Coronavirus Updates: USC  |  SCA

Laptops at SCA

Updated: June 11, 2020
Please contact laptops@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 Config B - Editing Performance
Interactive Media & Games SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows 10 Config B - Editing Performance
or
Config C - 3D Performance
Media Arts + Practice SCA approved laptop is required macOS or Windows 10 Config B - Editing Performance
or
Config C - 3D Performance
Animation & Digital Arts no laptop requirement Windows 10 Config C - 3D Performance
Cinema & Media Studies no laptop requirement macOS Config A - Basic Performance
Peter Stark Producing Program  no laptop requirement macOS Config A - Basic Performance
Writing for Screen & Television no laptop requirement macOS Config A - 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. Apple computers are available with an educational discount in store or online through the Apple Education Store.

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 multiple 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 A - 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 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 one that includes technical support from the manufacturer or reseller. Known high-performance models include: HP ZBook Create or Studio, MSI GS66, HP OMEN, Alienware M15 R3, Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
    If you're unsure of a manufacturer, you can email laptops@cinema.usc.edu as well as check online for reviews.

New Purchase Specifications for Fall 2020:

Config A - Basic Performance Minimum Specs
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13"
  • Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i7
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Storage: 512GB or more
Ideal For:
  • Screenwriting
  • Producing
  • Media Playback
Config B - Editing Performance Minimum Specs
  • Apple MacBook Pro 16"
  • Processor: 9th Generation Intel Core i7 or i9
  • Memory: 16GB or 32GB RAM
  • Storage: 512GB or more
Ideal For:
  • High-Performance Video Editing
  • Sound Design
  • Graphic Design
Config C - 3D Performance Minimum Specs
  • 15" or 17" Windows 10 Laptop
  • Processor: 9th or 10th Generation Intel Core i7 or i9
  • Memory: 16GB or 32GB RAM
  • Storage: 512GB or more of high performance SSD (advertised as NVMe, PCIe, or M.2)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 or higher, or Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 or higher
Ideal For:
  • 3D Animation
  • Game Design
  • Virtual Production
  • Motion Capture
  • Virtual Reality

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: Quad-core Intel Core i7 or better
  • Memory: At least 8GB RAM, 16GB preferred
  • 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 laptops@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.

Recommended Specifications:

  • SSD (solid state drive)
  • Minimum storage capacity of 1TB
  • USB 3.1 (or higher) connection

Minimum Technical Specifications:

  • For HDD type drives, speed of 7200rpm
  • Minimum storage capacity of 500GB
  • USB 3.0 (or higher) connection

Compact SSD Models:

G-TECH G-DRIVE MOBILE SSD

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Sizes up to 2TB

Samsung T5 SSD PORTABLE

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Sizes up to 2TB

Extra Capacity SSD Models:

GLYPH ATOM RAID SSD

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Sizes up to 4TB

OWC MERCURY ELITE PRO MINI SSD

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Sizes up to 4TB

High Capacity HDD (spinning disk) Models:

G-Tech G-Drive

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Requires AC power
Large physical dimensions
Sizes up to 14TB

LACIE RUGGED

USB-C and USB-A cable included
Lower cost, but not as shock-resistant or fast as an SSD drive
Sizes up to 5TB