DCPs (or Digital Cinema Packages) have long been the gold standard for digital feature film exhibition in theatrical venues. The format was developed in the 1990’s a replacement for 35mm projection, and has since been implemented in virtually every major cinema in North America (and most of the world).
While the format has many upsides – notably image quality and reliable playback – its underlying technology has often been a source of confusion and frustration, leaving many filmmakers to rely on 3rd party sources/specialists to create DCPs for them.
This has always come at a steep price, especially in the early days when large post-houses were charging $20,000 (or more) for a feature length DCP.
As the years went on though, new tools/software platforms hit the market and made DCP creation more accessible. Paid software, plugins, and free/open source technology meant there were more options than ever for creating Digital Cinema Packages. Open DCP, easyDCP, Cute DCP, and the Wraptor plugin for Adobe are just a few of the tools that emerged during this time.
All of this ultimately helped bring the cost of DCPs down dramatically. A package that once cost $20K at a major post facility could now be completed by a small shop for under $2K. This was huge for indie filmmakers who weren’t looking to spend a huge chunk of their budget on a single deliverable. Still, many were eager to find even more cost-effective options, which really could only be accomplished by going the DIY route.
This was easier said than done though, as none of the off the shelf DCP plugins/applications solved the biggest issue – Linux EXT2 hard drive formatting – which is required for all DCP drives. Most of the other technical requirements of DCP creation – creating a JPEG 2000 image sequence, converting colorspace to XYZ, and generating the necessary XML files – can now be fully automated by software. Even filmmakers with little background in post-production or encoding can learn how to generate the files for a DCP relatively easily.
Here’s what a completed DCP looks like on your system –
But in order for a DCP to actually play on a theatrical server, the drive itself needs to be formatted in EXT2 with a 128 inode – something that hasn’t been easy to do for the average editor working on a Mac. Over the past few months though, a couple of new developments in the DCP-world have shaken things up yet again, which have now made DCP creation more accessible and affordable than ever before… Both in terms of generating the DCP files themselves, and ensuring a proper Linux EXT2 format.
Let’s first look at actually creating the DCP package, which has just become unbelievably simple thanks to DaVinci Resolve’s integration of the open source DCP technology by Kakadu.
Although Resolve has had the ability to generate DCPs via easyDCP (a paid license/upgrade) for a while now, it was fairly cost prohibitive for most filmmakers a license would cost over $1000. At that price, most filmmakers would rather have a professional do the job for them.
But now, in addition to easyDCP, Resolve 15 also includes Kakadu – a free DCP encoder that comes bundled with the software. It does virtually everything for you – from the color space conversion to creating the proper MXF files – and can be accessed via the settings tab on the delivery page.
Whether you have edited your film in Resolve or not, you can make use of this feature simply by dropping a master file of your film into a timeline (using a DCI compliant resolution such as 2048 x 1080), and choosing one of the Kakadu export settings –
While exporting, you will see the color space conversion in the preview monitor, so don’t be alarmed if your image looks like this –
Once your DCP is created, you can even view it in resolve as if it were any other video file –
Many of the other DCP software products on the market have either been too cumbersome for filmmakers without much background in post, or too buggy, as was the case with Wraptor. So naturally the integration of Kakadu in Resolve is huge for filmmakers, as it will likely offer the simplest and most reliable off the shelf solution for creating your own DCP.
But what’s even more exciting, is a recently released software by Cinematiq called DCP Transfer, which solves the issue of EXT2 hard drive formatting.
As the name suggests, the software allows users to properly format hard drives to EXT2, without needing to run a Linux machine. Users simply import their DCP file (created by Resolve or any other software) into DCP Transfer, then use the software to validate their DCP file/format an external drive to Linux, before finally transferring the validated DCP file to the EXT2 drive.
And just like that, the DCP is complete.
I’ve personally used DCP Transfer a number of times and have had great results with it. It’s extremely easy to use, highly reliable, and very affordable – it costs only $25/month to rent! At that price, I’ll likely continue to rent it indefinitely, but in theory, if you only need to create a single DCP once, you could simply rent the software for one month and then cancel.
I have to imagine that this is only the tip of the iceberg with regards to simplifying the DCP process. I’m sure we will see more tools in the coming months that will make the process even easier and more accessible. But for now the Resolve/Kaduku/Cinematiq combo is going to be hard to beat.
Always remember though, if you are making your own DCP it’s still best to take it to a theater or post-house to test for you. Especially if you’ve never created one before. There is nothing like doing a full playback of your film in a theatrical setting to give you confidence that your DCP is going to run properly.
Once you do have that master DCP though, you can continue to make unlimited copies using DCP Transfer, and save yourself a lot of time and money in the future when creating more copies for festival screenings or other theatrical exhibitions.
What about you? Have you experimented with making your own DCPs? If so, leave a comment below.
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Do you ever think it would get to the point where we could Dropbox the DCP package to the theater and they could run it from their formatted drive?
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[…] 😉 If exporting for cinema projection or a film festival then you will (most of the time) need DCP. It produces great quality and also Davinci Resolve (paid version) has an easy export option for […]
I mean you can run Linux on just about any computer and make an EXT 2 formatted drive for simply the cost of the drive. Copying a file is copying a file, so formating a drive in a common Linux drive format shouldn’t cost you $25/mo. I mean you can run Resolve on Linux, so honestly if you edit on Linux it becomes even less of an issue. Resolve also in tests runs fastest on Linux because it was originally designed for $30k custom built Linux desktops that the company that originated Davinci Resolve used to sell to production houses and still do sell with specialized controllers and fairlight consoles.
Good points – appreciate this!
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Thanks for excellent article!
How can I test DCP for Free?
How do I create KDM for the DCP?
Thanks Rajiv! There are a few free DCP players that you can download and test out, like DCP-o-matic for instance. As for KDM, you may need to use Easy DCP in Davinci Resolve.
which one is better in resolve easy dcp or kakadu jpeg2000
I really only use Kakadu!
KAKADU IS NOT FREE ANYMORE AND ONLY INCLUDED IN RESOLVE STUDIO NOW! THERE IS A WATERMARK IN THE LITE VERSION. it was too good to be true. this blog post is sadly redundant and also all my tutorials are now since you need to purchase “studio”. still a lot cheaper than easyDCP and i guess that was the reason, it was giving the poor filmmakers too much of happiness and joy!
Thanks for the heads up, Sebastian. Just learning about this now!
It seems if you’re using the free version of Revolve, both DCP engines will place watermarks on the video.
1.Easydcp will place its logo on the pix.
2.Kakadu will place dots and “Davinci Studio”
Unless I’m doing something wrong,l or incorrect, it’s important to mention you either need an Easydcp license (which you DID mention) with both, or own Davinci Studio to enable Kakado.
Thanks Marco, I wasn’t aware of this as I use the full version. Will look into it and update as needed!
Hi Noam, great post! Do you think I’m save testing the DCP on https://www.quvis.com/ or even Easy DCP player or would you still recommend a theatre testing? Anyone?
It depends – I would try testing one in a theater just to be safe… You never know if there may be some issue with the workflow that you are unaware of. But once you confirm your workflow is solid, you should be pretty safe to test using software as you suggested.
Thanks Noam! Will do..I just rendered yesterday a clean Kakadu DCP, using my 6 surround waves via bus so it gives me a 5.1 Timeline Audio on the render page. Only, that I hear the result on my stereo only on my right speaker. Can I fix this so it sounds on both speakers?
I haven’t seen that issue before, but will definitely keep an eye out for it. Sorry I can’t be of more help!
Does this process only work for 2k or 4k?
Can you use this process for a 1080p project filmed on a 5D?
I believe for a 1080p project it will automatically be upscaled to 2K (which is almost identical).
thanks for this helpful article. How do you set up the audio channels on the delivery page?
One track for right and one for left? (for stereo) Or do you keep it on stereo and the software delivers one track (file) for each channel?
Hi Andreas! I actually just keep the setup in stereo, and let Resolve do the work for me.
Can subtitles be added when using Kakadu JPEG2000?
Subtitles or closed captioning?
Ext2 HDDs for DCPs are legacy. It would be hard to find a server that accepts Ext2/Ext3 explicitly. NTFS is the way to go, can’t find the link but I’ve read that SMPTE even encourages using NTFS. All major festivals e.g. TIFF also accept NTFS.
Agreed, NTFS is the future.
How ever, for those trying NTFS , I read it is important to format it with MBR and not GPT (GUID Partition Table),. here they explain how to (thanks for the post) . https://helpdeskgeek.com/how-to/how-to-convert-a-disk-from-gpt-to-mbr/
Thank you for publishing this write-up. A projectionist recommended that I try Resolve DCP creation. Your workflow gave me a quick overview of what to do.
So glad to hear it was helpful for you.
I just wanted to add that we’re finding out that many theaters have upgraded their servers and now take NTFS drives. Interop is still the safest delivery packaging but we’ve yet to find one that prefers an EXT2 hard drive. We literally deliver on 1TB USB3 drives for ingest. For big budget studio films, they mostly deliver by internet now. Times are a’ changing.
The other thing I’ve found curious with the Kakadu exports–which are VERY nice looking, by the way–is that if you’re resizing within a container, such as a scope picture inside a flat aspect ratio, etc., the export from Resolve 15 tends to generate an XML that projects the image slightly to the left. It’s very subtle, and no one would ever notice unless they were looking for it. But my projectionist and I spent an hour running calibration leaders and comparing the DCP projection. It’s very strange and the only way we ever noticed was that I’d resized my 2.35 image into a 2.39 aspect which gave us tiny black bars on the left and right that made it obvious.
Regardless, this Kakadu export is game changer. The quality is incredible, and it’s almost a one click & done option. When I tell you that the hardest part is making sure you have your 5.1 track assignments correct, it’s nothing short of a jaw dropper. I already owned Resolve Studio, paid $19.95 for Paragon to transfer the files from Mac to an NTSF drive, and popped another $150 to test screen the feature at a local theater. That’s a fraction of what it would have cost to have it done professionally and I still would have had to pay for a screening. I have no doubt that Resolve v16 will decimate a lot of these businesses. It’s that good.
BTW thanks for this article. It set me on the right path!
Very cool, thanks for all the thorough and detailed info Michael!
Quick question when it comes to image size and ratio. We shot our film for a 2.35 ratio. Without output blanking on in Resolve how do I make sure that the film is exported out of Resolve so that each shot is correctly sized to fit that instead?
I find that the easiest thing to do is create the timeline to match the DCP output. For you, a scope(2.39) timeline will be the best fit. Once your video is on the timeline, you will need to zoom in, cropping the sides a tad, so that no black matte is visible. DCP’s should not have a matte.
Thanks for sharing, Morgan.
I had the same issue. You scale it down in Color page: Sizing tab: Input Scaling. I zoomed everything back to fit top and bottom, leaving tiny black bars on the side. Now your 2.35 ratio sit inside a 2.39 frame without losing anything. The black bars are virtually unnoticeable in the theater unless you’re looking for them, and who’s doing that?
And hopefully the theater can adjust curtains/screen size for the aspect ratio too.
After some research, here’s what I’ve discovered:
Cinematiq has licensed Paragon Software’s ‘extFS for Mac’ driver for use in DCP Transfer. Drives formatted with either application will be designated as ‘extFS 2’. With ‘extFS for Mac,’ the user is also able to format drives in extFS3 and extFS4, whereas DCP Transfer formats in extFS2 exclusively.
Paragon offers a Linux driver for Windows as well, so this may be an alternative to DCP Transfer until the software is ported to Windows. For either Mac or Windows, I would recommend purchasing the File System Link Suite by Paragon ($49.95 USD at the time of this writing), as it provides more interconnectivity between platforms, and comes with free lifetime upgrades.
These drivers are not a replacement for DCP Transfer in my opinion, as DCP Transfer offers additional features, namely the validation of a DCP’s contents, in both the source and destination directories.
A curious note: when using DCP Transfer, the program will reformat any drives previously formatted by ‘extFS for Mac’. Not sure why this is, but this is how the program has behaved on my three test runs.
Current pricing for DCP Transfer is as follows:
Monthly Subscription – $25.00 USD, with an additional one-time $25.00 license activation fee
Annual Subscription – $150.00 USD, which averages out to $12.50 per month.
Hope this was helpful!
There you go! Thanks.
Just wanted to update the info above:
‘extFS for Mac’ formats drives using inodes with a block size of 256-bytes, whereas DCP Transfer formats drives with 128-byte inodes.
This is most likely why the drives formatted by ‘extFS for Mac’ were re-formatted by DCP Transfer.
Drives formatted with 256-byte inodes may not be able to be ingested on some projection systems, so for universal compatibility, format your drives with inodes written in 128-byte blocks.
(DCP Transfer automatically formats drives with 128-byte inodes.)
And thank you again!
Noam! Thank you for the great article!
I’m working on a DCP for my recently-completed indie feature. I’ve been looking into ‘extFS for Mac’ by Paragon Software. The program allows you read/write/format ext2, ext3, ext4 on the Mac, but I haven’t yet been able to test readability on a native Linux system. Has anyone else had experience with this software?
If the drives formatted by ‘extFS for Mac’ (there is also a Windows version) are 100% readable by all Linux servers, it might be a good alternative to Cinematiq, as ‘extFS’ is a one-time purchase of 39.95 (USD).
Just looking for the most inexpensive, but not necessarily cheapest solution (smile).
Hey Tony – I haven’t tried the Paragon Software option you’re referring to, but if need be you can always get Cinematiq for a month and then cancel…
For sure, Noam. Good call! As I’m anticipating making a few DCPs this year, I wound up purchasing the annual subscription for DCP Transfer– it was especially helpful hearing you’ve had experience with the software haven’t had any issues with it.
Also wanted to share that in further research, I’ve discovered that ‘extFS for Mac’ by Paragon writes inodes with 256-byte blocks, where DCP Transfer uses the same driver, but writes inodes with 128-byte blocks.
Apparently, some projection systems may have trouble ingesting drives formatted with inodes of 256, so for universal compatibility, it’s recommended the drives be formatted with inodes of 128.
(Gonna post this information on my comment below as well.)
And a side-note: I just pre-ordered ‘Shadows on the Road’!
Awesome! And thank you, Tony. So nice of you to order the film. Hope you enjoy.
I’ve used Paragon on Windows and Mac with HDDs and USB thumb drives without any trouble. But formatting with it takes time. I assume Linux formatting modifies all sectors on the drive.
Cool to hear. Thanks Joe!
What Tony said…
I have ExtFS and can use it to copy to already-formatted drives, but because of the inode it doesn’t format DCPs in the most compatible way. So you should still use Linux, Partedmagic, Cinematiq or a similar solution to do it right.
Thanks for this, Drew.
update on DCP-Transfer: they will be releasing a WINDOWS version soon (until now it has been mac-only). in touch with the devs, but again, your pricing on this page is wrong!
HI can anybody help me on the 5.1 track order for Resolve?
How should I layer down my 6 mono files.
that’s a tricky one. resolve 15 became super complicated again when building surround from separate files. you need to go through the fairlight tab. best to look for video tutorials or build your surround file with AME, FCPX, compressor or similar already and import it. but the channel mapping is ALWAYS and in ANY software (and professional environment): L-R-C-LFE-Ls-Rs, tracks 1-6 respectively.
important side notes from a DCP pro:
a) DCP TRANSFER is NOT available as a one-time purchase anymore, instead they switched to a more expansive subscription model (monthly or yearly) and it’s only available for MAC! windows does not have an alternative app (yet).
b) KAKADU j2k works at half the speed of easyDCP (still twice as fast as open j2k which is used in dcp-o-matic for example) – the created DCP syntax does NOT pass easyDCP PLAYER’s QC, it spits out warnings and this MIGHT cause issues in a cinema (depending on how conservative the server there is). still, syntax is better than any other freeware option. using “interOP” is always the safest way, syntax is much better (and simpler) there! especially when it comes to subtitles.
c) RESOLVE 15 handles framerates much better now it also supports audio stretch and pitch correction in the latest version. BUT I inly trust FCPX with both and usually just put anything through there to a solid ProRes file (also gets rid of potential gamma issues (e.g. when coming from Adobe).
P.S. in the resolve LITE version only 2K is available, 4K DCP is offered in the studio one. if you stick to a solid IOP DCP (24p, surround), be sure to select the box “user interop packaging” and under “audio” set it to 5.1 timeline track, if you only have stereo this will fill other channels with silence.
Sebastian, I’m going to create a DCP for my 126 mins feature film in Resolve Studio 15. How do I check that the audio is at the correct loudness meters for cinema exhibition?
Thanks again 🙂
Thanks for sharing this here, Sebastian!
Chan Tha KSat
Very usefull artical for me. Thanks Mr Kroll. License fees of post softwares are high for us . We get very low income coz industry going down in my country. I can’t use Win Os, Adobe products by license since 1996 until yet. I confess in honestly, i am using pricy versions. I don’t want to do that way. I hope that i can be use legal version when most of major apps can get 100$ around for license fees.
Thanks for the note, Chan. Hope this is helpful for you as you move ahead with your projects.
Thanks for sharing your experiences man!
It is reassuring to know this ‘can’ be a possibility in this day and age.
I’ve looked at those options in Resolve, but majority of articles about the subject tend to advise to seek professional transfer.
… just wanna add that 2018 is an exciting time now with fusion, fairlight, and a new BM camera on the way!
Agreed, Dave. Thanks for the note!
Noam, I recently exported my film from Resolve to a DCP and it tested flawlessly. I too spent tens of thousands years ago on prior films. It’s amazing how barbaric that all seems now.
Agreed – Crazy how quickly things are changing!
My first 4K DCP in 2007 cost $86K.
Haha! Wow – crazy to see how far we’ve come in just over 10 years.
Damn, didn’t even think someone made a 4K DCP in 2007. But the Sony SRX-R220 4K DCI projector did come out in mid-2007…
There’s frame rate issues to consider for those who edit and master at 23.976. Have you tested out how Resolve handles frame rate transforms?
The free software DCP-o-Matic will properly retime both video and audio from 23.976 to 24.00 without interpolation.
Thanks for adding this, Jamie!
resolve is a professional tool and does a better job than dcp-o-matic. so yes, it does retime via re-interpreting clips. metadata changes only, so no rendering even necessary there. BUT you will need to re-time audio if it does not come with the master file and is added separately.
Resolve handles frame rate conversions flawless, even the challanging conversion from 23.976 rate.
Premiere had some problems ( 4 years ago, when I used it)…
I can second that! Resolve is a workhorse when it comes to cross conversions.