The Kodak Photo CD

Photo CD Application Background

In September 1990, Eastman Kodak Company announced a technology to allow high- resolution 35 mm film images to be stored on compact discs and then viewed on TV. The new Photo CD technology promised to help the so-called back end of the photographic process catch up with advancements in the front end. Although automatic 35 mm cameras and new film formulations had combined during the 1980s to enable photographers to take better pictures more easily, the process of storing and retrieving the resulting photos remained decidedly low-tech.
Once pictures came back from the photofinisher, they got tucked away in desk drawers and shoe boxes. If anybody wanted to look at them, the pictures first had to be found and then sorted anew for each viewing. (It is true that some people neatly filed their pictures in photo albums. But even then it was hard for more than one or two people to look at them simultaneously.) Enter the solution_the Kodak Photo CD system, a new technology that makes looking at pictures as easy as watching TV. Photo CD discs give people a new way to share their pictures__and to do a lot more. Using a Photo CD player, consumers can zoom in on a favorite portion of the photo, determine the display order of the photos, skip a photo, pan from left to right, or tilt up and down. Best of all, the Photo CD system makes it easy for people to store their pictures and just as easy to find the ones they're looking for.
"In the consumer electronics arena, people don't buy technology for technology's sake," said Stephen S. Stepnes, general manager and vice president of CD Imaging at Kodak. "But they will grab onto a new technology if it makes something they do more convenient, easier, or more fun. The Kodak Photo CD system does exactly that." Kodak developed the Photo CD system together with the Netherlands-based electronics company Philips NV. Its technology is, in many ways, similar to that behind audio compact discs. In fact, a Photo CD disc looks like a gold-colored CD. The players that consumers use to view their photos on television will play audio CDs on their stereo systems_but with a brand new capability.
The first Kodak Photo CD players were delivered to consumers on schedule in early August 1992. At a kick-off event at a stereo-video store in San Diego, California, people lined up to get their first look at the new technology.
Stepnes said the early enthusiasm came as no surprise. "In many ways, the Kodak Photo CD system promises to do for consumer photography what audio CDs did for music. It's a new way to enjoy an immensely popular form of entertainment."

Simple to Use
Using the Kodak Photo CD system is easy. Consumers take pictures just as they always have, using standard 35 mm cameras and film. At the photofinisher, they have an additional option: the film images can be transferred at full resolution to a Kodak Photo CD Master disc.
The Kodak Photo CD Master disc is a 120 mm platter that can hold about 100 images, or four 24-exposure rolls of film. Kodak Photo CD Master discs are nonerasable, so pictures cannot be inadvertently lost (though Photo CD players are programmable and can be set to skip over any unwanted pictures).
Pictures stored on Kodak Photo CD Master discs are high-resolution images. The discs offer image resolution that is 16 times as great as today's TV standards and four times the standards currently being considered for HDTV.
The Kodak Photo CD Master disc can also function as a "digital negative," which means consumers can take the disc to their photofinisher to have prints made.
The disc's digital technology provides real benefits to consumers. Pictures can be added, which allows the discs to be used as "electronic photo albums." A single disc can contain the favorite photographs of a baby's first year, a wedding, or other special events.
At the time Photo CD players were introduced, more than a dozen photofinishers around the country had the ability to create Kodak Photo CD Master discs. By the end of 1992, nearly 90 percent of all photofinishing drop-off points are expected to offer film to Photo CD transfer services.
Consumers display their pictures by inserting the disc into a Photo CD player that they operate with a simple remote control. The viewer can select specific images, program them to appear in a particular order, rotate the image, or zoom in on part of it for a close-up.
Kodak is offering three Photo CD players during 1992, each of which has state-of-the- art audio capability, in addition to a unique set of picture-viewing features:

Beyond 35 mm: The Next Phase
Consumers around the world shoot about 60 billion photographs every year, 85 percent of which are on 35 mm film. That's why the first phase of Kodak's Photo CD program focused on making 35 mm pictures widely available to consumers on Photo CD Master discs.
But the benefits of Photo CD technology are not limited to amateur photography. The Kodak Image Pac file format, which Kodak created to store high-resolution 35 mm photographic images, was also designed to be adapted to a wide range of other imaging needs. As the first Photo CD players are being delivered to consumers, the company is moving to extend the Photo CD concept to mainstream professional and commercial business users. Kodak has developed a new Photo CD format aimed at consumers and has announced additional disc formats, products, and applications that offer opportunities for professional photographers, for those involved in a range of other commercial enterprises, and for users of desktop computers.
The formats and products demonstrate Kodak's long-range vision for the technology, as well as the company's commitment to its customers. All of the new disc formats are compatible with the core Photo CD format.

The new consumer format is the Kodak Photo CD Portfolio disc, which lets anyone with Photo CD images create special discs that merge those images with text, graphics, and sound. A "programmed access" capability built into the new format enables people to create discs of subjects such as family trees, which allow the viewer to look at pictures of any member of the family simply by choosing the appropriate branch from an on-screen menu.
In addition to discs produced at the photofinisher, it's also expected that third-party publishers will use the Kodak Photo CD Portfolio format to distribute prerecorded titles for education or entertainment. Titles will include specialized collections in areas such as art, sports, and nature.
Kodak Photo CD Portfolio discs have a distinctive trade dress to distinguish them from other discs, but they are fully compatible with today's Photo CD players. When the new discs become available in 1993, those who have already purchased players will be able to play the discs.
Features of Kodak Photo CD Portfolio discs are shared by the original Photo CD format, now called Kodak Photo CD Master. The major differences are that Kodak Photo CD Portfolio discs can hold up to 800 TV-resolution images. In contrast, on Kodak Photo CD Master discs all images are recorded in full photographic resolution. Kodak Photo CD Master discs hold up to 100 images. Both formats have the ability to hold up to one hour of CD audio-quality stereo sound or a combination of sound and images. They also share the ability to use programmed access to give consumers more viewing choices and to have text and graphics combined with photos on the discs.

Professional Photographers
The Kodak Pro Photo CD Master disc is designed for professional photographers. The Kodak Pro Photo CD Master disc carries its own trade dress but otherwise looks very much like its consumer cousin.
The key difference is the feature set built in to meet the requirements of professional photographers. Kodak Pro Photo CD Master discs store images from the larger film formats favored by professionals, including 120, 70 mm, and 4 x 5-inch, as well as 35 mm.
Because these larger film formats contain more image information, Kodak Pro Photo CD Master image files are also larger. Depending on the film format, the discs can hold from 25 to 100 images.
To help control how a professional's images are used, the Kodak Pro Photo CD Master format offers three security features: a special identifier to indicate image ownership and copyright, the ability to place a watermark (such as "PROOF") over an image, and the ability to encrypt high-resolution images to impede unauthorized use. Kodak Pro Photo CD Master discs will be available from professional photo labs beginning in the spring of 1993.

Other Commercial Users
By providing a low-cost way to store and distribute images in digital form, Photo CD technology presents an almost limitless potential for commercial applications in addition to professional photography. To illustrate this potential, Kodak has announced two new disc formats_the Kodak Photo CD Catalog and the Kodak Photo CD Medical_targeted at applications from mail-order retailing to health care, as well as an image library and international image network to provide easy access to images for any commercial user.
The Kodak Photo CD Catalog is designed for organizations_such as mail-order retailers, tourism associations, or art galleries_that want to store large numbers of images on a disc and distribute these images widely. As many as 6,000 images can be stored at video resolution on Kodak Photo CD Catalog discs for soft display on TV sets or computer monitors. (The images are of lower resolution than standard Kodak Photo CD Master discs or Kodak Pro Photo CD Master discs and can't be used to make photo-quality prints.)
The images can be combined with text and graphics and organized into chapters and pages to resemble a traditional catalog. People who play the discs on home Photo CD players will see on-screen menus that lead them through the catalog's pages at the touch of a remote control. Those who run Kodak Photo CD Catalog discs on computers can also locate images with simple key word searches, by using Kodak Browser software, which is contained on each Kodak Photo CD Catalog. For medical applications, Kodak is developing another new format that stores diagnostic images. Along with film-based images like photographs, the Kodak Photo CD Medical format will store digital diagnostic modalities_for example, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance images (MR)_on compact disc, all at full resolution.
Potential applications for the Kodak Photo CD Medical format include training and education, distribution of patient files, and long-term storage of diagnostic images. The discs will comply with most medical industry standards for digital imaging. Along with its multiple disc formats, Kodak has developed new products and services to give commercial users easy access to all types of images stored on Photo CD discs.
One is a product called the Kodak Professional Photo CD Image Library, an automated disc library, or "jukebox," that holds as many as 100 Photo CD discs. The library can store thousands or hundreds of thousands of images, depending on the type of Photo CD discs it contains. Users can rapidly search for and retrieve any of these images by keying in requests at a desktop computer. Although the library will give individual customers easy access to images internally, Kodak has also announced its intent to create an imaging network that will use telephone lines to link the distributors of images, such as stock photo houses, with potential customers worldwide.
The Kodak Picture Exchange is a new Kodak business that will give users access to a huge database of images, just as networks like CompuServe provide access to text and data. With a desktop computer and a modem, users will be able to search the Kodak Picture Exchange database and request hard copies of images electronically. Kodak Picture Exchange will alert the image providers immediately, allowing them to fulfil requests promptly by air express. In the future, as the data-carrying capacity of telephone lines expands, it will be possible to fulfil requests directly over the telephone.
In addition, Kodak has joined with more than a dozen companies, universities, and organizations to cooperate on the new commercial applications announced today. These cooperative agreements include licensing the Kodak technology to some of the biggest names in the computer, electronics, and photography industries_including Apple, Adobe, Sony, and Fuji.
"The number of potential commercial uses for Photo CD technology is limited only by the imagination," Stepnes said. "Although Kodak is already working on a large number of specific applications, we expect that number to multiply rapidly as our customers begin to work with the technology and understand its potential."

Desktop Computer Users
For consumers or commercial customers, Photo CD technology provides a convenient new way to input high-resolution images into desktop computing applications. Photo CD discs give people a way to take their own photographic images and convert them inexpensively into a digital format. The discs can be played in Photo CD-compatible CD-ROM XA drives, which are widely available and also relatively inexpensive.
As a result, all types of computer users can take advantage of the technology_from a consumer composing a family newsletter for a holiday mailing, to an art director creating page layouts for a commercial magazine. Kodak has developed a family of five software products designed for all types of users.
Two of the five provide easy search and retrieval of images stored in databases; the remaining three allow users to work with individual Photo CD images in different ways. The most basic of the two database software products is Kodak Browser software, which is contained on all Kodak Photo CD Catalog discs and which allows for easy search and retrieval of images using key words. The second is Kodak Shoebox software, which offers more powerful search and retrieval functions for customers with large image databases.
The other three software packages provide different levels of image-editing capability to meet the needs of different users:

All of the Kodak software packages employ user interfaces that are designed to be simple and intuitive, making it easy to move to more advanced software packages as needs change. They have the same look and feel that characterizes applications running in the Apple Macintosh or Windows 3.x environments, with icons and pull- down menus to guide the user.
Stepnes explained that the common look and feel of Kodak's Photo CD software products reflect the vision behind the Kodak Photo CD system. "Kodak developed Photo CD technology to give consumers an exciting new way to enjoy their pictures, but we didn't stop there," he said. "We developed the technology with future applications in mind_so the players that consumers buy today will provide them even greater functionality in the future.
"Quite simply, the Photo CD system gives consumers and commercial customers the best of two technologies," Stepnes concluded. "It provides the convenience, low cost, and image quality of traditional photography combined with the benefits of digital technology_the ability to display, enhance, and transmit images electronically."

The Kodak Photo CD: some technical background

How does Photo CD work?

In a nutshell, 35mm film (negative, slide, B&W, internegative) is scanned by an image scanner and transferred to XA-formatted CD-ROM discs. These discs are manufactured by burning (writing) -- not by pressing.

Each scanned image on the disc is kept in five resolutions. These five resolutions are called: Base/16, Base/4, Base, 4Base, and 16Base. As examples, Base/16 is one sixteenth the resolution of the "Base" image, and 16Base is sixteen times the resolution of "Base". (These are not simply larger picture elements. There are in increased number of scan lines.)

The 4Base and 16Base images are compressed using Huffman encoding. This means no information is lost during compression. You need the decompression software to pull the higher resolutions out of the image. You would typically need these higher resolutions if you want enlargements or if you intend to use an HDTV as a display device.


Normally, all 5 resolutions are stored on a PhotoCD disc. The highest resolution is 3072x2048, the lowest 192x128. All resolutions are stored in one file. Although some resolutions might be missing from a certain image, a Kodak photoshop puts all resolutions in the image files.

The master Photo CD has 5 resolutions:

All 5 resolutions are always stored when you transfer film, thus you get the ability to choose the resolution that best fits your computer system limitations. The PRO Master PhotoCD adds a sixth resolution - 64base which is 4096 x 6144.

All the access software, modules let you access any of the 5 resolutions on a master Photo CD, or even parts of an image at any of the resolutions.

The new PhotoCD Formats

The new Photo CD formats include:

PhotoCD Hardware

The new commercial and professional hardware systems include:

PhotoCD Software

The commercial and professional software includes: --
Kodak advertises a new "Shoebox Photo CD Image Manager" that is capable of setting up a database of slides, with images associated to them.

Other programs that can do that are (probably) Borland Paradox, Corel Mosaic, and Access.

Number of images

Normally a PhotoCD will hold about 100 images. The number of pictures that can be stored depends on the size of all the image files (PhotoCD uses a lossless compression for the highest two resolutions). If there's still space on a PhotoCD, you can keep adding images.

Premium and Economy

Kodak mentions two choices, Premium and Economy image transfers. Premium costs $1.99 per image, and economy is $.59 per image. Probably the difference between premium and economy is how much care they take in the transfer of the images. Economy is running it through as fast as they can (with minimal cleaning, balance adjustment) while premium would be careful treatment.


The new consumer format is the Kodak Photo CD Portfolio disc, which lets anyone with Photo CD images create special discs that merge those images with text, graphics, and sound. A "programmed access" capability built into the new format enables people to create discs of subjects such as family trees, which allow the viewer to look at pictures of any member of the family simply by choosing the appropriate branch from an on-screen menu.

In the future Portfolio Photo CDs will be available that can have 3 of the 5 resolutions (bottom 3) and are designed more for low end interactive disks.


Pro Photo CD, coming soon to many Photo CD production sites around the country. Delivers a maximum of 72Mb images (4k x 6k) from scanned 4 x 5's -- compressed of course. Pro-PCD discs hold 20 - 25 images at high resolution.

Where can I get some information about the Kodak Photo CD?

To learn more about Photo CD products or other KODAK desktop color imaging products, contact Eastman Kodak Company at 1-800-242-2424 Ext 51 or 716-724-1021, ext. 53.

Or send inquiries to the following address:

     Kodak Information Center
     Dept. E. 343 State Street
     Rochester, NY 14650-0811
There is an excellent article on PhotoCD in the Sept 92 issue of Photographic Magazine.

Eastman Kodak Co recently released Photo CD Access, which is designed to allow users to integrate CD images into any Windows or Macintosh Application. Requires a CD ROM XA (Extended Architecture) drive. Most popular image formats are supported, including TIFF, GIF, TARGA and PICT. Kodak sells the software directly. $39.95, 1-800-242-2424.

A developer's kit is available for $695 and includes source code as well as object for PC/MAC.