What is a DCP

A DCP is the acronym for Digital Cinema Package. The Digital Cinema Package is a digital version of a movie created for use in cinemas for play on their digital systems. These newer digital systems replace the old 35 MM film projectors. In today's digital movie world, different formats exist and cinemas need a standard format that is usable across the various digital projection systems used. The Digital Cinema Package (DCP) serves this purpose. Movies from difference formats are converted to a set of files that include video, audio, subtitle components with other files to make up the contents of the DCP.


Why DCPs

The emergence of digital cinema has rapidly changed the way a movie is presented to an audience. The major studios pushed the conversion of theaters to digital. The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) was created by six major studios and published a system specification for digital cinema. It provided a set of global standards for equipment manufacturers and movie makers to follow to insure the movies could be shown in all locations.

The specification establishes that picture encoding is done using the ISO/IEC 15444-1 "JPEG2000" (.j2c) standard. It also requires the use of the CIE XYZ color space. Two levels of resolution are supported: 2K (2048×1080) at 24 or 48 frames per second, and 4K (4096×2160) at 24 frames per second. The sound component provides for up to 16 channels of uncompressed audio using the "Broadcast Wave" (.wav) format at 24 bits and 48 kHz or 96 kHz sampling.

This change in how movies are exhibited has created a need for independent film makers to deliver their movies in the required digital format. This digital format comes in a set of files delivered in a Digital Cinema Package (DCP). The file structure of a DCP is organized into a number of Material eXchange Format (MXF) files that store audio and video streams, and auxiliary index files in XML format that tell the digital server how to display the movie.

Any movie that is to be presented using a digital projection system must be converted to a Digital Cinema Package. The DCP conversion process consists of rendering the images to JPEG2000 images with a change in color space to CIE XYZ color space. The audio files are also converted to the required format. These files and the additional control files are stored in a folder:

  • Picture MXF files - Picture contents may be stored in one or more reels corresponding to one or more MXF files. Each reel contains pictures in JPEG 2000 format.
  • Sound MXF files - Sound contents are stored in reels, too, corresponding to picture reels in number and duration. Each file contains linear PCM essence.
  • Asset map file - List of all files included in the DCP, in XML format.
  • Composition playlist file - Defines the playback order of each picture and sound reel during presentation and is saved in XML format.
  • Packing list file - All files in the composition are hashed and their hash is stored here, in XML format.
  • Volume index file - The xml file VOLINDEX is used to identify the volume order in the series.

The files are delivered on disk drives to the theater. Trailer DCPs are small enough to be delivered on a USB thumb drive or downloaded via a high speed internet connection. Feature DCPs are delivered on a portable hard drive or on the industry standard CRU DX115 disk drive. The hard drives are usually formatted in the Linux EXT2 or EXT3. NTFS and FAT32 are also occasionally used. Large distribution movies are delivered on the CRU DX115 since it can be inserted in the external drive bays on most servers which allows for faster transfer to the servers disk drive systems. Portable hard drives connect via USB connections that are typically at USB 2.0 speeds. For smaller files like trailers, this is insignificant. For larger feature files, additional time is needed to ingest the movie into the cinema server.

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DCP Services

At co-evolution-dcp, we focus on supporting independent movie makers by providing DCP conversions at very reasonable prices. We accomplish this by specializing our services and focusing our attention primarily on creating unencrypted Digital Cinema Packages. We are an excellent source for getting your movie ready for a film festival presentation or theatrical run that requires a DCP. Many film festivals have transitioned to the use of DCPs.

In 2013, we worked closely with the technical staff for the SXSW film festival in support of their movement toward use of Digital Cinema Packages. For the 2013 SXSW film festival, we converted seven movies for presentation and prepared DCPs for SXSW to use as part of their preshow activities.

We can also create a Digital Cinema Package that can be used for submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for consideration for nomination for an Academy Award. We created the DCP for WAR WITCH which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013 and LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM which was nominated for Best Documentary - Feature in 2015.

If you have questions or need additional information about what we can do for your project, please email or call.
512.750.5428 • email Bill McCarley  


DCP Prices

We create a trailer for $200.00 including the USB drive for delivery. Additional copies of the trailer can be ordered for $25 each including the USB drive for delivery. If we are creating both the feature and the trailer, we will create the trailer at half the cost for $100.

For a feature, we charge $1000.00 plus the cost of the disk drive for delivery. We make additional copies of a feature for $50.00 plus the cost of the drive.

The price of the drive used for delivery depends on the choice made by the client. There are two choices.

  • A portable USB hard drive can be used. These are readily available from places like Best Buy or other computer electronics stores. A 250GB or larger drive is usually enough and available brands are workable. The cost of the drive is $80.00 - $100.00.
  • CRU DX115 in serverThe other option is the more standard drive used by major studios. The CRU DX115 enclosure is used with a disk drive like what is used in most computers. This drive is designed to slide into a slot in the server. If it is being used with a computer or server without a slot, an additional component is needed to attach this drive. To make sure the drive can be used, major studios usually ship the drive with a CRU MoveDock adapter. The CRU DX115, CRU MoveDock and power supply and cables are typically shipped in plastic foam lined case. All these components combined cost between $250.00 and $300.00.
CRU DX115 disk drive CRU MoveDock CRU DX115 in CRU MoveDock pelican case

Feature Film Projects


Trailer Projects