Thin films deposited in high vacuum by thermal evaporation, electron beam evaporation, and ion assisted deposition are anything but smooth, homogeneous, stratified media with plane parallel boundaries as assumed in thin film design and theory. In particular, the porosity brought about by the columnar microstructure of these films has been a problem ever since their first use. The refractive index may change upon exposure to ambient atmosphere, as a result of H2O adsorption. In-situ rapid scanning spectrophotometers and ellipsometers have helped various researchers to determine the degree of index change and the packing density of the films. Low voltage reactive ion plating is a rather novel deposition technique which produces thin films with packing densities of unity and higher. The dense, vitreous or polycrystalline microstructure, which pre-vents the films from adsorbing water upon exposure to air, yields films with bulk-like optical properties that are constant in time. However, there are problems with increased absorption particularly with ion plated TiO2 and SiO2 multilayer thin-film stacks. Continuous measurements of n and k during deposition need to be studied in order to determine the location of the increased absorption. Engineering aspects of mounting a Rudolph Research ellipsometer on a Balzers BAP 800 vacuum system will also be discussed.