Mission Impossible III: largest digital release ever

Add one more superlative to Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible: III”: it is the largest digital release ever, playing on more than 170 digital cinema screens throughout North America. And all digital preparation and distribution to those screens was handled by Kodak Digital Cinema.
from http://www.dcinematoday.com/dc/pr.aspx?newsID=487

Mission Impossible III
(Digital cinema is obviously of much better quality than this pixelized image – this just says “digital”, doesn’t it?)


Technical requirements:
It was quite an undertaking, judging by the fact that it took Kodak more than a month to prepare the movie for 170 screens:

Paramount set high standards for the digital release of “Mission: Impossible: III.” The studio insisted it only be shown in theatres with 2K cinema grade projectors and DCI-level security (…).
“Mission: Impossible III” is eight reels long, with soundtracks in multiple languages. In its digital release, it needed to be encoded in two different compression formats, packaged for four different server brands, and distributed via hard drive and satellite. The movie was encrypted to prevent piracy, so a unique pair of ‘keys’ – software codes – for each screen had to be created and sent separately. (…)
Beginning in April, Paramount began delivering the digital masters to Kodak’s Laser Pacific facility in Hollywood. Kodak technicians compressed and encrypted each reel and packaged them to play on the different screens. Kodak and Paramount collaborated on final quality control.

StarWars Episode III (2005) also needed to be prepared in 4 different formats. The promise of the DCI specification is of course that in the future, a movie can be packaged in only 1 format and work on all brands of cinema servers/projectors. Kodak would get a DCDM (Digital Cinema Ditribution Master) from Paramount, and prepare a single encrypted DCP (Digital Cinema Package) to ship to all theatres. It would then also distribute 170 keys for decrypting. Encryption key size is measured in bits, a 2048-bit RSA key for public key encryption is rather big, for symmetric encryption, an 128-bit AES key is already considered quite strong. This just to point out that secure delivery of a key file < 10KB is a lot easier than that of the 300GB movie file. I might write an article about that soon.

Digital cinema in Belgium
In Belgium, Kinepolis also shows the movie in digital version: in Brussels, Antwerp, Gent, Leuven, Hasselt, Kortrijk and Braine L’Alleud.
A lot of those digital projections worldwide will be played on Barco projectors, since they are one of the market leaders and have a close relationship with Kodak. One of the formats Kodak had to convert to, is “MXF Interop” (MPEG2) for XDCinema’s Cinestore line of Digital Cinema servers.
Kinepolis started in Harelbeke (1970) and is now an international group with 21 digital cinema theatres. Barco started in Poperinge (1934) and is now one of the world leaders in digital projection with a very optimistic CEO. EVS started in Liege (1994) and created its digital cinema subsiduary XDCinema in 2000. XDCinema and Barco are partnering to provide the digital cinema screenings at the Festival of Cannes this year.

With so many large players based here, Belgium will be an interesting playground for digital cinema.

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