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Building on 25 years of experience, Qube Cinema has taken several revolutionary approaches to digital cinema over the years. These include a suite of applications to support creation of DCI-compliant packages, at prices that independent producers can afford. Their latest release brings support for stereoscopic 3D and 4K mastering in ways that are both accessible and flexible.
, which offers a suite of digital cinema mastering tools including QubeMaster Pro, QubeMaster Pro Packager, and QubeMaster Xport, introduces version 2.0 of QubeMaster Xpress.
QubeMaster Xpress is a user-friendly Windows application with a drag-and-drop interface, enabling users to master Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) in three steps. The basic version supports up to 2K resolution, but the new version 2.0 now offers new stereo 3D and 4K modules as well as updated algorithms (based, as previously, on the QubeMaster Pro algorithms) and multi-threading support (Win7) for enhanced performance.
Although prices for the QubeMaster Xpress have not yet been set, it will be similar to the QubeMaster Xport for the OSX platform: $799 for 2K and $999 each for the 3D and 4K modules.
Qube Cinema President/CTO Rajesh Ramachandran
"QubeMaster Xpress took what was a very opaque, expensive process limited to a few people and de-mystified it for everyone," says Qube Cinema President/CTO Rajesh Ramachandran. "Now, the local theater owner can create clips about buying popcorn or turning off cell phones. And they can put ads for the local car dealership on the Digital Cinema screen. In the past, they'd have to point the car dealer to one of the few companies that did a DCP, and they'd find that creating a DCP was more expensive than their total ad budget."
Ramachandran places the QubeMaster Xpress within the context of the company's suite of Digital Cinema mastering tools. Qube Cinema is a wholly owned subsidiary of Real Image
, a 25-year old, 600-employee strong entertainment company in India. The company's involvement in entertainment technology began with their introduction of Avid, DigiDesign and other Hollywood-based products to the Indian market.
Since India produces more movies than any other country in the world (depending on your source, that's anywhere between 800 and 1,200 a year), Real Image began paying attention to the rise of digital cinema. "Five years ago when there was no standardization, we had the opportunity to jumpstart Digital Cinema in India, which we did," says Ramachandran, about the birth of Qube Cinema. "But we had a slightly different agenda." Qube Cinema introduced lower cost E-Cinema products to serve India and countries in Eastern Europe. Since then, the company has moved to standards-based DCI-compliant products.
When it came to DCI-compliant products, Qube Cinema started off by creating QubeMaster Pro, priced at $25,000 and aimed at the professional market. "Today it's used to master thousands of movies," says Ramachandran. "Real Image uses it to master several movies a week, and they deal with all kinds of color space conversion and format issues, so the product is very flexible. We also focus on speed. Our competition offered hardware-based solutions we thought were inflexible, but Pro is as fast as any competing hardware-based encoding system."
Ramachandran says that the company soon began to hear from cinema owners who were frustrated that they could only play Digital Cinema Packages from distributors but couldn't create their own DCP clips or pre-show material. "A good portion of these cinema owners had had a thriving pre-show business, with the local restaurants or Chevy dealer," he says. "In the past, they knew what kind of deliverables they'd get. But they weren't clear about the DC mastering process. It was mysterious and exotic."
That need inspired the creation of QubeMaster Xpress, a product launched at Show West in 2008. "It was revolutionary at the time," Ramachandran notes. With version 2.0, those same cinema owners can now create pre-show materials in 3D and 4K if they so desire. And Qube Digital has discovered another market for their DCP mastering product.
"The price point and ease of use is also good for indie filmmakers," he says. "Because of the availability of Digital Cinema screens--and as the Academy
began accepting this for qualifiers--many Indie filmmakers also gravitated to the product."
Moving forward, says Ramachandran, the next step is to enable users to create encrypted DC packages. "So far, we've been aimed at the preshow and indie film market, but we don't support encryption, so there are no digital rights management built into the products," he explains. With version 1.1 of QubeMaster Xport, Qube Cinema plans to introduce encryption.
"People ask, why does it take a .1 version, since encryption is not a very complicated task," he says. "The good thing about encrypted DCP is that you do it only once and can put it in thousands of locations. But then you have to ask how does each location play the movie?"
The answer is that a distributor issues a key (KDM), which not only decrypts the movie but also has information on the time window it can play for. If a movie is distributed to 3,000 screens, the distributor needs 3,000 unique KDMs. "Giving your customer a way to create KDMs doesn't solve the problem," says Ramachandran. "The real thorny, practical issue is to create and manage the KDMs."
Qube Digital plans to launch a service that will support users of both QubeMaster Xpress and QubeMaster Xport, that will take on the onus of creating and managing KDMs. Called Qube Keysmith, this product is on Qube Cinema's roadmap for the future and does not yet have a launch date.
QubeMaster Xpress 2.0 will be introduced at IBC (Hall 7 - Booth 7.F45), shown alongside the rest of the offerings from Qube Cinema.