So you want to work in film and TV. That’s a highly competitive field and one that requires you to be an expert in all things media. College will help you achieve this goal, but only some colleges will train you up in a practical manner.
While there are thousands of film programs across the USA, the distribution of equipment and facilities is highly uneven. Some colleges boast the latest and greatest in state of the art equipment, while others are outdated. What’s worse is that some colleges tempt students in with the best cameras, studios, and editing facilities, only to restrict access to these to only a few weeks every year.
Going to a college that doesn’t train you up with the latest filmmaking equipment is a terrible idea. Getting a foothold in the industry is that much harder if you graduate without knowing how to properly shoot a camera, light a set or edit a scene. But a college that shows you how it’s actually done can mean that you have a shining showreel even before you graduate. The best media colleges enable their students to get media work before or just after they graduate by letting them make student films that others think is a professional production.
Yes, it’s true that to be a great media professional you need to know film theories and be able to adapt your studies to other areas. But without the practical knowledge to back this up, you’re going to have to do a lot more work on your skills after you graduate. In fact, being media equipment savvy can mean the difference between being stuck in internships for years and rapidly rising to the top of your game.
With this in mind, you need to know which colleges actually have the gear and offer access to studios. Until now, that information was not readily available online. That’s why we’ve put together this essential resource that will guide all budding filmmakers to the right college for them. The 30 colleges below have the best equipment, have well trained, professional instructors, let students spend lots of time using the equipment and do many other things to make their students technical wizards when it comes to media production.
Identifying the best media equipment in every college has been a challenge. Before this list, there were no comparative lists. However, there was a range of online articles from media industry publications that ranked the best colleges for filmmakers. Additionally, rankings of the best media colleges were readily available from respectable university ranking sites. Combining the data of these sites provided the first clues as to which colleges have the best equipment. This data comes from these lists:
The Wrap, Top 50 Film Schools of 2017 Ranked, From USC to Full Sail: https://www.thewrap.com/the-top-50-film-schools-of-2017-ranked/
College Affordability Guide, Affordable Film & Video Degrees:https://www.collegeaffordabilityguide.org/subjects/film-video-photo/
The Hollywood Reporter, The Top 25 American Film Schools 2017: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/top-25-american-film-schools-2017-1029477
Variety, Entertainment Education Report: The Best Film Schools in 2018: https://variety.com/2018/film/spotlight/entertainment-education-film-school-stars-1202785789/
MovieMaker, The Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada 2017: https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/best_of/best-film-schools-in-the-us-and-canada-2017/
Prepscholar, The 9 Best Film Schools in the US: https://blog.prepscholar.com/best-film-schools-in-the-us
Niche, 2018 Best Colleges for Film and Photography: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-for-film/
Top Universities/QS, Top Film Schools Around the World: https://www.topuniversities.com/courses/communication-media-studies/top-film-schools-around-world
After this research, we looked into the colleges themselves, analyzing how much money each college had spent on equipment and media facilities and where this money was spent. Lastly, we looked for accounts of the students stating that they had been able to use the equipment in a useful and frequent manner.
Our priorities for ranking these colleges are as follows: media equipment quality, money spent on equipment, statements of satisfaction from students, ranking on the methodology lists and other miscellaneous factors.
The results, from 30 to one, are below:
30. Stanford University
Documentary Film and Video Program
Stanford makes three methodology lists. In 2015, the college opened the McMurtry Building for the arts, which boosted the college’s media credentials. This impressive structure has a wide range of media production facilities housed within it. However, Stanford University is all for extracurricular activities, so non-film students can withdraw media production equipment, too. As it says on the college website, “All students are eligible to borrow equipment for up to five days,” from the equipment lending library. Such a free policy is great news for anyone who wants to stretch their skills beyond their degree’s limitations. However, it ranks at the bottom of this list, as Stanford lacks a professional film studio for its students to shoot within. If documentary production is your passion, then Stanford is ideal.
29. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Screen Arts & Cultures Program
Niche.com places the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s film school at 11th place. As that site uses student reviews as a key part of its ranking, it indicates that students have strong levels of satisfaction from their education. It isn’t so well regarded on other lists, but it is still featured. The Wrap, for instance, places it at 33rd. This strong level of student satisfaction certainly seems to bear out after analyzing student statements. And these statements often discuss the extent of practical filmmaking opportunities. For instance, Haleigh Bauer says, “I began the major with a love of film – and a serious lack of confidence in my abilities as a filmmaker. After taking a few production classes and being challenged by my incredibly talented peers and professors, I started to feel more confident about the films I produced.” The college has three shooting studios and an impressive range of film equipment. Students can also get involved with a student-run TV channel, WOLV TV.
28. Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling College of Art and Design manages to place on half of the methodology lists. However, its media equipment and facilities credentials are on full display. This college really ensures that every student receives the best equipment. It even provides students with brand new high-end laptops with a range of leading industry software on their first day. These are completely free and given in the hope of crafting the students into creative leaders with ease. However, the college also has labs stocked with 550 Macintosh computers and a team of IT support staff for any issues that may arise. Additionally, the college has invested in cloud software that will allow students to access their computer servers from any device anywhere in the world.
27. Los Angeles Film School
Audio Production Program
It may be based in a city filled with media degrees, but Los Angeles Film School manages to stand out for several reasons. Firstly, it’s perhaps the best choice for someone who wants to go into the audio side of media production. This is because the college is housed in the former RCA studios, where many prestigious musicians have recorded. As a result, its audio programs are world class and are recognized in a range of music publications. But all of its production facilities are impressive. It owns three buildings on Sunset Boulevard that are filled with industry-leading technology. This includes a dub stage, exterior and interior film sets, green screen stages, animation and film labs, recording studios and Foley suites.
26. University of California, Santa Barbara
Film & Media Studies Program
USCB’s Pollock Theater is a base for both filmmaking and film theory. It hosts film screenings and discussions on a regular basis. But it also has a selective internship where students learn to write, shoot and direct discussions, talk shows, sitcoms and more. This all ends up being broadcast on the cable station UCTV, which gains up to 15.1million views. Having a production with anywhere near this level of viewership is great for the resume! University of California, Santa Barbara also recently unveiled a state of the art sound mixing program.
25. Pratt Institute
Film BFA Program
This Brooklyn based college makes half the methodology lists. The college’s website states, “While our program provides students with professional training in all current technologies, our priority is creative expression.” That should give a good impression of how the college trains its students. The equipment is there, but theory is king. But if you’re a student that wants this balance, then Pratt Institute would be a great option for you, because it’s certainly upgraded itself in recent years. In 2015, Pratt Institute renovated its film/video department, adding two sound stages that are a combined 3,000 square feet, a recording studio, color grading and post-production suites and a state of the art screening room.
24. Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University has always been more about the professors than the equipment. The Hollywood Reporter states, the college’s former professor Jeanine Basinger, “all but invented” film studies. However, that isn’t to say the college lacks great equipment and facilities. The college’s film studies department ensures that students are trained in 16mm film, digital video, and virtual video production. What also supplements this equipment is the college’s cinema archives, which are extensive and which are fully available to students. Among Wesleyan’s successful alumni includes writer and director Joss Whedon.
23. Rhode Island School of Design
This college polarizes the methodology lists. It performs well on the student review led source Niche.com, where it places at eighth. Film publications MovieMaker, The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap all praise it. However, no other methodology lists feature it. This may be due to the highly structured nature of its only undergraduate film degree, which features film, animation and video production in equal measures. The college offers students 16mm film cameras, HDV camcorders, DSLRs and other shooting equipment. It has two green screen and blackout shooting studios and two animation studios. The college’s Film/Animation/Video program does not heavily feature this equipment until the second year, however.
22. Colorado Film School
Students who come to Colorado Film School, “have a professional level portfolio” upon completion of their degrees. This is because the college is always buying the latest and greatest equipment and ensuring that students know how to use it properly! Some of the highlights among Colorado Film School’s equipment include Red One Cameras and great tracking dollies. And this equipment is put to use in its professional media buildings. One of these buildings, High Bay, is almost entirely dedicated to a range of standing sets, such as a living room set, bedroom set, industrial set and medical set.
21. University of Texas, Austin
Radio-Television-Film Bachelor of Science Program
It isn’t surprising that the home of SXSW has a fine film school. And while it isn’t on every methodology list (and some that it is on highlight nonequipment-heavy degrees, like screenwriting) it does have some fine facilities. For instance, it has a 4,800 square foot film and TV production studio, a 2,000 square foot film and TV production studio, a 1,000 square foot photo and TV production studio, all equipped with a 3-camera HD TV production system. It also has a 1,600 square foot film and TV production studio without the camera set up but with a dimmed lighting grid. Additionally, the college boasts numerous high-end editing suites.
20. Savannah College of Art and Design
Film, television and the art of entertainment program
This Georgia based college has some impressive facilities. It owns Savannah Film Studios, which has three large film studios, at 3,593 square feet, 2,574 square feet, and 1,414 square feet. The second largest studio also has a 43×36 feet green screen cyclorama. However, this is only just scratching the surface of what SCAD has to offer. In Atlanta, it also owns the SCAD Digital Media Center, which is 60,000 square feet and offers more studio space and cutting-edge technology. Lastly, SCAD owns the Savannah-based Hamilton Hall, which is the college’s oldest film facility. It’s 49,373 square feet and has additional studio space, a sound recording room, a Foley stage and an ADR stage.
19. New York Film Academy
BFA in Filmmaking
Although New York Film Academy only appears on three methodology lists, its equipment and training resources are among the finest available. In fact, the college even states that its programs are, “the most hands-on intensive programs in the world.” New York Film Academy’s core philosophy is to get people making movies with actual industry equipment. This immersive experience begins on day one of the college experience. And from that day, a student will be constantly busy, as they each will write, direct, and edit 8 films and work on the set of another 28 in their first year. Despite the college’s name, degree programs are only offered at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles and South Beach campuses, with the NYC location offering short courses.
18. San Francisco State University
If you’re a young activist looking to spread your message through film, then San Francisco State University should be your number one choice. The college’s film education is framed around social justice and equality. And whether you choose to express this through animation or live action, San Francisco State University has the equipment and facilities to make this possible. The college’s animation labs have facilities for HD 2D animation, morphing, rotoscoping and more. It has five stop-motion animation rooms. The college’s soundstage is 30x40x30 foot and provides many different flats and backdrops. Lastly, students can rent broadcast quality Arri, Canon, BlackMagic and Panasonic cameras, lighting kits, and sound kits.
17. Columbia College Chicago
Movie industry publications The Wrap, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and MovieMaker all commend Columbia College Chicago as a great film school. Niche.com’s student review led ranking places it at 44th in America. The students studying at this college can rent HD cameras, DSLR cameras, and all associated filming equipment. Additionally, the Television Department has three high definition studios and a 40-foot green screen. The Media Production Center provides two additional film production sound stages and other facilities. There is also a remote media truck that acts as a studio on wheels for location shooting. One thing that boosts the practical offerings of this college is that for a whole semester, students have the opportunity to study in a Hollywood lot in LA, meaning they’ll interact with actual film sets and equipment.
16. Ithaca College
Cinema and Photography Program
For students who want to start producing films and experimenting with equipment right away, then Ithaca could be the choice for you. Ithaca’s college of communication lets students have access to professional equipment from the day that they arrive. And this equipment can be put to use in a range of state of the art studios on campus. Additionally, the college has ICTV, a student-run production company that makes community-oriented programming, two award-winning student radio stations, a student-led creative agency and more.
15. Syracuse University
Television, Radio & Film Program
This upstate New York college is on five methodology lists. However, Syracuse is set to become more prominent in future years, as it recently underwent an $18 million renovation and upgrade of its television studios. It now boasts the Dick Clark Studios, which has a full soundstage, digital workflow, virtual studio with a green screen and the ability to shoot 3D productions. It also has the Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation which has studios dedicated to traditional television production. However, it also has virtual reality headsets and fiber optic networks. Lastly, the Diane and Bob Miron Digital News Center has facilities for news shows, magazine shows and other multi-camera based programming education.
14. DePaul University
BA Film and Television Program
MovieMaker states that DePaul University has the best equipment and facilities of any college in the Midwest. This is due to the fact that its partnership with Cinespace Chicago Film Studios has allowed it to acquire 32,000 square feet of production studio space. And the studios come with some incredible equipment to ensure that what’s shot on the stage looks amazing. This includes an impressive lighting array, an extensive camera vault, a 3-ton grip truck and much more. On top of this, the college also employs various award-winning filmmakers among its faculty, ensuring that you’ll get the best training.
13. Florida State University
Florida was once home to the US’s third largest film industry. Sadly, this has declined, but the upside is that there is now a raft of talent, facilities, and equipment at Florida State University’s disposal. This includes development rooms, several sound stages (including a stop-motion animation stage,) an animation studio, post-production suites, color and sound suites and more. All these facilities are open to students 24/7. If all this weren’t good enough, the college funds 100% of student productions, saving students lots of money!
12. Columbia University
Columbia University is another college that polarizes the methodology sources. The movie industry publications hold it in high regard, with The Wrap naming it the ninth best film school. The Hollywood Reporter also praises it, placing it at fifth best. Variety is quick to highlight Columbia’s directing-screenwriting and creative producing program, as is MovieMaker. But Columbia isn’t on Niche.com’s student review led list, Prepscholar’s list or College Affordability Guide’s list. And this may be due to the way that Columbia regulates its equipment. The college’s website states that in the first and second years, students are given digital equipment and supporting equipment. In the second year, they have the opportunity to shoot some projects on film. Certain students will not have access to this equipment after the first year, however. One advantage is that the college’s digital media lab is available for students 24 hours a day.
11. Mount St Mary’s University
Film, Media, and Communication Programs
This college is based in a genuine Hollywood film studio. That means that the amount of space offered to students is staggering. According to the college website, students can access 12 sound stage facilities and 368,000 square feet of office and support space. The entire complex takes up 16 acres. Another unique advantage of Mount St Mary’s University is that it offers one to one instruction and mentoring on equipment, meaning you’ll definitely know how to use cameras and other film kits like a pro in no time!
10. Boston University
Film & Television Program
While most lists regard Emerson College as the superior Boston film school, BU is expanding rapidly. In the last five years, it has more than doubled its production studio size, for example. Boston University offers several innovative programs that allow students to use media equipment and facilities in practical ways. One is BUTV10, which is a student-run media production company. Additionally, its internship program allows students to work in a major media center, be it LA, London, Sydney or anywhere else with a large film industry. Also, with so much of the faculty actively working on current media projects, many students are able to gain experience on actual industry film shoots!
9. Loyola Marymount University
Production, Film and Television Program
This college is prominently placed on six out of the eight methodology lists. It’s based in LA, and while it may not be as famous as some LA film schools, the college’s equipment, and facilities more than make up for this. As the facilities page of the college website states, one of the best things about the college is gaining access to five Red One cameras, many other cameras, an animation lab, industry standard lighting and grip equipment and computers with the best media software. It has two shooting stages, one for film, and one for TV. The film stage is 60×90 foot, and the TV stage is 25×46 foot. The college certainly puts this equipment to good use In 2014-2015, the college saw 790 student film productions made in total.
8. Emerson College
Almost every methodology list ranks Emerson College highly, making it the best film school in Boston. This is no easy achievement, considering that it has competition from Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, MIT and many more prestigious institutions. Further research shows that Emerson College has achieved such a high ranking in part due to its facilities and equipment offerings. Not only is the equipment state of the art, but there are also workshops offered throughout the year on how to use the equipment properly. These workshops include two rigging guides, color correction, panel lighting, Steadicam and more.
7. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Production Design and Visual Effects Program
Both film industry publications and student-generated sources rave about University of North Carolina School of the Arts’s film education. The Wrap places it eighth. The Hollywood Reporter places it at 14th, and Niche.com places it at fifth. Additionally, MovieMaker commends it for accelerated access to the film industry. It also features on Variety and QS/Top Universities’s lists. The Hollywood Reporter points out, University of North Carolina School of the Arts has recently made its incredible facilities even better. It just partnered with Oculus to create the Institute for Performance Innovation. This focuses on gaming and VR systems, allowing students to experiment with cutting-edge equipment. This is another practical college. As University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ website states, “In your first two years at UNCSA, you will direct and shoot numerous digital projects as you take hands-on courses in every facet of modern film production.” In the final two years, students advance into a specialism and collaborate on films that go on to be submitted to worldwide film festivals.
6. Chapman University
Broadcast Journalism and Documentary Program
MovieMaker specifically cites Chapman University’s equipment and facilities, stating that they are top notch. The Wrap also goes into detail in highlighting the college’s world-leading Digital Media Arts Center, which has an 18,000 square foot digital arts studio, a 1,500 square foot directing stage, an 800 square foot art studio, and a 4K screening room. But the college also has a $42 million, 76,000 square foot production studio. This is equipped with a television and broadcast journalism stage and control room, editing facilities, set workshops, a Foley stage and a production design studio. Also, a third studio is for its documentary filmmaking program. This area has a 7,000 foot sound stage, a 2,000-foot cinematography stage, a 6,000 square foot scene shop and a 7,000-foot prop warehouse. Additionally, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Prepscholar, Niche.com and Top Universities/QS all highly recommend the college.
5. California Institute of the Arts
Film and Video Program
Featuring prominently on seven of eight methodology lists is California Institute of the Arts. And for the students who study at the college that was founded by Walt Disney himself, a range of incredible media equipment awaits. The college will provide every conceivable piece of tech, “from underwater camera systems to portable digital stop-motion kits.” This equipment is all broadcast quality. Additionally, students can film on green screen production stages, or anywhere that suits them. The college’s video studio offers a 40×45 foot shooting area and has equipment that can shoot in digital video, 16mm film and 35mm film. California Institute of the Arts also offers a sound facility with over 45,000 sound files and more than 60 hours of production music, a recording studio, a film directing studio specifically for training, a permanent film set, a black and white studio, editing suites and more.
4. University of California Los Angeles
Film, TV and Digital Media Programs
For over 50 years, UCLA alumni have climbed to the top of the media world, including director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola. And in the present day, the college is continuing this trend with some of the best media facilities and equipment on the globe. This includes animation studios, color correction suits, digital media labs and one of the best screening rooms in existence, the James Bridges Theater. You can tell the extent of UCLA’s media equipment just by looking at the wide variety of lighting and grip equipment on offer. UCLA features on seven out of eight methodology lists, being ranked third place on College Affordability Guide, fourth place on The Wrap, third place on The Hollywood Reporter, and fourth place on Niche.com.
3. American Film Institute
The training given to the American Film Institute’s graduate students is more intense than any other film school. This is because AFI makes the students produce more films than any comparable course. It does this by breaking up classes, “into teams that mirror a real production environment.” Naturally, strong levels of training are given during this time. On top of an almost continual use of state of the art equipment, students train in the Warner Bros. Building, which provides a soundstage and production offices, and the Sony Digital Arts Center, which has the world’s most up to date post-production facilities. The college is third place on The Wrap and fourth place on The Hollywood Reporter. Prepscholar also considers AFI to be a tier 1 college. However, the big catch with this college is that admission is capped to only 140 individuals every year.
2. New York University
Film & Television Program
Seven out of the eight methodology sources name New York University as one of the country’s best media colleges. And the college is really showing its credentials with its media facilities and equipment. It has over 120 cameras available for students, which range from 35mm cameras to DSLR digital cameras. And NYU’s film department virtual tour shows that it has all the media production equipment and resources that students could possibly need. Niche.com, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wrap all rank NYU as the second best film school nationally. Undoubtedly, NYU has the best media equipment and facilities on the East Coast of America.
1. University of Southern California
Film & Television Production Program
USC tops three methodology lists. And these entries highlight how much money it receives and how many graduates get into filmmaking. This information means that the University of Southern California clearly spends vast sums on the best equipment and ensures its students know how to use it. And USC wants to guarantee that it stays on top. It has invested in technology that is only just beginning to be used in media today, such as virtual reality and other forms of immersive media. Some of the equipment that students get to use at USC on a regular basis include computer labs with Avid editing systems, a color correction suite, sound mixing stages, a Foley stage, an ADR stage, animation studios, a game innovation lab, a mobile and immersive media lab, the 20th Century Fox HD multi-camera soundstage and nine more film and TV production stages. Additionally, another media production building onsite has enough media production rental equipment for hundreds of simultaneous location shoots, along with scenery, props, costume and makeup facilities. It also has a separate student-run television station not related to degree work. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from filmmakers such as George Lucas. These reasons and more are why the University of Southern California tops The Wrap’s list, The Hollywood Reporter’s list, Niche.com’s list and our list.