The last step onto the Big Screen
The very last step for post production of a digital cinema project is typically packing the finished film into a DCI compliant DCP ( Wikipedia: Digital Cinema Package). This is THE standard playback format for video servers and is used in pretty much every digital projection cinema nowadays. While this last step sounds rather straightforward and simple, people regularly turn pale when they learn that post houses charge several thousands of dollars (USD) and upwards for creating a DCP of a clip that is not even a minute long. For a long time there has been no way to produce a DCP without paying that ransom. For some time. anxious rebels tried to find alternatives with their own tools and work-flows but the result was mostly a solution for those very few who participated in the efforts themselves and could operate the command-line tools (like Digital Cinema Tools).
But then there was light at the end of the Tunnel: Terrence Meiczinger's efforts with OpenDCP finally made DCP creation accessible, affordable and understandable for everyone. His free open source software suite with intuitive GUI does everything that commercial software - costing several thousand dollars - can do:
- JPEG2000 encoding from 8/12/16-bit images
- support all major framerates (up to HFR)
- Full 3D support
- Cross Platform (Linux, Mac and Windows Builds available)
- Open Source (GNU GPL v3)
We talked to Terrence Meiczinger to learn more:
How/When/Why did you decide on starting the OpenDCP development?
I'm a part owner of a movie theater and in late 2009 we completed our switch to digital. One of things we wanted to do is make a custom digital policy trailer to explain our 3D system. I started doing some investigation in early 2010 and at the time there were very few options for creating DCPs. Dolby and DVS Clipster were $20,000US. EasyDCP and DoRemi's CineAsset were somewhere around $5000US, all well beyond our budget. I then looked at having a post house do the conversion and they wanted upwards of $2000US to convert our 30 second policy trailer. At this point, I decided to look into doing it myself and after some google searches came across this thread - which started it all.
A lot of people had been working to piece together a workflow using a bunch of different tools. After some trial and error I was able to get a working DCP, but it was far from an easy task. One of the weak links was the opencinematools program to create the XML files for the DCPs. It was great start, but the developer had moved onto other projects and development was halted, leaving bugs and missing features. So, one weekend in September 2010, I decided to tackle writing a new application to take care of the XML creation and a day or two later, the first version of OpenDCP was born. A few weeks later, I added a tool to simplify the jpeg2000 encoding and after that the ability to create the MXF files. It kept growing from there.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and dayjob?
I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and worked for various companies in the telecommunications field. I primarily focus on developing test automation tools. Currently, I'm at a small startup developing the next generation of networking equipment for datacenters.
What are your future plans for OpenDCP? Or do you have plans for a different project?
OpenDCP was originally based on what I personally needed and development was driven by that. Now, with more users, I try and focus on things other people find useful. I don't have an official release schedule of features or anything, many times things I do are whatever interests me at the moment. I don't get a lot of time to work on OpenDCP, maybe a couple hours a month, so much of the time I try and work on things I can get completed in those short bursts. Some things I would like to get to are adding multi-reel support in the GUI, increase encoding performance, and implement a new GUI design to simplify the process while still retaining the flexibility of the current design. I don't have any plans to add more projects to my plate. :-)
Are there other people involved in OpenDCP development or is it just you?
It's pretty much just myself doing development. Occasionally, somebody will submit a code fix. I get some help in other ways, like testing, suggestions, clarification of specifications, and many people have done a nice job of creating guides on how to create DCPs
Has the OpenDCP release ever gotten you a paid job or project that you wouldn't have gotten without OpenDCP?
I've had several offers from people and companies looking to develop digital cinema related projects, but I haven't ever taken on any of them. However, I've been able to use many of the things I've learned while developing OpenDCP in my day jobs. For example, early on in OpenDCP, I decided to try CMake to handle the cross-platform compiling. At one of the companies I worked, they did a lot of cross-compiling of their product and they had these convoluted hand created makefiles and compilation directives. It was an absolute nightmare and it was many thousands of lines of code. I decided it was a perfect fit for CMake and in a few weeks we had everything ported over. We ended up with something like 80 lines of CMake code and reduced nearly all of the compilation directives.
Another DCP creation software that is derived from parts of the OpenDCP codebase is DVD-o-matic. The software's title puts emphasis on the ability to import VOB (directly from DVD) or M2TS files (from Blu-Ray) to create DCPs.
Danny Lacey created an in depth video taking you through every step from converting your film with OpenDCP to viewing it in an actual digital cinema projection theatre.