Surprise! Fox has entered the 21st century in more than just name. Its latest effort in security key management for digital cinema represents a huge shift from prior doings. “Gone” is the modem, and “in” is the network. Mike Radford of Fox, in ISDCF, introduced his “FLM-x” method for communicating FLMs on a B2B basis. The method relies on a technique called Representational State Transfer, or REST. RESTful methods incorporate simple web services using traditional client-server architecture. In a nutshell, a server prepares desirable information as a web page. A client, using a purpose-built software program instead of a web browser, makes a request to the server for the web page. In doing so, it obtains the information. All of this takes place using readily available web server/client tools. That’s it.
Fox’s RESTful method is versatile. Specialized programs are not required. A regular web browser can be used to view the information. By incorporating standard web tools such as XSL and CSS, those viewing with a web browser can be presented with an attractive, easy-to-read page.
To promote a common approach towards generating the data, Mike proposes to use XML. He has posted a working implementation at http://flm.foxpico.com. (User name: isdcf, Password:isdcf) Using this site, you will be able to view the digital cinema equipment available, and drill down to view the digital security certificates for each. A machine located at the Key Delivery Message (KDM) creator’s facilities will be able to do the same. The means for communicating digital certificates in Fox’s method is the SMPTE 430-7 Facility List Message, or FLM for short. Mike has also posted an FLM validator at the site.
There are many positive points for Fox’s scheme. The first is that Fox is proposing this in a public forum, and seeking feedback. They want wide buy-in, and they’re likely to get it. The scheme itself does not require further invention. It uses off-the-shelf tools, and can be replicated by anyone anywhere in the world. It is elegant. It does not require a particular business arrangement, and can be employed in any architecture. For example, exhibitors can implement this method within their circuit, and present to KDM creators an aggregation of their digital security certificates from their head office. Deployment entities can do the same. Even though these two examples represent very different business models, the same method can be employed by both.
However, not everyone likes the RESTful approach. DCIP, after wasting a few million on the problem, has decided that only a Microsoft .Net platform between DCIP and KDM creators should be used. Most studios, however, aren’t willing to be tied to a Microsoft platform for B2B transactions. In fact, it may be fair to say that Fox’s RESTful method was born out of the desire to avoid Microsoft at the B2B level. Just how Fox will push back on DCIP remains to be seen.