The responses to my recent article here – What’s Wrong With The DCP? – suggest to me that there are several widespread misconceptions about digital cinema packages in general and about Interop and SMPTE DCP in particular. These are the top five:
Digital Cinema Packages
DCP stands for Digital Cinema Package. It’s the name for the collection of digital files that make up a digital movie distribution. Actually, there’s a proper name for the collection of files that make up a movie – called the Composition – but no one seems to like that name, and everyone likes the name DCP. There are two kinds of DCPs in the world, because engineers can never leave things alone. The Good DCP and the Bad DCP. When I say Bad DCP, I mean the one called Interop DCP. When I say Good DCP, I’m talking about the one called SMPTE DCP.
One of the big challenges created by digital cinema technology can be summed up in a single word: Frozen. Disney’s wildly successful 3D animated film captured two Academy Awards – Best Animated Film and Best Song – and was an international box office success. And therein lies the problem. For hit movies like Frozen all those various markets demand literally thousands of different and unique versions and producing them under demanding deadline pressure is a huge undertaking. “It seems unbelievable, but for one title that is a scope show (2.39) aspect ratio, we usually have to create a 1.78 panscan and a 1.33 panscan,” said Annie Chang vice president, post-production technologies, The Walt Disney Studios. “When you start to factor in 42 different languages for each aspect ratio and then add in multiple resolutions/playback standards (1080p, 720p, NTSC, PAL) and then add in the different edits/versions and the various delivery formats that downstream distributors (airlines, television, cable, satellite, electronic sell through, etc) ask for, you exponentially end up with tens of thousands of files. Just for one title.”