The number of films screened in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) formats has risen significantly since last year’s Festival - especially at the European Film Market. The Berlinale 2012 presented a total of 659 screenings in DCP formats, as well as 627 in 35mm film and some 1,100 in diverse video formats.
For festivals worldwide – and the Berlinale in particular with its enormous programme - this development poses substantial technical, logistical and financial challenges. The Berlinale shows films on more than 50 screens all over the city, and even though most of these cinemas have already been equipped with the latest digital technology in compliance with the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) and have a uniform standard of performance, they are still not able to meet the demands of such a large film festival.
The Berlinale’s office for the technical coordination of film screenings faces a variety of challenges each year, including insufficient compatibility between different server and projector types in the Festival’s cinemas, and their various software and firmware versions, as well as difficulties resulting from the heterogeneous IT infrastructures at these locations.
In contrast to how cinemas are usually scheduled, at least five different films are shown per screen each day of the Festival, which means new films have to be uploaded onto the servers daily to accommodate the Berlinale’s programme. Prior to the screenings, the films have to be technically tested and then loaded (“ingested”) onto digital cinema servers. This process must be completed in time to be able to address any issues that may arise. Due to the amount of data, these various procedures are very time consuming.
To complicate matters, the process of creating DCP files that work flawlessly and providing them each with a valid key (KDM) so they can be played back at the right time and place is in itself a common source of errors – a problem that is often underestimated by producers and/or post-production companies. In combination with the infrastructure available at a specific location, this can, in the worst case, make it impossible to play back a specific film or to show it without errors. Due to the complexity of this situation, workshops have often been offered at the Berlinale Talent Campus to educate emerging filmmakers on the topic.
To ensure the smooth operation of this year’s digital screenings, an elaborate procedure to test the technical quality and structural integrity of the submitted DCP formats was set up in close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits.
To eliminate compatibility problems at this year’s Berlinale, Dolby, our internationally renowned partner, established a network of 37 digital cinema servers at the festival venues - each with a capacity of 2.75 terabytes. To enable DCP films to be transferred to the Festival’s projection booths around the clock, Dolby also supplied 5 SAS data libraries, each with a capacity of 24 terabytes. In addition to Dolby’s support, Belgian digital cinema specialist Barco provided the Berlinale with their know-how as well as 11 high-performance digital cinema projectors. They thus ensured perfect digital projections at the Berlinale Palast, the Friedrichstadt-Palast, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and many other venues. The Festival was also equipped for 3D screenings, thanks to the loyal support of Dolby and Barco. In addition, Kinoton, a Munich-based company, supplied the Festival with additional projectors and assistance.
Colt Technology Services, the Berlinale’s official connectivity supplier, linked various Festival venues via a large number of high-performance video and data networks (12 Gbit/s). Thanks to this powerful broadband infrastructure, the Berlinale’s office for the technical coordination of film screenings could feed a number of servers at approximately 20 selected venues directly with films via fibre optic cables. To make this possible, Media Logic, a Berlin-based company, provided the Berlinale with DDP storage solutions.
Alongside a team of experts provided by our partners and suppliers, 45 employees worked for the Berlinale’s office for the technical coordination of film screenings during this year’s Festival. Without their tireless efforts, a number of screens would have remained dark. Prior to the Berlinale, an additional 80 projectionists were trained in-depth so they would be able to cope with the technical challenges.
March 1, 2012