There must be a book somewhere that explains why waiving arms alone doesn’t move technology forward. But knowing this intuitively, Jerry Pierce, chairperson for ISDCF, your author, and several others plotted a course of demonstrations to give manufacturers a visible milestone in the effort to achieve SMPTE DCP compliance and SMPTE accessibility standards. It worked. Two major demonstrations were held this month: one effectively a two-day event by ISDCF with a focus on technical standards compliance, and the other a 2-hour event held at ShoWest.
The ISDCF demonstration, with its focus on SMPTE standards compliance, taught several things. The event occupied a total of 3 days, the first day for projector setups, the 2nd day a “plug-fest,” and the third a public demonstration in a screening room in which a few hundred attendees participated. At the plug-fest, manufacturers were able to try out their equipment with others, and in the process, learn the progress the competition was making. There is nothing like peer pressure to cause manufacturers to sharpen up. Manufacturers that never “plugged in” together were reviewing code to understand why things didn’t work. Features were added when it became obvious why they were needed. Right up to the last demonstration on the 3rd day, new code was being installed. It was the kind of situation one wishes could happen every day until the industry gets it right.
The ISDCF demo included five servers, two projectors, five pieces of content from 3 authoring houses, and two closed caption systems. All were able to read basic SMPTE DCP. Not all could read an encrypted caption file on Day 1, but that changed by Day 3. Impressively, several servers could re-route HI and VI-N tracks per the ISDCF recommendation. (This is a fairly recent recommendation, which made the implementation of it all the more impressive.) Most servers could support the SMPTE CSP/RPL protocol and drive the USL closed caption system.
Having a different purpose from that of the ISDCF demo, NATO also held a demonstration of digital cinema accessibility products for exhibitors during ShoWest. In this event, standards compliance was assumed, and on display were the various closed caption and assistive listening devices. This was a 2 hour event, during which some 300 people attended. The ShoWest demo was organized as a mini-tradeshow, showcasing five servers and four closed caption systems.
As in the ISDCF demo, USL demonstrated its prototype closed caption glasses, which perhaps caught the most attention. While the prototype glasses are not the most elegant, they do comfortably put text in front of a user’s eyes while watching the movie. USL’s system is driven by an infrared signal, with the same infrared transmitter used to send closed captions to its cup-holder-mounted display, as well as audio to its headsets.
Intelligent Access was also present with its iPod Touch/iPhone driven system. Vusix glasses are supposed to plug into the iPhone, but no glasses were present at the demonstration. The system runs out of the lead engineer’s notebook computer. It’s an interesting system, but it’s not ready for prime time.
Both USL and Intelligent Access utilize the SMPTE CSP/RPL protocol and can operate with compliant servers.
The Mopix Rear Window system, the legacy closed caption system of cinema, is not out of the picture. Rear Window displays can be driven by the USL system via CSP/RPL, and several servers also provide a direct serial output that can drive the displays directly.
Doremi demonstrated its cup-holder mounted closed caption display, which is not CSP/RPL based, and only operates with the Doremi server.
Timing was everything. The technically-oriented ISDCF demonstration, which took place a week prior to the ShoWest demo, exposed the bugs to be avoided at ShoWest. To the audience, both demonstrations were effective in demonstrating the progress made to date.
The good news is that the industry is working hard to implement SMPTE DCP and SMPTE accessibility standards. The bad news is that the industry is working hard to implement SMPTE DCP and SMPTE accessibility standards. The hope was that these capabilities would be ready by now for installation, with the goal of earning the confidence of content distributors to ship in the SMPTE DCP format a year from now. That hope was challenged by this month’s demonstrations. Recognizing that the ISDCF demonstration helped significantly in moving manufacturers forward, another is planned for July.
For more product information on closed caption systems: