Topic outline

  • Standards – So Many Standards

    In theory, the d-cinema system has considered everything and developed it into one smooth, hands-free operation. But as the philosopher Yogi Berra says, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

    When things go wrong, you need to describe the problem with some intelligence. Missing one movie is worth hundreds of money units. It might be easier if it were still only movies that you are showing. But there is all that Other Digital Stuff (ODS). That alternative content comes with many standards. This course gives you the fundamentals to be conversant with them all.


    You receive a disk. It has a file, maybe two to transfer. Separately, you get a key so that it is able to play on your servers and projectors.

    If we think about all the work that goes into making plastic, and the different dyes that respond a particular way to light, and which also respond a certain way to chemicals... then all this gets turned into negatives and "answer prints" and everything else...well, there is a lot going on to get the film reel that we know today.

    Likewise, there is a lot going on to turn terabytes of edited material into the 200 or 300 gigabyte file that you can play on your screen.

    This section deals with the details of The Standards and Procedures of Digital Cinema. All of the previous data leads up to this. It is a little complex, so we will take it apart piece by piece until we all understand it. Using the forums in this section is worth double points and is more than get help and to help others.

    • DCP – Digital Cinema Package

      Good part? Standards based, typically open standards.

      Bad part? Lots of standards from many fields.

      The DCP is the heart of the protected and high quality system. There are nearly identical pieces of equipment that can't play DCPs. They can't ensure security and they can't ensure consistent high quality.

      Let's find out why.

      • DCP Quiz
        Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Audio Basics Quiz
    • Audio

      Science tells us that the smell of food contributes 70% of the data that we consider the taste of food.

      There is no easy number to characterize the importance of sound or its contribution to what we see in a movie. But no one would argue that it is not important. When discussing the important moments in the history of movies, adding color for example, is placed lower than adding sound. George Lucas typified the transition to digital as being like the addition of sound, while the addition of 3D to the artist's repertoire was like color. (See: 


      Pretending that we can presume that standard 5.1 sound is OK, there is still a lot to discover about audio in the alternative content field.

      Listen well.

      • Audio for movies Page
        Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Course total
      • Audio Basics Quiz
        Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Forensic Marking Quiz
    • Forensic Marking

      Pirating movies is now an iterative process. Different people will enter different cinemas with different cameras or audio recording equipment to perform their anti-social act of stealing someone else's work. These might get posted on the internet as is, or through criminal associations they might be edited with other captures to find the best combination. Often the iteration process will go on for weeks.

      There are many excuses for the theft, with some pointing out that industry employees will steal content from post houses or review copies.

      The advantage is now in the hands of the studios who are charged by their contracts to protect the work of the artists. One advantage of the iterative process is that with one movie many thieves can be caught. The tool that is used is forensic marking.

      • Forensic Marking Basics Page
        Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in (missing activity)
      • Forensic Marking Quiz
        Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Course total
    • delta E and Ramps

      We covered delta E and color ramps in the section on Light and Color. But let's take another look from the vantage point of following standards and achieving a high level of quality control. Perhaps there's a way to actually use some of this data!

      • 3D Sucks...light

        3D movie technology is evolving. Sometimes that is the only good thing that can be said about it. Sometimes something terrific pops out to give us hope.

        3D is a standard, but it won't be talked about here. It has its own complete section.

        • Captions and Sub-titles

          Millions and millions of people are interested in how well you can include them in the community of people who talk about entertainment and documentaries and other parts of our cultural experience.

          Perhaps in a few years this problem will be an anachronism like ghostbusting – evolved away with all parties happy in the end. In this regard, you have a few jobs to do.

          • Captions and Subtitles Page
            Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Forensic Marking Quiz
          • Timed Text Rendering Tools Page
            Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Forensic Marking Quiz
          • Captions and Subtitles Quiz 1
            Restricted Not available unless: You achieve a required score in Course total
        • Key and Previewing Problems

          As the last person in the chain from camera to exhibition, it would be a shame that a simple set of digits would get in the way of a movie playing. Even when the systems evolve making the process more automated, there will be glitches. So this is another place where constant vigilance comes into play.

          Like delivering a good joke, the best asset to have in the exhibition process is timing. Unfortunately, movies sent with a "no sooner than" date don't help. You can't do a proper preview. The joke solution, through some magic only known to the distributor, is sending a key that plays a different DCP that allows a few minutes of a movie to play. Great...a different key to a different DCP isn't testing anything.

          Woohoo! Maybe they'll pay for the refunds if the real picture looks bad, has a glitch, sounds bad, or just plain doesn't play.

          One solution to this problem of keys (and previews) is having plenty of phone numbers and the willingness to call people at any time of any day to make certain that your presentation works.

          • Sometimes – It's Not Pilot Error

            WTF, eh?

            Yes, it is plugged in. Yes, all the LEDs are green. Yes, the dowser is open.

            Things to check before going nuclear.

            • Assisted Listening and Descriptive Narration

              There are two other topics that are often associated with Captioning. They also serve members of the audience who have difficulty with hearing or seeing the standard presentation.

              Typically, this equipment is designed as a special headset that is given to the audience member; with assisted listening, the purpose is to hear a movie that gives more precedence to the dialog tracks, while with descriptive narration the track gives a description of the scene as it happens.

              There are many means of getting the sound to the headset. The most popular in cinema theaters is radio frequencies (RF), Infrared (IR) and Induction Loop.