Revisiting DCP Creation With Resolve 15

August 18, 2018

Resolve 15 supports the ability to create DCPs natively. In this Insight, learn how that works and get back ground info on essential DCP specs.

Native Support For DCP Creation Makes Things Simple

A little over a year ago I wrote an Insight about the Easy DCP Resolve Plugin. In that Insight, I expressed how I had been so scared of DCPs for the longest time but finally made the jump to start offering that service. Flash forward a year and a few months and I’ve been making DCPs, sometimes a couple times a week!

Over the past year, I relied on the Easy DCP plugin as well as Easy DCP Creator – both of which work really well.  However, at NAB 2018 Blackmagic did something unexpected – they introduced native non-encrypted DCP encoding directly through Resolve using the free Kakadu DCP encoder.

As the saying goes, ‘WOWZER!’

After years of being a dark art, and an expensive one, DCP creation is now available in the worlds most popular color correction tool.  For independent films and productions of all kinds, this new functionality can save significant time and cost. And for the small studio – it allows you to offer DCPs without any additional software expenses.

But, like most things in postproduction, there is more to creating a DCP then choosing the right encoding options

In this Insight, we’re revisiting essential DCP specs – frame sizes, DCP type etc. But we’re also going beyond that and digging into properly formatting a DCP drive. There are three parts to this Insight:

  1. Defining the terms of the DCP workflow
  2. Creating and delivering a DCP hard drive: It’s pretty standard to deliver a DCP on a Linux EXT 2 formatted hard drive. But executing this has been an enigma for many users. With the help of Mixing Light contributor Joey D’Anna, this Insight contains a step by step guide to properly formatting hard drives for DCP distribution.
  3. A video showing DCP creation in Resolve 15: In the video at the end of the article, you learn the essentials of using the new, native DCP encoding options in Resolve 15.

Note: Some of the information below was previously published in my Insight on the  Easy DCP Resolve plugin. But much of it has been updated to reflect current specs and workflows.

Part 1: Revisiting Essential DCP Specs

One reason why DCP authoring is intimidating are all the ‘rules’ and terminology.  Rather than going through all of this into the video below, I’m putting them in the body of this Insight for your future reference. This article contains essential aspects of DCP creating. It’s not an exhaustive guide, but it will give you confidence with the basics. Treat this article as a companion to the video.

Before we begin you should be aware: When it comes to DCPs with complicated needs – such as custom color transforms, Dolby Atmos mixes, multiple playlists, etc – you benefit greatly from using a stand-alone DCP authoring tools like Easy DCP Creator, Final DCP, DCP-0-Matic and others.

When is DCP authoring optimal for DaVinci Resolve?

Native support for DCP creation in Resolve (or with the Easy DCP plugin) is for streamlined DCPs. The more features you want to integrate into the DCP package the more you need to consider those stand-alone authoring tools.

What’s the difference between Interop & SMPTE DCPs?

There are two ‘flavors’ of DCPs – Interop and SMPTE. Both Interop and SMPTE DCPs can be encrypted or unencrypted – the majority of DCPs for festivals and screenings are created as unencrypted DCPs. Interop is an older format, but universal in its ability to play on any cinema server (assuming it’s correctly authored).

The downsides of Interop DCPs are:

  • Interop requires 24fps
  • Doesn’t support newer audio formats like Dolby Atmos,
  • Has known encryption security problems
  • Can be difficult in the way it handles subtitles (the non-baked-in kind).
  • Interop is not really a standard. As a result, there’s no further development.

BUT… if universal playback support is needed (and none of the problems above effect you) then Interop is the way to go.

The largest concern for many will be frame rate conversion to 24fps.  Like the Easy DCP plugin I showed over a year ago, the native DCP abilities of Resolve will handle 23.98fps > 24fps including doing the pull-up on audio.  If your source frame rate is other than 23.98 or 24, SMPTE DCP maybe the way to go. Or else you’ll need to do frame conversion prior to Interop DCP authoring.

SMPTE DCPs allow for more frame rates (including 30fps – which I encounter all the time), but compatibility is not as universal with cinema servers. SMPTE DCPs also support Atmos and High Frame Rate (HFR). And those Interop encryption vulnerabilities are fixed with SMPTE DCPs.

Today, Interop still dominates in theaters. You should absolutely check if the distributor/theater you’re using supports SMPTE DCPs before authoring one!

What are the standard DCP Frame Sizes?

One of the challenging things to get your head around with DCPs is that the frame sizes used in 2k & 4k DCPs are different than standard HD (1920 x 1080) or UHD (3840×2160) frame sizes.

While those standard 16:9 frame sizes can be used in a DCP most of the time you’ll want to deliver a DCP that reaches the edges in both width and height (there is a slight exception to this).

Just keep in mind, on many projects (especially full frame 16:9 projects) fully filling the width and height of the DCP size you choose usually requires scaling or cropping your source to fit these standards (more on this in a moment). Here are your three DCP frame size options:

  • Full Container DCP – 2048 x 1080 (2k) or 4096 x 2160 (4k). DCI spec states that one or both sides of the DCP container hit these dimensions.  However, this size DCP isn’t used as much because most theaters have projector/masking presets for Flat or Scope (2k/4k).
  • Flat  DCP – 1998 x 1080 (2K) or 3996 x 2160 (4k) this is a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Notice how close these frame sizes are to standard HD and UHD. This size often makes sense for productions that are at 1920 x 1080 because the scale up (and crop) to 1998 by 1920 is pretty minimal.
  • Scope DCP – 2048 x 858 (2k) or 4096 x 1716 (4K)  this is a cinematic 2.39:1 aspect ratio (also referred to as 2.40).  I get a lot of films that want this aspect anyway – they often are working on 1920 x 803 timelines – this scales to a scope DCP perfectly (and back down the other way).
Here you can see common 2k (double these numbers for 4k) DCP frame sizes compared. I’ve found that most theaters, because of projector and screen masking presets, will request either flat (1998 x 1080) or scope (2048 x 858) DCPs.

What do you do if your client objects to scaling up their 16:9 HD or UHD images?

Many filmmakers will object to scaling images up  – especially when creating Flat DCPs with 16:9 source material.  My feeling is the blow up is minimal and seldom a quality issue concern. I understand the concern from a framing point of view (and scaling a few dozen pixels is not ideal).  In those cases, you can create a Flat DCP,  but with blackbars (pillar box) on each side in other words no scaling or cropping.  Experienced theaters will often mask for this, but don’t expect a small film festival or equivalent to do this – you’ll get small black bars on the side of the image

Fortunately, many projects are shooting high resolution these days – 5k, 6k. Those projects have a lot more flexibility with framing (& cropping) without having to scale up.  Better yet, if you know a project will most likely need a DCP at some point you can try to do the initial conform (timeline size) to match one of the standard DCP sizes.  These days that’s often 4k scope or 4096 x 1716.

How do you set up DaVinci Resolve for DCP before starting the color grade?

By using the controls in Project Preferences > Image Scaling > Input Scaling you can get your 16:9 footage to frame correctly, right from the start.  What’s even cooler? By using output scaling you can quickly monitor a 2k or 4k scope project with the correct letterboxing on an HD monitor by choosing HD as your output resolution and by choosing Scale entire image to fit.

When conforming a project and using standard DCP frame size input scaling is how you get shots framed up correctly. Similarly, output scaling lets you quickly preview a DCP frame size on, for example, a HD monitor – with the correct sizing/aspect.

What’s your best choice for Bit Rate?

Anytime encoding is discussed, bit rate is the first thing that comes up!  DCPs make things simple; no matter the frame size (2k, 4k, Flat, Scope, or Full Container) DCPs have a max data rate of 250 Mbit/s.

You think you can push to that max bit rate for every DCP that you create: Don’t!

Many cinema servers choke when encountering max bit rate DCPs. In general, I stick to about 175 Mbit/s for 2k DCPs and 200-225 for 4k.


DCPs have a max bit rate of 250 Mbit/s but its a good idea not to max out the data rate.


As always a little experimentation is needed. Take into consideration the material that you’re working with, but be wary of pushing the limits. A little headroom is not a bad thing.

What are DCP audio requirements?

It’s a generally accepted practice for DCPs to include a surround mix (6 channels – L,R,C,LFE,Ls,Rs). Adding and configuring 6 discrete channels of audio is simple in Resolve 15 by using the timeline track option in the render settings on the output tab and discussed in this Insight (and update on this workflow for Resolve 15 is coming).  You can also use an interwoven surround mixes.

Technically, you CAN use stereo audio. But there is a good chance it will sound weird in a theater. Or it may be played through the wrong speakers. I have my clients hire an audio engineer to do an automatic ‘stereo upmix’ to 5.1.

This is not a perfect process. Your client won’t get a true surround mix. But it can sound ok (the best workflow would be to (re)mix in surround).  Another option is to take the stereo mix and make it mono (1.0) so it plays only in the center channel. This won’t sound very lively, but can avoid some of the issues with stereo mixes based on theater construction, etc.

Finally, some playback systems will balk at anything but surround, so you can take the stereo mix, feed it to the L & R channels and add silence to the other 4 channels.

Understanding DCP Naming Conventions

DCPs have funny names like: BINI_SHR-1_S-239_EN_US_51_2K_20180724_IOP_OV

Unlike standard file outputs that you can name whatever you’d like (Ok who’s the person that uses Final_Final_Final_Version?), DCPs have a strict and standardized methodology to their naming.

If you’d like a little light reading before bed, then check out this site that goes it all the details of the DCP naming convention

Fortunately for you, you don’t need to remember all of those abbreviations. Resolve, with both the Easy DCP plugin and the Native tools in Resolve 15, has a Composition Name Generator  that quickly makes selections to output to the standard naming convention.


Although the native DCP Composition Name Generator looks slightly different then the one used in the Easy DCP plugin, the idea is the same – to adhere to the standard naming conventions used for DCPs.

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Homepage Forums Revisiting DCP Creation With Resolve 15

  • Boris T

    Hi, Robbie, just like to point out that easyDCP Resolve Plugin seems to have a substantial price drop –

  • eric

    sadly KAKADU DCP is only available in the studio version after the 15.2 update! so no free DCP via resolve anymore unless you stick with 15.1

    so – just a heads up that blackmagic probably ended their beta test of kakadu and now moved to a paid model because it was too mighty and luxurious before. or easyDCP was not happy they give a free DCP alternative.

  • eric

    yes they had to, because resolve basically includes the same (without encryption and subtitles) for just about 300 bucks! they also have a pay-as-you-go model with the dcp producer (for final cut)

  • Erik

    Thanks for the insight Robbie, great overview!

    One question though: When creating a DCP from a Rec709 2.4 source, do I need to manually set the output gamma to 2.6 to match the DCI-P3 spec? (like this: )

    The “Limit Output Gamut To” dropdown menu also confuses me, this can also be set to DCI-P3, and I’m not sure what Resolve automatically picks when creating a DCP.

    I’m asking this because we recently did a test viewing in a theater following you workflow (keeping all settings as is, using no Color Managed workflow), but we found the the blacks a bit crushing.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Verne Mattson

    Great insight, thanks! Created my first DCP file for a film festival and it worked perfectly.

  • Jose S
    Guest Hi Robbie!

    I’m grading a project in P3 D65 2.6 gamma.

    I have the timeline Color Space set to P3 D65, Gamma 2.6 and I’m using one of Resolve’s Film Print Lut’s f (In specific the DCI-P3 Kodak 2383 D65. the LUT actually is set for DCI white point but I balance that out with a curve adjustment it back to D65) and a couple of adjustments on the timeline level. Including a Color space transform at the very end (after the lut) that turns Arri Alexa Colorspace (the source) into P3 D65. (After that I have a color space transform to go rec709 gamma 2.4, but that’s turned of and will only be used for the rec709 pass).

    The only caveat with this is that I’m actually grading on a PRM 4200 (set to P3 D65 gamma 2.6) and not on an actual projector. There was a logic behind all of this but I’m starting to regret getting talked into this workflow.

    The issue of all this is that when I exported a test DCP from Resolve and watched it in a theatre it looked way off! A lot more Saturation and much more contrast than in the grade. I can’t explain this, I know my monitoring path is correct (even if it’s not advisable) and I think my grade and transforms on the timeline level are all correct…

    We’re exporting a DCP from clipster tomorrow, I’m hoping this is all a bug from Resolve’s DCP creation and not a mistake on my part…

    This is on Resolve 15.3.

  • Robbie Carman

    Jose – a couple questions so I can better understand.

    1. Are you a color managed project or have you simply change your working space/timeline space to P3D65?

    2. I’m curious about the choice for P3D65 Gamma 2.6? I use P3D65 all the time but in PQ for HDR projects. What was the thinking behind D65 white point for DCI gamma?

    Sounds like your double transforming somehow, I can test a similar setup here

  • Robbie Carman

    well keep in mind theater calibration still matters so its possible black crush is just bad projector calibration.

    Resolve will use the Timeline color space option as the basis for its transform to XYZ. if you have 709 2.4 source don’t over complicate your life – just take that master into a regular YRGB project and which sets TL working space to 709/2.4

  • Jose Santos

    Hi Robbie! Sorry for not replying (can’t seem to enable notifications….)

    I was not on a color managed project just used the CST node for gamut mapping.

    Since posting my question I have indeed changed to P3 DCI White Point and have simplified the grade. The reason for D65 was that the Dolby was set to P3 D65 but I was advised to choose another preset that has DCI white point, so I’m on DCI white point now.

    I’m still having some perceptual issues though, as much as I love that monitor there is still a big difference to a proper DCI projector. As big as it is it’s still not as big as a projector and the luminosity perception (hence saturation and contrast with it) is not the same. It’s nearly there but not the same. So I’ll be doing a final trim at another facility, on a Projector, just to be sure…

    Thanks for the help anyway.

  • Jose S

    I have found out that on a Cinema Server (I think in this case was a doremi server) the name of the DCP folder that will show up, is the Resolve Project Name and not the correct DCI name that was created on the export. This happened with two DCP’s I have created in Resolve 15.3.1. I created a project called “DCP” and on the server the files (which had the correct name) were in a folder named “DCP”.

    I was asked to go to the cinema server room and check myself where my DCP’s were, as the projectionist could not find them under the correct name.

    What’s also curious is that the individual MXF files have a seemingly randomly generaded names for ex: 9238a95e-9c77-4ac4-aff7-802e344fa967_pcm for the audio MXF and b61a0a68-6044-449d-bdd8-4dae1e80aa64_j2c

    Is this normal??

    I have

  • Luca Enrico Canessa

    Hello guys, I have a question about using Kakadu.
    This export method for DCPs, like Robbie said, doesn’t allow, like easyDCP does, to encode a 5.1 DCP using a TL with 6 mono tracks. You must create one interleaved track.
    I have a big confusion (it seems to be hard to find out, even within the BMD DVR forum) about wich option to choose when linking into a group and in assign the new bus for the 6 mono tracks (that the order I use L, R, C, LFE, LS, RS) in Fairlight.
    Should I use 5.1 or 5.1 FILM? In my first attempt to use Kakadu for 5.1, I used the 5.1 film option (group, bus, and in the composition name), but when I tested into the theater I got only front sound. (I had the main bus set in 5.1 film as well and I used that option in the DCP audio setting for the export).
    I really think that this is a HUGE downsize of kakadu compared to the stand alone easyDCP creator, that other than telling you that audio and video frames match in numbers perfectly before the export, you can assign each mono track to every single 5.1 Dolby channel. That is bullet proof.
    Thanks a lot in advance if someone can answer my question about 5.1 or 5.1 film option.
    Until that, I will use Kakadu only for stereo DCP.

  • Ryan F


    Running into this exact same issue. It keeps giving me an error when I’m using (6) 5.1 mono tracks with Kakadu DCP creator on export. When linking in fairlight 5.1 film seems to order the files to L, C, R, Ls, Rs, LFE but 5.1 orders it L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs. However neither options work. Did you ever figure out a way to get to this work without an interleaved track?

  • Terry W

    I am having the same problem with crushed blacks, I guess it could be projector calibration. I tested it with one of the major theater chains and they run everything remotely, so I’m having a hard time talking to anyone with some technical knowledge. Did you ever find the problem or solution? It seems like outputting with a 2.6 gamma would get it close to what I am seeing on my monitor.

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