The American View Part II
by Michael Karagosian
NATO Digital Cinema Consultant
note: The following is the latter half of a Dec. 5 presentation
delivered by Michael Karagosian to the Content Module of the European
Digital Cinema Forum in Stockholm.
Its nice to think that if we had the right standards and the
right technology today, that everything would just plug together
and work together, we wouldnt have to have these long meetings
about digital cinema, and wouldnt life be just grand.
But the ideal world does not exist, and as it turns out, digital
cinema systems can be very complex.
appreciate this complexity, lets look at the Digital Cinema
Functional Block Diagram produced by DC28. While this drawing is
due for a few tweaks, it has largely survived the test of time
all of one year. I dont want to get into the details of this
diagram, but as you can see, this isnt as simple as baking
cookies. And this diagram only addresses the store-and-forward model
for digital cinema. It doesnt show streaming media. Given
this complexity, perhaps its smart to compartmentalize our
features, to think of our systems in layers, and to grow into this
effort in small steps.
To see how we can do this, lets look at the decisions that
lie before us for store-and-forward images:
- Image resolution
- Pixel grid
- Aspect ratio
- Color depth
- Color primaries
- Color temperature for white
- Color coding
- File format
- Compression format
- Encryption algorithm
- Encryption method
- Content packaging
- Distribution packaging
- License format
- License distribution
- Digital Rights Expression format
- Digital Rights Expression distribution
This list is quite large, and it doesnt address interface
development. We need to look hard at those decisions that are important
for day-one operation, and how we can bring flexibility to those
most likely to change as our systems mature.
We have a lot of work ahead of us from a standards perspective.
How are we to do this?
Our file formats, our encryption format, our method for packaging
content, our method for distributing content, our license format,
all of these should be developed as firm foundations upon which
we can build interoperable systems. To make these foundations firm,
we need standards.
Its easy to agree that we need standards. The issue before
us, however, is standards by whom. I expect a
letter to be released soon, signed by the major exhibition
organizations around the world, stating their desire for uniform
standards. We cannot afford to have different and contradictory
standards from multiple standards bodies.
There are several standards organizations today that have entered
or wish to enter the digital cinema standards space. Certainly,
organizations such as the EDCF will become exceptionally valuable
in organizing regional input for a worldwide standards effort. You
are to be applauded for making this effort.
Coordination of standards bodies is the key for developing uniform,
world standards. But who will lead? That is one of the larger questions
that lies before us today.
Consider again the complexity of digital cinema systems. We will
not solve the issues that lie behind these complex systems by having
more meetings. We need to enable our manufacturers with our requirements,
so they can sort out the details. But we also need to maintain an
organized standards effort. Without it, these same manufacturers
have no reason to cooperate. We as users can jump up and down and
shout for standards, but without cooperation at the manufacturing
level, we will not have standards.
Recognizing the need for standards in 1999, SMPTE organized the
DC28 Technology Committee for Digital Cinema. DC28, in turn, formed
a set of study groups, chartered to identify the best ways to go
about digital cinema. DC28 may not have produced a clear set of
pointed answers, but it has uncovered the needs of both studios
and exhibitors in a digital world. DC28 has also created a valuable
dialog between manufacturers and users. One manufacturer very recently
told me that they couldnt have confidently developed their
particular product for the digital cinema market had they not had
the benefit of attending DC28 meetings.
For those areas where we can borrow methods and technology, such
as the obvious potential of building upon existing standards for
streaming media, there will be few problems in moving ahead. But
without an opportunity to prove new methods and new technologies
in the field, standards will be meaningless.
DC28 has been criticized for not quickly creating standards. But
lets remember that for store-and-forward, which is the particular
area that DC28 has been focused on, we wish to replace a working
100-year-old technology with a digital version that, with luck,
will offer another 100 years of functionality. We will not get there
overnight, but we will get there, one step at a time.
Among the first standards I hope to see DC28 address are the mastering
and distribution of content. Jerry Pierce will have an opportunity
to speak later as chairperson of the DC28.2 Mastering group.
Lately, my own work has been focused on the data packaging problem.
It has been a pleasure to work on this effort with EVS of Belgium.
This is a relatively new packaging discussion that we have undertaken,
and we are just bringing it into DC28. I can report that we are
making good progress as a group, but as with any effort, we need
to expand our discussions and seek wider support.
I also want to note that EVS is not the only European company who
has made an impact on DC28 activity. Octalis, also of Belgium, has
made significant contribution to the DC28.4 security systems effort.
International coordination is what will make our standards effort
strong. SMPTE DC28 understands this, and while never intending to
exclude others, we are seeking a dialog with groups such as the
EDCF so that we can work together in a very meaningful and productive
way. The proof is that many of us who are involved in DC28 are here
in this room today.
In conclusion, lets recognize the significance of the tasks
before us, and the potential impact on the worldwide distribution
of entertainment. Film has enjoyed a 100-year history, and has given
us a universal format by which we can sell both entertainment content
and entertainment equipment worldwide. Lets do our best to
develop long-lived universal formats as the cinema enters the digital