It’s tough to be a digital cinema manufacturer. Even after your sales fall to earth from lofty heights, customers expect their upgrades for free. Outside of bug fixes, not all manufacturers are willing to do this. If a studio mandates a change, then an opportunity may exist to charge the studio, per digital cinema deployment agreements. So while everyone wants to improve workflow through more efficient management of content and keys, no one really wants to pay for this. Adding a few more needles to the Voodoo doll, even if the upgrade is available, not all exhibitors are willing to deploy it, for fear of upsetting a working production operation. Both company policies and fear about connecting to the Internet, a necessary step to enable workflow improvements, also contribute to doing nothing.
An interesting suggestion was made by NATO in this month’s Inter-Society meeting, repeated in this month’s ISDCF meeting, that US exhibitors wanted better security key management, and were finally seeing the light in adopting technologies such as Facility List Message (FLM) and Theater Key Retrieval (TKR). FLM carries the information needed to create Key Delivery Messages (KDMs) from site to the KDM-maker. TKR employs the insertion of a unique web link in the digital cinema composition (more commonly known as the “DCP”), which is used to pull the correct KDM into the player in the cinema. The suggestion made by NATO was that studios should supply distribution packages that are TKR-enabled.
One has to start somewhere. The suggestion to start with TKR would particularly sound good to an exhibitor, who doesn’t have to pay for implementation of the TKR infrastructure. But to implement TKR in the cinema requires that some 37,000 currently installed digital cinema systems in North America. Missing from the proposal was any suggestion that all NATO members were committing to upgrade.
NATO wants to put FLM on the back burner, placing emphasis on TKR. It’s a short-sided move. FLM is what enables the correct KDM to be created. TKR can efficiently move a KDM from a studio-controlled server to the digital cinema server in the cinema. But what’s the point of efficiently moving a KDM if it’s the wrong one? Further, FLM requires fewer upgrades to implement. FLM capability is created in the Theatre Management System (TMS), rather than in the digital cinema server, and there are only some 4000 of these in North America.
A little more education and sales effort is needed inside NATO. Exhibitors loath to share information. The idea of creating an FLM in their cinema and sharing it with a KDM-creator outside of the cinema could get across more easily with with a little grease. That, and a commitment to an upgrade schedule would help with NATO’s agenda.
One has to start somewhere. And whether or not the logic is flawed, starting somewhere is a lot better than carrying on with going nowhere.