Shared Storage Options for Windows & Mac Video Editing Collaboration

In summary:

There’s no magic option, each workstation needs a local storage volume with block-level data access (as opposed to simply file-level access) and formatted to a file system that is native (doesn’t require translation) to that workstation’s operating system.  Migration and collaboration imply file copying/synchronization, which implies read-access to the “foreign” file-system.  Mac OS can read NTFS, Winows can only read HFS+ via third-party add-on utilities.  Furthermore, for speed and responsiveness appropriate to video editing, the local storage should ideally be RAID or SSD.  In either case, it is possible to split the local storage (e.g. via partitioning) into more than one file-system.  At least, that worked on the mutiple occasions I have taken that approach, and have not been aware of any issues.

In greater detail:

Consider the challenge of setting up a shared data storage volume (e.g. RAID array or SSD) for video editing, such that either Windows or Mac computers can connect to it, and a video project started on (and saved to) on one of those operating systems (OS) can be continued on the other (and vice versa).

My current solution is to split the drive into separate volumes, one for each OS.  For example I have done this on RAIDs of various kinds and on an internal drive for Mac systems bootable to either Mac OS or (via Boot Camp) to Windows.  In the case of RAIDs I was advised against this by my system supplier, but got the impression they were just being defensive, not knowing of any definite issues, and to my knowledge I did not experience any issues.

It is is not practical to have just one volume (necessarily in that case, one file-system format), because:

  • Mac OS on its own is able to read NTFS but cannot write to it.
    • This is a show-stopper.  Some of the major video editing applications (e.g. NLEs), slightly disturbingly, may use (or for some functionality, even depend on) read/write access to source-files and the folders containing them.
      • I initially, naively, imagined that video editing systems etc. would only ever read source media files, not write to them, or to the folders containing them.  However that proved very naive indeed…
        • In Apple/Mac’s (erstwhile) Final Cut Pro 7 I regularly used their (moving) image stabilization effect, SmoothCam.  Its analysis phased was typically slow and heavy – not something one would wish to repeat.  The result was a “sidecar” file of similar forename to the analyzed source file, but a different extension, placed in the same folder as the source file.
        • I’m not certain, but got the feeling that maybe the source file (or folder) meta data, such as permissions or somekind of interpretation-change to media files in the quicktime ([.mov] mmedia format.
      • Certainly, Adobe (on Windows and Mac) could adulterate both files (by appending XMP data – being an Adobe media metadata dialect in XML) and the folders they occurred in (depending on uder-configuration) in terms of sidecar-files.
      • Sony Vegas also generates sidecar-files, e.g. for audio peaks.
  • File system translation add-ons can add Windows read/write access to HFS+ (ordinarily it could not even read it) and add Mac OS write access to NTFS (ordinarily it could only read it), but not sufficiently transparent/seamless for big real-time data access as required for demanding video editing endeavours.
    • File system translation add-ons (to operating systems) exist, such as MacDrive, to allow Windows to read/write Mac OS, or Tuxera NTFS, Paragon NTFS or Parallels for Mac to enable it to read/write NTFS, but these (reportedly, and in part of my experience) only really work well for standard “Office” type applications, not so well for heavy (big andd real-time) data applications such as video editing, where they can impede the data throughput.  Doh!
    • Some people have experienced obscure issues of application functionality, beyond data-movement speed issues.
    • {Also, I am concerned over the (unknown/imagined/potential) risk that the “alien” operating system and/or its translation utility might alter the file system in some way that upsets its appearance to the “home” operating system.}
  • FAT is universal but is a riskier option:
    • FAT is un-journaled, hence risks loss not only of individual files but of whole volume (integrity).
      • In video editing, corruption could be disastrous to a project, not only in terms of possible data-loss or time wasting and project delays on data recovery, but also in terms of “weird” effects during editing, such as poor responsiveness to commands, whose cause the user may not appreciate. or even an increased risk of unacceptable flaws in the final product.
    • FAT32 is essentially obsolete, because its maximum file size is (1 bit under) 4GB.
    • exFAT, a kind of “FAT64” is practical, and indeed a big successful corporate Mac-based production company once supplied me with many GB of footage on an exFAT-formatted external disk.
      • The largest file I have so far stored there is 40GB.  No problems.
  • NAS (Network-Attached Storage) sounds at first an easy option, but in my experience they impede big real-time data throughput (as stated earlier for “file system tyranslation” add-ons). Double-Doh!
    • Such devices only permit file-level access.  Consequently, the client systems can e.g. create or retrieve folders and files, but cannot e.g. format the device or address it in terms of lower-level data structures.
    • A likely explanation for the “impedement” of a NAS (to data responsiveness and throughput) is that such devices store in a local format (typically they run linux) that is invisible to the client, then translate to an appropriate protocol for each operating system accessing it.  They normally incorporate a bunch of such protocols.  As always, translation => overhead.
    • Other options, such as SAN and iSCSI, instead of providing file-level access to the client systems, instead offer the lower level of data block access.  Thus they appear to the client system as would any local storage device, and can be formatted as appropriate to the client system.
  • One suggestion I saw was to use a Seagate GoFlex drive, which can be used (read/write) with both Mac and Windows.  But the supplier’s FAQ (about that drive) indicates that it depends upon a translator utility for the Mac:
    •  If you would like to be able to “shuttle” data back and forth between a Mac and a PC, a special driver needs to be installed onto the Mac that allows it to access a Windows-formatted drive (i.e. NTFS). Time Machine will not work in this case, nor will Memeo Premium software for Mac. However, if you want your GoFlex solution to also work with TimeMachine, the drive will need to be reformatted to HFS+ journaled.

So I guess there is no “magic storage” option, my main work setup will have to remain based on separate volumes for each OS.

When transferring an editing project from one OS to another, the following actions will be necessary:

  • Copy any absent or updated files across.
    • e.g. via a file-synch utility such as Syncovery.
  • Allow time etc. for possible file re-linking, re-indexing, re-preview generation, re-“SmoothCam” (or equivalent).
    • This aspect is down to the editing application etc., as opposed to the operating or file systems themselves.
  • Ensure any effects used in the edit are present on both systems.
    • If so then these should presumably still work…


  •  Google:[“video editing” tuxera]
      •  Randall L Rike (Avid Certified Instructor), 2012-03-02:
        • {This was back in 2012, possibly some things have improved since then, in Avid and/or the transation utilities?  Just wondering optimistically…}
        • NTFS translation utilities, e.g., Tuxera or Paragon, are not suitable for “editing”.  They can’t support sustained bandwidth.
        • …several users have recently reported media offline/failures to properly rebuild media databases with 10.7 and Paragon and/or Tuxera.
      • Stepa1 (2012-03-03)
        • When I re-build the data bases on my drive using the PC Avids at work, then plug the drive back into my Macbook Pro Avid, everything works fine on my mac book pro.  It’s only when my Mac decides to do its own data base update that the media goes off line.  So the Avid works fine with my configuartioin {Avid mxf media on a G-Mini drive formatted as Tuxera NTFS} but the data base build does not.
      • Randall L Rike (Avid Certified Instructor), 2012-03-02:
        • Your PC’s at work can rebuild the media databases because the NTFS volume is native to them.  The NTFS volume, being translated by Tuxera (or Paragon) cannot rebuild the databases, possibly due to a conflict with OSX 10.7 and these types of utilities.  As there are multiple reports of this same symptom, it would seem that Paragon and Tuxera need to resolve the issues.
        • (On the Mac) … Never add, remove, or change the contents of the media folder(s) on the NTFS volume.  …copy the media to a Mac-Formatted drive, which is the recommended process.
  • Misc:
      • Fat 32 has a 4gb file size limit which will be the main drawback for you. If you’re using exclusively windows I’d use NTFS
      • You can convert your current drive leaving your files intact by opening a command prompt and running:   [convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs]  e.g. if your drive had drive letter e: you would run: [convert e: /fs:ntfs]
      • NTFS is massively more robust than FAT32, which has a very nasty habit of deleting its root structures on improperly dismounted removable drives. ntfs tends to lose individual files on corruption, not the whole filesystem!
      • FAT is almost always faster than ntfs but at the cost of safety and it lacks some features (that you probably won’t miss).
      • NTFS is a journaling file system – if you lose power or have some crazy occurence, there’s what is essentially a transaction log that will replay during mount (at boot), which should ensure a consistent file system. Note you could still lose data, but it shouldn’t destroy the entire FS under normal circumstances. It’s a proprietary Microsoft format, and anything that works with it is probably reverse engineered and has potential to stop working when MS decide to change the format.
      • NTFS is superior in most ways to FAT – if you’re windows only, use it. There are plenty of other file systems but it makes little sense to go to the hassle of finding IFS drivers when NTFS or FAT fit most needs.
      • How to convert a FAT16 volume or a FAT32 volume to an NTFS file system in Windows XP
      • I’ve … read that the Seagate GoFlex drives are Mac and PC compatible out of the box, although I have not tried them
      • having been cross-platform full time now for nearly a year, I’d suggest you get two pieces of third-party software to cover access on both platforms.  Personally, I use Tuxera for NTFS write on the Mac, and I use MacDrive for HFS+ read/write on Windows.   With this setup, any machine in my office can read and write to any disk, irrespective of platform. I don’t need to worry about what format incoming client material is, either. I can just plug an external drives and get to work.
      • I generally buy my storage from companies that cater to audio/video markets, like CalDigit, Dulce, G-Tech, Glyph, MaxxDigital, and others (many of whom are advertisers here). You’ll pay more, but you’ll get better support, components and build quality, and enterprise-class drives. Still doesn’t guarantee the drives won’t fail, though…
      • how Is The Speed Of Tuxera? I Tried Macdrive, But It Was Really To Slow To Edit With.
    • Tuxera:
    • (of 2011-04-04)
      • I googled Tuxera NTFS for Mac and got a lot of contradictory reports.  For example, in one thread, David Roth Weiss recommend Tuxera as a solution and then on another he says he doesn’t trust it because of some client incompatibilities.
      • I’ve been using NTFS-3G without any problems. I see that it’s been updated several times in the last year, and that the fixes in the newer releases were for things that would have caused problems in older versions of it.
      • “Solutions for writing to NTFS drives in OS X”, By Jesus Vigo in Apple in the Enterprise, July 10, 2013
      • {A review of various solutions: exFAT, NAS, “NTFS-3G+OSX FUSE”, Tuxera, Paragon}.
      • GoFlex Frequently Asked Questions
  • Google:[network attached storage nas file system format western digital]
  • Google:[fat32 maximum file size windows 7]

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