OK, You’ve Got the Footage. Now What? OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Edition, That’s What.

by Hugh Brownstone1 Comment

We love evaluating and reporting on gear, but lately we’ve been more focused on investing in skills, from MZED to Stillmotion to… just going out and shooting with an iPhone. Still, more than half of a film’s ultimate form is the edit, and the single most compelling investment we’ve personally made recently in that regard is an 8 terabyte OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5. Whoa.

This is going to be a pretty straightforward post, because there’s really not that much to say – you either get it, or you don’t.

The “it” is the value of very high performance, resilient mass storage as the backbone of your video editing system.

You can argue which NLE is the best these days — Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut X, Avid, Sony Vegas Pro or even DaVinci Resolve — but it’s really not much of an argument worth having. In the right hands, any of them can do amazing things.

Just ask SNL Film Unit editor Adam Epstein, who made the point repeatedly during his excellent MZED Cutting Edge Tour.

And from a capture perspective, well: I’ve personally seen stuff shot on an iPhone 6 that blows away footage I’ve seen from a Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K. It clearly wasn’t about the cameras.

But we’re not going to argue about cameras today, either, or even gear vs. skill.

Of course you need both.

The one point I’d argue is that bigger, faster, more resilient mass storage is ALWAYS better than not during a video edit and for backing up afterward.

MUCH better.

LaCie [B&H | Amazon] and G-Tech [B&H | Amazon] are go-to companies, but they are both out of my price range.

If you want neck-snapping speed and resiliency for your video editing at an extraordinarily economical price (after you’ve upgraded your boot drive to a 1 terabyte SSD as I did inside my mid-2012 MacBook Pro), it’s tough to beat an Other World Computing (OWC) ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Thunderbolt 2 drive, from enclosure with software only all the way up to 32 terabytes [B&H | Amazon].

I bought the OWC 8T ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Edition which comes with SoftRAID and four pre-formatted 2T, 7200RPM Toshiba drives (currently selling for $849) back in February after looking at the G-Tech and LaCie (I’ve owned a bunch of LaCies). It took me awhile to bring the ThunderBay on line, as I didn’t want to risk it crashing to the floor until I had my new desk in place.

When I finally unpacked it, it took me all of 20 minutes to plug in the drives, set up the volumes, and get cracking. I set up a 1TB volume as RAID 0 for ultimate performance, with the rest set up as RAID 5 for speed and redundancy – along with a Time Machine automated backup from one to the other.


Using Blackmagic Design’s Speed Test, I’d been getting about 120Mbps read/write speeds on another OWC device, a USB 3.0 mirrored Guardian Maximus (I can’t help think about Monty Python’s hilarious LIFE OF BRIAN everytime I write that – what an unfortunate name) [B&H | Amazon].

With another OWC product, an OWC 120GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD connected via a Seagate Backup Plus Portable Thunderbolt Adapter I THOUGHT I’d seen smoking performance with 347Mbps read and 228Mbps write (that IS smoking).

Thunderbolt to OWC 120G SSD

But ultimately 120G wasn’t enough for my larger editing jobs.

But when I first plugged in the ThunderBay 4 RAID 5, I got this using the RAID 0 volume. BLEW MY MIND.

RAID 0 test May 19 [bctt tweet=”SMOKIN' fast: We review OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5″]

Even now, months later with a much fuller RAID 0 volume, I still get this:

RAID 0 as of June 16, 2015

And months after install and loaded up to 80% capacity, the RAID 5 volume still gives me comparable speed to my SSD!

RAID 5 as of jun 16 2015 80 full

The difference in throughput between the ThunderBay and everything else I have is phenomenal. I didn’t do A/B tests in Final Cut – because at first I wasn’t planning on a review and I knew they’d be faster — but I can tell you this: what used to be a job that would require a dinner break now take less time than a slowly-sipped coffee.

I can’t touch this combination of speed and safety at the price using SSDs, nor comparable G-Tech and LaCie models.

An 8TB G-RAID with Thunderbolt goes for $799.95, but that’s maxed out at two drives with lower read/write speeds. Their four bay unit, the G-SPEED Studio with Thunderbolt 2, starts at 12TB – a 50% capacity bump over my unit – but it goes for $2,199.95 (a comparably configured OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Edition will set you back less than half that, at $979).

LaCie prices and published performance specs for an 8TB array are similar to G-Tech: the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 8TB drive is a two bay unit with speeds using RAID 0 up to 420Mbps/320Mbps read/write (slightly faster than G-Tech, but no match for the ThunderBay). The LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 is interesting because it’s a 5 bay array, and their 10TB unit is $1,299.

You may prefer G-Tech or LaCie, and your reasons may be sound. But as a very small production company with very large animal logo, we couldn’t be happier with our choice of the OWC Thunderbay 4 RAID 5 at Three Blind Men and An Elephant.

There's one more thing that makes the OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 product special: their people. SoftRAID became a part of the OWC family of companies back around January of this year, and when (if!) you get in touch with them for support, you're reaching the guys who actually built the software.  I found this out when I called them with a question and learned that the guy I was speaking with happened to be Mark James, one of the SoftRAID founders.

Very, very cool — and a very nice guy.

To learn more, visit their site.

OWC ThunderBay 4 0GB RAID 5 Edition 4-Bay Professional Grade Enclosure

OWC ThunderBay 4 0GB RAID 5 Edition 4 image 1

Via B&H:

* The first and only software RAID 5 technology developed for the Mac! Exponentially faster rebuild times than comparable hardware based RAID arrays.
* Up to 675MB/s RW RAID 5 performance, Up to 1,342MB/s RW RAID 0 performance
* Dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, 4 drive bays that support 3.5″ SATA HDD up to 6.0TB or 4 2.5″ SATA HDD or SSDs for up to 24TB capacity
* Set up drive monitoring and email notifications to keep you informed about your ThunderBay's performance and drive health
* Includes an OWC 1M certified Thunderbolt cable

Learn more about the OWC ThunderBay 4 0GB RAID 5 Edition 4-Bay Professional Grade Enclosure

More OWC Thunderbay 4

OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Edition

(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)


  1. Just curious. Is your time machine on an external drive? I have a Thunderbay 4 16TB ordered and am mulling over wether to set the raid 5 among three of the drives and use the 4th for time machine…..

Leave a Comment