Festival Series: BluRay versus DCP

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Still From Film Derby Baby
Still From Film Derby Baby

Our latest DCP was for the Indie Doc Derby Baby, produced by Dave Wruck and Robin Bond for Robin Bond Media. The film, which has no less than 100 Showtimes across the country Derby Baby showtimes, is a great project which we were proud to help get on the big screen. The film’s Producer’s contacted us seeking to find out more about the DCP option. They understood BluRay or even a HDCam tape delivery were options but they wanted to see if a DCP could be done quickly and inside the Indie Budget they were working with. One of their first questions centered not around price but around the benefits of a DCP over a BluRay.

The wide adoption of BluRay, after the HD-DVD/BluRay Wars (remember those?), gave us a standard that has allowed theater owners to offer a presentation platform of high resolution and reliability to today’s Independent Filmmaker. The ease at which a disc can be authored and played back on almost any machine, worldwide, coupled with the fact that the 1080p format scales nicely with the Digital Projection 2K standard and it’s relatively cheap disc/burner cost, make it a great tool for the filmmaker looking to release his/her film.

So why use a DCP?

First let’s answer the question, what is a DCP? DCP stands for Digital Cinema Package. In short, a 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. It can handle files up to 4096k in size and runs at speeds up to 250 Mbit/s! It also operates in XYZ Colorspace rather than videos YUV/RGB Colorspace. So in short, it is made to as closely simulate the image complexity and fidelity of film as possible.

But why spend the money on a DCP? Is a DCP really that much better than a BluRay. In short, yes!

BluRay, DCP Frame compared

A BluRay gives you easy access to the 1080/24p spec, and 5.1 Dolby Surround audio. and having seen many BluRay projected films, It can look stunning given the author encodes at the highest rate allowed, color corrects with D-Cinema in mind and uses as close to master quality as they can. But even with those pluses, the BluRay has the following limitations;

  • Since the Projector screens at only 2k or 4k, any HD material will introduce bars on the sides.
  • Most likely your compression will come in somewhere around 12 to 25 Mbit/s, falling way short of the 250 allowed by the server.
  • Since there is no standard on authoring, encoding from say a H-264 web release to BluRay is allowed, meaning there is nothing to prevent you from burning your 640 x 480 scaled Youtube video to disc.
  • A mistake in the authoring process can result in an unplayable disc.
  • Films, can for the most part be copied by anyone.

DCP standardizes the process, giving the filmmaker full access to the 2048k/4096k image format, and it allows films shot in 2:35/2:40 to be projected as intended. The DCP will not be created if the source footage is not within the strict DCP spec. Another benefit is that DCPs don’t wear out like 35mm or scratch like BluRay’s.  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. Also as stated above, If you walk into any D-Cinema theater, anywhere in the world, they can play your DCP without a problem. Often housed in a military grade USB drive, factors such as scratching and damage from transport are nonexistent. And since the package is housed on a Linux formatted hard drive and in a muxed jpeg2000 format, copying a film is extremely difficult.

Another factor, and a very important one if you care about the look of your film or your film depends on the look to enhance audience participation, is regardless of what you deliver on, that your film will be projected in XYZ Colorspace not in the YUV/RGB Color we are all used to from our television sets. DCP’s are automatically converted to XYZ in the packaging process. DCPs and theatrical D-Cinema equipment will make well-shot and color-corrected footage look absolutely fantastic.  The color gamut and contrast are far superior to anything you’ll see on your computer monitor.

3D DCP’s are easy to encode and package. There currently is no solution below 5k for authoring 3D BluRays.

Lastly, In order to be considered for an Academy Award, your film must be delivered on either a film print or a DCP. For full specifications, go here, http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/rules/digital.html

Derby Baby Logo

Derby Baby DCP
A darling film, about love, addition and ring rash, Derby Baby was turned into a DCP from a sequence of Tif files and a set of discrete 5.1 audio files. The original film was uprez’d from 720p to 2k by Dave Wruck and sent to us via a Hard Drive. The finished 90 minute film was sent to a D-Cinema in Los Angeles for screening on a CRU 100 gig hard drive. To get more information on the film, go to http://www.derbybabythefilm.com/

So what special steps do you have to do in order to prepare your film for a DCP? Contact us and we’ll gladly walk you through the steps.

The price of DCP’s have come down drastically in the last few years. The choice to go with the format used by all the major studios versus BluRay is a much easier one today. The ability to compete with the majors is now fully within your grasp. For instance, we offer dynamic packages starting around $10 per minute. Visit us at www.madwerkz.com or contact us at madwerkz for more info on creating DCP’s. Happy filming.

Joddy

 

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