Good MacBook for film student?


macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 21, 2012
I will be starting as a film production major at Emerson in the fall and my current laptop (basic 2013 13" MacBook Pro) is just about the minimum requirements. My fear is that this means by second or third year, it will be below the minimum requirements and even before that point, it will be ridiculously annoying with lots of spinning beach balls and stuff. What would you all recommend?

Obviously I'll use school labs for large projects, but in case I need to finish something in my dorm late at night on my laptop, I'd like to be prepared. I was thinking a 13" MacBook Pro Retina with an i5, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, but is that more than enough? Too little?

I currently use a 2012 iMac with an i7, 32GB of RAM, the GeForce 680MX and a 3TB Fusion Drive to edit, but can't bring that to school.


macrumors G3
Jan 11, 2002
Los Angeles
Since computers just get faster and cheaper why not wait until your current MacBook stops being good enough? Since you are only going to use it occasionally it might last longer than you think.


macrumors regular
Mar 14, 2012
What video editing package are you going to be using? I agree when you cannot use the laptop for the task, then replace it, until then, as long as it works, keep using it.

As a ex student, in the world of media production, money wasted on updating equipment is money lost on paying for production costs, if it works, dont break or replace it, spend the money on film expenses...Pizza and beer money does not grow on trees...


2nd update, FCP X is handy, as it uses proxy files, I would suggest watching ripple training video on how to edit on the road using proxy files, low res versions of the material, your imac should not struggle with proxy files...


macrumors member
May 22, 2014
As an finished film student, the best decision I ever made was just getting a desktop. I got the newest one, and it was about a thousand dollars cheaper than a laptop. It works flawlessly, and had a big screen.

For me, at least, I never really had a need to move my computer. I was able to swing without it. If you need to show someone a video, you could export what you have, and throw it only your current laptop, and just use it for show and tell.

Having both a powerhouse and a portable outdate would be a great combo.


macrumors G4
Jan 5, 2006
Redondo Beach, California
I will be starting as a film production major at Emerson in the fall and my current laptop (basic 2013 13" MacBook Pro) is just about the minimum requirements. My fear is that this means by second or third year, it will be below the minimum requirements...
The longer you wait the better it will be. I'd wait until you actually see that spinning beach ball every day. Only then upgrade.

When you do upgrade get the Retina Macbook with the largest SSD you can afford. I have one like yours and my daughter has the Retina and uses it for video. Hers really is faster but next year's model will be even faster.

In the mean time you can upgrade yours and it will be as fast. Do two things
1) Install as much RAM as will fit. It's cheap so "max it out" and
2) Install an SSD. This is like buying new computer.

Buying a new computer now to replace what you have will not gain you much over simply doing #1 and #2 above. You current computer is new enough that there is no need to replace it, especially f there is still somethings you can do to upgrade it.

If you MUST spend money buy lighting or high end sound equipment.


macrumors G3
May 25, 2004
I would wait and see how your current MBP handles. I think when you start you're not going to be doing very intensive stuff for class. At most schools your lucky if touch a camera the first year. I would wait and see. Maybe a Mac Pro down the road will be better served. Just make sure to make a copy and save all of your work through out your 4 years to show future employers. Don't be afraid to try a new role in your productions.


macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
yup - wait as long as you can and see how it goes with your old laptop. for editing with proxy clips, my 2009 13" mbp is still fast enough. and consider buying a desktop (or building a hackintosh) - you get much more money for your $ in terms of raw processing power (=what you need for film).

if you buy a rMBP, get the one with the discrete graphics (geforce) - that could help you a lot (e.g. acceleration in fcpx, mercury engine in adobe apps,...).

you don't have to have a 1tb ssd - your projects will soon need more space anyways. same goes for upgrading your old laptop with an ssd - it's fine for programs, but it won't be enough space for bigger projects - you don't need that fast storage for working with video - unless you work with data rates your cpu will be to slow to handle anyways. (e.g. a multiclip with more than 4 hd-streams)


macrumors 6502a
Nov 10, 2012
What are the specs of the 2013 MBP you have? Do you know for a fact that editing on the 2013 MBP is difficult or are you just assuming? Why can't you take the iMac to the dorm?

I agree with what everyone else is saying; find out if it's actually bad, if it's not bad then wait until it's bad. If you're only going to use it occasionally in your dorm then it's probably not going to be too difficult putting up with it. Like JustinePaula says if you're using FCPX then you can use proxies which will help out a lot, and as ChrisA says if you need to buy other equipment then spend the MacBook money on the other equipment.

If you really do want to buy one then wait until they refresh them which will be around about the time you start the course.
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