JPEG 2000 : Questions and Answers

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Codec Questions

Codec Questions & Answers

Q. What is a codec and why does it matter?

A. In order to screen a movie digitally you must have a file that is transportable and secure. An uncompressed digital master is too large to easily transport in any practical format. Consequently, digital cinema service providers compress the digital master (as well as encrypting and packaging it too - see below).

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Q. What is used now and why?

A. The codec currently approved by the major Hollywood studios for digital cinema use is HD MPEG2 at high bit-rates. There are a number of other codecs that are proprietary or have never been approved for major motion picture releases.

Avica - and our interoperability partners - use HD MPEG2 at 80Mb/sec MP@HL.

Among the benefits of using HD MPEG 2 is that it is a widely accepted compression standard and is commonly used in many industries. Therefore MPEG2 services can be easily (and cheaply) accessed from third party providers primarily for the provision of alternative and advertising content.

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Q. Who decides what the specification should be?

A. In order to avoid the complications of widely varying standards and to ensure interoperability within the industry, the seven major Hollywood studios set up a body called Digital Cinema Initiatives LLC (DCI) to define the requirements and processes that are necessary to gain acceptance by the studios for release of their content to digital cinemas.

Any DCI specification carries with it the approval of their constituent studio members. DCI also makes recommendations on a range of other issues that affect interoperability - such as security, encryption, picture resolution and colorimetry.

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Q. What is changing?

A. The major Hollywood studios, working through DCI and SMPTE, wanted to establish a worldwide standard for a digital cinema codec that provides the ability to release in a single worldwide format,, while simultaneously enabling them to save money on post production and distribution.

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Q. What did DCI announce?

A. In June of 2004, DCI announced that they had selected part 1 of the 12-part JPEG 2000 standard as the basis for the Hollywood codec. Crucially the announcement took the form of a communication to SMPTE - an important standards body in the film and television industries. The form of the announcement is significant because it underscores the fact that announcing JPEG 2000 is just the first part of a long definition and standardization process, to now be coordinated by SMPTE, to arrive at a final and complete codec specification.

It is important to bear in mind that we are only at the beginning of the process and that the announcement does not in any way constitute a final outcome, but the first step in a process of defining a new codec for the industry.

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Q. How does the DCI decision affect Avica?

A. Avica has been working closely with DCI and expecting the decision on the preferred codec for Hollywood studio content. There was no surprise in the announcement and we have been working with the possible codec solutions for many months.

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Q. Why is a new codec solution necessary?

A. The Hollywood studios (and DCI) determined that the commercially available compression technology choices on the market were unable to provide the flexibility and future extensibility that was needed from a codec. Choosing a new codec allows the studios to specify image parameters (such as picture size and color space) that are not supported by any current commercial codec. It's important to understand that this choice is the beginning of the specification and development process for the new codec.

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Q. What is Part 1 of JPEG 2000?

A. To be formally specific the "ISO/IEC 15444-1:2000 Information technology - JPEG 2000 image coding system - Part 1: Core coding system" has been specified by DCI as the basis for the new compression technology to be used for digital cinema.

The "Part 1: Core coding system" aspect indicates that DCI has selected the portion of the international standard that identifies the fundamental single image compression methodology. Many questions remain unanswered regarding the use of this basic image compression standard for digital cinema including the compression bit-rates and other encoding parameter guidelines together with the stream and packaging formats for the files of compressed images. SMPTE has been asked to resolve these questions and other issues in order to deliver the final compression technology specification for digital cinema.

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Q. What's Avica's position on JPEG 2000?

A. Avica believes that JPEG 2000 Part 1 provides an excellent basis for the development of a new codec that will eventually meet Hollywood's needs and desires.

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Q. When will Avica have a JPEG 2000 solution?

A. This depends on how long it takes the SMPTE and the rest of the industry to arrive at a complete, interoperable specification for the new codec. DCI did not recommend, and the SMPTE is unlikely to adopt, Parts 2 through 12 of the JPEG 2000 standard. Much work remains to be done, but Avica is working toward support for this in our products. When the specification process is complete Avica will have compliant products becoming available soon thereafter.

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Q. How will the new codec be supported? What form will it take?

A. Avica will support the new codec in our FilmStore Player by adding a new decoder module to the existing products as a simple upgrade. Our mastering products will also be easily upgraded with a new encoder module.

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Q. Will everyone switch to JPEG 2000?

A. Avica believes that all Hollywood studios will eventually release their content on the new JPEG 2000-based codec. But this will not necessarily govern the actions of other film makers and distributors world wide. Avica believes that high bit-rate HD MPEG2 will remain a popular standard for many years to come - if only because of the large installed base of HD MPEG2 equipment and expertise globally.

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Q. Why should I still buy a Hollywood studio approved system that supports MPEG for digital cinema today?

A. There is no reliable estimate of how long the definition and standards process will take to reach finality for JPEG 2000. In the meantime, by purchasing the FilmStore™ Player now you can enjoy the benefits of Digital Cinema today, secure in the knowledge that your investment will be protected by Avica's clean and simple upgrade to the new codec as soon as it becomes available.

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Q. Will Avica continue to develop and support MPEG?

A. Yes, without question. MPEG capability will always be required to support live streaming, alternative content, and cinema advertising.

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Q. What about XYZ colour space?

A. XYZ color space is one of the features that can be supported through the development of a new codec. Avica plans to support XYZ color space as an option in the new codec. We will also support several of the existing color spaces in order to be compatible with existing equipment. As new postproduction equipment and projection equipment that supports XYZ becomes available, we expect that the industry will gradually begin to use it.

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Q. How will upgrades be handled by Avica's systems?

A. Avica has always been "codec agnostic." There are plenty of slots in the back of the FilmStore Player to support even more codecs, should that prove relevant.

Codec upgrades will be simple and straightforward. FilmStore players will have a new card slipped in, a software upgrade will be performed, and the process is complete.

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Q. What about orphaned content?

A. Because Avica will continue to support MPEG in addition to the new codec, there will be no orphaned content.

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Projector Questions

Projector Questions & Answers

Q. Which projectors are used today for digital cinema?

A. The studio-approved Texas Instruments DLP Cinema technology embodied in 2k projectors is made by TI's three OEMs - Barco, Christie and DPI/NEC. You will only ever find Avica FilmStore Players attached to Hollywood studio approved digital cinema projectors, today made by one of these companies - using TI's DLP CinemaTM technology at their core

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Q. What about 4k resolution?

A. To screen 4k pictures you will need 4k data and a 4k pipeline. Converting to 4k includes new postproduction equipment and new projectors -- none of which are yet ready for entering daily service.

We expect to support 4k pictures in the FilmStore as soon as the rest of the infrastructure is in place to produce, deliver, and exhibit the content. Today's FilmStore Player has the bandwidth necessary to support 4k pictures, so existing FilmStore Players can be easily upgraded to support 4k when the rest of the pieces are in place.

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Q. How does Sony's 4k projector announcement impact digital cinema?

A. Sony's announcement indicates that they are making product plans many years into the future. There is no impact on the current digital cinema business, since the projector is not available for sale at this time, nor is it a finished product.

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Q. Will 2k still be used?

A. Absolutely. 2k resolution is a Hollywood and DCI approved specification and is sufficient for all but the most extreme exhibition environments. One could compare 4k projection to 70mm film projection: useful for formats such as IMAXTM, but not necessary for the vast majority of applications. Only about 220 IMAXTM installations exist worldwide, compared to hundreds of thousands of 35mm installations.

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