This functionality removes the classical “brightness/saturation/contrast” adjustments from the projection chain and puts these settings back in the hands of the laboratory and film makers as was the case with 35mm film previously.
Although, as you rightly state, some of the films shown in festivals may indeed agree to do without encryption and trust no copies will remain, the second functionality cited is very important to cinematographers and directors, certainly also during festivals where their movies are often shown to professional viewers, press and potential buyers. Therefore the ‘Calibrated Chain’ functionality of the DCP format is very important, also in festivals, even in cases where encryption against piracy is not required.
A film that is sent to a festival in any format other than DCP is not reliably calibrated. This means that ideally the movie needs to be pre-screened at least partly in the theatre it will be shown in, with the director and/or cinematographer in the room (and no audience) to check if the contrast, black level and saturation settings are acceptable or need to be adapted. The same may be true for the sound level.
A DCP is the first and till now ONLY electronic format we know that reliably allows these settings to be determined in the mastering suite, and allow to subsequently sent out a movie in an electronic form while having confidence in the result without the need to sent out a crew member to check before the show.
And we are not only worried about esthetic details: Incorrect settings for black level and/or contrast can result in important story elements (a gun in a drawer, a plane in the sky) to disappear entirely, causing a risk for loss of story comprehension. Note that this can also happen with an incorrect sound level.
Cinematographers world wide have stressed that digital cinema would not be acceptable without such a “Calibrated Chain” feature. The implementation of this Calibrated chain feature has on the contrary resulted in the world wide support of cinematographers for Digital Cinema. (as 35mm film projection already provided this functionality)
Festivals (or theatres) showing movies in any other format is considered video (and not Cinema) and a correct reproduction can not be guaranteed without verification by the authors or their representatives in each room.
As such verification is not always practical, cinematographers would like to stress that all possible efforts would be made to use the DCP format also in festivals whenever possible at all.
Another important detail that DCP projection solves in comparison to using consumer computers for playback is that a consumer computer generally does not provide straight frame playback. Indeed, output cards of consumer computers are almost always driven at 60 Hz free-run and will force the projector to run at 60 fps as well, and often without any sync to the source material. Movies played back on consumer computers will therefore often show erratic camera movement (2:3 pulldown, often worse), erratic contents (read: actor) movements and sometimes even show split frames (upper part the screen shows a new frame while the lower part shows a previous frame)
This is another reason why DCP playback is greatly preferred by cinematographers, and because it is the only standardized cinema playback system.
So please let us indeed concentrate on how to make DCP playback easier and more convenient for festival operators, in order to avoid at all cost that they might need to revert to a less reliable alternative, as such could eventually cause important damage to the content and subsequently to the industry.
We should try to make DCP playback as easy as possible for them, preferably as easy as 35mm playback was if at all possible. And if direct play from a transport disc helps to that goal, then I wish to encourage that idea too.
Kommer Kleijn SBC,
Chair of the IMAGO technical committee.