ISDCF held another meeting this month, but it’s not clear why. Your correspondent could not attend – not that this should impact the decision to hold a meeting. But based on reports from others whose opinions matter, the meeting appeared to be a rehash of the prior month’s meeting, with the same outcomes. Notably, there was no discussion of the fact that the Plugfest evaluations of SMPTE DCP compliance, which have occupied ISDCF for several years, are now based on an obsolete standard. ISDCF chairman Jerry Pierce went on record saying that products are now ready to receive content formatted using the SMPTE DCP specifications. It appears he doesn’t understand that more needs to be done, or perhaps he’d rather not hear that news.
For better or worse, SMPTE has moved on, revising the suite of SMPTE DCP standards to a new 2013 version, which now incorporates labeled audio channels. If a product does not know what to do with labeled audio channels, then it cannot be SMPTE DCP compliant.
Those manufacturers having products that can do this, please raise your hands.
Hmmm, I thought so.
Changes will continue. SMPTE is now on track to approve a new track file type for SMPTE DCP that can wrap proprietary essence. In addition, a new time code will be standardized that can be carried in an audio channel. (Think what that would sound like if routed to a speaker!) Both additions are courtesy of Dolby, in its desire to insure the handling and playback of proprietary Atmos sound tracks on multiple makes of servers. That’s not to say that Dolby is opening up Atmos to the manufacturers of competing sound products – it isn’t. Dolby has every right to introduce these new elements into the suite of SMPTE DCP standards. And ISDCF should be paying attention.
The point made many times by your author is that SMPTE DCP continues to evolve, but there is no plan for how to seamlessly roll it into distribution. The industry still relies on the Interop DCP, for which there is no publicly posted documentation. A practical rollout plan could segment elements of SMPTE DCP into stages, ensuring a smooth introduction of the format, and allowing the standard to evolve without creating chaos in the field. It seems that Dolby is opposed to such planning, as it’s worried that a staged rollout of SMPTE DCP could interfere with its rollout plans for Atmos, which relies on SMPTE DCP. Even though I couldn’t attend, I publicly asked the ISDCF chair to place this subject on the agenda, suggesting that ISDCF would be a suitable group to explore and recommend a SMPTE DCP rollout plan. My request was ignored.