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Need to Project in a Digital Theater? Make a Digital Cinema Package for Cheap with OpenDCP

The dream of any independent filmmaker is to one day project their film in pristine detail on the big screen. For many, this means hooking up an HD projector to a laptop and projecting on a less-than-optimal screen with less-than-optimal audio. If you are fortunate enough to have the money to rent out a real theater or you have access to one, there’s a good chance that theater is going to be using a digital projector that takes a DCP (or Digital Cinema Package). Unfortunately, they are not cheap to make — but if you’re willing to go the DIY route, there is now open source software called OpenDCP that will allow you to make cinema quality DCPs. Filmmaker Danny Lacey has a very thorough walk-through of the process in the video below.

Here are the basic steps to creating a DCP, from Danny’s blog:

– Export your film as a 16-bit TIFF sequence
– Use free, open source DCP software to convert the TIFF sequence into JPEG 2000
– The DCP software then wraps the video (JPEG2000) and audio (WAV) in to MXF files.
– The final stage is creating the DCP which generates 6 files that will be recognised by a DCP server.

This is the video walk-through explaining those steps in detail:

Though he is using Adobe products, it’s possible to make your film a TIFF sequence in many other programs. If you’re going to project in a digital theater, Blu-Ray is certainly an option for many, but a DCP will give the absolute maximum quality possible. As filmmakers, digital technology has helped put more of our dollars spent on screen, rather than paying for a 35mm transfer which might cost more than the entire budget for the film. As films can be made more cheaply, digital alternatives to Hollywood tools need to exist, and thankfully that’s exactly what OpenDCP provides.

While the theater experience has steadily declined over the last few years, a number of smaller, independent theater chains like the Alamo Drafthouse have bucked the trend of diminishing returns and have actually made it better than ever to see a film in a theater. Even though that business is getting tougher as different mediums fight for attention spans, hopefully cheaper digital cinema projectors, like the still unreleased RED projector, or one of the many Sony projectors, will give rise to a new golden age of independent film, where the selection of films at the local theater can be as varied and independently-minded as we want them to be.

You can find the links to all of the software from Danny’s video below.


[via Danny Lacey Film Blog]


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Description image 57 COMMENTS

  • Great stuff. Thats Valuable :D

  • Favorited and shared.

  • really cool. For RAW workflows – BMCC I’m talking about you too! – it seems that we’ll have the best way of exporting those tiff sequences since Resolve would handle that anyway.

    • Note that it’s raw, not RAW or Raw—it is not an acronym, it’s not someone’s name, it is not a proper noun; it doesn’t deserve a chariot or Secret Service agents, nor does it deserve an unnecessary capital letter, let alone three. Just raw.

      Moving on…

      • Joe Marine on 07.3.12 @ 1:30PM

        To nitpick your nitpick, in common usage RAW refers to camera metadata while Raw or raw refers to camera footage taken straight out of a camera without any post-processing. As much as we want to be grammatically correct, RAW (all capital letters) is the form used by literally every camera company in existence, so until they do something differently, that’s what I’m going to be using when I write about it as well.

      • john jeffreys on 07.3.12 @ 1:45PM

        RAW is actually a legit technical term

      • shaun wilson on 07.4.12 @ 4:18AM

        Absolutely back up Joe on this one, RAW and raw are two different formats. I you want to get on the grammar police circuit, these file formats are patented and the grammatical wording on the patent dictates how it will be written thereafter.

      • Every camera maker calls it RAW.

  • A note about colour management when making DCP:

    In After Effects, use 16bit bit-depth, Universal Film Printing Density as working colour space. When exporting the finished TIFF sequence use Adobe DCDM X’Y’Z Gamma 2.6 as ouput colour space.

    • 16-bit is correct, but Universal is not. Adobe recommend ProPhotoRGB and in my testing that gives much better XYZ results. But it’s more complicated as you have to control your input/source color management as well in order to get good results.

      That’s one of the limitations of using OpenDCP – it’s got only basic color transformation. I do all of that in AE and only use OpenDCP for MXF/DCP work. It’s not hard to get poor results in going to XYZ.

      • In the document provided by Adobe about Colour Management in AE, it states that for cinema distribution, Universal Film Printing Density is recommended.

        • Marvin – Universal Camera Film Printing Density is less of gamut as it’s tuned for film print stocks which have a reduced gamut compared to XYZ. You only will benefit when shooting film and going out to film – or shooting digital, needing to reduce gamut to go out to film.

          For digital aquisition and going to DCP XYZ, ProPhotoRGB gives much better results (I’ve tested on my own filmout) – here’s another test: – the ProPhotoRGB is in another Adobe doc I can’t place my hands on.

          But the key fact is XYZ is much larger than print stocks. If you are shooting Red, Alexa or 12 or 16-bit workflow, you don’t want to throw out gamut you don’t need to.

        • It depends on your source material. If you are digital from the beginning, then a balanced work space (ex. RGB) is good. If you are using DPX/CIneform (logarithmic) or a film transfer, then use the universal film printing density.

          Color is one of the trickiest parts of the workflow and people obsess over it . However, in the end, you can’t control all the variables.

  • Be careful with that tutorial. As he says, he got really lucky with putting his DCP on a mac formatted drive. It shouldn’t work on many DCP servers. I even tried a DCP on a linux ext3 drive formatted with paragon Software Extfs on MacOS X and it didn’t work. So the tricky part of doing a DCP is to make a DCP compliant drive and that’s not easy since you have to use Linux with the terminal.
    His tuto only focus on the easy (not so easy) part of making a DCP thanks to OpenDCP’s programmers who’ve done an incredible job with this software.

    This link will guide you to format a DCP-compliant hard drive:

    This one is in french and actually I had to combine both methods to get a DCP-compliant drive that works

    Good luck

    • Ulysse is correct – Mac formatted drive is a bad no-no. Drive formatting and delivery in an complicated subject that depends on the theater ingest system (which the DCI specs did not lock down).

      There are lots of way to deliver but lots of ways a particular theater chain can trip up and your film fail to ingest.

      • HFS+ (Mac) read support has been available on the linux based servers for awhile, it is part of the 2.6 kernel. Some Debian derivatives will not mount a HFS+ drive larger than 2TB. Considering the majority of servers are linux based, using HFS+ probably isn’t that big of a gamble. I’ve been using it for years without issue (primarily Dolby and DoRemi). Having said that, ext3 is still going to be the best choice since its the only kinda-sorta endorsed format. I’ve used Paragon’s EXTFS with success on the Mac, however, VirtualBox + Linux also works well.

        • HFS+ is poor choice for any film where you don’t hand deliver a DCP as most all Regal theaters – largest chain, use a library management system for ingesting – it’s based on Windows 2000 servers with a special EXT driver that only works for internally mounted drives (EXT2 or EXT3 which normally is fine on external USB drive on many Dolby add Doremi servers will fail on on these Sony LMS ingest). Bud oddly enough a USB NFTS drive will work on those being Windowsb-based And plenty of venues around the world do not have the latest firmware nor anyone with even basic computer skills. And many venues have much older Linux boxes – they only upgrade if forced by the studios or to get warranty support,

          Bottom line – HFS+ means there are a number of systems your DCP won’t ingest. Why risk that since there is no cost issue, if you don’t have a dedicated Linux box, use a good Live CD. Ubuntu is easy to use and disk utility is GUI based.

          Finally, avoid EXT mount/file system apps. XML digital signatures are really easy to mess up and hash checking will fail even if the file is a single byte altered on any one of the six files. Again, Live CD is easy way to just make it right especially if you’ve got ticket sales, distributor agreements and a big premiere event on the line.

    • Hello! I’m curious which parts of the two tutorials you followed to have a success? I’m getting close with the first one, but get tripped up at the point he wants me to create a DCP directory. It’s scary business – overwriting drives that are but a letter different from your computers entire hard drive! Thanks.

  • What about final cut pro? Can you use that to export 16-bit? If not, I guess import FCP project into After Effects?

  • john jeffreys on 07.3.12 @ 1:46PM

    Most festivals I’ve dealt with just want an NTSC DVD for screening purposes. Which is really lame.

  • I will second the caution about being very careful – there is ton of information missing about potential pitfalls with DCPs from that tutorial. Do not rely on it if actually dollars and audience is at stake. I started making DCPs for my IMAX film ( and had intermittent success – sometimes worked, sometimes not. Got very serious about it and developed my own technique which uses OpenDCP, After Effects and some custom tools. Other filmmakers started asked me to do it and now run a “By Filmmakers, for Filmmakers DCP service” ( Have done 25 or so features and 50 plus short subjects, 2K, 4K, 3D, IMAX.

    • I really don’t understand why you list IMAX here, as far as I know IMAX DCP is a proprietary format based on standard DCI spec. IMAX theatres can’t play standard DCP and normal cinemas can’t play IMAX titles. To make IMAX film, the picture has to go through DMR and the audio has to be remastered too.

      On your website I didn’t see any information about IMAX DCP mastering.

      • Marvin,

        You are partially uninformed. IMAX systems are Doremi server system. They playback 2D 2k and 4K DCP’s just fine – assuming they are compliant. Their proprietary stuff kicks in for 3D content to turn on the second projector and perform their pixel offset. But to my eye all it amounts to is better color and brightness in 3D. For 2D is not a gain at all. And there are number of former IMAX venues that have put in digital systems with new 4K DLP (much brighter, better color, better dynamic range than Sony 4K) systems, including the first few 4:3 aspect ratio.

        The DCI spec will hopefully be expanded to cover these formats. There is v1 of standards for digital giant screen. IMAX has been asked to open their standard up and I suspect something may give on that as their large screen, 4:3 system is due second half of 2013 using a laser light engine.

  • Hi,

    I’m the guy that made the above DCP video. Hope you’re finding it useful.

    I must again (as in the video) stress that it looks like I got lucky with the transferring of the files over to the DCP server (a Dolby Server) and that it is ESSENTIAL that you do some research in the correct way to deliver your files to the DCP (at the cinema). Research, research, research and also very importantly – test runs!

    This DCP option is great for the low budget film maker looking for cheaper 2k/4k DCP options, for the more high end, commercially distributed projects, the advice would be tread carefully, and again, do more research.

    I didn’t get in to the whole colour management (pre-DCP) as It’s not something I have much experience of, just yet. The test run I did at my local cinema, using footage I’d graded myself in After Effects, looked great on the big screen at 2k. Again, look in to the correct way to colour manage your project before you make the DCP.

    OpenDCP (and other similar programs) really has opened a few doors for us low budget indie film folk, it also gives us a much better understanding of the DCP process, which can be extremely complicated. This is incredibly important as the self-distribution model continues to change at an incredible rate.



    • Joe Marine on 07.3.12 @ 3:21PM

      Thanks for making the video. This is definitely a solution for indie filmmakers with no money, and that’s why it’s great – and as you say, test runs are important.

    • vishnuvardhan on 10.25.13 @ 12:26PM

      Thanks for the video,
      But I have a small doubt, actually we shot some videos, ( that are closeups and extreme close ups ) with out giving head room. those videos are bit tight framed,
      now my doubt is weather video information at top ( 2 or 3 Inches ) is gonna loose in the process of digital cube process
      I use FCP X for video editing, weather I can use letter box ( aspect ratio) before export of the video that which is gonna for digital process. will this help or please tell me any other solution that I can over come.

  • You shut my mouth… an article about OSS. Awesome, thank you.

  • Very insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

    David S.

  • “While the theater experience has steadily declined over the last few years”

    I keep hearing this from people, but I’m baffled as to what they’re talking about. I’ve been going to the movies for a good sixteen or seventeen years now, and aside from more cinemas preferring you to select your seats when buying (which is either helpful or annoying depending on how full the session is), the experience is pretty much the same. You go into a dark room with a bunch of strangers and watch movies on a massive screen with great sound. Still by far the best way to see any movie.

    What specifically do you feel has declined about the cinema experience in recent years?

    • Joe Marine on 07.3.12 @ 9:02PM

      A few things – and I’m strictly talking about the chain multiplexes, I actually think independent theaters have improved the experience.. Projection standards have fallen off the face of the earth. You would think it would get better with digital, but often they leave on the 3D lens for digital projection so you’ve got to watch the film at a much lower brightness than usual. Add to that the fact that they try to make the lamps in the projectors last far longer than they should to save money.

      Cell phones and cell phone etiquette. No matter how stealthy people think they are, the light from a cell phone screen is immediately distracting. You’ve got people who spend half the movie texting on their phones. You might say, well what can we do about that? Have an usher in each theater and make it clear that cell phone use is strictly prohibited, and you get one warning, otherwise you’re kicked out. This is the way it’s done at the Alamo Drafthouse. Speaking of which, my one xperience at that theater in Austin was the best I’ve ever had. It was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo projected in real 4K on a screen that was as bright as I’ve ever seen one – and many people complained that movie was too dark. It wasn’t in that theater though. The food service was just a plus, but it’s one of the ways that independent theaters are adding features instead of taking them away.

      So when I say it’s declining, I mean that standards are declining. There’s no pride in theater projection and running a theater – you press a button and the movie starts – end of story. Maybe that has to do with the fact that projectionists used to be trained and they cared about the job, but either way it’s an industry that should be driven by the customer experience, and it’s the exact opposite. I’ve also noticed that food has progressively gotten worse – while trivial, the quality of the popcorn in most multiplexes has gone way down, and if you hit the theater at the wrong time, you’ll get leftovers that they made much earlier in the day.

      While I would love to only go to independent theaters, I don’t live close enough to one to be able to go every time I want to see a movie. I will say that chain theaters in LA (like Arclight) and NY do a better job than most, but most of the country doesn’t live in those two areas. While the idea of theaters is wonderful, and I still love going, they should try improving the customer experience. If you look at it, they are really providing a customer service, because I can get that same movie from somewhere else, they aren’t actually making it, they’re just showing it.

      If it seems like I’m passionate about it, it’s because I am – I am a filmmaker and I love movies, and I have a lot of respect for those that make them, and I think they should be presented the way the director intends. I’ve had a number of movies ruined by bright lights in the front of the movie theater, and it’s just unfortunate that the standards for projection have dropped so significantly.

      • Interesting. Aside from the ‘The Hunger Games’, I’ve never been to a picture where cell phones were an issue. I can imagine that would be extremely annoying though. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Cinematic Code of Conduct:

        “Have an usher in each theater and make it clear that cell phone use is strictly prohibited, and you get one warning, otherwise you’re kicked out. ”

        Can we get this legislated for rock concerts too? I didn’t pay $300 to watch Eric Clapton play guitar through the screen of the guy in front of me’s iPhone.

        As for the food, I’m surprised that anyone goes to a cinema for food – it was lousy 15 years ago as far as I remember, and I’ve had no reason to test my impression again in the intervening years. I imagine this could vary from chain to chain though. And as for popcorn, I’d rather eat my tickets.

        I don’t know if I’ve ever been to an independent theatre, aside from the premiere of one of my own films.

        “So when I say it’s declining, I mean that standards are declining. There’s no pride in theater projection and running a theater – you press a button and the movie starts – end of story. ”
        I have no problem with this in theory. It only becomes an issue for me when the print goes to hell, freezes or some other glitch, and there’s no one to fix it. Although this isn’t something I’ve experienced personally, I’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence from people to suggest that it’s a real problem.

        “You would think it would get better with digital, but often they leave on the 3D lens for digital projection so you’ve got to watch the film at a much lower brightness than usual. ”
        Another reason why 3D is evil.

        Personally, over hundreds of trips to the cinema over the past decade and a half, the only negative experiences I’ve had are elderly couples arguing about the plot of the movie with each other. And ‘Batman and Robin’, but that was more of a content issue.

      • “Have an usher in each theater and make it clear that cell phone use is strictly prohibited, and you get one warning, otherwise you’re kicked out.”

        While I completely understand your frustration with cell phones, you need to realize that film exhibition is a business. Let’s do the math…

        I have ten screens in my complex. Four days a week we offer two matinees and two evening performances – first show at 12:30pm. Three days a week we show a late matinee and the two evening shows – first show at 3pm. the last show gets out anywhere from 12:30am to 1:30am, depending on feature length and planned guest flow. so, we are talking four days a week at 12 to 13 hours, and three days a week at 9.5 to 10.5 hours, for a total of 76.5 to 83.5 hours a week. Here in Ontario Canada, our minimum wage is $10.25 an hour.

        10 screens (and therefore 10 Ushers) * performance hours * $10.25 and hour = $7841.25 in wages minimum, up to $8558.75 in wages maximum. This is assuming I am only filling these rolls with relatively new employees as we give wage increases after every 600 hours worked.

        Keep in mind, this is just for Ushers. I also have to schedule 3 to 10 employees for the Concession Stand depending on anticipated attendance, 2 Hosts (the folks at the podium who rip your tickets and direct you to your theatre), at least one person in our Box Office, plus have management on hand to deal with the operation of the theatre. This number is for wages only… we’re not even considering the other operating costs.

        Again, I appreciate what you are saying, but financially speaking, how much are you willing to pay for your ticket in order for me to continue to run the same theatre that you want to come watch movies in?

        • Joe Marine on 10.8.13 @ 8:36PM

          I’d pay $20-$25 a ticket for a large screen with a perfect image and sound like the Alamo Drafthouse. Maybe you don’t do it on all of the screens, you only do it for movies above PG-13 or something. I think there are options for the problem.

  • shaun wilson on 07.4.12 @ 4:29AM

    Joe, would you recommend a 2.40 or 2.39 aspect ratio for a generic dcp export?

    • Joe Marine on 07.4.12 @ 4:59AM

      Honestly, I’ve never personally made one before – which is why I found this article so interesting in the first place. I believe the DCI spec calls for 2.39, which is 4096 x 1716 or 2048 x 858 – which technically comes out to 2.386 – but when it really comes down to it, there isn’t a huge difference between 2.39 and 2.40, it basically comes down to rounding. I would say if you’re making one, stick to the pixel sizes that the DCI spec lists, which are those two I just mentioned. There are certainly people more experienced in DCP than I am, so it would be great if someone who has done it before could comment on that specific question.

      • Do not deviate from DCI aspect ratio specs. If you file does not use the specs, it usually won’t even play at all – also true for audio (common ingest failure is audio is not 24 bit). And if you place a different aspect ratio in a DCP – you will either have to stretch/crop/pan and scan will will result in visual distortion, image softening and/or letterbox/pillarbox. Letterbox/pillarbox means the projector is shining light on the screen that is just black – distracting. And most theaters don’t custom mask unless you personally insist. In fact although 16:9 has partial support, many theaters don’t have preset masks for it. Stick to flat and scope per DCI specs and the exact pixel values.

        A big issue for filmmakers is a problem that is not or barely noticeable on your 42″ LCD suddenly is fugly on a 50″ wide screen with 300 people in the house.

        This means you have to think about DCI compliance before you start shooting – not while making your DCP, it’s too late by then. This is the biggest disappointment filmmakers have when they realize their 16:9 30p Mark II film is going to look not great when converted to a 24.000 Flat aspect ratio

  • HI all, James Gardiner the CineTechGeek here.
    Good to see the main stream (Blogs) starting to realize the opportunity going digital has for the independent film maker.
    I have made many many videos covering topics like this, but in general to a much greater (technical) detail.
    You can find them at

    My latest video is “Film Festival Deliverables” and I go though the advantages and disadvantages of all the different types of media formats you can supply a film festival.

    I do recommend you look through the history of videos I have made. I cover many topics.

    All I can say is, good luck to anyone with the passion to make a film. Its a difficult job and I hope my videos help you archive your goal and improve your chances to get your creation on screen and viewed by as many people as possible,


  • I just had a screening of 10 minutes of my upcoming full feature in the theater. Needed to test the whole Timeline TO Movie chain and it worked. However I noticed that 16:9 is not a good format for theater. The aspect ratio feels like 4:3 on 16:9 wide TV…. Simply , not very filmic. I shot on 5DmkII. The picture itself looks great. Had it graded in DaVinci. Sound is 5.1 as well. But I’m going to make it 2.40:1 by Tuesday premiere :)

    Here is a trailer ( in Slovak ) but you’ll get the idea

  • Stephen van Vuuren,
    what is the difference between IMAX DCP and Simple DCP?

  • Hi can anyone explain me why doremi in 50% of loading the my DCP project has failed. I checked my film in easy dcplayer and it works fine, even i also checked the checked hashes and the status was My harddrive was ntsf formated and doremi recognieseit very well but it always stop at 50%.

  • Good info. Alternatively, you can use a company that specializes in creating DCPs. I used Creative DCP ( for a film festival I entered in. Don’t go by their standard pricing though, I called them and asked for a deal since I had a lot to create.

  • Hi all,

    I’m creating a DCP for a 30minute film shot on DSLR. Because I could not find a 16bit tiff export solution in FCP, I exported a ProRes422 .mov and opened in AE. After selecting the correct options in AE for a 16bit export, the project reads with a warning that states that I might not have enough disc space to complee the render. My drive has 250 gigs left. Should I expect such huge file sizes for a 30 minute film? Have I dont something wrong?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Your linke for OpenDCP didn’t work. I found the correct link for OpenDCP link is

  • can dcp be made from dslr full hd video ?

  • I just used this tutorial to create a DCP for my local Regal Cinema and everything worked fantastic! This is a great tutorial.

    On a side note, I can confirm that I used the NTFS format for the Hard Drive and it worked fine on the Linux server. The hard drive I used was also USB 3.0

  • filterspear on 02.2.14 @ 8:44AM


    howmany video formats using sony 4k digital cinema projector?

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