Equipment and Software Needs

The New Media Department tries to ensure all students are equipped properly to complete course assignments and undertake creative projects. Consequently, there is very little that students absolutely need to purchase before arriving (recommended equipment will be discussed below).

However, we realize that family members sometimes want to give gifts to students entering university. We wouldn’t discourage such purchases as students find it convenient to own their own digital video camera or home computer. While it is not necessary to purchase a still camera, video camera, computer or laptop, we offer suggestions and information to help make these decisions.

Purchasing a Computer or Laptop

It is suggested that you delay making a major computer purchase until later in your university career. During the first two years of study, students usually find the department’s lab computers to be more than adequate for their studio-based courses. If need be, an inexpensive laptop, desktop or tablet can be used for writing essays and research, as well as basic graphics work. The advantage of waiting until the third or fourth year before making a substantial investment in a computer workstation (and/or other high-end equipment) that is capable of handling intensive audio/video, animation, or modeling is that you will have a much better idea of your future career path and, consequently, your specific hardware/software needs. Someone interested in graphic/web design, for example, has very different hardware and software requirements than someone interested in 3D modeling and animation. The UofL IT Store is a source for hardware and software, often with educational discounts available.

Still Cameras / Video Cameras

We do not suggest purchasing an expensive digital still camera or an expensive digital video camera before you arrive as, again, it is advisable to wait until your third or fourth year to consider such a purchase. For digital still cameras, an inexpensive, 8-10 megapixel digital still camera is more than adequate. If you are considering purchasing a high definition digital video camera it is recommended that you choose a camera that conforms to the department's camera equipment and editing systems. Choose a camera that shoots at a resolution of 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels progressive frame) at 24 frames/second in the AVCHD format that records either to removable SDHC cards (Secure Digital High Capacity) rated at a Class 6 or higher or that records directly to an internal hard drive. If you choose a camera with an internal hard drive, ensure the camera has a USB 2.0, or higher, output to connect the camera to a computer.


Recommended Equipment Purchases

There are two kinds of equipment that incoming students are encouraged to purchase: first, a pair of quality headphones and, secondly, portable and archival storage devices.


A quality pair of headphones is essential when working in the labs. Headphones enable you to properly hear stereo audio channels while not disturbing others in the labs. Any set of quality headphones with a 1/8th inch jack (stereo-mini or headphone jack) is adequate. Make sure the headphones are comfortable, durable and have a reasonably long cord.

Personal Storage Devices

Storage devices for computer files are essential. Two types of portable storage to consider are Flash-based storage and HDD (hard disk drive) / SSD (solid state drive) based storage.

Flash-Based Storage

Flash memory is a small, light-weight memory device that connects to a computer through a USB port (called USB sticks, USB Flash memory, jump drives, or USB pen drives). Flash memory is reliable, inexpensive and portable (i.e., it can be carried on a key chain). Flash memory drives with 16 to 64 GB of storage are good for transferring relatively small or medium sized files. One or two of these drives should be purchased before you enter the program. Note: Flash-based memory has a limited lifespan and these should be replaced, especially under heavy usage, every couple of years in order to avoid data corruption.

Portable Hard Drive / Solid State Drive

Portable hard disk drives are the most common way to transfer and temporarily store computer data. Hard drives are available in internal and external form and an external, portable drive is an investment that New Media students should consider. Because students work with large volumes of data and extremely large files, it is essential to have a method to transfer, store and temporarily backup projects files. It is strongly recommended that students purchase a portable HD drive sometime in their first year.

Since these devices are used for transfer and back-up, quality is extremely important. Consider purchasing a quality hard drive from Lacie, Western Digital or other reputable companies. Currently, external hard drive capacities range from 250GB to 4TB. A 1 to 2TB hard drive is reasonable for student use (price range about $120 to $250). It is strongly recommended that a portable hard drive be purchased so the device can be carried to and from school on a regular basis. In addition, the portable hard drive should have a standard USB connection and a USB cable (make sure it is USB 2.0 compliant or higher).

Backing-up Data Stored on Portable Hard Disk Drives

Since a portable hard drive is used regularly and carried around with you, it should be considered only as temporary storage for project files. Therefore, files should be archived on DVDs or a large external hard drive (1TB to 4TB), which students should consider purchasing during their first or second year to more permanently archive course work and other creative projects.

University labs are fully equipped with the latest software suites for student use. If you are interested in purchasing software for home use, the University IT Store can order most of the industry standard software. Students are eligible for a substantial discount on educationally-priced software and orders are taken on a special order basis. A valid University ID card is required to receive educational discounts on software.

Open Source Software Alternatives

In many instances, free, open source software can meet your various needs. Open source software has been developed by a community of users, which encourages participation in the design of the products. Open source software is free, is available for many different operating systems, and—in some cases— rivals the products sold commercially. Notable examples include:

  • Firefox (web browser)
  • GIMP (similar to Photoshop)
  • Libre Office (office applications)
  • Blender (3D modelling),
  • Inkscape (vector graphics software similar to Adobe Illustrator