A New Ecosystem: Qube Wire streamlines delivery of digital content

Published on Tuesday, August 15, 2017

qubewire_featureAs a provider of end-to-end digital cinema technology and solutions, Qube Cinema offers a virtually seamless environment for exhibitors, filmmakers and postproduction companies with a range of DCI-compliant products. Its Qube Wire ecosystem is developing a worldwide relationship as a flexible, reliable, cost-effective and multi-functional solution.

By taking advantage of a simple but comprehensive user interface, distributors can manage digital cinema assets, assign territorial content rights and have Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) and keys (Key Delivery Messages/KDMs) delivered to theatres across the world via Qube Wire. Theatres can also manage specific digital cinema device details and access their Universal Inbox.

Qube Cinema has built a comprehensive global cinema screen database internally. Screen additions and changes are constantly updated by their 24/7 support team. Qube Wire supports content delivery through multiple methods including satellite multicast to groups of theatres; unicast delivery to theatres using a partner delivery network; online direct delivery to theatres that have a Qube Wire theatre appliance; and last-mile physical drive delivery through service partners utilizing a Qube Wire partner appliance that automates the duplication process.

Qube Wire partners with worldwide digital cinema providers, taking speed, cost, reliability and other factors into account to arrive at an optimum choice based on expected delivery dates. Theplatform was recently put to a pioneering stress test with Bollywood blockbuster Baahubali 2, the all-time highest-grossing Indian title. The film has generated worldwide box-office receipts of approximately $300 million.

Qube Wire’s ecosystem orchestrated the release in four languages and 34 international versions across 63 countries in 2,073 theatres, comprising 13,000+ screens. Throughout the process, 232 rights assignments were made to eight companies handling worldwide distribution. About 60,000 KDMs were generated and over 2,000 DCP deliveries facilitated.

“From the distributor’s point of view, the most important difference between Qube Wire and previous methods of digital distribution is the self-service, single-window nature of our system,” states president and chief technical officer Ramesh Ramachandran. “It truly simplifies managing digital cinema distribution and makes what was until now a complex, error-prone process requiring a fair amount of technical knowledge into a user-friendly service that we hope is a pleasure to work with.”

Sobhu Yarlagadda, head of Baahubali 2 production company Arka Media Works, was impressed with the ease and efficiency of the system. “Qube Wire is a pioneering technology, an innovation that has changed the dynamics of distribution to cinemas. Qube Cinema has certainly lived up to their reputation for advancing the movie business with their products.”

Each version of Baahubali 2 was 200GB in size and needed to be globally distributed in a highly compressed timeframe, less than a week between mastering and release. Qube Wire’s secure, peer-to-peer transfer mechanism ensured that each digital print reached every part of the globe within a few hours, remaining cost-effective and highly resilient to potential localized network failures or congestion.

“Physically transporting content on hard drives continues to be the norm due to the relatively large sizes of DCPs,” points out Ramachandran, “and keys are centrally managed by just one or two trusted entities, because anyone with a Distribution KDM [DKDM] can potentially issue keys to any system in the world, as well as modify the original content if they wish, thus undermining critical aspects of the control that content owners expect.”

Due to the need for centrally managing KDMs, distributor requests and approvals are typically an “error-prone tangle of endless e-mail chains today.” Creative improvements to movies are often made later and later in the production process because today’s digital workflow makes it possible. This often results in severe compression of the typical movie’s release timeframe, which Qube Wire is addressing.

How It Works

Qube Wire supports rights assignments for compositions within the ecosystem. Every company gets its own unique digital certificate stored on Hardware Security Modules for the ultimate level of security. Each distributor rights assignment creates a DKDM targeting the distributor’s unique digital certificate and each DKDM includes a validity period and potentially specific territorial constraints, a patent-pending enhancement pioneered by Qube Wire.

Distributors can, within the constraints of assigned territories, make further rights assignments or their own theatre bookings. Approval levels for assignments and bookings could allow a distributor total freedom to make regional bookings while optionally retaining the right to audit, or let them individually choose and approve every booking.

Qube Wire effectively encompasses all typical contractual terms of a distribution agreement in a signed, tamper-proof digital document that can be enforced through technology. Every theatre booking is trackable, making full audits easy, no matter how many distributors handle a movie or how many screens the film is exhibited on.

For each booking, distributors set the date by which content needs to be delivered to the theatre and the validity range for the theatre keys, and then confirms the booking based on the system estimated price. Qube Wire then commences execution of the booking by selecting the optimal delivery method for DCPs to each theatre.

The digital assets of the 34 international versions of Baahubali 2 were uploaded by the digital cinema mastering facility using Qube Wire’s desktop app. Once they were uploaded into the cloud using all available bandwidth, integrity was automatically verified and made available to Arka Media Works. The shortest possible upload time was ensured through auto-resuming uploads in case of any interruption.

Competition and Cost

“Multiple competitors do exist in each territory,” admits Ramachandran, “but we consider several of them our delivery partners. Because Qube Wire provides multi-modal delivery, we can work effectively with multiple regional digital cinema delivery networks that provide broadband or fiber terrestrial services, satellite-based multicast delivery services and hard-drive-based delivery services.”

Qube Cinema continues to work on further improving many aspects of their product. Near-term enhancements such as content delivery and KDM tracking every step of the way and DCP creation within the Qube Wire workflow are planned.

Since it is essentially a content-delivery marketplace with delivery partners setting their own pricing for their service areas, KDM costs per site can be as low as $10. DCP delivery costs range from $30 to $200, depending on location and urgency.

Qube Wire is currently serving a broad range of customers, from independent producers to larger Indian studios. Over 600 production companies and distributors from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America are currently on its platform.

Also from Qube Cinema…

Justickets is a flexible and scalable movie-ticketing platform that handles thousands of screens and has sold millions of tickets. A unique feature is Assisted Bookings, which facilitates booking tickets for your favorite title even months before official bookings open. Justickets is presently available as a fast, responsive web application with native iOS and Android apps.

Cheers is a consumer-oriented service allowing moviegoers to book a custom greeting for a specific movie showing. Greetings such as birthdays, anniversaries, declarations of love and more are possible. Users preview customized, select greetings online before automatic scheduling.

Lastly, Qube Cinema continues its work on enhancing QubeMaster products for digital cinema mastering and Qube XP products for digital cinema playback. Next generation versions of both are expected in spring 2018.