Streamlined DCP Creation
A few years ago if clients approached me about DCP creation I said something like:
‘Yep, it’s something we can do, but because your project is so important, I’d feel better putting you in the hands of someone who does them all the time.’
Then my client responds in a nonchalant voice ‘ok…thanks’.
But of course they’re thinking – ‘this seems like something Robbie should be able to do, why is he passing me off to someone else?’
The real reason – DCPs scared me!
I had read so many reports of DCP horror stories, technical disasters, and budget or free solutions that were just really bad.
I didn’t want to risk a potential disaster authoring a DCP that went horribly wrong with a client relationship on the line. As a result – I passed the buck. But when I started to look more deeply into the financials, I realized I was quite literally giving away money!
In 2015 for example, my best estimate is that clients spent 45k for DCP authoring with 3rd parties I recommended. I’m all about helping friends but that amount of money lost is a tough pill to swallow.
Around this time I jumped into offering DCP authoring for my clients and haven’t looked back. But I realized something the other day – we’ve never done any Insights on DCP creation!
I thought long and hard about the best jumping off point for a series on DCP creation and then it hit me – start where I started – the EasyDCP Resolve Plugin.
At the time I started with EasyDCP plugin, I didn’t really know anything about the specs or the sometimes complex details about the specs – I just wanted something that worked.
So, that’s the topic for this Insight. In future Insights, we’ll explore other DCP authoring tools – some for pay and some free as well as DCP player options for both hardware and software.
The EasyDCP Plugin Philosophy
I have to hand it to Blackmagic and the EasyDCP team – they hit on a very important market segment- people that can’t be bothered!
What I mean is that there are engineer types that love to tinker and perfect, and there are creative folk who just want something to function without the additional work and thinking involved to create something.
The EasyDCP Resolve plug-in falls into the latter category.
Put simply, the EasyDCP Resolve plugin allows you to work and render as you always have. There is no learning new tools, new workflows, and no techniques (for the most part).
Simply license the software, choose Easy DCP from the Deliver page and that’s that.
Of course, if you crave more control and a need more features for complex DCPs, EasyDCP offers a stand-alone package called Easy DCP Creator.
With that said, the EasyDCP plugin pretty much takes what you give it and that’s important!
- Timeline color space – regardless of if you’re in a normal (non-managed) Resolve project or are using RCM, the color space (Project Settings > Color Management > Timeline Colorspace) determines how your project is converted to XYZ by the EasyDCP plugin. I have not yet authored a DCP originating from an ACES project – I need to do some more research on this to see how the plugin handles that.
- Audio – while there are no limitations on audio configurations for DCPs, it’s a generally accepted practice that they should be in surround (6 channels). Adding and configuring 6 discrete channels of audio is simple in Resolve. However, care should be taken if you only have stereo audio. While you CAN use stereo audio, there is a good chance it will sound weird in a theater so many people will hire an engineer to do an automatic ‘upmix’ to 5.1. This is not a perfect process, but on some project’s it can sound ok (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 and add silence to the other 4 channels.
Every DCP I’ve authored has luckily been in surround so I’ve avoided any of the issues surrounding (pardon the pun) stereo mixes and DCPs.
Besides the ability to handle more complex DCPs, the stand-alone Easy DCP Creator has sophisticated color management and more advanced audio tools.
EasyDCP Plugin Modules
It’s beyond the scope of this Insight to compare EasyDCP creator with the EasyDCP Resolve Plugin, but assuming you’re going the plugin route, you need to make a choice about the modules that you purchase.
- Packager Plugin – this is the core part of the EasyDCP plugin. This module lets you author DCP direct from DaVinci Resolve.
- Playback Plugin – this allows you to add an authored DCP package to the Resolve media pool just like any other clip – while not the same as using a dedicated DCP player, this module allows you some degree of QC checking of an authored DCP.
- Encryption Module – if you need to create encrypted DCPs you’ll need this module. It allows you to create KDMs (Key Delivery Messages) for venues that rely on encrypted DCPs. There is quite a bit to KDM delivery and maintenance, so purchase this if you know you require this functionality.
- Decryption Module – this module lets you playback encrypted DCPs – you’ll need the playback module as well.
For most small shops, the necessary modules are going to be the Packager and Playback ones.
Unless you know you’re going to need them, the encryption modules are probably not worth the extra investment for most indie DCP creators.
Purchasing the Packager & Playback modules will run you about $1800, and adding the encryption/decryption modules will obviously add a bit more.
Here’s the cool thing – if you just want to test out the EasyDCP workflow, every install of Resolve has a trial version of EasyDCP functionality built-in. As you’d expect, this trial has several limitations – output is watermarked, playback will only show you full quality for a moment and then will degrade & audio will also drop out.
I’ll show you in the video below how to access EasyDCP, as well as (when you’re ready) to handle the semi-convoluted licensing process.