Coronavirus Updates: USC  |  SCA

Laptops at SCA

Updated: September 12, 2022

Note: For new Apple laptops, our editing software requires at least 32GB of Unified Memory. This is an upgrade selection from most base models and may delay your laptop's ship date, but it's necessary to ensure a smooth editing experience.

Please contact creativetech@cinema.usc.edu if you have any additional questions after reading the guidelines below.

Program Requirement Recommended Platform Minimum Specs (details below)
Film & Television Production SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows Config B - Editing Performance
or
Config A - 3D Performance
Interactive Media & Games SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows Config A - 3D Performance
or
Config B - Editing Performance
Media Arts + Practice SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows Config B - Editing Performance
or
Config A - 3D Performance
Animation & Digital Arts no laptop requirement Windows Config A - 3D Performance
Cinema & Media Studies no laptop requirement macOS or Windows Config C - Basic Performance
Peter Stark Producing Program  SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows Config B - Editing Performance
or
Config A - 3D Performance
Writing for Screen & Television no laptop requirement macOS or Windows Config C - Basic Performance

 

Purchasing your Computer
We recommend that students not buy any computer hardware or software until being admitted. The specs on this page will be updated every June or July. SCA will communicate with you about the exact requirements after you are admitted. If you are buying an Apple, an educational discount is available in store or online through the Apple Education Store and the USC Bookstore.

Financial Aid
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:

Choosing the Right Computer and Configuration for You

  • Use the table above to determine what type of laptop is required for your division.
  • SCA's technical team builds, tests, and documents industry-standard workflows based on common usage. Sticking to the recommended platform and specifications ensures that the school's support and documentation will cover your needs.
  • Are you interested in taking classes in multiple divisions? If so, you may wish to aim for higher specs to cover different uses.
  • Looking to upgrade from our minimum specs? You can weigh these options:
    A faster processor will shorten render times as you add effects to your projects.
    More memory will future-proof your computer for upcoming technologies, increasing its lifespan.
    More storage not only allows for extra hours of media, but will also increase the lifespan of the drive.
  • Config C - Basic Performance is ONLY for occasional media users. This configuration is NOT recommended for Film & Television Production, Interactive Media & Games, or Media Arts + Practice students.
  • For Apple laptops, the warranty can be extended by purchasing AppleCare at the time of purchase.
  • For Config A Windows laptops, be sure to select one with Nvidia RTX graphics. This will dramatically increase performance with most media creation software, enable additional rendering options, and allow for the connection of virtual reality headsets.
  • Windows 10 PC manufacturers vary. Look for a reputable brand that includes technical support from the manufacturer or reseller.
    If you're unsure of a manufacturer, you can email creativetech@cinema.usc.edu as well as check online for reviews.

New Purchase Specifications for Fall 2022:

Config A - 3D Performance Minimum Specs
  • 15" or 17" Windows Laptop
  • Processor: 11th or 12th Generation Intel Core i7 or i9
  • Memory: 16GB or more
  • Storage: 512GB or more SSD
  • Required Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 or higher, or Nvidia Quadro RTX A3000 or higher
Ideal For:
  • 3D Animation
  • Game Design
  • Virtual Production
  • Motion Capture
  • Virtual Reality
  • High-Performance Video Editing
Examples:
  • Razer Blade 15 Advanced
  • MSI GS66
  • Alienware M15 R7
Config B - Editing Performance Minimum Specs
  • Apple MacBook Pro 14" or 16"
  • Processor: Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max
  • Memory: 32GB or more
  • Storage: 512GB or more
Ideal For:
  • High-Performance Video Editing
  • Sound Design
Config C - Basic Performance Minimum Specs
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13"
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB or more
     - OR -
  • Windows Laptop
  • Processor: 11th or 12th Generation Intel Core i7
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Storage: 512GB or more SSD
Ideal For:
  • Screenwriting
  • Producing
  • Media Playback

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

  • Fewer than 4 years old
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 or better
  • Memory: At least 16GB
  • Storage: At least 256GB, 512GB SSD or more preferred

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

Software

Software requirements vary by course and division. Once class begins, your instructor can tell you what software is needed. Most software companies have discounted or free versions available for education.

For Film & Television Production courses with an editing component, Avid Media Composer Ultimate is required. While enrolled in such a class, you may be able to remotely access a Media Composer license through the school. Please check with your instructor on the first day of class. For other use, you can purchase a discounted subscription here:
Media Composer | Ultimate, Education Pricing
$9.99 per month, with further discounts if purchasing multiple months at once.

Students can request a free license of the Sapphire companion plug-in for Media Composer here:
Boris FX Student License Request Form
It may take several weeks for your request to be fulfilled. If you need to check the status of your request, you can call 1-888-77-BORIS.

Please contact creativetech@cinema.usc.edu if you have any issues with installation.

Hard Drives

An external hard drive is required to store your projects and move them between your laptop and SCA workstations. To ensure compatibility, purchase from the list of SCA approved and tested hard drives.

An SSD (solid state drive) is more expensive, but will transfer your files 5-10 times faster than a traditional HDD (mechanical drive) and significantly reduce wait times.

It's recommended to have a backup drive for your media. This can be a less expensive HDD drive since you won't work directly from it.

Recommended Specifications:

  • SSD (solid state drive)
  • Minimum storage capacity of 2 TB
  • USB 3.1 (or higher) connection

Minimum Technical Specifications:

  • For HDD type drives, speed of 7200rpm
  • Minimum storage capacity of 2 TB
  • USB 3.0 (or higher) connection

Recommended Drive Formatting:

  • If mostly working on a Mac laptop, format as Mac HFS+
  • If mostly working on SCA lab computers or a PC laptop, format as NTFS

Compact SSD Models:

G-DRIVE SSD

Small and compact SSD with a Thunderbolt 40GB connection. Thunderbolt Cable included.

Available in 500 GB, 1, 2, 4 TB

Speed: 1000 MB/s

G-Drive Pro SSD

Small and compact SSD with a Thunderbolt 40GB connection. Thunderbolt Cable included.

Available in 500 GB, 1, 2 TB

Speed: 2800 MB/s

Sandisk Extreme Pro Mobile SSD

USB-C Cable Included.

Available in 500 GB, 1, 2, 4 TB

Speed: 1000 MB/s

Lacie Rugged Pro

A rugged Thunderbolt 3 Drive.

Available in 1, 2, 4 TB

Speed: 2800 MB/s

Samsung Portable SSD X5 Thunderbolt 3

Mobile NVMe SSD with very fast read and write speeds. Comes with Thunderbolt 3 spec USB-C cable.

Available in 500 GB, 1, 2 TB

Speed: 2800 MB/s

Samsung T5 or T7

USB-C to USB-A Cable included.

Available in 500 GB, 1, 2, 4 TB.

Speed: 1000 MB/s

Extra Capacity SSD Models:

G-Drive Pro Studio SSD

This desktop form factor external hard drive comes with fast SSDs. Thunderbolt 3 Connectivity, comes with a Thunderbolt cable and A/C power adapter.

Available in 7.68 TB

Speed: 1800 MB/s

SanDisk Pro Blade Transport

This unique SSD shuttle uses SSD "blades" that can be combined to create a larger drive and assist with rapid workflows.

Available: 1, 2, 3, 4 TB (Up to 8TB)

Speed: 1000 MB/s

OWC ThunderBlade

Has 2 Thunderbolt 3 Ports for Daisy Chaining. Comes with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable.

Available: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 16, 32 TB

Speed: 2800 MB/s

Compact HDD (spinning disk) Models:

SanDisk G Drive Armor ATD

Available in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 TB

Speed: 100 MB/s

Lacie Rugged

USB-C to USB-A cable included

Available: 1, 2, 4, 5 TB

Speed: 130 MB/s

High Capacity HDD (spinning disk) Models:

G-DRIVE or G-DRIVE Pro Desktop Drive from SanDisk Professional

Comes with cable and A/C Power Supply. Also available in the G-Raid variant for data redundancy or more storage capacity (40TB).

Available: 4, 6, 12, 18, 20 TB

Speed: 260 MB/s

LaCie D2 Professional

Comes with cable and A/C Power Supply.

Available: 4, 8, 10, 14, 16, 18, 20 TB

Speed: 290 MB/s

OWC Mercury Pro

Large capacity desktop form factor storage.

Available: 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 24, 28, 32 TB

Speed: 400 MB/s

"Back it up. Backup the backup. Backup the backup's backup off site." - Creative Technology & Support