May 7, 2018

DCP Transfer is the Missing Link in DCP Creation

DCP Transfer helps filmmakers ensure their DCP files are formatted properly for theatrical and festival delivery.

A DCP (Digital Cinema Package) is the required technology needed to show your film in theaters. If you're wondering why theaters can't show ProRes or H.264, that's because the system for showing movies in theaters was invented in the 1990s before those technologies existed. It's designed to be highly stable, show content cleanly, and work without constant software updates. Since many movie theaters bought their cinema server in 2006 and haven't updated it since, it's a good thing that the DCP format is very rigid, even though it's been a hassle for filmmakers for its costs and other complications. 

We were pretty excited when Resolve 15 arrived with DCP mastering capabilities, including direct authoring of DCPs on the deliver page. We immediately went out and tested it (thank you to Brooklyn's Nighthawk Cinema), and it worked perfectly, with only one slight hiccup.

DCP files are required to be in a very specific format. Instead of "Mac OS Extended Journaled" (otherwise known as HFS+), or the new AFS that we use on Apple systems (or the NTFS or ExFAT of PC systems), they are required to be in a Linux format called Ext2.  Yes, "technically" you can be NTFS, but it's better to be safe than sorry and so that means Ext3. Resolve does almost everything you need in order to make your DCP, converting to the DCP color space properly and mastering subtitles. However, it doesn't format hard drives.

Credit: Resolve

There is a solution via the software Paragon, which makes pretty much any "can I make this drive work on this machine" software you can imagine. Due to its booting Apple drives on PC workstations, we've been fans of Paragon for years and have used it several times for making DCPs. 

However, Paragon isn't an entertainment company, and so it was exciting when Cinematiq licensed Paragon tech for an app called DCP Transfer. It's targeted at folks like us, out there making movies, trying to get them seen, and need slightly more functionality than what the straight up Paragon install offered.

Credit: DCP Transfer

In addition to being able to format drives to Ext3 (the bare minimum functionality), it also allows for verifying and copying DCPs. Why does this matter? Remember we said how many movie theaters installed its DCP server once and never updated it again?

DCP servers are finicky. Many do not use the "subtitle" feature and request movies with burned in subs. Over the years, I've sent in a DCP with a Blu-Ray backup in case the DCP didn't load, and I've gotten calls from theaters in rural West Virginia—where FedEx won't do overnight shipping—thatcouldn't ingest the movie and only had a DVD player as backup. It's terrifying.

Credit: DCP Transfer

DCP Transfer calms some of those fears. It's not going to promise that every festival will screen your DCP properly—somewhere there is still a 1998 era DCP server running Clinton-era software with all sorts of crazy hiccups—but the peace of mind you get from verifying the file structure of a DCP is huge.

Since a DCP is basically a bunch of files (and an Asset Map giving directions to those files), it can experience issues when making a copy. Copying with DCP Transfer is a way to ensure those issues don't arise. It also offers metadata inspection, and so if the label has fallen off your DCP, you can inspect it for format (is it the 2K or the 4K?), framerate, title and more.

If there's one hiccup—and this is also tricky with Paragon—it's that it has slower write speeds. Since Ext3 isn't natively built into OSX, there is some translation going on that slows down writing to the drive. In our test USB 3 drive, which writes more than 150MB/s when formatted HFS+, we only got about 85 MB/s write in Ext3. Prepare for a longer file transfer. The slowdown isn't nearly as bad on the read end, with 250MB/s read in HFS+ only slowing down to about 220MB/s in Ext3.

If you're planning on using Resolve to master your DCP,  DCP Transfer is a great option to format the drive. DCP Transfer is available as a subscription, or, for the true indie with one project to knock out, a one-month license. For more information, check out the Cinematiq site.

Tech Specs:

  • Ext2 Drive Formating
  • DCP Copying
  • DCP Verification
  • Metadata inspection.

Your Comment

6 Comments

Hi Charles, I wonder if you were sending files to the same theater in West Virginia where I showed my movie a couple of weeks ago. I did use the DCP Transfer from Cinematiq and it worked fine. I'm running Premiere and exported via the Wraptor 2K (2048x1080) settings (with 5.1 audio) and it worked fine. There does seem to be a glitch in the export from Premiere in that it grossly overestimates the exported file sizes (an 80-minute movie required almost a terabyte, according to the estimate) but it was really only about 40 gigabytes.

I am screening the film in Atlanta this weekend at a "newer" theater. I hope it works as well there. But I'm taking a blu-ray just in case.

May 7, 2018 at 1:44PM, Edited May 7, 1:45PM

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Bruce Hyer
DP/Writer
22

I would recommend not using wraptorDCP for features. It's generally fine for trailers but I know the hash values get messed up in Wraptor and can cause issues. Also Premiere doesn't deal with color space well and your film might not be in the desired color space you want. I would try using a more professional app like easydcp or doremi. You also shouldn't be making a DCP 2048x1080. It should either be 1998x1080 or 2048x858 then you put your video in the correct aspect container.

May 7, 2018 at 3:37PM

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Alex Alva
1001

+1 for everything Andrew mentioned. The Wraptor plugin that comes with Premiere has caused a lot of pain for a lot of folks I know. I personally like the easyDCP Publisher toolset, which is free to use but pay as you go. That means you don't pay for the DCP you create until after you've created it. Works really well in conjunction with DCP Transfer. https://www.easydcp.com/publisher.php

May 7, 2018 at 4:42PM

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I edited in 2K, 2048x1080, so why should I export at 1998x1080?

May 7, 2018 at 6:01PM

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Bruce Hyer
DP/Writer
22

You should export in a Scope container because that's the most efficient way to ensure your DCP is going to work at multiple theaters. There's a very standardized way to make a DCP because the tech is less than perfect and isn't exactly the same at all theaters. Some might be able to play 2048x1080 but others may not. If you put it in a 2048x858 container, I can guarantee it's more likely to work at all theaters.

May 8, 2018 at 10:59AM, Edited May 8, 11:00AM

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Alex Alva
1001

DCP is not easy to ever know for sure if it will work without testing first! I used OpenDCP, it's simple and works great. Then again this was back in 2013. Adobe naively features this also.

May 7, 2018 at 6:27PM

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Darren Orange
Director/Producer
272

Interesting article thank you. I too have long been a fan of Paragon and have downloaded extFS for Mac to format my DCP delivery drive.
I understand the drive itself needs to be formatted in EXT2 or EXT3 with a 128 inode size but there is no way of changing the node size in Paragon without going through Terminal and Homebrew which is out of my comfort zone i.e I don't want to format the wrong drive! Have you successfully delivered DCPs using extFS for Mac as is?
Thanks!
Also, in your article you first mention that the drive must be formatted Ext2 but then go on to solely talk about Ext3. I have read that drives can be delivered in either but for maximum compatibility the drive should be Ext2 and 128 node size. What is your experience with this? Thanks!

October 17, 2018 at 5:09PM

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avatar
Jacek Kropinski
Filmmaker
1