A few pointers NEEDED on Atmos / DCP - creating video for local cinema viewing

Hi all, I’m currently working on a rather ambitious project which will involve a live musical performance alongside a video. The work will be continuous and musicians will wear in ear monitors. I’m still at the very early stages of deciding how to put it all together technically, but as a local cinema here in France has now offered a place to premier the show, I need to start reading, quickly!

I have determined that they use DCPs for all movie showings, and I have just downloaded DCP-o-matic.

I would be very grateful for any advice, directions to websites, manuals etc that will enable me to put the project together. It is my intention to have multi-channel audio for the video, and at the moment that will be using Cubase 12, though I suspect I’ll crossgrade to Nuendo 12 when that arrives (I’ve a very old version of Nuendo - 4 I think). I’m unsure yet whether the live music and singing can / should be mixed into the Cinema sound - I suspect that’s going to open a can of worms so I’m working on the idea of a separate PA for the live component. One of the technical issues will be synching with the video sound from the screen / performance area, or at least having a feed into the in-ear monitors.

I realise this is a very broad request but all tips and pointers will be gratefully received. If anyone has experience in working in such an area I’d love to hear from you. Thank you!

OK I haven’t exactly been inundated with suggestions - no-one else working in this field with any experience whatsoever? I guess that’s possible.

Anyway for anyone reading this who might be wondering, I have discovered that Da Vinci Resolve 17 has the ability to export DCP - I just updated from 16 and just on a whim decided to check the export formats.

I’m going on a technical tour of the cinema in a few weeks so I’ll have a better idea of what is and isn’t possible in terms of live performance in this type of venue. I know silent films are often shown with live musicians playing, but my proposal is taking that much further, and to be honest with the advances in technology I’m really rather surprised that more musicians & composers aren’t looking at cinemas as a viable performance space.

Do chip in please if you’ve thoughts on this - I’ve always been a maverick but the sound of tumbleweed is deafening…!

Hopefully on your tech scout of the theatre you can determine if you can get in and out of the DCP hardware with your live music feed, my guess is unless you’ve got someone hip to making this work you should plan on a PA, which in the end might be less of a headache.

Can you get the make/model of the DCP hardware from the theatre?
If the theatre’s got a CP850, it does have flexibility, although the outputs are D25 connectors.
Here’s the Dolby products page:

Regarding rolling your own DCP, I would advise having someone who’s had some experience lending a hand.


regarding the DCP for example do talk to the cinema what kind of DCPs they support with their equipment. Some pointers…

  1. There are basically 2 “types” of DCP specs due to the evolution. Interop and SMTPE, Interop beeing the older one before SMPTE were standardised. If the equipment is not too old they should support SMTPE DCPs, which is both more recent and flexible. If they do, use that type.
  2. DCP can provide 2K and 4K, that depends on your project needs.
  3. You have to define the “picture container”, that depends on the aspect ratio of the picture: can be “Flat” or “Scope”. Avoid the “Full” container, that is of no use for cinema projection in general.
  4. You probably don’t want to use encryption, I guess…
  5. The most time consuming part of a DCP generation is the encoding of the picture with JPEG2000.
  6. Regarding the sound, DCP is designed primarily for multichannel sound. As you wrote, that is the general intention of the project as well. There should be at least 3 channels for the front in order to provide for the center channel. For DCP the audio should be provided as individual PCM files for each channel for the DCP creation (DCP uses PCM audio).

It might be tricky to combine live multichannel sound with the cinema installation. Do you know yet whether the theatre has means to patch the live sound into their system?


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Thanks @t2audio & @MixMike - very helpful.

I’d already more or less decided that a separate PA is the easier route for the live sound.

Once I have the full tech spec things will be clearer, but for now I’m thinking that my biggest problem will be how to synchronise an on-stage MacBook with a monitor mix and more importantly cues and click-tracks into separate headphones mixes, independent of the PA and the cinema sound.

My contact at the cinema (who doesn’t know about the tech side) already told me that they often run the films unattended - they start on a timer, so when you mentioned SMPTE I’m wondering whether it would be possible to get a sync code from their machine to an interface with the MacBook.

Looking briefly at the CP850 rear panel, it does seem to have a wide range of i/o possibilities. And it occurs to me that perhaps the cue sounds that I need in-ears could even be encoded in the complete Atmos soundtrack, but only delivered to the in-ears? I hope the tech person at the cinema is well-versed with the possibilities. If not I need to find a tech-head working in this area to help me develop a universal approach that I can take to other cinemas. Or do more of what I’m not great at, reading & understanding manuals…!

Anyway it’s an exciting if challenging project. More info as I get it. Thanks for your input.

Hi Dr_Scardo,

the synchronisation might indeed prove a challenge. SMPTE for the DCP spec has per se nothing todo with timecode, it just has been published as standards by SMTPE (the organization). There are means defined for synching auxiliary devices with “ST 430-10:2010 - Auxiliary Content Synchronization Protocol”, and there are servers supporting LTC out there. But devices supporting that functionality are probably not too common among typical cinemas.


Also keep in mind that Atmos tracks for DCPs can only be created by a special hardware unit that is leased by Dolby to certified mixing facilities. Without that the best you’ll be able to do is 7.1.

thanks @MixMike & @minnjd - good points.

I’m having the technical tour on Tuesday though the technician won’t be there so I’ll be crawling all over the projection room taking photos and notes.

I expect 7.1 will be fine, at the moment I’m only 5.1 in the control room. Maybe actual Atmos was being a little ambitious and optimistic at this point. Steep learning curve.

Atmos would be a fun challenge I’m sure but Dolby keeps the screws pretty tight on theatrical use.

7.1 is no slouch though. Even 5.1 gives you a lot of opportunities for creative surround use