How Much Storage Space Do I Need for Video Editing?


Storage space is a very important component of any video editing computer.  Video files take up a considerable amount of space.  Factors such as resolution, frame rate, and level of compression can significantly change the amount of space a video file takes up by up to more than 10x.  So, how does one determine how much storage space is adequate?  The few steps below can help anyone calculate how much storage space is needed for any video editing project.  For the sake of simplicity, all examples of storage space calculations will be based on video files of one hour in length.


Step 1:  Determine Which Resolution and Frame Rate You will be Shooting

For most people, professionals included, 1080p video is still the standard.  While 4K resolution displays are slowly becoming more common, they still comprise only a small portion of the market.  Of the top 20 best-selling monitors on, only one monitor is 4K.  Most of this list is made up of 1080p monitors.  The same observation can be made of the top 20 best-selling TVs.  This indicates that most consumers are not yet buying 4K displays with regularity.  Since most people do not own 4K displays, shooting 4K footage doesn’t make much sense in most circumstances.

4K vs 1080p

This is an important realization as it relates to video file size.  The difference in size between 4K video and 1080p HD footage is considerable.  For example, a one hour BluRay H.264 video shot in 1080p @ 24fps takes up about 24GB of hard drive space.  Compare that to a REDCODE36 RAW 4K file @ 24fps, which takes up 126GB per hour of hard drive space.  This is a 5x difference!  Of course, higher frame rates also mean higher file size.  This calculation is much simpler, however: doubling the frame rate doubles the file size.  Tripling the frame rate triples the file size, and so on.

The lesson here is to consider if shooting in 4K is really necessary.  As a general rule, it’s usually not.  However, realize that shooting in 4K requires about 5x the storage space for video files.


Step 2:  Determine How You Will Store Video Files

Perhaps the most important part in determining how much storage space one needs is in how one stores his video files.  This question of “how” is twofold.  The first question one must ask is whether he wishes to store video files in a compressed or uncompressed format.  Secondly, one must determine how he wishes to back up his video files.

Storing uncompressed video files is a good way to quickly fill up hard drives.  Compared to compressed video files, the difference is substantial.  A one hour TIFF 1080 10-bit RGB uncompressed file @ 30 fps takes up 780 GB of storage space.  This is a massive file.  Unless one is working with video clips of only a few minutes in length, it is not feasible to store hours of uncompressed video on local hard drives.

In regards to backing up video files, one should consider how he wishes to archive files.  Perhaps the best way to store unused files is on a dedicated internal or external hard drive.  If a project is completed or put on hold, its video files can be archived and retrieved at a later time as necessary.  Having a dedicated drive for this purpose allows main drives to be kept free and uncluttered.  Products like the WD My Book USB 3.0 External Hard Drive allow for up to 4TB of space.  This portable device means files can be taken on the go, which could be a key feature for some.


Other Considerations

Cloud Vs Hard Drive

Another good way to back up files is with cloud storage.  This type of storage is becoming cheaper and cheaper.  Additionally, companies are starting to offer unlimited plans that allow users to store as much as they need.  Amazon Drive and Backblaze offer unlimited annual plans for $60 and $50, respectively.  However, this puts the user at the mercy of the company’s encryption and download/upload speeds.  While not always ideal, cloud storage solutions are perhaps the most convenient option for backing up files.



Storing and backing up files is a critical piece of any video editor.  Professionals and enthusiasts both need to consider the resolution they are shooting, how they will compress their video files, and how they wish to store files.  While 4K resolution is slowly becoming more popular, the vast majority of consumers still use 1080p HD monitors.  Also, while it is possible to store and archive files locally with internal and external hard drives, there are some affordable, very convenient cloud storage options that allow unlimited storage.  The best solution depends on individual preferences and budget.  However, everyone should do his research to determine what is best.

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