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FMA Computing Requirements

Computing Requirements for FMA Graduate Students

Recommended and Required Equipment

The Film and Media Arts Division of American University’s School of Communication is a leader in visual storytelling and integrating the latest and evolving technologies into production and distribution.

As a result, we are pleased to partner with Apple to provide you with recommendations for your laptop needs. Remember that we have an all-digital tapeless production workflow, which means that the central tool for managing media is your computer.

Film and Media Arts requires all MA and MFA graduate students who enter the program to own one of the laptops listed below. Check our Apple Store for special student pricing. Be sure to purchase AppleCare Protection Plan for your laptop; it's a wise investment.

In addition to one of the laptops below, here is a list of additional equipment you will need for the program. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact Prof Larry Engel at engel@american.edu or call the Techline at (202) 885-3570.




AppleCare Protection Plan: $239.

Final Cut Pro X, Compressor, and Motion: $400. (Retail price, no educational discount available on this software)

Portable RAID array for media storage and backup,
minimum 1 GB: $285. Alternatively, 2 500 GB
drives ($240) and Shotput Pro software ($100): $340.

Flash Drive, 16 GB or 32 GB: ranges from $20 to $80, depending on size and brand


Portable Hard Drive for editing: ranges from $140 to $300, depending on size and brand

Recommended Laptop Packages

1- "GOOD"

This is the entry-level laptop that will run FCP with HD media. Please add AppleCare Protection Plan in your purchase.

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display


  • 2.0GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
  • 8GB 1600MHz memory, DDR3L SDRAM
  • 256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics


This is the choice for a 15-inch laptop that combines portability with a bigger and faster hard drive that runs FCP more efficiently and quickly, and a higher-resolution antiglare display. Again please consider adding AppleCare Protection Plan to your purchase.

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

  • 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz
  • 816GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • 512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M

3- "BEST"

This is has a faster processor, the bigger and faster hard drive, and the higher resolution, antiglare display. AppleCare Protection Plan is highly recommended.

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

  • 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
  • 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage

Notes on MacBook Pro Features

Due to the memory requirements of professional applications, 8GB RAM is the minimum requirement. You can buy a system with 16 GB for event better performance.

The faster 7200-rpm hard drive is recommended for better performance writing your video to the hard drive. You can buy a system with a solid-state hard drive for even better performance.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a 1,440-by-900-pixel LED-backlit, glossy display. You can also choose a high-resolution, 1,680-by-1,050 anti-glare display that gives you 36 per cent more pixels.

About the high-resolution display:
The 1680-by-1050 display gives you more pixels — which is especially useful when you’re working with HD content in pro applications, like Final Cut Pro — because you get a sharper image and more screen space to work with.

About glossy and antiglare:
Choose the glossy widescreen display to make your graphics, photos, and videos appear with richer colors and deeper blacks — great for watching DVD movies. If you prefer a display with antiglare coating for a matte rather than glossy viewing experience, choose the antiglare widescreen display.

Important note:
The actual size of the display is the same (15-inch diagonal) on both models. The antiglare display has a silver frame (border) around the display.

Retina Display
With four-times as many pixels and a native 2880x1800 resolution, the Retina display option gives professionals more pixels than a HDTV for your workspace. http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/features-retina. To learn more about the performance advantages of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, visit http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/performance-retina/.

Flash storage
Flash storage is more durable, reliable, battery efficient, and up to four times faster than traditional mechanical hard drives. http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/features/

Note: The MacBook Pro with Retina Display model does not have an optical drive. The Apple USB SuperDrive ($79) can be purchased if you think you will need an optical drive.

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