We all enjoy watching movies at the theater’s with a large bucket of Popcorn, Coke and Nachos. But, Did you ever thought how a new movie is delivered to your nearby theater, and what happens inside the projection room. Earlier, movies used to arrive at the theater’s in 35mm Reel’s, with a written note on it to give the information about a particular movie such as its name, Director’s name, issuer etc.  But at this age of technology, we now have Digital Cinema Package or DCP which comes in a Linux Formatted Hard Drive or sometimes through Satellite Link.

dcp or Digital Cinema PackageWhat is Digital Cinema Package or DCP?

A Digital Cinema Package or DCP is the digital equivalent of a 35mm film print. It is what you give to a commercial theater so that they can screen your movie on a digital ( also known as “D-Cinema”) projector. Like a 35mm print, a DCP is a world-wide standard. If you walk into any D-Cinema theater, anywhere in the world, they can play your DCP without a problem.

Benefits of Digital Cinema Package or DCP

Due to the emergence of D-Cinema, 35mm film has nearly vanished in the last few years. Many theaters do not have any 35mm equipment at all! Virtually all new theaters are digital only, and that means you’ll need a DCP.

The second reason is cost. If you want a 35mm print, and your movie was shot digitally and finished on an Avid or Final Cut Pro (or any nonlinear editing system), you’ll need to do a “filmout” – the process of converting your digital files into a film print. The cost for a feature film “filmout” is typically $40,000 or more. Each additional print is about $1500.

In contrast, making a feature DCP typically costs 95% less. With such large cost savings, it is easy to see why all the major film studios have moved towards digital distribution.

Another benefit is that DCPs don’t wear out like 35mm. Digital copies do not degrade, so you’ll never have a broken, scratched or dirty DCP. The 1000th screening will look just as perfect as the first.

So, The Biggest Question, Can I Make a DCP Myself?

Here is the biggest problem with making your own DCPs: They can only be properly tested and viewed on a D-Cinema projector in a theater. DCPs use a completely different color space than your computer or TV monitor, so all you can ever do on a PC or MAC is “simulate” what it will look like in a theater.

If you want to make DCPs, you’ll need to establish a relationship with your local theater so that you can test out your results. If you are a non-profit or making a documentary, many theaters will be happy to help, possibly for free.

There are couple of software’s that you can use to create a Digital Cinema Package on your home computer. The most commonly used and free software is OpenDCP. You can download OpenDCP from their official Website.

Creating Digital Cinema Package or DCP with OpenDCP

Since a DCP is a package of files, the two most important files are your Video and Audio. The Video format used in a DCP is MXF and for audio, we require wav files.

MXF is collection of JPEG 2000 or j2k file format sequence bundled together in a single file. You can create JPEG 2000 or j2k using After Effects but it can also be done with OpenDNS itself. Before processing your movie with OpenDNS, you first need to convert it into an image sequence and the most recommended format is TIFF sequence.

Once you have your movie converted into TIFF sequence, which you can normally do with After Effects,

  1. Start OpenDNS and under JPEG 2000 tab, choose your profile (2K or 4K cinema), frame rate and bandwidth. For 2k, leave bandwidth at 125 mb/s and for 4k, increase it 250 mb/s (maximum). The value of threads depends on the number of cores your processor will use to convert the files into JPEG 2000.
    Under Input Directory, select the folder which contains the TIFF sequence and at output directory, select a folder where you want JPEG 2000 files to be saved after conversion.
    Click on Convert to start the conversion process.
  2. Now, you need to create a single MXF files from recently converted JPEG 2000 sequence, select the MXF tab and set type to JPEG 2000, note that you can also create MXF from MPEG2 file instead of JPEG 2000.
    Set Label as SMPTE (Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers) and enable encryption if you want to secure the package with a key. Set Picture Directory to the folder which contains your JPEG 2000 sequence and Output Files as the destination where you want the MXF file to be exported.
    Click on create MXF to start the conversion.
    To create MXF of your audio, change the type to WAV, select your audio files and convert.
    DCP or Digital Cinema Package
  3. There are not many options under the subtitles tab but, if you have a subtitle file for your movie, simple set the file input location and output location to create a Digital Cinema Package compatible subtitle file.
  4. Finally, when you are creating MXF files, open the DCP tab. Here you can set the Title, annotation, issuer and other sorts of informative stuff and XML digital signatures.
    DCP or Digital Cinema Package
  5. Set the Picture to the location of your Video MXF file, Sound to Audio MXF file, subtitle file and click on Create DCP to create your Digital Cinema Package.

Copy the DCP to a Linux formatted Hard Drive and take it to your nearest theater for testing. Refer to the guide How to Test Digital Cinema Package on your Home Computer if you wish to test the DCP on your computer itself.

Also Read: How To Run a Digital Cinema Package with Neo DCP Player