CPLs (Composition Playlist) are key components of the cinema industry's content ecosystem. Stored inside DCPs (Digital Cinema Package) along with all the content, they are the instructions on how to build different versions of that same content. Without something like a CPL, every version of every film would need to be individually sent out in full, which would be completely impractical. Today's cinema software also relies on CPLs in order to select the correct version for playback.

    Read more about how CPLs help keep content secure

    The Digital Cinema Naming Convention

    The DCP itself can't hold any information on what different versions are included in it beyond the file name of the CPLs. Considering all the different variables that affect versions (2D/3D, languages, audio format, etc.), the CPL file name could quickly become too long, unwieldy, and jumbled to be useful. So a naming system was devised to make CPLs more readable to people, as well as standardised for the systems that rely on them for automations.

    One of the first considerations that shaped the naming convention was technical- some screen servers were only capable of showing 40 characters. So, if the full content title was displayed in the CPL title, it wouldn't leave room to display anything else. To help cinemas identify their content, the format of CPL titles was standardised by studios and ISDCF (Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum) into a "Digital Cinema Naming Convention". Its two main purposes are to keep as much information visible on screen as possible, and to specify the order and format of the information.

    The resulting standard CPL file name is usually structured like this:

    Title of DCP_Content type-Content modifiers_Aspect ratio_Language-Subtitle language_Territory-Rating_Audio type_Resolution_ Studio_ Date produced_Production facility_Version

    Here is the CPL along with the formats that the versioning details would be in:

    reading a cpl.png

    (Click to enlarge)

    Note that if there is no entry for any of the fields, it will not be left blank, it will state NULL instead.

    SMPTE DCP, the new standard

    The cinema industry is in the process of transitioning to a new standard in DCP- the SMPTE DCP. It will add support for 'extended CPL metadata', which will allow some of the versioning data to be stored in metadata, instead of the CPL file name. This will allow the file names to become shorter and more readable, as well as enable systems like your TMS (Theatre Management System) to automatically select the right version for the right screen more reliably.

    Read more about SMPTE DCP

    A quick exercise

    If you had a CPL that looked like this:



    How would you read it? You can use online resources like the ISDCF page on the naming convention abbreviations to decode it. Once you have the answer, you can highlight the area below to check whether you are right.

    >Star Wars: Rogue One. Feature version 1. 2D. Scope. English audio with English subtitles. For USA. Rated PG-13. 5.1 audio. 2k resolution. Disney. Packaged on December 4th, 2016 at Deluxe Technicolor Burbank. Interop. Original version file.



    For more information about the abbreviations and codes used in CPL titles, visit the Digital Cinema Naming Convention website.

    New Call-to-action

    Reaching 100% SMPTE DCP- what does it mean for cinemas?

    Reaching 100% SMPTE DCP- what does it mean for cinemas?
    Danny Jeremiah, AAM's Head of Cinema Products, recently contributed an article to Cinema Technology Magazine about the benefits standards like the...

    7 minute read

    Should cinemas sell their data or share their insights?

    Should cinemas sell their data or share their insights?
    Danny Jeremiah, AAM's Head of Cinema Products, recently contributed an article to Cinema Technology Magazine exploring the differences between...

    6 minute read

    Theatre Management Systems. What are the limits?

    Theatre Management Systems. What are the limits?
    Earlier in February, Nick Dager from Digital Cinema Report ran the first ever Digital Cinema Summit in association with Integrated Systems Europe...

    7 minute read

    Subscribe to our blog