Ask Al: Digital Films and DCPs

Al Reid
October 20, 2023

Welcome to our reoccuring Ask Al” column where we ask projectionist Al Reid to answer your burning questions about life in the projection booth. This month’s questions are from Cinematheque-fan, Danny Nowak.

How do you receive a digital film?
Digital films either come to us on a hard drive or via a download link, usually as a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) or as a .mov file that we convert into a DCP.

How does the anti-piracy system work?
Most films from major studios are encrypted and then unlocked (for a set number of days determined by the distributor) with an electronic key specific to the venue’s projector. Moreover films can only be loaded on to a DCP server (and then deleted), but never transferred off from them.

Does the Cinematheque pay fees?
Yes, usually there is a minimum screening fee and a percentage of the box office should sales exceed that minimum.

Can anyone order a movie that way if they have a digital projector?
No, DCP servers are very specific computers that need to be set up by a licensed technician and then married” to a projector.

Also, what is the latest on laser projection. How does it work?
Laser projectors are a newer form of light engine (aka light source) that use one to three colour lasers to produce a brighter and more vibrant image for less power that a typical lamp based source. If using less than three lasers, a phosphor colour wheel and filters are used to generate a more complete colour spectrum. Laser light engines are becoming more common place in home theatre projectors and premium commercial projectors as the upfront cost is coming down and are generally maintenance free for the life of the projector.

Have a question for Al?
Send it to: askAl@​thecinematheque.​ca

Past Posts

Date Title Author
2024-Jun West Coast Film Archive Presentation Liam Schell
2024-Jun Michèle Smith The Cinematheque
2024-Apr Intermissions The Cinematheque
2024-Apr Tales from the Silo: National Film Week ​’86 Gerilee McBride
2024-Mar Ongoing Series at The Cinematheque The Cinematheque
2024-Mar Presenting: Godzilla Stop-Motion Contest Films Learning & Outreach
2024-Feb Volunteer Spotlight: Marlon Wiebe The Cinematheque
2024-Feb AGM Notice: February 13 (Tuesday) 5:00 pm The Cinematheque
2023-Dec Merry Movies! The Cinematheque
2023-Dec Film Career Event: Watch Online! Learning & Outreach
2023-Nov Cinema Thinks the World Presents Learning & Outreach
2023-Nov The All Staff Listicle: Fall Film Festival Edition The Cinematheque
2023-Oct Ask Al: Digital Films and DCPs Al Reid
2023-Sep Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Ayers The Cinematheque
2023-Aug Owen Kydd Interviews Bruno Dumont The Cinematheque
2023-Jul Presenting: Early Cinema Filmmaking Workshop Films Learning & Outreach
2023-Jul Tales from the Silo Gerilee McBride
2023-Jun Opening Night: Lee Changdong The Cinematheque
2023-Apr Volunteer Spotlight: Jonathan Wells The Cinematheque
2023-Apr The All Staff Listicle: If Spring Were a Movie The Cinematheque
2023-Mar Volunteer Spotlight: Fiona Hu The Cinematheque
2023-Mar Ask Al: Adventures of a Projectionist Al Reid
2023-Mar Trailers, Tips & Tools: Editing with Music Emma Pollard
2023-Mar What is Learning & Outreach? Learning & Outreach
2023-Mar News from the Executive Director Kate Ladyshewsky
2023-Mar Welcome to Intertitles The Cinematheque