Computing Requirements

Laptops at SCA

Film and Television Production Division - MFA: Students entering the Graduate Film and Television Production program are required to have a SCA approved laptop during their time at the school. The minimum configuration students should purchase is the SCA Standard Configuration.

Film and Television Production Division - BA and BFA: Students entering the Undergraduate Film and Television Production program are required to have a SCA approved laptop beginning in Fall 2018. The minimum configuration students should purchase is the SCA Standard Configuration.

Peter Stark Producing Program: Students are required to have a SCA approved laptop beginning in Fall 2018.

Media Arts + Practice - BA: Students entering the Media Arts + Practice program are required to have a SCA approved laptop beginning in Fall 2018. The minimum configuration students should purchase is the SCA Standard Configuration.

We recommend that students not buy any computer hardware or software until being admitted. This information will be updated every year in June or July. SCA will communicate with you about the exact requirements after you are admitted. Computers are offered for sale through the USC Bookstore at a student discount reflected in the prices below.

Choosing the Right Computer and Configuration for You

When choosing a laptop, please consider the following:

  • Are you interested in areas that require higher performance systems, such as animation, visual effects, or gaming? If so, consider purchasing the high performance configuration.
  • Which division of the school are you a part of? Are you interested in taking classes in multiple divisions? If you are a production student taking visual effects classes or an animation student taking production classes, you may want to purchase the high performance configuration and install both OSX and Windows on an Apple MacBook Pro.
  • The SCA Basic Configuration Macbook Pro is ONLY for occasional media users. This computer satisfies the minimum requirements for Media Composer but will not give you the performance or speed that you will get from the Standard Configuration. If you will be taking only one class using media tools such as Media Composer or Pro Tools, this computer will work for you. This model is NOT recommended for Production Division or Media Arts + Practice students.

Operating Systems Preferred by Each Division

SCA's technical team builds, tests, and documents industry-standard workflows based on common usage. As such, the school strongly recommends using the preferred operating system of each division's workflow. The preferred operating systems by division are:

  • Film and Television Production and Peter Stark Producing Program: Apple OS X (Apple MacBook Pro)
  • Animation & Digital Arts: Microsoft Windows
  • Interactive Media & Games: Apple OS X and/or Microsoft Windows (Apple MacBook Pro or Windows Computer)
  • Media Arts & Practice: Apple OS X and/or Microsoft Windows

Should you choose to use an operating system other than what is preferred by your division, please be aware that the school's support and documentation will likely not cover your needs.
You may also find incompatibilities between operating systems when moving between your laptop and the school's systems.

Apple MacBook Pros

USC School of Cinematic Arts has worked with the USC Bookstore and Apple to provide three SCA configurations. These specific configurations receive an additional discount beyond the standard, academic discount:

Please note: The Basic Configuration does NOT meet the requirements for Production Division or MA+P students.

  • BASIC CONFIGURATION:
    13-inch MacBook Pro 512GB - Space Gray
    Unit Price: $2,486.66 / SCA Price: $2,377.91*
    • 2.5 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
    • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
    • 512GB PCIe-based SSD
    • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
    • Force Touch trackpad
    • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • Backlit Keyboard (English)
    • *Must be purchased with Applecare to receive discount on computer
  • STANDARD CONFIGURATION:
    15-inch MacBook Pro 512GB - Space Gray
    Unit Price: $2,906.54 / SCA Price: $2,797.79*
    • 2.8 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
    • 512GB PCIe-based SSD
    • Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB memory
    • Force Touch trackpad, Touch Bar, and Touch ID
    • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • Backlit Keyboard (English)
    • *Must be purchased with Applecare to receive discount on computer
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE CONFIGURATION:
    15-inch MacBook Pro 1TB - Space Gray
    Unit Price: $3,395.91 / SCA Price: $3,287.16*
    • 2.8 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
    • 1TB PCIe-based SSD
    • Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory
    • Force Touch trackpad, Touch Bar, and Touch ID
    • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • Backlit Keyboard (English) / User's Guide (English)
    • *Must be purchased with Applecare to receive discount on computer

View USCBookstores Exclusive Promotional Offer for 2017

Windows-Based Laptops:

Recommended Windows Laptops vary according to your program as well as your intended use. Windows laptops for Animation & Digital Arts students need to meet the minimum system requirements for AVID Media Composer, Autodesk Maya and Adobe Creative Cloud. Windows laptops for Gaming and Virtual Reality (VR) Development must meet the minimum system requirements for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Before making a purchase please review the guidelines below and also visit the "System Requirements" and/or "Certified Hardware" web pages of each software vendor to verify your configuration.

Please note that the graphics processor (GPU) is a critical consideration. Graphics technology advances rapidly and is often unique to the primary application for which it will be used. For example, the nVidia Quadro line of graphics cards is generally best suited for visual effects and editing while the nVidia GeForce line is better suited for gaming and VR development. If you plan to work on animation, visual effects and editing projects as well as advanced VR development, the High Performance "VR-ready" configuration below is the recommended choice.

Below are general guidelines for the 2017-2018 academic year:

  • STANDARD CONFIGURATION - Windows:
    Animation and Digital Arts students (not suitable for advanced Gaming/VR Development students)
    Minimum requirements: 15-inch or larger Quad-core Windows laptop with high-end GPU graphics processor.
    • 2.2GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz (minimum)
    • 15-inch or larger screen size
    • 16GB RAM (minimum) (MHz and DDR type must meet CPU’s requirements)
    • 512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage (minimum)
    • nVidia Quadro K2100M (Kepler) or better graphics (discrete GPU)
    • Technical Support from manufacturer or reseller

Vendor-recommended laptops include: HP Zbook or HP Zbook G2 (15” or 17”), Lenovo W540 or W541.

  • HIGH PERFORMANCE CONFIGURATION - Windows:
    Animation and Digital Arts students OR Gaming/VR Development students
    15-inch or larger Quad-core Windows laptop with premium GPU graphics processor.
    • 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz (minimum)
    • 15-inch or larger screen size
    • 16GB RAM (32GB recommended) (MHz and DDR type must meet CPU’s requirements)
    • 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage
    • Graphics GPU
      • Animation and Digital Arts (little or no VR work): nVidia Quadro M2000M (Maxwell) or better
      • Gaming/VR Development: "VR Ready" laptop with nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU or better*
    • HDMI 1.4 or later, 3x USB 3.0 ports and 1x USB 2.0 port
    • Technical Support from manufacturer or reseller

*NOTE: As of May 2017, the laptop GeForce GTX 1050, 1060, 1070 or 1080 line are recommended for VR-related projects.

Animation and Digital Arts students: Examples of vendor-recommended laptops include HP Zbook Studio or Zbook G3 (15" or 17"), Lenovo P50, P70.

Gaming and VR Development students (as well as Animation students working with very advanced VR projects): Examples of recommended laptops include AORUS X7 V6, Alienware 15 & 17, Razer Blade series, ASUS ROG series.

Using an Existing or Purchasing a Used/Refurbished Laptop -Mac or Windows:

If you own a laptop that meets the following specifications, you may be able to use it at the school. The specifications are:

  • Fewer than 4 years old (released after January, 2013)
  • Quad-core Intel Core i7 processor
  • At least 8GB of system memory (RAM) — 16GB preferred
  • At least 256GB of storage — 512GB or more of flash/solid state storage preferred

If you have your own computer or plan to purchase a used or refurbished system, please contact the school’s technical team at laptops@cinema.usc.edu with your laptop’s specifications (model, processor speed, RAM, etc.) and its current operating system.

Any technical questions or inquiries about which laptop might be right for you should also be directed to SCA’s Creative Technology & Support team at laptops@cinema.usc.edu.

Software

Possible software required or recommended:

Hard Drives

The following is the list of SCA approved and supported hard drives. Any student-purchased drive must meet the requirements below.

Minimum Technical Specifications:

  • Drive speed of 7200rpm
  • Minimum storage capacity of 500GB
  • USB 3.0 (or higher) connection

Recommended Hard Drive Models:

Glyph Blackbox Plus

Bus-powered, USB-C**, laptop friendly
(Approximate retail price $99-$120)

G-Tech G-Drive Mobile USB-C

Bus-powered, USB-C**, laptop friendly
(Approximate retail price $130)
(Be sure to purchase the USB-C version of this drive. The connector should match the image on the left.)

Glyph Studio

Requires AC power
(Approximate retail price $149)

Samsung T3 SSD Portable

Bus-powered, USB-C**, laptop friendly
(Approximate retail price $170 - $370)

G-Tech G-Drive

Requires AC power, USB-3
(Approximate retail price $149 and up)

Notes:
**All of the "mobile" drives are USB-C, also known as USB3.1
Capacity: We do not recommend hard drives over 2TB

Financial Aid Assistance

Students receiving Financial Aid from USC are eligible for a one-time budget increase to purchase a computer. Please visit the following link for instructions on how to apply for a Computer increase:
http://financialaid.usc.edu/undergraduates/continuing/special-circumstances.html