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 in 35mm Reel, 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.

They comes in a Linux Formatted Hard Drive or sometimes through Satellite Link.

dcp or Digital Cinema Package
What 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 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.

How To Create A DCP (Digital Cinema Package)

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.

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 OpenDCP itself.

Step 1 – Covert TIFF Sequence To JPEG 2000

Before processing your movie with OpenDCP, you first need to convert it into an image sequence.

The most recommended format is TIFF sequence.

Once you have your movie converted into TIFF sequence:

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.

Digital Cinema Package openDCP

Under Input Directory, select the folder which contains the TIFF sequence.

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.

Step 2 – Setting Up MXF File Parameters

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.

Digital Cinema Package openDCP

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.

Step 3 – Add Subtitles File (If Available)

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.

Step 4 – Creating The Final MXF File

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

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. 

How To Test DCP (Digital Cinema Package) On Your Home Computer

Though it is very easy to create a DCP on a home computer, but it is comparatively difficult to test it, mainly due to difference in the color space.

If you use Adobe Premiere Pro, FCP (Final Cut Pro) or After Effects for editing and rendering, then the output files will have its source color parameters as sRGB. Similar to the color parameters of your computer.

But, in order to get the correct color space on a Digital Cinema Projector, the files need to be processed through X’Y’Z’ Transformation.

Don’t worry, the process is not that complicated as it sounds.

Your DCP software will handle the job for you.

If you wish to use OpenDCP for creating Digital Cinema Package, you will find the color space transformation options under the Image Parameters section.

Test Digital Cinema Package on Home Computer

Now, when it comes to testing a DCP, your normal Media player will not be able to play the file for you since VLC or Windows Media Player does not play MXF file formats.

Earlier when I created my first ever Digital Cinema Package, I was really confused how I am going to test it since it was not possible for me to visit my nearby theater and get testing permissions.

After searching a bit online, I found a software called Stereoscopic Player.

Stereoscopic Player

Stereoscopic player is basically used to test 3D video’s and it can also play your Digital Cinema Package.

But, the main problem with this media player is that it ignores the source color space of the DCP, i.e. X’Y’Z’ and instead outputs the file in RGB Color Space.

The final result is blown out colors. Though your files will play normally on a Cinema Projector.

Although we know that a DCP created with OpenDCP will give play normally in a theater, still one should be sure about the output before delivering the files.

The software which helped me do so is NeoDCP Player.

NeoDCP Player

NeoDCP Player is one of the best and most stable Digital Cinema Package player that delivers accurate results and amazing features.

You can use NeoDCP Player to check and test your DCP’s very easily.

It can play encrypted as well as unencrypted DCP’s and you don’t even need expensive hardware to do so.

Recently, NeoDCP contacted me and offered 3 months free license of NeoDCP Player Professional version for testing purpose. 

They wanted me to utilize as well as learn and discover more about the features that I was not able to access in the trail version.

Run a Digital Cinema Package with Neo DCP Player

Before you run a DCP, make sure to change color transform setting by going into Settings > Color Settings and changing color transform to  XYZ to sRGB.

Here’s how you can test your DCP’s with NeoDCP Player:

Conclusion

Digital Cinema Packages are the modern and advance version of earlier used cinema packages which comes in 35 mm reels.

The advantage of DCP over cinema packages is that the quality of a movie always remains the same.

Also it is much cheaper to create a Digital Cinema package and one can easily do so even with a Home Computer.

And after you are done creating the package, you can use software like NeoDCP to test it out on your home computer before taking it to the actual cinema projector.