Until recently, Google Drive didn't necessarily have more going for it than similar services like Dropbox. Tight integration with Gmail makes permissions management a breeze, and the real-time collaboration abilities offered by Google Docs is arguably revolutionary. Drive's desktop syncing app has always felt a little tacked-on, though, whereas Dropbox's version has felt truly native since day one. In any case, Google recently made what may be the most convincing point of argument yet to use their cloud app by expanding its storage pricing system exponentially. In other words, the $10 I used to pay monthly for 200 GB now gets me 1 TB. In what TechCrunch calls cloud "storage wars," that kind of upgrade is a pretty big deal. But as filmmakers, why do we care?
Native Video. That is All.
The shortest answer, in my opinion, goes something akin to, "Well, because video." A longer version is this: apparently part of what you're agreeing to in Google's terms of service policy is Drive's ability to invisibly transcode any video files you send its way to mobile and web friendly versions.
Through Drive's web interface, you treat videos in playback much the same way as you do on YouTube, meaning you can can select various resolutions to view and what you watch is an H.264 (or the like) version of what you uploaded. Through the mobile interface, the video plays back the same way as content on the YouTube mobile app (meaning the streaming quality is pretty much locked-off). And through the desktop app, that same video is synced to your folder exactly as it originally existed, in whatever resolution and codec you chose initially. Conversely, the 'original' version is accessible via the download option through the web/mobile interfaces.
This might not seem like a big deal, but that 'YouTube engine' makes for powerfully simplified video sharing and viewing. The day I realized I could not only use Drive to sync ProRes media across computers, but also play previews of those files back on my phone in the meantime, well, I was more than pleasantly surprised. According to Dropbox's tech blog, users have the option of encoding to the proper delivery format themselves or manually requesting that Dropbox perform a transcoding operation of the video for them. These are, of course, totally reasonable options that should suffice in most cases.
There is something to be said, though, for Drive's automatic transcoding. There's no downloading or syncing necessary for a collaborator to view material and provide feedback almost instantly after an upload is made (there is a negligible wait time to allow for Drive to process the media). You don't have to think about it, you don't even have to optimize for it if you don't want to -- Drive just does it for you. And then there's that whole 1 TB for $10 per month thing. You can fit a whole lot more video into that kind of drive in the sky.
Google Drive's New Storage Pricing Plans
It's not that any single capability of Drive is necessarily ground-breaking or even unique (though again, some are), it's the way each feature complements the rest that has me using the service on the daily. For those who may have been unconvinced of those features before, well, Google's recent pricing upgrade may certainly help. The following information has pretty much owned the headlines since Google announced the upgrade to Drive's storage plans on the 13th:
This is a bit of a stinger, because I love Dropbox. But that services asks for $10 a month for 100 GB. The silly graphic above this text asks for $10 for 1 TB. That's like, 10 times the value or something. Consider me locked in. Damn it.
Like a Virtual Flash Drive, But Way Better
As a picky, I-don't-care-what-it-takes user of Google Drive, I'll state the following. One still needs to use the web interface (not the app, and for some reason, not the desktop interface) to manage folder/file read or write permissions on the "any users shared" vs. "anyone with the link" level. And, the desktop app still gives you a number-of-files synced vs. a bit-for-bit estimated time of completion for syncing. Since file sizes may vary wildly, such an estimation is only so useful (better hope your clips are of uniform length, or something). They're my megabytes, bro. Just tell me how far we are in syncing them. Is that so much to ask? These are seemingly glaring issues the behemoth Google should probably address, and soon. Drive isn't a "pro" app or service per se, but still. For all the benefits of living in the cloud age, some of these oversights feel pretty stone age.
But with all that hot air out of the way, this service has really won me over. At one point within the last year, I was burned by the 10 GB file size limit still broadcast by some of Wikipedia. Apparently the limit now hits 1 TB per file. And I'm constantly using the service to share videos, data, and ideas in seeking team feedback. Heck, just being able to instantly share and play back a single, easily accessible video ("the effect we want will look like this") makes for a pretty nifty creative sharing service. Which isn't to mention Docs' capacity for live document collaborative editing. Combined with a Skype-style Google Hangouts video session, screen-sharing included, and you're talking real-time, multi-dimensional distance collaboration.
Some sites are calling Drive's storage upgrade a war-making gesture, essentially daring consumers to reach its limits. As one such consumer, I appreciate not having to clean up after myself storage-wise, and not having to budget my bytes following projects grown cold. Creativity can get a little sloppy, after all.
1 TB file size limit, let's meet up in a few years.