Digital Cinema Package (DCP) - Explained
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Digital Cinema Package (DCP) - Explained

Understand the Digital Cinema Mastering process and learn what at a DCP is with this comprehensive all-in-one-course.
4.2 (31 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
354 students enrolled
Last updated 1/2014
Current price: $10 Original price: $30 Discount: 67% off
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Understand what a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is
  • Gain in-depth knowledge on Digital Cinema Mastering
  • Understand what post-production professionals are talking about
  • Learn how movies and cinema content is encrypted
  • Apply your knowledge to any related software product
  • Only online course in the world that covers this topic!
View Curriculum
  • This is a software-independent course, not a "do this, then that" tutorial
  • Every lecture and every second has valuable information, no irrelevant babbling
  • You require basic knowledge of video workflows

Finally. A course that covers all aspects of Digital Cinema Mastering!

Do you want to prepare your short film for projection in cinemas?
Or do you just want to know how hollywood blockbusters are distributed around the world?

In this software-independent course you will understand one of the most important aspects of video and film post-production.
Learn essential background facts on important topics around the D-Cinema Mastering process.

  • What is a Digital Cinema Package?
  • What resolutions and bit depths do you choose and why?
  • Why is the XYZ Colour Space used and what are the benefits?
  • What are advantages of the JPEG2000 codec?
  • How does Encryption work?

...and much more!

The course is technical but is easily accessible by everyone with basic knowledge of video workflows.

This course has a strong focus on Encryption for Digital Cinema.
Mainly because (until now) it is almost impossible to find any comprehensive information that is easy to understand.

After this course you will feel confident enough to talk to any professional about the Digital Cinema Mastering process and have an in-depth understanding of it's technical aspects.

You will also be able to handle any software product on the market that encodes Digital Cinema Packages without getting confused about all the various terms and acronyms that are used.

Who is the target audience?
  • Film and Media Students
  • Film Producers
  • Video Professionals
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
The D-Cinema Mastering Workflow
3 Lectures 06:55

Main take-aways of this lecture are:

  • A Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is never just a single file, it is always a collection of files that are created at the same time during the encoding process.
  • Blu-ray and DVD mastering is not even remotely similar to D-Cinema mastering
  • The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) main goal was to define a standard for distribution of content for D-Cinema

Useful links:

DCI Specification

Preview 01:58

The DCI workflow encompasses a number of steps that lead from the Digital Source Master to the final DCP.

The main steps are:

  1. Preparation of the Digital Source Master (create a D-Cinema cut or version)
  2. Conversion to a Digital Distribution Master (DCDM). Always as 16bit TIFF sequence with a DCI resolution and frame rate. Always in an XYZ colour space.
  3. Encoding to JPEG2000
  4. Transcoding to a Digital Cinema Package (Wrapping and creation of Metadata)

The content can always be encrypted during the last process.

Preview 03:05
The Digital Cinema Distribution Master
3 Lectures 04:55

Many resolutions and frame rates have been added to the DCI specification. 2K, 4K and HD1080 format should be supported as well as common frame rates such as 25p and 30p.

Although it is the year 2014 there may be playback servers around that do not support newer resolutions. I recommend that you test any non-2K 24p format if possible.

This is he reason why this lecture suggests to add HD into a 2K frame for example and to do some padding.

Can it work without any padding, just using and HD resolution? Probably yes.

Preview 01:28

Bit depth in D-Cinema is always 12-bit.
Event a 16 bit TIFF DCDM contains a 12-bit image in which the last 4 bits are essentially zeroed out.

12-bit was chosen, because anything less would introduce visible banding artefacts.

Bit Depth

Keep in mind that a Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) is supposed to be the last step in which the image is altered. All following steps are only image encoding and encryption.

Since a lot of applications do not require to render a DCDM first, this step is often simply skipped and part of the final DCP creation.

This is also the case for JPEG2000. Few applications require you to actually output a JPEG2000 file sequence as part of the DCP creation. Many times you can go from a Digital Source Master straight to the MXF files of a DCP.

The DCDM Specifications and Challenges for Quality Control
The XYZ Colour Space
2 Lectures 04:25

The XYZ Colour Space is a mathematical model to derive more colour spaces, such as RGB.
Colours outside of the horseshoe shape are considered outside of the visible spectrum of the human eye.

By choosing an XYZ colour space, we make the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) device independent.

The following Youtube video gives a great visualisation:

Visualizing the XYZ Color Space

The by far most useful book to understand colour mastering for D-Cinema is:

Colour and Mastering for Digital Cinema by Glenn Kennel

The Device Independent XYZ Colour Space

The colour space conversion from RGB or XYZ is often "fixed and locked" by the software you are using.

It will often want to know what the "source colour space" of the DSM is, so that it then can apply the correct transformation.

Again, depending on the Software you are using you can bypass these rigid settings and apply a customised 3D-LUT or "Look-up Table".

Colour Space Conversions between RGB and XYZ
JPEG2000 and Digital Cinema
4 Lectures 07:18

This lecture covers the most important benefits of JPEG2000.

Some of the main advantages of JPEG2000 are:

  • wavelet compression
  • intra-frame encoding
  • open standard

Since JPEG2000 is always wrapped into an MXF container during the last step.

Mainly because MXF files are easier to handle and can carry customisable metadata.

Preview 02:42

This lecture covers the basic approach and differences between DCT and wavelet compression.

DCT Compression vs Wavelet Compression

Wavelet based image compression can be found throughout Post-Production.
Cineform is the most dominant example in post-production, as well as REDCODE, which is JPEG2000 based.

I highly recommend the following links for more information:

GoPro and Cineform

Cineform RAW Technology overview (PDF)

Examples of Wavelet Compression used in Post-Production

The JPEG2000 bandwidth in D-Cinema should never exceed 250 Mbit.

An un-compliant data rate may cause stuttering on the server side. For Stereoscopic 3D the bandwidth is 125 Mbit due to the doubled frame rate.
As far as I know all DCP software products take this into consideration.

When you generate a JPEG2000 sequence and then wrap it into an MXF container, make sure to use the same frame rate (and consequently bandwidth).

Lastly, you can decide to choose a significant smaller bandwidth than 250 Mbit. This will result in a smaller DCP.

Wavelet Compression and Bandwidth
Audio for Digital Cinema
1 Lecture 02:06

Audio Mapping for D-Cinema: If you are using a DCP encoding software, it will most likely help you with the mapping. However, you may need to create individual audio files that can be used in each "track".

Specifications and Audio Mapping
Subtitles for Digital Cinema
1 Lecture 01:23

There are three commonly used subtitle formats: XML, PNG and MXF

MXF subtitles "wrap" the subtitle file. Once big benefit is that it can then be encrypted along with the rest of the DCP assets.

Different types of Subtitles
The MXF File Format
2 Lectures 02:11

The MXF file format has many flavours, such as OP1a or OPatom, AS-02 and so on.
"OP" stands for "Operational Pattern"

In Digital Cinema the MXF structure would be similar to what editing system such as Avid Media Composer use (OPatom). It essentially means that you have separate audio and video MXFs.

Further recommended reading:

Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA)

Essence, Wrappers and MXF

MXF files in Digital Cinema have always separated video, audio and subtitle content.
This has many benefits, for example audio or video files can be swapped independently for versioning purposes.

MXF in Digital Cinema
Assembling a Digital Cinema Package
2 Lectures 03:19

D-Cinema reels are similar to chapter markers.
Every reel is effectively a MXF file which agains represents an individual asset.

This consequently means, that reels can be replaced with other assets, which is done during versioning.
DCP software products often allows you to load a DCP and then swap the reels with different audio or video content.

The resulting supplemental DCP would then only contain the new content and be significantly smaller.

D-Cinema Reels

A CPL or Composition Playlist is similar to an iTunes or MP3 playlist. It assembles assets for playback.

In D-Cinema this is done by the server which looks for the UUIDs of the individual MXF files.
In case of a supplemental DCP, the CPL with the "country version" would point to the video assets of the english version and the audio assets of the particular country for example.

The Composition Playlist
Other DCP Metadata Files
1 Lecture 01:41

This course covers the various types of metadata files that are created along with a DCP.

PKL and CPL are always an integral part of the DCP and essential during the verification and integrity check.

Volindex, Assetmap and Packing List Files - and what they do
Encryption and Digital Cinema
8 Lectures 12:58

Encryption for D-Cinema allows for control on a very granular level.

Cinema playback systems can be limited to a specific time frame during which they can playback the content. It is also possible to let them play only specific language version for example.

Preview 02:38

Symmetric & Asymmetric Encryption , Private and Public Keys

Keys are essentially a string of letters and numbers. A public key can be sent via email, the private key however is kept in a secure place.

This place can be on a local computer system for example. Or, in case of playback servers, the private keys are programmed into the hardware and not accessible by anyone (except the manufacturer).

Symmetric & Asymmetric Encryption, Private & Public Keys

When creating a DCP, the AES key(s) are encrypted again using an RSA encryption.

This encryption is not necessarily done by the same software that encoded the DCP. Some software products produce a "digest file" that contains the AES keys and which are then loaded into a different software module for further encryption.

Other products may place the AES keys into a KDM that can only be accessed by the system which created the encrypted DCP. The same system would then load its own KDM to playback the encrypted content and/or to make more KDMs .

The Encryption Process in more detail

It is mandatory for encrypted DCPs to have a Certificate Chain and optional for unencrypted DCPs (although recommended).

A individual Certificate Chain can be provided by a vendor or by a Certification Authority (CA).

Certificate Chains

Signatures are a good way to ensure that the content was created by a trustworthy source.

Not mentioned in this slide:

Hash values are created from the track files during the encryption process and embedded into the metadata files.
These values are then cross-checked during the decryption process as mentioned in the next slide.

Digital Signatures

The Decryption Process of a KDM and the DCP assets are done within the playback server environment which can't be accessed by a person (for example the projectionist).

The link between server and projector is also encrypted.

The Decryption Process

A Distribution Key Delivery Message (DKDM) is never something that involves the end-user (the cinema). It is always an intermediate step.

There is virtually no difference between a DKDM and a normal KDM. Except that the DKDM is used to "transport" the AES keys securely to the service provider who creates more KDMs for the end-user.

Update - I was asked to give an example, so here it is:

"Let’s say you are a content provider. You receive a movie and then create a DCP. You don’t want to deal with KDM’s. In fact, you may not even have the rights to handle KDM’s.

There are specialised companies or departments who manage all the thousands of KDMs that go to cinemas. It is a business model in its own right and special applications are used to do this. Here is a vendor that provides KDM management systems:

Your company makes the DCP and sends it to several cinemas. Keep in mind that the same DCP is sent to multiple cinemas (or the same DCP Version for a particular country).

A DCP has an AES encryption and since you don’t have the rights to create KDMs for the cinema servers someone else has to do it.

How do you get the AES key safely to the person who has to generate the KDMs?
Well, you apply the same principle. When you create a DCP you create a KDM for the distributor.

The workstation of the KDM distributor has a private and public key. The private key is (similar to a DCP server) in a hidden place on the hard disk.

The workstation administrator has given you the public key which you use to create a KDM.
Since you don’t send the KDM to a server, but another service provider who distributes more KDMs, you have just created a DKDM.

The service provider receives the KDM and loads it into the program. He now has the AES key for the DCP that you have sent to the cinemas.

On his machine, the operator has 1,000s of public keys. He is now able to create more KDM for the cinemas.
As you can see, at no stage he was required to receive the actual DCP."

Distribution KDMs

Watermarking can be done for audio and video files separately.

It is a metadata flag in the DCP that tells the playback system to enable it in real-time.

Watermarking is invisible to the human eye and requires special technology to read it.

1 More Section
About the Instructor
Helmut Lottenburger
4.2 Average rating
31 Reviews
354 Students
1 Course
Film and Video Post-Production Technologist

I am specialising in Audio/Video Post-Production and D-Cinema workflows.

During my career I have consulted various post-production and broadcast facilities world-wide and implemented new workflows utilising cutting edge technology.

My area of expertise covers various technical aspects of video post-production, such as hardware infrastructure, software applications and VFX pipelines.