Making a DCP: Quality Control

Aaron Owen

Author
May 2
    -    
4 min read
You’ve finished your film and have a DCP created. It’s almost time to start celebrating!

You’ve spent untold amount of dollars & hours in pre-production and on-set getting the story right and crafting the performances. In post-production you’ve finally put it all together. If your distribution plan includes cinema — either for a theatrical run, or as part of a film festival — creating a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is the last step between making a film and delivering it to the world. You want the audience to see your film as you intended it, which is why it is really important to build time into your schedule and money into your budget to do a Quality Control screening of your film before it ships out.

Software Players vs Cinema Servers

Simply playing back the DCP using a software player on a computer is not a thorough QC. The only way to really see what your audience will see is to take your DCP to a theater and watch it played from a theatrical playback server through a DCI-compliant projector in the XYZ colorspace. If your film has 5.1 surround sound, then you’ll really want to make sure the film sounds like you remember it from your mix session. There are several different software players that can give you a good idea of what you’ll see on the screen, but the only real way to be sure is to go into a theater. There are simply too many variables that change when you go from a small room to a large screen.

Audio in Small Rooms vs Large Rooms

More often than not, QC screenings reveal issues with your audio mix that you didn’t hear in the mixing studio. Audio postproduction facilities with 5.1 rooms are usually much smaller than even the smallest of theaters. Surround mixes sound can sound quite a bit different when you’re physically 5 ft to 10 ft away from the speaker in the mix room than when you’re 30 ft to 50 ft away in the theater. Small unwanted sounds that might have been missed in the mix are often amplified in the larger room when played at full volume. In smaller rooms, mixes that feel “surround” when audio is coming from the rear speakers can feel much more frontal when you get into the theater. Many facilities offer DCP playback for QC in edit or color suites (which can be better than not checking the DCP at all), but it’s not a substitute for booking time at a real theater to see your film played from actual digital cinema equipment.

Credits

The part of any film that gets revised most often after a DCP is made is the credits. Either someone’s name is misspelled, or was left out entirely. Sometimes companies want their logos at the end of the scroll. Whatever the issue, credits are most likely to be the thing that will need to be fixed after your first screening. It’s best to prepare for this eventuality by creating your credits in a way that are easily revised. A popular service that makes life easy for designing and revising credits is EndCrawl.com.

All in all, it’s much better to be surprised during a QC screening and have the ability to make fixes to errors that you find, rather than present the film to your audience and cringe at the things you would have fixed if you had done a proper QC screening.

About Cinematiq: We’re a digital motion picture lab based in San Francisco specializing in video encoding and DCP creation. Our team of technicians and video specialists work to make sure that your vision ends up on screen the way it was intended. Whether you are a filmmaker, festival or distributor, we’ve got solutions to some of the most challenging problems in the motion picture industry today. We’re also the creators of DCP Transfer, a software application that allows you to easily format hard drives using the ext2 filesystem for DCP Delivery, as well as view DCP info / metadata.

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