Compliance a Focus of D-Cinema Rollout

While the studio consortium Digital Cinema Initiatives is moving forward with plans to test d-cinema systems to make sure they are DCI-compliant, projectors using the current version of Texas Instruments' DLP Cinema technology may not measure up to the new standard.

According to several insiders familiar with the spec, those projectors might not pass the DCI compliance test because they do not meet the requirement for Federal Information Processing Standards certification, essentially a security measure.

But DLP Cinema business manager Nancy Fares said: "We have a work-around that has been an acceptable solution. The studios are getting a solution as secure as they envisioned it to be."

Because studios want to see the d-cinema rollout proceed, other observers suggested that projectors using the current DLP technology could be grandfathered into studio d-cinema deals.

There are about 7,000 DLP Cinema-based projectors from manufacturers Barco, Christie and NEC deployed worldwide; they comprise roughly 4,800 of the nearly 5,000 currently in use in the U.S. and have become a sort of de facto standard in the initial d-cinema rollout.

Barco and Christie declined comment, and NEC did not respond to calls for comment.

DCI testing will begin as early as this month at the newly named test sites, including CineCert in the U.S.

CineCert chief technology officer John Hurst explained that virtual print fee agreements with studios generally require DCI-compliant equipment. "Some studios have the opinion that these 'Series 1' projectors work well and are reasonably secure, and they will provide content to play on them," he said. "Other studios have not yet announced what they would do. It's difficult to know how that would shake out."

It will take some time to determine if the DLP technology meets the DCI standards. Hurst explained that FIPS 140-2 certification must be done at a FIPS consulting lab, not the DCI test sites.

"It's a long and expensive process," he said. "It is incredibly detailed. You have to go through design and testing. That process can take a year to a year and a half."

Hurst reported that many d-cinema equipment makers already have started the lengthy FIPS certification process. In contrast, he estimated that the DCI test should take six to eight weeks.

TI, meanwhile, has begun development of Phase 2 technology that is expected to meet all DCI compliance criteria. It is scheduled to be deployed in late 2009.

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter