Update on Digital Cinema Support for Those with Disabilities

by Michael Karagosian (last updated May 2017)

Closed caption technology for digital cinema rapidly moved forward with the successful standardization of SMPTE 430-10 and 430-11 for the SMPTE CSP/RPL closed caption protocol, an Ethernet-based protocol designed for connecting closed caption systems with digital cinema servers. The SMPTE CSP/RPL communication protocol is license-free. The wide-spread use of this protocol has allow multiple closed caption systems to proliferate.

Summarizing the standards effort for accessibility in digital cinema:

Implementers should be aware that the SMPTE standards for audio do not prescribe the media block audio output terminals on which HI and VI-N should appear. The mapping of audio channels to media block outputs should follow that of Interop DCP (outputs 7 and 8). The Interop DCP audio channel mapping chart below details the recommended mapping of SMPTE 429-2 sound channels to the audio outputs of the media block. Note that HI and VI-N audio are recommended to always route to outputs 7 and 8.

Recommended Audio Output Assignment Table

Interop DCP Audio Channel Mapping and Recommended Audio Output Assignment Table For SMPTE 429-2 Audio

On the device side, QSC/USL and Dolby each sell wireless, cup-holder-mounted closed caption displays. In addition, Sony and QSC/USL are selling closed caption glasses, which display closed caption text in front of the wearer’s eyes while watching the movie. USL’s closed caption system uses a single infrared transmitter for delivery of accessibile HI/VI-N audio and closed captions to any of its devices. Dolby’s RF-based wireless system (IEEE 802.15.4) supports both closed captions and accessible audio. Sony's Entertainment Access Glasses also utilize an RF delivery system (the Zigbee enhancement of IEEE 802.15.4) for closed captions and accessible audio. Dolby, Sony, and QSC/USL products are compliant with the license-free SMPTE CSP/RPL protocol. Support for older Mopix Rear Window™ closed caption systems devices may still be available. It is suggested if you need such support to inquire directly with your server manufacturer.

Cinepedia has more information on accessiblity in cinema and how accessibility content is carried in the DCP.

The US Department of Justice issued its final ruling for Movie Captioning and Audio Description in November 2016, with multiple references to the work of Michael Karagosian.