In preparing "NYZ" for premiering at NYU's First Run Festival last week, they specified that there were only three deliverable formats acceptable: HDCam tape, Digibeta tape, or DCP, which stands for Digital Cinema Package. Looking at these three formats, I decided to go with DCP.
Let's break down what each format brings to the table:
Digibeta, or Digital Betacam, is a great format with great uncompressed color and sound, but it comes with a few limitations. First of all, it's standard definition (SD), so the maximum amount of pixels is 720x480 with an anamorphic squeeze. And since First Run did not want anamorphic squeezes, that meant that my film, which is at a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, would simply be letterboxed into a 4:3 screen--obviously not the most aesthetically pleasing or economical use of space.
Then there's HDCam, which is high definition (HD) with up to 1440x1080 upscaled to 1920x1080. That's great because 1080p was the native format that we shot in, so I know I won't be wasting pixels. The only big caveat for HDCam, as well as Digibeta, is that it only allows for up to four channels of audio. Since I mixed in 5.1 surround sond, that would mean mixing everything down to 4.0 at best, though most likely just 3.0--dialogue in the center, and everything else on the left and right stereo. All the work that I put into crafting a 5.1 surround mix would be wasted.
Which brings us to DCP. DCPs are the new standard for delivering films to movie theaters in this modern digital age. There are no reels, no tapes, just a server where all the media is stored and read as it's projected. It can project up to 4k files and supports up to 7.1 surround sound. And it plays back at true 24 frames per second. So, for this film, it supported everything I needed.
Now the only problem was actually creating the DCP...