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The Making-of 2012

Presentation: The DCI Manufacturing Process and Digital Cinema Distribution

With Tommaso Vergallo, Digimage Cinéma Paris

The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) was created in 2002 and is a joint venture of six Hollywood majors. The group has set specifications for the digital master and digital distribution formats, but it did not provide standards for production and post-production.

The formats defined are:

All other formats (4:3, 16:9 etc.) have to enter into these frames – the remaining space is left black.

The frame rate standard is 24fps, however, 25fps is possible depending on the player. In the future more frame rates will be available.

The digital cinema package (DCP) has been defined as the delivery medium. It is a set of files (containing image, audio, subtitles) which is compressed and encrypted – the exhibitor needs a key delivery message (KDM) to decompress, decrypt and play the feature in a given period and in a given language version.

Prior to that, the postproduction provider has verified the DCP and has produced the copies for direct distribution to national theatres or to the foreign distributors‘ labs, where the package may be unwrapped using a primary key, in order to create a new package including other language versions or subtitles.

The delivery of the DCPs is either physical via hard drive or virtual via download from the postproduction house’s server.

The distributor pays the post house for:

For a 500 print release, the post house may only produce 80 DCPs, the rest is transferred via download since only 15-20% of cinemas need a hard-drive. Thus the distributor is saving 80 to 90% on a release and he is the only one to economize, while the exhibitor has to invest in the acquisition, installation and maintenance of new servers and projectors.

Therefore the Virtual print Fee (VPF) has been invented as a fee that the distributor pays to the exhibitor, or a third party investor, each time the latter screens a film. Through the VPF, the distributor shares a part of his savings with the exhibitor, enabling him to pay back the digital equipment which may have been financed through third parties. Third parties are investors (often funded by Hollywood Majors) who invest in the digitization of cinemas and who will be paid back through the VPF. There is however a danger seen by many art house movie theatres: the third party investors could put pressure on art house cinemas resulting in a change of programming – their goal being to play more mainstream movies, thus generating as much VPFs as possible, to accelerate pay-back to the third parties. This is why many art house cinemas are opposed to the VPF model and the DCI standard. For example, cinemas in South America are even completely rejecting the DCI standard which has made the majors threaten to stop delivering any content to South America.

In this model, the producers are still not getting their share. On the contrary, they might be forced to pay for two or even three types of delivery: the 35mm print, the DCI-DCP, and sometimes also for an E-Cinema delivery in Digibeta.

The Making-of 2012

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