because it’s 10 bit and I know both my editor and myself are on Apple silicon Macs so they handle H.265 just fine.
[00:09:13] If you make the proxies manually in Resolve, you do have more proxy options and even though this 1080p HEVC format is great for me, I’d like to see the same options from Resolve added here to the proxy app. Then under Watch Folders, you simply add a new folder and click Start. Here you can see the proxy folder generated and the files beginning to populate.
[00:09:32] When you’re done with the project, you can quickly delete all the proxy files with this Delete proxies button and then remove the folder from the watch list. That’s step one, generating the proxies and as you can see, it’s literally just a few clicks to set up.
[00:09:44] Using this definitely does encourage you to have some best practices though. For example, I make sure all my files are named the way I want them named before putting them into a Watch folder because if you rename an original after proxy has been generated, the proxy generator app will just render another proxy with the new name. It’s not the end of the world but again, best practices.
[00:10:03] Step two is setting up Cloud Sync and for that, we use the Cloud Store setup app. To sync these files to either Dropbox or Google Drive, open the Settings, go to the Cloud Sync tab, and click Add Sync. Give the project a name. I always name it the same as the project in Resolve itself. Choose which folder on the cloud store you want synced. Choose where you want that to go in Dropbox. I have a dedicated folder called Resolve Proxies which is already shared with my editors so they automatically have access to any new projects that get added and choose your syncing direction. I always choose both ways.
[00:10:34] This is another important and unique feature to the Cloud Store. With both ways enabled, when my editors add files like music or graphics or localized dialogue to my Resolve project, they know to be sure to first put the media in our shared Dropbox folder before adding it to Tesolve. Then, not only does that media sync to Dropbox but it then actually gets synced back to my cloud store. It’s so awesome.
[00:10:55] The other option here is setting what is synced. There’s just two choices - all media, originals and proxies or just proxies. This is another setting I’d really like to see updated. This toggle is for all of your synced project. This really needs to be selectable project by project.
[00:11:10] Most of the time I only want proxy sync but if I ever do want original synced, maybe I’ve added a remote colorist to the project for example, then they will need the originals. So, that’s another feature I really want to see updated. Now, you might be wondering about cloud storage capacity. You might have seen that I have a whopping 116 terabytes of storage available on my Dropbox and you’re probably thinking, that’s insane. How much is that cost?
[00:11:32] Well, let me let you in on a little secret. This isn’t a secret. I actually talked about this in my cloud backup video like two years ago but if you sign up for Dropbox Advanced and buy three seats, you get unlimited storage. Look, it’s right here. Advanced plan, as much space as needed with three or more users. So, $24 a month times three users times 12 months is $864 a year.
[00:11:56] This unlimited cloud storage is the best price in the game, to my knowledge, and when I get to the backup stage of this video, you’re going to see exactly why I use so much space.
[00:12:08] Okay, we’ve covered shared access to the project library and shared access to the project media. That’s everything you need to complete a project. Then at some point, the project will be completed and at some point, you’re going to run out of space on the Cloud Store.
[00:12:20] You could just move the media to a stack of USB drives I suppose or have some other cold storage system but by using another NAS, you can maintain high-speed access to all of your older media and add a comprehensive backup solution and add persistent file access from anywhere in the world should you need it.
[00:12:36] For this, I use Synology NAS RS1221+ with a ten gigabit card installed. The RS1221+ holds eight SATA drives and can be set up in any number of RAID configurations. I have eight 16-terabyte drives in mine configured as RAID 6. This means that any two drives can fail and I’ll lose no data, so it’s very secure.
[00:12:56] With this configuration, I have about 87 terabytes of high-speed storage. And when I need more storage, I can add an expansion chassis, meaning I can add more drives to make a new data pool that’s all managed by the same Synology hardware. This Synology NAS is the final piece of this puzzle that brings it all together. Let’s start with simple backup.
[00:13:14] The Blackmagic Cloud Store has no backup system in it. It has no automatic backup to USB drives or across the network, nothing. Since this is likely the first destination of your camera originals, you definitely need this to be backed up. So, my Synology NAS runs a nightly backup from one 10 gigabit NAS, the Cloud Store to another, the Synology.
[00:13:33] I have a dedicated “shared folder”, think of it like a virtual volume that the Cloud Store gets a nightly backup too. I can browse this backup folder through the Synology web interface or even mount it like any network volume on my Mac and browse it there. So that’s the local backup of the Cloud Store solved.
[00:13:48] Next, Overflow Media. Remember that the Cloud Store Media that I use is only eight terabytes. So as that fills up, I need to free up space and to do that, I move older media from the Cloud Store to another Synology shared folder called Project Media. This can, once again, mount on my computer’s desktop just like any other volume. So, once I do move the media, I’ll the corresponding project in Resolve and relink to the media in the new location and the great advantage of this is that it’s still a 10 gigabit connection.
[00:14:14] I can access older media with the same performance as when it was on the Cloud Store. No compromises. I used to do this over a one gigabit NAS and that meant accessing older media was super slow. Not only to copy but even browsing the media was painful. This way, it’s all super fast. Alright, I’ve got my Cloud Store backup and my Cloud Store overflow solved but as the saying goes, if a file doesn’t exist in three places it doesn’t exist.
[00:14:37] A proper backup strategy means that you have your original media, a local backup, and an offsite backup. Since the cloud store is backed up to the Synology, that means that I just need to back up the Synology to an offsite location and that will have all of my media. Synology makes this easy with a couple of great solutions. A very powerful one that I’m actually not using is called Synology Drive ShareSync.
[00:14:57] This allows you to set up a duplicate NAS anywhere in the world and have the data automatically synced between the two NAS. I’ve actually done this on a very small scale with just a folder of media to a friend’s Synology NAS in Prague and it’s really cool but for a full backup, you’d have a mirrored system. In fact, if you are working with a single remote editor or even multiple editors around the world and you have the budget and the bandwidth, you could have multiple Synology NAS units syncing all media all the time so everyone would have access to the full resolution media and you’d have remote backups. Very cool but of course, expensive and you’d all have to have serious internet connections.
[00:15:31] Anyway, so the Synology Drive ShareSync is a great solution if it fits your budget. Another solution is Cloud Sync. Cloud Sync is just like it sounds. You can have any or all of your Synology NAS syncing to just about any cloud service. Backlaze B2, Amazon S3, or as I am, to Dropbox.
[00:15:48] Remember earlier when I said that Dropbox is, as far as I can tell, the absolute best bargain because you can get unlimited cloud storage? Well, that’s why I’m using massive amounts of space on Dropbox. I currently have about 45 terabytes of data on Dropbox and any new media that gets added to my Synology, including the nightly backup from the Cloud Store starts trickling up to Dropbox and I say “trickled” because my internet connection isn’t that fast.
[00:16:11] When I first installed the Synology, once it was configured, I actually brought it to a friend’s business who has a gigabyte internet. I plugged into his network and completely automatically (this is another one of those super cool things about the Synology) the Synology got on the internet through DHCP and connected to the Synology Quick Connect server which means I was able to access it immediately just like I do in my studio through the web portal so I can remotely monitor its progress and came to pick it up once it had backed up. Gigabit internet is really nice.
[00:16:38] So, with that running, I have my original media, my local backup, and my cloud backup and I am kind of cheating on one of these, the overflow media, the media that I moved off the cloud store doesn’t exist in three places. It’s primary home is on the Synology and that’s backed up to Dropbox. However, I feel secure with this because the Synology is a RAID 6 so again that means any two drives can fail without losing data plus it’s in the cloud plus this is older media that wouldn’t be the end of world if some was lost so I consider this an acceptable risk tolerance.
[00:17:07] The last thing I listed that I wanted was persistent file access. Access to any file at any time from anywhere and I get that two ways from the Synology. I can log into the Synology from anywhere in the world, browse all the media and download any file that I might need. But there’s a second even cooler way and that’s through Dropbox.
[00:17:25] Remember, every single file on the NAS also lives, eventually, on Dropbox. Which means I can already see and even search for those files in the Finder on my Mac. Because of Dropbox’s selective sync feature, any media that is added to Dropbox is available on my computer but not actually downloaded until I right click on and choose Make Available Offline.
[00:17:45] From MacOS finder, I have access to every single file on my Synology and it’s completely automatic. It’s just there. So there you have it. I work with editors anywhere in the world. Sharing my DaVinci Resolve projects through Blackmagic Cloud Project Server. I share the automatically generated proxy media through Dropbox with those editors and with myself when I want to edit on the road.
[00:18:07] My own local editing system through the ten gigabit network connection has a zero performance compromises. My entire system is backed up to a fast, very secure Synology NAS which is in turn backed up to Dropbox which gives me persistent access to any file from anywhere that I have an internet connection. It is nearly the perfect system.