Digital Cinema Playout from MacBook Pro


MacBook Pro playing to a 210 seat cinema.

We just had the successful cast & crew screening of the feature film McLean’s Money The Film Bakery has provided all post production services for the project including edit, colour grade and sound design.  The screening was in a brand new Reading Cinemas complex at Charlestown Square, the first cinema projection booth I’ve ever seen that doesn’t have any film equipment at all.  The setup is running entirely on Barco 2k projectors and DCP servers.

Because this was a one off, work in progress screening, we didn’t have time or budget allocated for creation of DCP files so we began exploring all of the available playout options.  One early idea was the (very exciting) Blackmagic Hyperdeck Studio, although the fact that it operates uncompressed using SSD Drives meant that current storage capacity of the SSD drives would prevent it being a practical way to play a full length feature film.  While there were quite a few possibilities we eventually settled on the idea of a current model MacBook Pro as a viable option.

Because the MBP has a fast SATA drive it is capable of playing the ProRes 422 master files quite comfortably and has digital audio output on the display port via an HDMI adaptor.  When we tested it with the Barco, I was amazed at the quality we saw.  We were seeing fully digital 1920 x 1080 progressive scan images, on a very large screen with incredible detail, great colour rendition and hardly any noise.

For the screening last night the MacBook Pro comfortably kept the pictures and sound pumping out at 125 Mbps for the full 2 hours without any glitches or skipping and the clarity was as good as I have seen from any playback source.

Many thanks to Stephen Hider, the cinematography world’s inside-man at Apple, for arranging access the right MacBook Pro for both the tests and the screening and to Ben Deighton the manager of the complex for helping us plan and setup the technical side of the screening.

McLean's Money Poster

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