NATO and ISDCF held a special 2 hour session in early June, with 100 people in attendance, to emphasize the importance of establishing an industry timeline for implementation of accessibility features in digital cinema. There is considerable and reasonable concern that the US Department of Justice will issue a ruling that requires all US theatre shows to display captions. This could be a blow to the US market, where audiences react unfavorably to on-screen text. In addition, US exhibitors are under significant litigative pressure by several US State Attorney Generals to offer accessibility features to audiences. Thus the push to quickly implement accessibility in digital cinema, including closed caption technologies, where captions can be targeted to an individual audience member.
A draft timeline for accessibility was sent to ISDCF in July. That timeline is posted at http://mkpe.com/digital_cinema/isdcf.
Inevitably, any such timeline must mesh with that for DCI compliance. In the June meeting, it was the suggestion of vendors to divide the forward transition to DCI compliance into two phases, the first of which would be the transition to SMPTE DCP. As SMPTE DCP incorporates the necessary features to deliver access content to theatres, NATO’s timeline includes the transition to SMPTE DCP. It also includes the implementation of the SMPTE CSP/RPL protocol for server communication with 3rd party closed caption systems. The drafts for SMPTE CSP/RPL are currently in ballot for approval as standards.
Key components of the proposed timeline include:
- March 2010: ISDCF demo of working systems compatible with SMPTE DCP (software and hardware) and SMPTE CSP/RPL.
- April 2010: All new digital cinema equipment sold will support SMPTE DCP and CSP/RPL.
- October 2010: 50% of all digital cinema systems in North America are compliant with SMPTE DCP and CSP/RPL.
- April 2011: 100% of all digital cinema systems in North America are compliant with SMPTE DCP and CSP/RPL.
The timeline is aggressive, but meets the intent of that which vendors agreed to in the June NATO-ISDCF meeting. The industry needs to move forward quickly with accessibility features for digital cinema. But the ability of the industry to do so remains to be seen. The timeline will be discussed in the September ISDCF meeting.