Digital Cinema Terminology

For the curious, we've put together a handy list of common and not-so-common digital cinema terminology.

In this article:


Composition: The name given to the complete digital representation of a title.

Composition Playlist (CPL): The high level playlist that defines the play order of the essence Track Files that make up the Composition.

Digital Cinema Package (DCP): The name given to the collection of motion picture files sent to a cinema. A DCP may not represent a complete motion picture.

Essence: By example, (and without limitation), an essence type could be picture, sound, subtitle and/or caption

Interop DCP: The original implementation of Composition and DCP deployed during the rollout of digital cinema, based on an early draft of this work in SMPTE.

KLV: Key-Length-Value is the data encoding method used in MXF Track Files.

MXF: Material Exchange Format, the file structure used for digital cinema Track Files, containing essence and metadata.

Packing List: The manifest of files carried in a DCP.

Reels: The name given to the collection of Track Files that make up a temporal portion of a title.

SMPTE DCP: The implementation of Composition and DCP standardized by SMPTE.

Track File: A file containing a single essence type. A component of a Composition.

UUID (Universally Unique Identifier), the method for generating identifiers associated with all digital cinema files.

OV Package or OV Composition: Original Version, a name applied to a complete Composition where certain Track Files of the Composition may be shared with other Compositions.

VF Package or VF Composition: Version Files, a name applied to a partial Composition intended to utilize Track Files of an OV Composition. A VF Package can also be thought of as an Asset Package.


Certificate: A data file carrying the public key of an asymmetric or RSA certificate and descriptive metadata.

Encryption: The mathematical modification of data such that it is unrecognizable. Conversion back to its original form requires a “key.”

Forensic Mark: A hidden mark, such as a watermark, in picture or sound. The mark, when decoded, provides identifying information about the location where the picture and sound were experienced.

Key: In encryption, the data value used to either encrypt valuable data, or decrypt valuable data.

KDM: Key Delivery Message. The data message type used to carry encrypted keys to a target player, authorizing the player to decrypt and play the associated encrypted content.

Media Block: A player whose security characteristics and behaviors are fully defined by DCI.

TDL: Trusted Device List. In common use of the term, a TDL is a database of trusted devices in the field, normally maintained by a fulfillment entity. However, it can also refer to the list, incorporated in the KDM, of devices authorized for use with the target media block.


Soundfield: The sound as experienced by the audience.

Soundfield Group: A collection of sound channels that define a Soundfield.

Sound Format: A distribution format for sound. Typical sound formats are 5.1 Sound, or 7.1 Sound.

Surround Sound: The term applied to sound in the auditorium produced by the speaker system that’s not associated with the screen.

Industry Organizations

DCI: Digital Cinema Initiatives. The consortium of the six major Hollywood studios responsible for the DCI Digital Cinema System Specification and the DCI Compliance Test Plan.

IETF: Internet Engineering Task Force

SMPTE: Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

Did this answer your question? Thanks for the feedback There was a problem submitting your feedback. Please try again later.