Hey guys, I'm going to be leaving for film school later this year and before I leave I was thinking of what would be the most essential things I would NEED to work on my school projects and other stuff in the future, I want to save some money and stuff and not just go with greed and have to regret after. I was thinking either:

1:) A brand new Macbook Pro to use as a "work" computer and get PT a little later (Cause my current laptop is getting a little old and with windows, its hard to stay away from installing games and stuff).

2.) Pro Tools 9 My brother already has a MBox 2 Pro with PT 7.4 LE which I don't really mind only thing is that he still wants the MBox (tbh I don't want it either). I guess its good cause I'll be able to work without needing to have hardware to run it and I will be able to practice and learn using the latest industry standard software and able to work on some school projects at home.

3.) Forget everything above and use what I've got and may be spend a little on inexpensive Plugins imo this is a stupid point because I know they aren't that important and there are plenty of good freeware but they would come in handy one day..

(Keep in mind if I can, I'm going to buy this stuff with student discount.)

I don't know if this is a pointless question, but I thought before I spend a LOT of money, I rather see what you wiser and more experienced guy's would say. My parents have invested a lot for me and the last thing I would want to do is break the bank and spend too much of their money, thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


It's definitely not a pointless question.

Here's what I'm taking with me to Edinburgh for my Masters program.

  1. 2008 MacBook Pro, upgraded to 4-gigs of RAM
  2. H4n handheld recorder
  3. ProTools 9
  4. M-Box 2 mini
  5. Akai MPK MIDI controller
  6. Lacie Rikki 1TB external hard drive

That's pretty much it. I've refrained from buying application specific tools like shotgun mics and field mixers because I don't necessarily know what direction I'm going to be heading in when I finish the program, and I don't want to hamstring myself with a bunch of gear that I'll just have to re-sell. Plus, the school has a bunch of stuff that I'll be able to borrow while I'm there, until I decide quite where I'm at.

For you, if you're going to film school specifically to do sound, I'd say that PT9 is a must. There are lots of people who use Nuendo and othersuch, and while they are great tools to know how to use, they just aren't that high up the food chain.

Now, the MacBook. Get one, definitely. They are glorious computing machines. BUT! Don't be goaded by the pristine Blue shirts and snaggle-toothed Genius grins.


Get a re-furbished one from last season or even the year before. Here's why:

  1. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with them.
  2. They're cheaper. Like a lot.
  3. If it's only a year old, it'll still kick the crap out of what I'm using, and what I'm using is perfectly fine.
  4. You can still buy the Apple-Care protection plan which will cover anything that might might go wrong with it.
  5. Every Macbook that's come out for the last 2 years looks identical, so nobody will know the difference.

Take the money you save on the refurbished computer and put it in the bank and do not spend it. You're going to need it for gear, or rent/food, when you finish school. I've been to both university and audio engineering school, and I can tell you that the first 3-4 months after you finish are really tough. $300-$400 will go a long way to making it easier.

Good luck.

  • Is this the sound design course you are going to? I went there and had nothing like that gear when I arrived- You'll be sorted with that gear-consider getting yourself a student license of Max/MSP too if you dont have it already :) Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:51
  • Thanks for the tip about the Refurbished Mac's I didn't even think about that. Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 16:16
  • Sorry I forgot to ask, is OSX Lion any good? I've just heard some bad things about it should I just go for Snow Leopard? Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 16:23
  • @Stephen : I'm avoiding Lion for the time being. I just don't need the hassle of trying to get stuff to work. @Kyle : You did the MSc too? How did you like it. Max/MSP is the first thing I'm buying when I get my student card.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 16:42
  • 1
    +1 on refurb! Expensive top power Intel i7 dual/quad 3GHz 17 inch etc. Macbooks are for video editors! Sound editors can work smoothly and confidently on boxes that cost half as much. And i'd stay away from Lion for now, or at least until you ensure that it'll still run all your software. Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 18:02

My advice - don't buy anything until you get to class. First week or so, they'll tell you what you need for your course work. In most cases, it's cheaper/easier to use lab computers - they're beefed up with everything you could possibly want (plugins, hardware, software), and it's part of your tuition anyway. Why spend money on top of the expense of school? Plus, you're right there on campus anyway - it's not like you have to commute to get to those workstations. Get a few 1TB drives to take with you to the labs and you're set. Add to that you have a lot of gear at your disposal for "free" as well.

If you want to get anything, get a laptop that's good all-around. As Roger said, unless you're video editing (and even then, see "lab computers" above), go with a cheaper Windows machine. If you want something beefy, HP sells a killer Intel quad-core i7 with 8 gigs of ram for about $1000. You're a windows guy, from the sound of it - why force yourself in to Apple when it doesn't matter for sound? College has a LOT of down time. You need to have something to entertain yourself. Hopefully social time will fill a lot of that, but games are a fun diversion as well. All work and no play....

I'm going to give you some unsolicited advice because I wish someone had driven this home in me:

Debt is a prison.

If you can make it through school debt free and continue that living, you will give yourself many more opportunities than if you rack up personal debt. School debt isn't too bad - it's an investment in yourself, just as a car is an investment in getting to better jobs - but any other debt, especially on gear that could be rented or technology that will quickly be obsolete (laptop), is bad. If you have the freedom to pick up, leave, and work for next to nothing, that is the greatest feeling in the world. If you have the money to buy a nice laptop, PT, gear, etc, sock it away until you really need it. You'll kick yourself if you have to pass up an internship because you cannot afford to miss any monthly payments.

Good luck with school - it's a great time!

  • I totally agree about the debt thing. I've never been that bad with it, but even the little that I had used to eat into my brain. It would literally keep me up at night.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 17:08

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