DCP Best Practices
Using Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) at your film festival can be a great way to elevate the quality of your presentation. However, simply adopting DCP won’t make all of your projection problems disappear. Film festivals can mitigate some of the risks of using DCPs by adhering to some common best practices:
- Require un-encrypted DCPs. The main reason for this is so that you can do compatibility / integrity checks on the DCP before it arrives at the theater, when it’s too late to do anything about a corrupt or incompatible DCP.
- If you run into a situation where you must deal with an encrypted DCP, ask for a “QC Window” which will allow you time ahead of the festival to check that there aren’t any issues with the film. There are TONS of horror stories about studios not delivering keys in time and projectionists scrambling at the last minute to load new keys, or opening the package 20min before the screening only to find that subtitles weren’t present. These issues can be caught ahead of time if the distributor allows you a small window a couple of weeks ahead of time to QC the package. Some festivals require that the window open two days before the festival and stay open until closing night.
- Require that sub-titles be burned into the picture to eliminate problems like subtitle or font incompatibility.
- Don’t assume SMPTE compatibility if you are screening films in that format. Do this check on the exact equipment at the venue you’ll be using to screen at the festival. Things like firmware versions, or hardware options can differ between auditoriums even with the same model of server/projector.
- Require feature films be delivered on the industry standard CRU drive formatted for Linux. This will speed up the ingest process dramatically which your projectionist will be very thankful for. Better yet, have all the films consolidated onto a single drive per venue.
- Perform integrity checks on all your DCPs immediately upon receipt. If you find or suspect any issues, this will give you enough time to ask the filmmaker/distributor to fix the problem or put a contingency plan in place.
Playing DCPs at a festival can undoubtedly raise the bar for projection quality. The equipment involved is purpose built and is usually very expensive. But be careful. Having the mindset that DCP will automatically make your festival run smoothly can be a fatal mistake. DCP requires a lot of attention to detail and a technician to help troubleshoot problems when they arise.