Tips and Tricks for Using a Portable Hard Drive When Digital Video Editing

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Portable Hard Drive Are Less Than Perfect

A portable hard drive may be one of the most unreliable forms of storage that a person could ever use during digital video editing. Nevertheless, for most people it is the only option. Digital video editing is expensive in terms of equipment and software so most often people have to establish their projects on portable hard drives so they can migrate to the place where the do their editing work. This can be a nightmare as anything and everything can happen to these vulnerable drives, so there has to be precautions taken whenever possible. Here are some tips for navigating the mine field that occurs when you have to edit on a portable hard drive.


Much of the risk of damage happens to your hard drive when you are in transit. The casing can break easily, putting the hard drive at risk. The best way to remedy this is to get a hard drive carrying case of some sort that gives you spots to put your chords and attachments. This is important as you have to keep these items together and organized. Make sure that the carrying case has sufficient padding to absorb any trauma that may occur. You must also make sure to remove the USB or FireWire cords, as well as the power cord, anytime you are about to engage in transit. Internal USB ports can break when the cord remains plugged in and there is jarring movement. If this does happen you can try to remove the hard drive from its casing, put it into an enclosure, and then plug it into a computer. This has a relative rate of success and will often scramble the partition.

Backing Up

Video editing is often work intensive and not file intensive. What this means is after the initial footage capture you will not be creating many more base files that are used in the editing. After each capture process make sure to back up your video files on a desktop computer as this is going to be the most crucial part of supporting your editing project. Once you have finished the capture or transfer process you are going to want to back up the project files each time you work on it. The reason for this is that without that you could lose critical work and the project files themselves are usually very small, especially in the case of Final Cut Pro 7. Make this a consistent thing that you do on a daily basis as you can always count on the fact that a portable hard drive has a short life span and you cannot trust it.

Setting Scratch Disks

As you will be changing locations often and using your portable hard drive at different editing stations you are going to have to make sure to set your scratch disk at the beginning of every editing session. Once you open your project file you will need to set the scratch disk for several of the elements, which should be a standard option in your non-linear editing program. For example, in Final Cut Pro you would start by going to the Final Cut Pro option in the upper left hand task bar. In here you would select System Settings and then go through and set the location where the Video Capture, Audio Capture, Video Render, and Audio Render files go to your portable hard drive. You would also go below and set the Waveform Cache, Thumbnail Cache, and Autosave Vault to the same location. This has to be done every time to ensure that what you are doing is actually getting saved to your hard drive.