My Top 10 Tips For Using Anki

In my last post, I talked about how much I like using Anki for learning languages and how I’m currently using it to learn European Portuguese. Today I’m gonna go through my top tips to get the most out of this wonderful app.

This guide assumes you have a pretty basic grasp of using Anki already. Truth be told, there is a large-ish learning curve involved with using it – it’s not as easy as other tools like Memrise or Quora. But that’s the price you pay for having an app with no subscription and better functionality. I feel that Anki is best used as a way to learn base vocabulary – up to around 1000 words. Beyond this it can still be useful but the motivation to continue reviewing cards everyday drops (at least for me) after this point to where I can’t feel bothered.

 

Here are my 10 Tips:

  1. Download shared decks. Chances are, if you’re studying a major language like Spanish, German or Mandarin then there will be decks that other people have made already. I downloaded a deck with 1000 cards from English → Portuguese, all the way from the basics to full sentences. This is what I usually do when starting a language learning journey. But be careful – these are made by other users so they can have errors. Get them checked by a language teacher or native speaker if you can.
  2. Have 3 types of cards for every new word you want to learn:
    1. English→Target language,
    2. Target language→English
    3. Spelling.

    The first two ensure that you learn the word thoroughly so that you can both understand and speak it in conversation. The third type deepens your knowledge of the word and saves you from being illiterate.

  3. Use pictures instead of the English word (and bury the English under a Hint). This tip comes from the Fluent Forever method, which I loosely follow in my own language learning efforts. What you want to do is train your brain to think in your target language. When you speak a language fluently, you don’t think to yourself “how do I say x in Portuguese?”, you just go ahead and say the word. So if you have a flashcard for the word “minuto”, on the reverse side you should NOT put the word “minute” but instead a picture of a stopwatch with minute readings. Bonus points if it looks like a typical Portuguese stopwatch. Here’s an example of this card:

    Example of flash for “minute” showing only an image, no English text.

  4. Make sure flashcards have audio recording in your target language. When the card comes up, you want to be able to hear it being spoken so you repeat after it. Try to be in a quiet place when you study so you can practice saying it out loud at a normal volume (not a whisper). This helps you improve your pronunciation and gets you closer to a native accent.
  5. Use it to pick up words when you’re out and about – out with the pocket notebook! When I lived in Cambodia, I used to carry around a little physical notebook with me, as is common among foreigners learning a new language. When somebody told me a new word I didn’t know, I would write it in the the notebook. But I would have to pull out the notebook, fish around for a pen, find the page I was up to and begin scribbling down the word and translations as fast as I could so that I could return to the conversation. It was also a pain to have to carry around in the first place. So as you can imagine, this only lasted a week or two before I decided to use to notes app on my phone to do the same thing. The problem with both of these methods is that I never went back and studied the words properly – I just gave them a glance over every now and then. With Anki, I’ve been able to take this a step further and directly make a flashcard when I learned a new word. I can kindly ask my friend/teacher/stranger to say the word for me so that I have the correct pronunciation recorded too. And as long as I keep up my study habit of doing flashcards every day, I can be confident that these words will get committed into my long-term memory instead of just staying in my notebook.

    I used to use a notebook similar to write words in when out and about. No longer.

  6. Zoom in and out on desktop. I often find that on the desktop version, the text and images don’t scale very well, so it gets a bit difficult to read the cards. Maybe I’m just getting old. Either way, this is a handy tool that can let you zoom in and out for easier reading: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1846592880
  7. Use CSV import. I do online 1-on-1 lessons. Over the course of a lesson, I’ll pick up a bunch of new words that I’ll write into a list as I go. I’ve found a much easier way of getting them in to my flashcard deck: the CSV import. This way, I can enter all the words I learn into an Excel spreadsheet and then import the whole thing as a bunch of new cards after the end of the lesson. Bonus tip: you can also send this list to your teacher and ask them to spend a couple of minutes making a voice recording (using their phone will do) of all the words, so that you can add them to your new flashcards too.

    Words I learned recently in an Excel sheet to be exported

  8. Set a goal for how long you want to spend studying on a daily basis. Consistency is the key here. Pick a goal that you know you can achieve almost every day, even if it’s just 1 minute. This will determine how many new words per day you can learn, which is the next step.
  9. 10 new words = 30mins per day (give or take). At the start, 10 new words will only take a few minutes, but every day you’ll be adding more reviews from previous days, so it will start taking longer. Eventually, the time it takes usually stabilises for me at 30-45minutes if I’m learning 10 new words per day. Remember that each new word makes 3 flashcards, from tip 2. Set your goal and schedule your time accordingly.
  10. If you miss a day or a week, don’t be intimidated by the reviews, even if it’s telling you that you have thousands left. Focus on getting back to doing it consistently, even if that means starting again in a tiny way. Tell yourself that you only have to review ONE card. Chances are, you’ll get on and do more than one. Then get on the next day and chip away at it again. Before you know it, you’ll be back into the swing of it. But only if you allow yourself the space to not have to review hundreds (or thousands) or cards again. This is great for when you want to go on holiday or just need to take a break for a bit.

 

Conclusion:

Very often, language learning can be a very ambiguous undertaking. It’s difficult to know how far you’ve come and how far you’ve got left to go. You can be feeling on top of the world after your lesson one day and totally disparaged the next as you try to have a conversation with the lady who works at the local cafe. If you’re making measurable progress toward a goal everyday then it’s a lot easier to keep that motivation rolling. That’s what I love about learning with Anki: it turns your language learning journey into a SMART goal.

So here’s a pretty concrete example: let’s say I’m beginning to learn a new language, and I know that the most common 1000 words in a language will give me a great foundation and let me know 85% of the words spoken in day-to-day conversations. Using the tips above, I know that I can learn and memorise 10 new words per day if I commit to study 30-45mins every single day. Which means I can get through this first 1000 words in 100 days, or just over three months. Three months! I don’t know about you, but that sure beats French class in school which left me barely able to introduce myself after years of study.

Of course, learning a language isn’t just about learning new words. But learning new words is the most memory-intensive part of the journey that needs to be slogged through. I would totally recommend trying to get out and speak to other people as early as you can, even if you’re just pointing at something on a menu and asking for “uno”. Speaking to real people if the only method that I’d recommend learning grammar as well, after all that’s how we learned out mother tongue. But that’s a story for another post.

My Favourite Tool For Language Learning

The Challenge of Learning a New Language

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second or eighth: learning a new language is hard. There’s just so much stuff to learn: syntax, grammar, pronunciation, politeness, culture and vocabulary.

But it’s also an extremely fun and rewarding challenge that can unlock the full potential of what a country has to offer.

I’m currently two months in to learning Portuguese (the European variety, not the more popular Brazilian one).

By far, the hardest part of learning a new language is the sheer amount of new words you have to learn. Studies show that up to 75% of day-to-day English (and other languages presumably) can be spoken if you know the most common 1000 words. Beyond that, languages tend to have tens of thousands of words. But even still, a meagre goal of learning and memorising 1000 new words is a lot!

 

Enter The Flashcard

How do you actually memorise 1000 words? If you have a photographic memory, you could just spend an afternoon reading them in a dictionary and be on your way. Sadly, I’m not one of those people. For the rest of us, there’s the popular tool called flashcards.

You may have used something like this in school. For learning a language you’ve got the English word on one side and target language word (Portuguese for me) on the other side.

For example, one side would have “water” and when you flip it, it says “água”. Normally you’d have a deck of these cards and go through them one by one to test yourself on the translation, then flip the card over and see if you were correct.

 

Anki

Anki is an app that takes flashcards a step further by taking them digital.

Not only that, but according to neuroscience there’s actually an optimal way of showing yourself the flashcards to let you learn as much as possible in a given time. Instead of reviewing the whole deck everyday (who’s got time to look at thousands of cards every day??), you review the ones that you’re just about to forget.

This method is called spaced repetition. Used and loved by many language learners, medical students and other students of all kinds around the world. Including me.

 

https://www.brainzucker.com/imgs/articles/what-is-spaced-repetition-and-what-are-its-benefits.jpg

Ever tried to learn a word and then forgotten it 0.2 seconds later? No worries. Anki automatically shows you words that you’ve forgotten more frequently. The more times you review a card, the further it gets pushed into your long term memory until eventually you can remember the word for good.

Our time is limited. Contrary to popular belief, learning a language as an adult is not only a possible endeavour, it’s actually easier than when you’re a kid. You have more discipline and context to learn from. The challenge is that as an adult you usually have a full-time job, family, social life, fitness regime, Netflix etc that are all competing for your time. We don’t get to go to school and study a new language for 8 hours a day like kids do.

That’s why I use Anki. With my limited time, it lets me memorise as many new words as possible for the time that I give myself to study. Meaning that I can learn more words in a limited block of time per day.

 

Reasons I love Anki

There are other flashcard apps out there, but I found Anki pretty early on in my journey and have stuck to it for these reasons:

    • Syncs my flashcards and progress to all my devices: I can study on laptop at home and easily pick it back up if I have a few spare minutes when I’m out and about.
    • Super flexible flashcards: I can add many types of media including pictures, audio, hints etc.
    • Simple, lightweight app that runs fast
    • Works offline: these days there are many great alternatives, but usually they need an internet connection. Which means not only do they take time to load a deck, I can’t use it while on a flight or in a tunnel.
    • One time fee, no subscription. It’s actually totally free if you only use the desktop version, but I’ve paid for the iOS app. At the time of writing it’s $24.99, it seems bit pricey for an iOS app, but it only costs as much as a few months of competing flashcard app subscriptions like Memrise. For me it has paid for itself many times over.

 

Conclusion:

Like I said at the beginning on this post, learning a language isn’t just about learning new words. While Anki is great for learning vocabulary, it can also be used to learn grammar, pronunciation and other aspects of a language.

But while this is all great, I do have to drop a note of caution: you can’t learn a language using only Anki. This is only one tool in the arsenal of learning a language. While it’s a great tool that makes up the bulk of my practice time, you can’t expect to rely on only one tool to learn a language.

After all, learning a language is all about speaking to people. Real people.

That’s why I also do face-to-face lessons online (through iTalki) with a native Portuguese teacher (a lovely lady named Joana). With my teacher I get valuable conversation practice and some more regular structured lessons. For the days where I don’t have a lesson, I’m using Anki to commit to memory all of the new words we learned in our lesson.

I’ve used Anki pretty extensively at this point: to learn a decent amount of Mandarin and Khmer (the Cambodian language) before this Portuguese journey. It’s stuck with me more than any other tool and that’s why I always recommend it. In a future post I’ll be going over some of my favourite tips for using Anki for language learning.

How to be Happy – Stoic Wisdom for Modern Life

We all want to be happier. We often think that getting the latest iPhone, that new Tesla, getting the girl (or guy) or trying the newest strawberry cookie-dough flavoured cruffin will do the job. But what ends up happening after a few months when you your new phone suddenly isn’t so shiny any more, your Tesla gets stuck in traffic just as much as your old car, you find out your new boyfriend has a slightly irritating thing they do with their toe and you’re wondering how long you’ll have to spend in the gym working off that cruffin?

Why can it seem so hard to find lasting happiness? How many of us actually spend time thinking about what truly makes us happy? If having more money and possessions is supposed to make us happier, why are there so many rich people out there who are unsatisfied with life? Have you ever set out to reach a goal, then achieved it, only to feel somewhat unsatisfied still?

Turns out, these problems are as old as time. A bunch of people who lived about 2500 years ago mulled over these same issues and came to a number of wise conclusions. Conclusions that were so profound that they eventually became a branch of philosophy known as Stoicism. These principles under Stoicism have actually been adopted into Christianity and even modern talk therapy techniques to treat depression.

Much of the thinking in this field can be attributed to a handful of people: Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, Epictetus, Zeno and Marcus Aurellius. If you’ve seen an inspiring Stoic quote somewhere on the Internet, chances are it came from one of these names.

In this post I won’t go too deep into the history of Stoic philosophy. It’s a deep body of study that I’m still very fresh with. Instead my goal is to distill what I’ve learned into what I think are the most relevant and fundamental insights principles that can be practiced everyday.

 

Basic principles you can apply

But why should we care about something that people came up with 2500 years ago?

Well as I hope you’re about to found out, many of the lessons from this philosophy seem as relevant today as they did back then. They speak to deep parts of our nature. We all want to be happier, yet many of our pursuits of it often don’t work out and this is as true today as it was back then. The fact that these ideas have persisted for so long means that they are valid across just about every society of people.

Stoicism can be explained through 2 main pillars:

1. Dichotomy of Control

This is the most central teaching and states that in life there are two types of situations:

  1. Those within our control and
  2. Those outside of it.

That’s it. Things within our control are thoughts and actions. Everything else lies outside of it. This means two things:

  • We should take full responsibility for things within our control: our thoughts, actions, values & beliefs.
  • We should accept the things outside of our control. This includes things like the weather, other people’s actions, the laws of physics, who your parents are etc.

Let’s say I wanted to get a million people to subscribe to this blog in one year. The Stoic way to go about this would be to take full responsibility for my actions and focus on everything that I know is within my control to hit this goal. This would be to write often and research valuable topics, refine my writing and maybe even pay for ads to promote it.

Let’s say I did this for a whole year and put in all of the effort I possibly could into the effort, yet only 950k people subscribed. The Stoic response to this would be to accept this number, since ultimately the fact that anyone subscribes is their own choice and I have no control over that. Worrying about the fact that the 1 million goal wasn’t hit would only be unproductive and ruin my own tranquility. Here lies another central thought:

“External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.” – Marcus Aurelius

Situations are not inherently “good” or “bad”. These are just labels that we assign to things. Hitting 1 million subscribers could be viewed bad outcome if your goal was 2 million, or it could be a massive success if you were only expecting 1000. It’s better to view situations through the lens which will give you the most happiness and tranquility. Maybe the Stoics were the original people to be “glass half full”.

 

2. Virtues:

For the Stoics, the key differentiator between us and all other species on earth is the ability to reason. Reason is our ability to think critically, apply logic and apply conscious thought. In other words it means to ‘step back’ from a situation and view it rationally. In the eyes of the Stoics, in order to live a good and happy life, our reason should be aimed towards living with the highest virtue in every situation.

In Stoicism, the four virtues are:

  • Wisdom: Harnessing the Dichotomy of Control by identifying what is and what isn’t within our control so that we can respond appropriately.
  • Courage: To do what we believe is right in the face of fear and anxiety, to resist the comfort of the status quo and insist your mind and speak the truth. To me, this means standing up for what you believe is right, whether that be animal rights, women’s rights, human rights etc. It means not letting your own fear of judgment hold you back from going after that promotion or career change you’ve been wanting.
  • Justice: The ability to do what is right for our community. This means helping others and acting in the interest of the collective whole, rather than just yourself. This can be big or small actions, like not cutting in line or acting sustainably and ethically.
  • Temperance: The ability to moderate our behaviour – to practice self-control and not live in excess nor deficiency. Yes, that means not reaching for that 5th donut in your fridge.

The Stoics knew that you can’t always act with perfect reason and rationality. But with that in mind, you should aim to act towards these virtues whenever possible, even in bad situations. The more you are able to do that, the more you will move towards achieving lasting happiness.

 

Conclusion and Further Reading

I’ve found that the beauty of Stoicism is that happiness is achievable through an inward shift in your mindset, rather than by achieving anything external such as wealth, career success or hordes of followers. In other words, you already have all you need to be happy.

There’s so much more to the philosophy that I haven’t been able to cover here. Like how to approach death, fame, wealth, anger and just about every other situation in life. If you’re interested in learning more about the Stoic way to live a happy life, I suggest you check out:

 

Ali Abdaal’s Skillshare course

The Daily Stoic

Meditations by Marcus Aurellius (book)

Happy by Derren Brown (book)

File Management For Videographers

When I first started editing videos, I would add files to my video editing software by dragging in files from all around my computer before working on them.

This actually worked. For a little while.

Then, my projects started getting bigger as I began getting more clients as a videographer. I started using multiple cameras, a drone and microphones, and things started getting out of hand.

It soon became really easy to lose things and get that dreaded red box all the time. I started to waste so much time hunting around in my projects, on my computer and on random hard drives trying to find a piece of footage that I had left somewhere. The bigger the projects got, the more likely it was that I’d lose some critical file. My computer was like the messy workshop of an apprentice carpenter: stuff strewn everywhere without much thought.

And so, I started finding a place to put my files. Over the years, this has developed into what is now my file management template. Now, I never lose files, it’s super easy find any bits of footage, to share my project with other people and a no-brainer to archive it when I’m done with it. Out of everything I’ve learned about video editing, this has made me a faster editor than any other tip, keyboard shortcut or plugin.

What’s more, I barely even have to think about it. It takes me almost to no time set up and keep going.

And today, I’m gonna show it to you.

So first up, I use Final Cut Pro X as my video editor of choice. But I have also used this setup for projects in Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve too, so I can confirm that it works there.

 

A Peek Into The Template

Every project I begin has this folder layout. Whenever I add something to the project, whether its some video footage, a client logo, sound recording etc, it goes into one of these folders:

It doesn’t matter if I’m copying it off of a memory card, my desktop or an email – the file gets copied into here before it goes into my video editor. Like a good experienced carpenter, I organise any new screw or tool that comes into my workshop into it’s proper box before I use it.

I attached a number at the start of the folder name so that I can sort everything by name so that they’re always where I expect them to be.

Here’s what the inside of those folders looks like:

This structure lets me capture just about anything that needs to be added to a video project. Let’s go one by one into what each folder should contain:

  1. Video FootageThis one is pretty self-explanatory. The meat and potatoes of your video project: the actual footage from one or more of your cameras. I always organise footage by date and by camera within this folder. Here’s an example from one of my recent projects:

    Once again, I’m able to order the folder list by name because I use the date format of yyyy-mm-dd, so that the newest footage is on the bottom. The folder date is simply the date I made the folder: It’s not the date of the first or last footage or anything. This way I don’t think too much about it.

  2. AudioMusic is usually the backing track of video that I’ve downloaded from a royalty-free music site. Sound effects are essential to almost any video. Voiceovers are usually recorded with a separate audio recorder to add to the video.
  3. GraphicsHere I store any client logos, overlays (such as smoke or light leak effects), motion graphics that I make using After Effects and any plain old pictures that need to be added.
  4. Other AssetsOften I conduct interviews in another language, so I have subtitle files sent to me by a translator. For all other files that don’t fit into any other folder such as Word or Excel documents, there’s Other.
  5. ExportsAny time I export a video it goes here. I can see all the revisions from the rough cut to the final cut here in this folder
  6. Project FilesAll project files created by the video editor (in my case Final Cut) go here. This is the file that stores all the information about your project including all of the edits you’ve made.

 

Final Cut Pro-cess

You may have noticed the Project Template.fcpbundle file in the screenshot above. It’s a Final Cut project that I’ve set up with the same folder structure as the one I just showed you. This is what it looks like when I open it up:

You can see that the structure here is the same as the folders. Again this means I know exactly where each file should go.

The main difference here is the 05. Timelines folder. Whenever I make any timeline (or sequence or project if you prefer), it gets put in that spot. That way I can find any of my A-roll or B-roll cuts. When I make a new revision, before I start editing it I right-click on the timeline (project) and select “Duplicate Project As..” and add a V2, V3 etc at the end of the name.

An extra little tip – leave files in place

The first thing I tell people to do when they open Final Cut Pro for the first time is to change this setting. It’s the single biggest source of pain and headache in the app. It’s one of the reasons the project files end up becoming massive. Go File→Preferences.. Navigate here a make sure to select “Leave files in place”.

 

How I set up a brand new project

  1. Copy the entire Project Template folder
  2. Rename with yyyy-mm-dd on the day you make it. Like with the video footage folders, I set the date to whatever it is the day I make the folder. This day might be 2 weeks after filming or 2 months beforehand – it doesn’t matter. The idea is that this should be as easy as possible. The videos will still be in the rough order that they were created and that’s all that matters.
  3. Change the name of the project folder and final cut template to your project name
  4. Add video footage to folder, organised by date
  5. Add any other files (music, logos, voiceovers etc) to their respective folder
  6. Drag footage into Final Cut. The cool thing here is if you have your video footage sorted into folders already, Final Cut will keep these folder names as Keyword Collections to ensure that they’re organised the same way once they get into the Media Browser.
  7. Make a new timeline (project) under Timelines
  8. When you share your project with someone, simply copy the whole folder

Here’s an example of what it would look like for a project I just made:

Conclusion

Since using this folder structure, I no longer lose any footage. I can share projects with other people if it’s a big project that needs multiple editors. And I can look for bits of footage in projects from more than a year ago without any issues. The best part is, it makes it even faster for me to set up and start a new project, so I can get going and make videos more quickly.

 

Templates link

You can find a link to my template below, which has my folder structure:

https://www.mediafire.com/file/sxtn1sox4suwivj/0000_Tim_Ha_Template.zip/file

Our new life and learning journey

It’s been over a week since we landed in Portugal and it’s been a whirlwind living in the beautiful city of Porto. I last came here for a short trip in 2014 and its mostly as I remember: terraced orange roofs, hilly cobblestone streets and buildings stacked up next to each other covered in beautiful colourful tiling in all sorts of patterns. The vibe is super relaxed; people move about like there’s nothing urgent to do and small cafes line the streets, where people sit outside enjoying espresso or wine at all times of the day. The sun sets after 9pm and the days feel like they last forever.

We’re planning to live here for the next few years, so it only makes sense that I will begin my next learning journey: the language of Portuguese. I’m going into this knowing almost nothing (yeah, I should’ve done a bit of studying before landing here, but whatcha gonna do).

My planned approach is similar to what I used to learn Khmer when I lived in Cambodia, but I hope this time I can stick to the Fluent Forever method a bit more closely, as I expect there will be a lot more learning resources for Portuguese. I really enjoyed studying Mandarin and then Khmer (separately) in the last five years, so I’m really excited to take on Portuguese next, which should be a lot ‘easier’ being a Latin-based language.

Here’s how I plan to tackle this learning challenge:

  1. Pronunciation training. This will follow the Fluent Forever method precisely, which recommends spending the first week or two getting used to the sounds of the language and training your ear to recognise them before diving deeper.
  2. Vocabulary through flashcards. I plan to learn the most ~1000 most commonly spoken words through a Space Repetition System (i.e. Anki flashcards). I’ve already downloaded an Anki deck online so fingers crossed its an accurate one. This phase can be achieved in around 3 months of learning 10 new words a day. I love flashcards because its a measurable way to learn vocab and backed by neuroscience.
  3. Online lessons on iTalki. After scoping out the prices of in-person lessons here, it seems like the most cost effective way to get lessons is still online (€10-20 per hour). I plan to use this to give myself a solid grounding in how to structure sentences, have conversation practice and to keep me accountable to my progress.
  4. Immersion through podcasts/radio/TV and meeting people. Will begin this after I acquire some basic sentences and words. I won’t be able to understand much of what’s going on at first, but over time this will improve and will help me get a more Portuguese accent along the way.

 

Chances are, I’ll adapt this methodology over the coming months as I found new resources & ways of learning, but for now this is the plan.

My goal for now is to study between 30-60mins a day, with the aim to just study consistently every day, rather than lumping it all into a weekly session. Consistency is the name of the game here – language learning is a marathon, not a sprint after all. I will also be working full-time along with maintaining a daily exercise routine, spending time with Mel, making new friends etc. So the first real step to this challenge is to carve out time in my schedule and build a new habit of studying. Let’s go.

How I’ve recently levelled up as a videographer

As a video creator, I film a lot of stuff. I’m always filming in high-quality 4K settings, so each project can easily be hundreds of gigabytes in size. Sure, I could delete it all after finishing the project, but sometimes a client might want another follow-on project down the line, or I might want to use that footage as B-roll in another video. Yeah, look: even though I consider myself a minimalist most of the time, I can be a hoarder when it comes to my video footage.

All of this begs the question: where to store all of this data?

In my opinon, there are two types of video creators:

Type 1: who store all of their archived footage on an endless number of small external hard drives

Type 2: who store it on a dedicated machine with large hard drives inside.

There’s actually a third type: those who just delete all their footage. But let’s not count them.

Example of Type 1: Messy hard drives with cables everywhere? No thanks.

Usually, every video creator starts off as Type 1 and eventually makes their way to Type 2 as their collection grows over time.

A lot of people never make the transition from one to the other, and that’s okay. Youtuber Matt D’avella has been a filmmaker for over 10 years, he has a massive channel with over 3 million subscribers, and he still uses the hard drive method.

Up until this year, I was firmly in the external hard drive camp. It’s just a lot easier and cheaper to start out by buying those little hard drives when you need them, one at a time. Every freelancer starts out like this, buying more and more of these little external drives as they fill up until a better solution is needed. After which they graduate onto a full-blown, Type 2 setup.

Growing Pains (with Type 1)

But what’s wrong with continuing to add more external hard drives to the mix? As you start adding more and more of these hard drives, you get a number of growing pains:

  • Hard the keep track of files: as the number of hard drives grows, all of your files and projects get split among many different drives
  • Gets messy: each one of these drives needs to be plugged in separately, so if you need to plug in a few at the same time it can get very messy.
  • No redundancy: if one of these drives fails, you’ll lose all of the data you had on it. Not a good time.

Given these reasons, I decided that it would be less painful to make the switch earlier rather than later.

Enter the NAS (Type 2)

Recently I bought the Synology DS418+. This machine addresses all of the problems above. It’s a dedicated machine that houses 4 hard drives, all connected together to show up as a single storage space on your computer.

DS418 | Synology Inc.

Example of Type 2: The Synology DS418+. Image courtesy Synology.

Here’s why I chose this one:

  • Always on: doesn’t need my laptop to be on or connected for it to work
  • Cloud backup: Because it’s always on, it can constantly backup my files to the cloud. So if there’s a fire or flood in my house and I lose all of my devices (touch wood), there will still be another copy available somewhere.
  • Collaboration options: Multiple Ethernet ports on the back allow multiple people to access files at the same time
  • Redundancy: in the form of Synology Hybrid Raid. It means that one of my four drives is used for redundancy, giving me 3 drive’s worth of space (12TB) rather than 4 (16TB). But if any one drive fails, I can simply replace that drive and not lose any data. Other brands offer regular RAID options, but the one offered by Synology is the most flexible.
  • Reputable brand name: Synology and QNAP seem to be the biggest players in this space, and I figured it would be important to buy something with a good reputation behind it for something that I’m entrusting all of my data to. There are a lot of smaller ones to choose from if you have a look on Amazon, but I want to have reasonably good faith that it’ll work for a long time and be reasonably easy to troubleshoot any problems.
  • Easy setup and config: The hard drives were super easy to install and didn’t need any tools. The setup wizard was also very straightforward and pretty painless.
  • USB port on the front: This one’s really handy. I record a lot of my footage straight to an SSD from my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. For footage that I shot on my mirrorless camera, I usually back it up to an SSD at the end of every shooting day too. So when I come home, I can plug it directly into the front of the unit and quickly copy all the footage over and have it safely backed up.
  • Price: For all of these features, it also had about the lowest price compared to similar offerings compared to other brands.

 

Downsides

These reasons may be why some video creators don’t switch over, even after working long years in the industry:

  • Size and weight: Yeah, it’s a lot bigger and bulkier than those tiny external drives. There’s an extra computer housing them too. So if you move houses (or countries) a lot, this gets cumbersome pretty quickly.
  • Noise: The hard drives inside are bigger and aren’t as enclosed, there is a noticeable whirring sound when you have the unit next to you. Luckily it’s not a problem for me, but this may be annoying and downright intolerable for some people
  • Power usage: it needs to be plugged in to the wall all the time, so if your power bill or carbon emissions are a big concern for you, watch out for this.
  • Less expandable: Once you reach the capacity limit for your drives (12TB for me), you can’t just buy one additional drive. Since all 4 drives look like a single drive, you have to buy another 4 drives and replace the whole set.
  • Cost: There’s more upfront cost needed to buy the NAS itself, on top of the cost of buying hard drives.

 

Future upgrade options

From here, if I want to upgrade my storage in the future, all I have to do is swap out these hard drives for another set. Then find somewhere to store the 4 old drives. Each hard drive in my setup is 4TB right now, for a total on 12TB storage. But the great thing is, I can go up to quadruple that, with 16TB drives giving me a total of 48TB of storage.

Take a moment and think about your current storage setup. What does it look like? If you have a mess of smaller drives like I did and if you have the funds, it might be worth considering an upgrade.