Computers / Hands-on Review

The GNARBOX: How to Offload, Edit, and Share… without Your Laptop

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If you’re a photo or video editor who has ever had to work on a location shoot or traveling on the road, you’ve probably experienced the limitations and issues of setting up a portable editing suite. Even if you’re not a pro editor, but are out camping, skiing, or snowboarding for the weekend and want to create some cool videos, do you really want to have to carry a laptop, drives, and other peripherals around, in addition to all your other gear?

Enter the GNARBOX. Small and compact, around the size of your standard portable drives, and protected in a rugged enclosure, the GNARBOX is a mobile editing suite that fits in your pocket and is controlled via a mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android. It provides 128GB of flash storage and is powered by a 1.92 GHz Intel® Quad-Core™ processor, 2GB of RAM, and a Quad-Core Intel HD Graphics GPU. It supports H.264 (.MP4 and .MOV) files, video resolutions up to 4K, frame rates up to 240 fps, and both JPEG and raw files from Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, and Olympus. It is even powered by a built-in 4000mAh lithium-ion battery that lasts 4-6 hours, or the included micro-USB 3.0 cable.

GNARBOX 128GB Portable Backup & Editing System

Aside from the portability factor, it’s worth taking a minute to discuss the technical prowess of the GNARBOX. While Apple has made 4K video editing available for iOS via iMovie, this could lead to space limitations, since all your media would be stored alongside the rest of your device’s content. Furthermore, if you wanted to edit something on your iPhone that wasn’t shot on your iPhone, there are issues of not only transferring that media to your iPhone, but also the question of whether it will be supported. Additionally, iMovie only supports a few select resolutions and frame rates, and if you’re an Android user, there is no native video editing app available. When it comes to photos, iOS and Android devices can edit photos taken with their built-in cameras, but raw photo editing is only available with a third-party app, such as this one.

App Controlled

When you’re ready to start using the GNARBOX, turn it on by depressing the circular button on its top surface, right next to the logo, and you’ll soon see its green and blue lights start blinking. After it’s booted up, go into the Wi-Fi settings on your phone. Connect to the MyGNARBOX network, enter the password, and so long as you’ve downloaded the app, load it up and you’re good to go. GNARBOX includes some sample media, so from the get-go, you can get a good of idea of how things work. On the main screen, content is organized by the year in which it was shot, and then sub-divided by the date. The app also displays whether a day’s content includes photos, videos, music, or documents, as well as how many of each. Selecting a specific date will load a new screen that jumps to any content on the date selected, but you’ll also be able to scroll up and down to view available content from other days. On this screen, each photo, video, etc. is not only organized by the date, but also by the camera used, which is listed along with the date. A bar along the bottom of the screen allows file-type filtering, meaning you can choose to view any combination of one or more kinds of media—videos, photos, music, and documents. Tapping once on a photo or video will load it, as well as display an interface from which you can edit, save it to your phone, mark it as a favorite, or delete it. Swiping left or right will take you to the previous/next media resource.

For importing media, the GNARBOX has integrated SD and microSD card slots, but can also accept other formats by connecting an external card reader to its USB 3.0 or 2.0 Type-A ports. When you’re ready, tap the “Devices” button and you’ll be presented with a screen on which you can view connected cameras and devices. Tap a connected device to view files, select ones to import, and copy them to the GNARBOX. When you’re selecting files to import, the GNARBOX tells you how many files you’ve selected, as well as how much space is required. If you’ve already imported media from a device, the GNARBOX splits the import screen into items that have been imported and ones that haven’t.

RAW or JPEG

To edit a photo, select the “Edit” icon in the upper right corner of the initial photo screen. You’ll be able to adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, punch, white point, midpoint, black point, saturation, temperature, tint, and intensity, with an additional option to reset all changes. There is also a crop function that lets you select various aspect ratios and rotate the photo. Once you’re done, an “Export” option lets you export a JPEG to the GNARBOX or your phone’s camera roll. If you opt to share a photo from the initial photo screen, you will have the option to export it as a raw or JPEG, depending on the file you’re working with. Be aware that not all phones support raw files.

Editing Video

When working with videos, selecting the “Edit” button loads the interface. You’ll have options to set in and out points either by swiping down on the screen or using the green slider bar below the clip, grab still frames when playback is paused, and perform color correction by selecting the “Adjust” icon, which presents the same color correction interface as the photo editor. When you’ve finished editing a clip, drag it upward into the Highlight Reel, which is where your edit is assembled. If you want to make changes to anything in the Highlight Reel, the order of clips can be rearranged or clips can be removed entirely.

Once your edit is completed, select the “Reel” icon in the lower right of the screen and you’ll be taken to the “Highlight Reel” interface. From here, you’ll be able to add your own music to your video, set the audio levels, play back your video, and export it to the GNARBOX or your phone at 720p, 1080p, 2.7K, or 4K. There is one additional option for exporting video, although it is designed for exporting a single clip. From the video editing interface, select the “Export” option from the top right and the clip you’re currently editing can be exported to the GNARBOX or your phone at its native resolution.

Transferring Media

I tested the GNARBOX using media captured using a Sony Alpha a6500, which consisted of raw and JPEG photos, as well as 4K/24 fps XAVC S video at 100 Mbps, 1080p/24 fps XAVC HD video at 50 Mbps, 1080p/120 fps XAVC HD video at 100 Mbps, and 1080p/60 fps XAVC HD video at 50 Mbps. Before using the GNARBOX, the thought of editing video on my iPhone 6 Plus scared me. After all, for as big as the screen of the 6 Plus is, who wants to edit video on a small interface? After using the GNARBOX, I really must give props to its team. They’ve created an interface that is advanced, yet easy to use, with an intro tutorial for the app and “Help” functionality built into each screen. I also tested the app using an iPad and was happy to see the same functionality as on my phone. Even if you’re not interested in mobile editing, you can still offload your memory cards onto the GNARBOX, and up to four devices can be connected simultaneously. If you need to charge devices, its USB ports double as charging ports.

If you need to transfer media from your GNARBOX, this can be done in one of two ways. First, connect a USB drive directly to one of the GNARBOX’s USB ports. Load the app, tap the “Devices” icon, and you should see your drive listed. Next, select a photo or video and, upon tapping “Share,” you should see the option to copy the file to your external drive. The second option is to go into the “Settings” menu and put the GNARBOX in Mass Storage Mode, which will allow you to connect it to your computer via USB and interact with it as it would an external drive. It is worth mentioning that after turning on “Mass Storage Mode,” I had to reboot the GNARBOX before it was recognized as an external drive.

Conclusion

While the GNARBOX does lack some functionality, such as color correction for Android, creating slow-motion clips, and the ability to download content directly from your mobile device, these are all forthcoming in future releases, and I look forward to seeing what other added functionality is coming our way. It would also be helpful if there were support for ProRes and AVCHD codecs, the ability to scrub frame by frame at the native frame rate (one second goes 1.0 to 1.9), functionality to create multiple projects/timelines, clip transitions such as dissolves, and the ability to tell if you’re importing raw or JPEG photos without selecting each individual file, as well as see the specs for individual media files, such as the resolution, frame rate, etc., for a video. One last thing—please bear in mind that the GNARBOX is not a Wi-Fi hotspot for network access. If you’d like to upload content to social media, you’ll need your phone’s data or Wi-Fi service.

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