Everything you need to know about a Digital Cinema Package (AKA “DCP”).
Congrats! You’ve done it! After years of studying the classics, honing your cinematography skills, reading great blogs like No Film School, and all the other intangible stuff that goes into being a filmmaker, you’ve gotten a film into a film festival.
Or, maybe it’s not even a film festival. Maybe you’ve rented out a movie theater to show your feature film to your friends, family, cast and crew. Or—I don’t know, you just like to Google what different acronyms mean.
Regardless of how you’ve gotten here, you undoubtedly want to solve the mystery of what "DCP" stands for in film. Well, not to bury the lede, it stands for "Digital Cinema Package," and simply put, it plays a very important role in how films are shown on large movie screens.
So, if you’re looking to create one for your short or feature, or are simply curious to know more, let’s explore everything you need to know about Digital Cinema Packages, AKA DCPs...
What Is a DCP?
Let’s start with your textbook definition first. According to Wikipedia, a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is “a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema (DC) audio, image, and data streams.”
Even more simply put, a DCP is a way to create a digital version of a 35mm film print so that theaters can project your video through a digital projector.
DCPs are used as the universal standard for these big screen conversions and traditionally are physically housed in an orange or yellow briefcase that contains the drive, power brick, USB cable, etc. needed to convert your film into the correct digital format.
Creating Your Own DCP
While the above might suffice as a simple definition and explanation, there’s still the question as to how you actually can create a DCP. Your first option, and probably your best bet, would be to contact and hire a professional or a company which can do the conversion for you. For example, someone like this Simple DCP company.
From their website, Simple DCP is a “premier provider of theatrical, broadcast, and digital deliverables,” and offers the chance “start the conversation with us and see how we can help you bring your film to the big and small screen.”
However, if you’re feeling more ambitious, you can also attempt to create a DCP on your own by following the steps outlined in this video below.
That's just one option off the bat, though, as we'll go into some other choices to consider for exporting to DCP by using Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve (along with several plugins) below. You can also do a bit more research into other ways to create a DCP on your own by checking out some of these articles.
- How To Make a DCP For Film Festival Projection
- How to Make a DCP (Digital Cinema Package)
- Can I Make My Own DCP?
Exporting to DCP in Premiere Pro
Thanks to new software updates in recent years, you can also export to DCP in Adobe Premiere Pro, although if you’re working with any serious film or production company it still might be best to go the professional route before trying it yourself.
This is just one technique to make a 2K DCP using the Wraptor DCP export in Adobe Premiere Pro, though. If you’re truly interested in exporting one yourself, here are some other options and resources to check out:
- How to export DCP with Adobe Media Encoder
- How to Export from Premiere to a Cinema Package
- Export a Digital Cinema Package
Exporting to DCP in Final Cut Pro
If you’re not an Adobe Premiere Pro user and would instead like to try to export to DCP in Final Cut Pro X, you have options as well, but truth be told there’s really not too much online about this process.
Your best bet would be to utilize the easyDCP plugin, which does cost money as a way to bridge the export process. You can read up more on exporting to DCP in Final Cut Pro by following these links here:
- Exporting a DCP with FCPX
- easyDCP Exports From Final Cut Pro X Now on a Pay-As-You-Go Basis
- CREATING YOUR OWN DCP’S – GETTING STARTED
Exporting to DCP in DaVinci Resolve
As discussed in a recent Reddit thread, one of the better options currently available for those looking to export DCP on their own is to use DaVinci Resolve 15. There are actually some great plugins that you can check out too, like Kakadu (free) and EasyDCP (paid).
You can try out the method in the video above or follow these steps outlined by Reddit user VisibleEvidence:
- Put your 2K picture on the video track (Prores HQ, Prores 4444 if you're in 12 bit)
- In Fairlight set your Bus Format to 5.1
- Set your six 5.1 audio clip attributes to: Mono, Embedded Channel 1 (should default, but check anyway)
- Add your 5.1 6 mono tracks to your timeline (L,R,C,LFE,Ls,Rs) cut your audio in on the timeline in mono
- In Fairlight, verify your Bus Assign is sending your 5.1 channels to M1
- In Fairlight, do not Link Group (Ungroup or leave ungrouped)
- Choose Kakadu as your export and make sure you're exporting 2K
- In the Audio Delivery tab: Add 6 Timeline tracks with corresponding Track Number (1,2,3,4,5,6)
Free Options (with a Warning)
Finally, if you’re truly in a pinch and don’t have much time or money to create your DCP, there is another new option available which is 100% free (and quite idiot-proof).
The DCP-o-matic is a free and open-source website which has been “in development for nine years and with hundreds of thousands of downloads,” and is “used across the industry by filmmakers, projectionists, film festivals, subtitlists, and cinema technicians.”
However, there is a catch, as DCPs still require a great deal of quality control, which you’ll get with a professional service (or, technically, if you do it yourself). This DCP-o-matic, while convenient, does remove the human factor in making sure everything works just right.
Regardless of your preferred method, understanding what a DCP is is important for anyone who works in film or video and might be interested in showing a project on the big screen one day.