Lucas Gilman talks Thunderbolt storage, Mac Pro and the G-Technology ev

Photographer and videographer Lucas Gilman has built a reputation on getting fantastic action shots in some of the most trying conditions imaginable, so he’s perfect if you’re looking for someone to stress test your latest kit. Recently, he’s been putting both G-Technology’s Evolution Series and Apple’s new Mac Pro through its paces, so we caught up with him to find out how they fared…

We hear you’ve been taking the new G-Technology ev series out on shoots recently. How does it fit into your workflow?

I shoot a lot of stuff on location around the world, and originally I was using the G-Technology G-RAID minis in the field. However, with the advent of the ev series, it’s made things a lot smoother in terms of going out and capturing both stills and motion. A lot of organisation needs to be done in the field to jump-start the editing process when I’m back in the studio.

I primarily capture in the field, so the first order of business after a day of shooting is to download everything to a backup drive instantaneously. I use a G-DOCK ev with Thunderbolt via a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display. So I’m harnessing the speed of Thunderbolt, and I’m able to duplicate that data using Shotput Pro for the video things or Photo Mechanic on stills.

That means that right away I’ve got two backup copies. With video, we go to four drafts simultaneously using two G-DOCKs with two G-DRIVE evs in each. On top of that, I’ve got my master copy, which is on the CF or SD card. Those are then geographically separated, and it’s not until then that I’ll begin to go through and start organising data.

The great thing is that once I get back to the studio office, or the mothership, I can plug these G-DRIVE evs right into the G-DOCK that I’ve got on my desk and start ingesting all of that data.

Is that the storage you’d work off for the rest of the project?

Basically, G-SPEEDs are my backup drives, and then for any video work I’m typically using G-RAIDs. Any live work is going on G-RAIDs for video, live work and / or archive is going onto G-SPEEDs.

Basically every day of a shoot I have a set of G-DRIVE ev’s for that given day. So if it’s a ten-day shoot, that means I have twenty G-DRIVE ev’s. If I’m shooting video, I’d have forty G-DRIVE ev’s. And when we get back, all those drives get plugged into G-DOCKs next to my Mac Pro, and all that data starts getting downloaded into the various G-SPEEDs or G-RAIDs. For instance, my photo workflow for my live work, the images that I’m actually working on, and my archive, I use

G-SPEED Q USB 3.0 drives, because that’s totally sufficient for my photo needs. The backup and archive of all the video projects is done via a Thunderbolt RAID Expansion adapter with two G-SPEED eS PROs, which are really fast, and for the daily work I’m using the G-RAIDs. They’re tough, they’re fast, they’re Thunderbolt, they’re all that great stuff.

Why did you gravitate to that particular setup?

It’s easier to be doing all this data backup in the field with the G-DOCK because now I don’t have to manually do it drive-to-drive, or have a bunch of drives plugged in, which is near impossible when you’re on location. I can use G-DRIVEs and the G-DOCK in a JBOD [‘just a bunch of disks’, ie non-RAID] configuration so that they all just show up as independent drives [and only have to do the transfer once]. It makes it so there’s no human error. Because there’s only one copy. It’s easy to stay organised because there’s less to track.

And how are the drives holding up so far?

As far as the speed goes, the G-DRIVE ev’s are definitely sufficient to get the workflow done. I know that there will be speed improvements in the pipeline, because with G-Technology, everything gets faster and bigger every year, so I’m definitely looking forward to that as well as some incorporation of SSD in there at some point.

How important is storage to your workflow?

For me personally, a lot of the things I shoot will never happen again. For instance, I shoot a lot of big water drops and big wave surfing – things that you can’t recreate. So if you screw up and lose a card from that day’s shoot or it falls out of your pocket or whatever, it’s gone forever. So it’s really important for me to have a backup strategy.

Why should people be investing in the best storage they can?

I basically use and trust G-Technology because in my opinion they make the most well built and – consistently – the fastest drives that cater to creative professionals. On top of that, they’re using enterprise class drives in a lot of their products.  For me it all comes down to trust, reliability and speed. Think about it – if I go to Iceland for Land Rover, that’s thousands of dollars we’re spending onsite, the campaign took years to come together, so I spend a little extra on hard drives that I can trust with my creative vision.”

I’ve seen some shots you took of people surfing in pretty glacial waters. I imagine it’s hard to find tech that’ll keep working consistently in arctic conditions.

Exactly. The reason I gravitated to the G-Technology products was that they were built to a higher standard. And that allows me, as a creative professional; to focus on the task at hand and not be worrying about if a drive’s ready to go. That’s just wasted time and energy, when I could be focusing on the project and producing good, relevant content for my clients.

How does this generation of models compare to the ones you were using previously?

As far as the speed, they’re obviously faster, but the form factor is the beauty of it. The fact that I can plug a G-DRIVE ev into my Mac via USB 3 if I want, independently, or I can use them in the G-DOCK and leverage its Thunderbolt speed. In the field I use them via USB, then plug them right into the G-DOCK once I get home. The nice thing is that I don’t have to have a bunch of cords hanging off my desk and a bunch of drives – I don’t have to worry and think ‘oh, did I do that drive yet or not?’ It’s really simple and makes everything really fluid.

Is desktop storage key to your workflow, or do you find yourself working with SAN/nearline/archive setups too? If so, how does your G-Technology storage integrate with that?

I look at the G-DOCK as an ingest mechanism. So you’ve got the data already organised on these cartridges (G-DRIVE evs), and then just ingesting it into your nearline system, like G-RAID or my SAN’s G-SPEED eS PROs, it’s really very simple – basically plug and play. It’s just another method of getting the data from point A to point B, and it’s really fast.

And how have you found using it with Mac Pro?

The benefit of integrating the Mac Pro and the G-Technology system is that the Mac Pro, having six Thunderbolt 2 ports, allows me to attach a lot of peripherals and gives me a lot of flexibility.

But I think the benefit of the Mac Pro is that it is pretty much the fastest computer on the planet. It’s super reliable. It’s very expandable from a peripheral standpoint, and that’s great because G-Technology have made a very concerted effort to move forward with Thunderbolt.

Having that really fast Mac Pro, having Thunderbolt-ready drives, or being able to use Thunderbolt devices such as an ATTO Thunderstream so that I can run SANs, really allows me to configure the system how I want.

I think that’s going to be the big key point for creative professionals, especially in the motion and video market. They’re not pigeonholed into a particular workflow. If they want to run SANs, they can. If they want to run eSATA they can. If you want to use third party cards that will attach via Thunderbolt, you can do that too.  You’re really able to keep that system growing and future-proof it, in a sense.

How have you found working on Mac Pro? Does it live up to the hype?

For me it’s the fastest computer I’ve ever used. Previously, because I do like Thunderbolt, I was using the fastest possible iMac – everything was completely maxed out – and the Mac Pro is way, way faster than that. It allows me to render a lot of data very quickly, and seamlessly scrub through a lot of HD footage. I’m doing my edits a lot quicker. And the fact that I’ve got dual 6GB graphics cards as well as eight core processors – it’s kind of amazing.

Is this going to let you tackle bigger and better projects?

Totally. As of recently, I’ve been shooting pretty much 1080p, but I would definitely think about shooting 4K now, because I could actually do something with it as opposed to it just being a massive chore. That’ll really allow me a lot more flexibility in post whether I’m cropping or moving within the frames or even just shooting super-slow motion stuff. Being able to crunch through all that data now will open up the opportunities for me to be more creative.

What applications have you been using on the new Mac Pro?

I like FCP X. Aperture is my main photo editing app with a little Photoshop thrown in – a sprinkling of Photoshop, I guess you’d say. Typically I feel like the Apple applications are really optimised for this machine, so it’s able to give a much higher level of performance than anybody else can offer.

What performance gains have you seen on the new Mac Pro vs the previous generation?

I had an older generation Mac Pro and then I upgraded everything to iMac because I wanted Thunderbolt. So I had the most current iMac with the fastest processors, maxed out with RAM as well as dual graphics cards and an internal SSD, so it was the fastest you could purchase. I’d say this is eight to ten times faster than my iMac was. Graphics-intensive things like rendering video and such, you just don’t register those things having to render anymore.

What kind of transfer speeds have you seen through Thunderbolt 2?

I have not clocked anything recently. I’m not a speeds and feeds guy. I don’t get too deeply into the tech. But what I do notice is when I’m on a job and I’m not waiting for anything to happen, whether it’s transferring data or rendering – when I’m able to do that really quickly and it feels like wow, that took no time. I don’t even notice it happening because there’s no slowdown, that’s what makes or breaks it for me.

We hear you’ve also been using a Sharp 4K display – can you tell us a little about how you’ve found that?

It’s been great. The only issue I had was that I had to reconfigure all my mouse settings because there’s so much real estate. You literally move your mouse across your desk and it would move a quarter each on my screen. I thought, ‘what is this? Is this a glitch? Oh no, there are a lot more pixels here, and there’s a lot more real estate!’

It’s really taking photo editing to the next level because you just notice more things, it’s just that much more apparent. As far as the video editing goes, having that amount of real estate is great, but it’s also really being able to dig into that footage and notice the nuances and being able to colour grade things on a much higher level really makes things a lot more pleasant. The Sharp display is absolutely amazing.

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