ISDCF met this month, with a growing agenda. The hotter topics addressed include the field upgrade schedule, ghost busting, forensic marks, and of course, security key delivery.
The latest field upgrade schedule for SMPTE DCP can be downloaded at http://isdcf.com/. The schedule has been widely circulated among the studios. It was reviewed and accepted by the several studios and many vendors in attendance of the meeting. It establishes April 2010 as the date by which all manufacturers should have product lines compliant to SMPTE DCP. (The list of standards to be compliant with are included in the schedule.) By ISDCF’s definition, SMPTE DCP incorporates the complete suite of SMPTE standards for digital cinema packaging and accessibility features. It should be noted that neither DCI compliance nor SMPTE DCP compliance fully encompasses the other. In simpler words, SMPTE DCP compliance is not equivalent to DCI compliance, and vice versa.
The elimination of ghost busting in distribution is a favorite topic among studios, and comes up often in ISDCF agendas, this meeting no exception. While no further information on ghost busting was available in the meeting, I was able to discuss RealD’s plans a few weeks later with Rod Archer, RealD’s VP of Engineering. Rod explained that both Dolby and newer Doremi servers now incorporate ghost busting, which allows a vanilla 3-D distribution to be played on RealD screens. They are converting country-by-country, at the request of distributors. However, differing from their original plans, they are now focusing on Europe and Asia, and expect the US market to convert last. The US poses a more difficult problem for conversion, in that older-model Doremi servers are in the bulk of RealD’s US installations. These require a hardware upgrade for both FIPS compliance and ghost busting. Doremi will most likely refrain from hardware replacement until the company is assured that it has a DCI-compliant design.
A bigger surprise was the issues raised over forensic marking of movies by digital cinema servers. Pirated copies were discovered that didn’t have a forensic mark, although it was clear from the copies that they were pirated from a digital screening. This was very unusual, as all digital cinema servers are supposed to incorporate forensic marking technology for both audio and image. It turns out that there is no industry practice in place for quality control of installed forensic mark technology. The licensors of the technology do not offer a portable validation check for manufacturers for reason of secrecy. So equipment goes out into the field unchecked. Considering that forensic mark technology has proven to be the most useful security feature of digital cinema, this is a most unwelcome discovery. The solution will require the involvement of Civolution, the spin-off of Philips that now owns the two watermarking methods now in use in digital cinema.
Work continues towards developing effective tools to better manage security keys. ISDCF is working on a common set of information to be gathered from exhibitors. This will first be incorporated in paper forms, but should quickly migrate to web-based forms and eventually to the Facility List Message (FLM), the standard message-type emanating from cinemas that will one day help automate the process of key management.
The commerce behind security key management requires that data about the equipment in the projection booth be shared with those who will supply the keys (KDMs). If multiple KDM suppliers are to utilize the same data, then this data requires a common identifier for the site from which it came. Last month’s report discussed a facility identifier that has been in discussion for awhile. But this month a separate meeting took place where distributors had a chance to share their lessons learned with identifiers. This led to a change in thinking that the best facility identifier would simply be latitude and longitude coordinates for the site. No registry is required, anyone can create it, and anyone can resolve it to a physical location. One distributor pointed to Google Maps as a useful tool in this regard. These, of course, are requirements that no technologist would have considered. Perhaps the best news is that the business folks are now finding their way to shape the development of practical security key management. If only they were engaged when the DCI spec was being written!