Are DCP deliveries over the Internet practical?
Broadmedia is one of the biggest content distributors in Japan, touching on everything from film and television to cloud-based gaming. As their name implies, Broadmedia is firmly rooted in the broadband era and has long been helping guide the industry towards Internet-based distribution technologies and services.
This is especially apparent in Broadmedia’s innovation around the delivery of DCPs (Digital Cinema Packages), the bundles of image, audio and data files that contain the information required for the digital cinema experience that is common in commercial theaters today. DCPs are typically delivered to individual theaters by satellite, or by shipping specialized hard drives via express courier.
But there are challenges with both methods. Satellite delivery is often impractical in dense urban environments and hard drives are prone to failure when shipped over long distances — and neither is conducive to a seamless, fully digital workflow that supports further digital innovation.
Terrestrial broadband delivery of DCPs is the ideal to which the industry has long aspired, but this too is challenging. In addition to the technical issues associated with moving massive amounts of data over IP networks, the content owners (typically Hollywood studios) demand that cinema files be delivered in a highly secure and controlled manner.
Broadmedia was determined to figure out a way to overcome these challenges, and with the use of Signiant technology was able to successfully distribute DCPs over the Internet at scale.
BROADMEDIA’S ACHIEVEMENT HAS PROVEN THAT DCP DELIVERIES OVER THE TERRESTRIAL INTERNET ARE NOT ONLY POSSIBLE BUT THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY, AND WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO IT WITHOUT SIGNIANT TECHNOLOGY.
– Toshihito Kubo, Executive Officer of Broadmedia
DISTRIBUTING DCPs OVER THE INTERNET
Broadmedia had several unique drivers encouraging them to find a way to transfer DCPs over the Internet. Like other regions in Asia, Japan’s terrestrial Internet is a more cost-effective infrastructure for data delivery than satellite transmission or shipment of physical media.
On top of that, Broadmedia’s core business is content distribution, powered by their CDN (Content Delivery Network) and ISP (Internet Service Provider) technology base. Additionally, one of their subsidiaries was a movie distributor in need of a better delivery method than hard drives, so it was a natural progression to find a way to use the Internet.
Broadmedia started the project in 2011 and realized early on that an accelerated file transfer solution would be required for the fast, reliable and secure movement of valuable digital assets. They evaluated the options on the market and quickly came to the conclusion that very sophisticated and flexible capabilities were required in addition to basic transport functionality.
Having done a lot of simulation with solutions other than Signiant, they knew that a single DCP delivery might work fine with some solutions, but the reality of movie distribution means multiple deliveries during a short period of time. For that, other solutions had proven useless.
“Imagine what happens if you inform ten theaters to download a DCP in a week,” said Koichi Sonoda, General Manager of Broadmedia. “All theaters want to get the package as soon as possible to prepare the presentation in time, which naturally causes network congestion. We needed the most sophisticated solution on the market in order to automatically manage content flow at scale.”
“After extensive research into file transfer management systems, we chose the most reliable and flexible solution, Signiant Manager+Agents, for this mission-critical system. Our system relies heavily upon the automation and central control capabilities of the Signiant platform.“
For several months following Manager+Agents installation, the Broadmedia team crafted their workflows and eventually achieved scalable and stable operation of DCP deliveries. Today, Broadmedia uses their Signiant-based DCP delivery system every day in Japan to distribute feature movies, trailers and ads to theaters.
A SINGLE DCP DELIVERY MIGHT WORK FINE WITH SOME SOLUTIONS, BUT THE REALITY OF MOVIE DISTRIBUTION MEANS MULTIPLE DELIVERIES DURING A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.
OPERATING AT SCALE
Broadmedia’s customers include the major Hollywood studios as well as Japanese content creators. Their DCP delivery system is now truly operating at scale, able to handle 10 feature films and 20+ trailers for every theater per month. In 2015 alone, over 13,000 trailers and more than 3,500 ads were delivered to 120+ cinemas. Delivery of full-length features started in late 2015 and, within a few months, over 50 DCPs have been delivered.
“Our DCP deliveries are now the heaviest data load transmissions of the company, within the most time-critical and security-sensitive application,” said Toshihito Kubo, Executive Officer of Broadmedia.
“Broadmedia’s achievement has proven that DCP deliveries over the terrestrial Internet are not only possible but the future of the industry, and we would not have been able to do it without Signiant technology.”
Broadmedia plans continued expansion of the DCP delivery system, and has developed systems and practices that allow them to do so in an efficient and cost-effective manner. For example, a Signiant Agent is installed at each theater to achieve fully controlled delivery. After some initial concerns about the practicality of deploying software at hundreds of endpoints, Broadmedia has established a simple installation procedure with proven results.
BROADMEDIA’S SOFTWARE CONTROL SYSTEM FOR DCP DELIVERY
As Broadmedia and its customers started to use the Signiant-based system at scale, it became clear that customized control software could help increase efficiency. For example, semi-automatic configuration of Signiant jobs would help operators more easily manage complex workflows and keep the system healthy.
Broadmedia therefore undertook development of a comprehensive software system that is specifically designed for DCP delivery to theaters. This web-based orchestration software is operated by Broadmedia, and will soon be available as a cloud service.
Functions of the Broadmedia software include user and theater account management, delivery and job management, Signiant Manager control, email notifications and KDM (Key Delivery Message for secure activation) delivery management. Bandwidth management is another key function of the overall system.
Many theaters in Japan utilize a standard residential broadband connection and therefore have fairly limited available bandwidth. The Broadmedia system utilizes Signiant functionality to allocate bandwidth and schedule transfers in an optimized manner, with no requirement for detailed configuration by an administrator.
A THRIVING PARTNERSHIP
Broadmedia and Signiant have each contributed critical pieces towards solving this challenge. Signiant’s core Manager+Agents technology including file acceleration, central control, scale out management and high security solved Broadmedia’s initial challenge of transferring and managing large-scale DCP transfers over the Internet.
From there, Broadmedia worked directly with content owners around the world and Japanese theaters to build a sustainable ecosystem for terrestrial DCP delivery. With the addition of application-specific software developed and operated by Broadmedia, a successful business has been established.
Broadmedia and Signiant have proven a practical and scalable means of delivering DCPs over the terrestrial Internet. While satellite and hard drive deliveries may never disappear altogether, this innovation is set to spread across the industry and change the way theaters receive Digital Cinema Packages.