What is a Digital Cinema Package (DCP)?

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 (D-Cinema) projector.

Due to the emergence of D-Cinema, 35mm film has nearly vanished from all theaters. Virtually all new theaters are digital only… and that means you’ll need a DCP. A benefit to using a DCP is that it will not wear out like 35mm. Digital copies do not degrade, so you’ll never have a broken, scratched or dirty DCP.

If you plan on submitting a film for the highest of theatrical awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines the eligibility rules to qualify for an Academy Award nomination as either a feature or short film as follows:

The DCP picture must be exhibited using 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24-or 48-frame progressive scan D-Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048×1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema distribution master–image characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound file formats suitable for exhibition in commercial D-Cinema sites. The audio in a typical DCP is typically 5.1 or 7.1 channels of discrete audio and these are the preferred configurations: minimum for a non-mono configuration of audio shall be three channels as left, center, right (a left/right configuration is not acceptable in a theatrical environment).

Pricing for professionally encoded feature DCPs vary based on requirements. When comparing prices, be sure all of the following are included in your quote:

  • Mastering – this is the actual process of converting your video/audio files into the format recognized by D-Cinema systems.
  • Quality Control (QC) – this is where the final product is checked for glitches, dropout, sync issues, color, etc. by a technician.
  • Transfer to USB or CRU drive. This is final step when the mastered files (DCP) are transferred to an EXT 2/3 formatted hard drive. The actual drive can be a standard portable USB or a professional DX115 drive carrier (CRU).

As you want to maximize compatibility, shoot and at edit at 24p and make a 24fps (frames per second) DCP. As mentioned above and if an Academy Award is coveted, you MUST have a 24fps DCP. If you are planning on selling your film to foreign buyers, many will demand a 24fps DCP. If you are not worried about those issues, you can make a 25, 30, or 48fps DCP. For 24fps DCPs you can edit and finish at 23.98 (technically 23.976) and the mastering facility will conform your film to true 24.00 fps.

These are the questions to be answered in order to compile pricing and time to complete:

  1. What is the total running time of your program?
  2. What is your deadline for the DCP file delivery?
  3. Is this video 2D or 3D?
  4. What is the frame rate?
  5. What is the frame size?
  6. Is the audio surround or stereo?
  7. Is there a subtitling component to this DCP file?
  8. What is your desired aspect ratio (ex. 1.85)?
  9. Depending on source aspect ratio would you like a cropped or non-cropped picture for DCP?
  10. Do you need encryption?
  11. Will the source be a file or tape?
  12. Once the job is completed, what is your desired delivery method (hard drive w/special formatting instructions, PC/mac/Linux or drive requirements, USB drive, CRU drive in caddy)?

Benefits of DCP include:

  • DCP files work with all theatres that offer digital projection.
  • Shipping costs are considerably less with a hard drive than film.
  • Making a film print is much more expensive than a DCP file.

Henninger DCP capabilities:

  • 2D Video
  • File or tape source
  • 24,25,30,48,50,60 FPS
  • 4K and 2K
  • Stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 Surround
  • All DCP Aspect Ratios
  • Delivery of DCP on a drive or over the internet.
  • We can embed subtitle and closed caption information to DCP file.
  • We can copy non-encrypted DCP’s (but do not offer encryption)

If you’re submitting your video project to a film festival or a theater, contact Henninger Media Services for creation of a high quality DCP.