Everything you need to know about a Digital Cinema Package (AKA “DCP”).
Congratulation! You managed! After years of studying the classics, improving your camera skills, reading great blogs like No Film School, and all the other intangibles that make a filmmaker, you’ve made a movie a film festival.
Or maybe it’s not even a film festival. Maybe you rented a movie theater to show your movie 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 got here, you no doubt want to solve the mystery of what “DCP” stands for in the film. Well, so as not to bury the Lede, it stands for “Digital Cinema Package” and simply plays a very important role in showing films on big cinema screens.
So if you want to create one for your short film or feature, or are just curious, let’s explore everything you need to know about Digital Cinema Packages, AKA DCPs …
What is a DCP?
First, let’s start with your textbook definition. According to Wikipedia, a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is “a collection of digital files used to store and transmit audio, image and data streams from Digital Cinema (DC)”.
In even simpler terms, a DCP is a way to make a digital version of a 35mm print of film so that cinemas can project your video through a digital projector.
DCPs are used as the universal standard for these large screen conversions and are traditionally housed in an orange or yellow briefcase that contains the drive, power brick, USB cable, etc. necessary to convert your movie to the correct digital format.
Build your own DCP
While the above suffices as a simple definition and explanation, the question still arises, how can you actually create a DCP? Your first option, and probably your best bet, would be to contact a professional or company who can do the conversion for you. For example someone like that Simple DCP company.
On its website, Simple DCP is a “premier provider of cinema, broadcast and digital services” and offers the opportunity to “start the conversation with us and see how we can help you get your film onto the big and small screen bring to”.
However, if you are more ambitious, you can also try creating a DCP yourself by following the steps in this video below.
However, this is only one option right off the bat, as we are going to cover a few other options that are available for exporting to DCP using. should be considered Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve (along with several plugins) below. You can also do a little more research into other ways to create a DCP yourself by reading some of these articles.
Export to DCP in Premiere Pro
Thanks to new software updates in recent years, you can also export to DCP Adobe Premiere Proalthough if you work with a serious film or production company it may be best to go the professional route before trying it yourself.
This is just one technique to use a 2K DCP with that Wraptor DCP However, export to Adobe Premiere Pro. If you’re really interested in exporting one yourself, here are some other options and resources to try:
Export to DCP in Final Cut Pro
If you’re not an Adobe Premiere Pro user and want to try exporting to DCP in Final Cut Pro X instead, you have options too, but to be honest, there really isn’t much about the process online.
It is best to use the easyDCP Plugin that costs money to bridge the export process. For more information on exporting to DCP in Final Cut Pro, see:
Export to DCP in DaVinci Resolve
As in one discussed recently Reddit thread, one of the better options currently available for those looking to export DCP themselves is to use DaVinci Resolve 15. There are actually some great plugins out there that you can try out too, like Cockatoo (free) and EasyDCP (paid).
You can try the method in the video above or you can follow these steps described by the Reddit user Visible evidence:
- Put your 2K image on the video track (ProRes HQ, ProRes 4444 if you are in 12 bit)
- Set your bus format to 5.1 in Fairlight. a
- Set your six 5.1 audio clip attributes to: Mono, Embedded Channel 1 (should be default but check anyway)
- Add your 5.1-6 mono tracks to your timeline (L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs) cut your audio to mono on the timeline
- Check in Fairlight that your Bus Assign is sending your 5.1 channels to M1
- Don’t link a group in Fairlight (ungroup or leave ungrouped)
- Choose Kakadu as your export and make sure you have 2K. export
- On the Audio Delivery tab: add 6 timeline tracks with the corresponding track number (1,2,3,4,5,6)
Free options (with a warning)
Finally, if you’re really in need and don’t have a lot of time or money to create your DCP, there’s another new option that’s 100% free (and pretty foolproof).
The DCP-o-matic is a free, open source website that “has been in development for nine years and has hundreds of thousands of downloads” and “used across the industry by filmmakers, projectionists, film festivals, subtitles, and cinema technicians.”
There’s a catch though, because DCPs still require a lot of quality control, which you can get with a professional service (or technically, if you do it yourself). While this DCP-o-matic is practical, it eliminates the human factor to make sure everything works properly.
Regardless of your preferred method, understanding what a DCP is is important for anyone working in film or video who wants to one day show a project on the big screen.