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Digital imaging without computers

Can I watch photographs on TV?

If you can hook up a camcorder to watch video clips on your television or connect a digicam and watch still photographs on a TV, why can’t you watch images that were made using traditional film cameras too? Now you can. The secret is an unlikely blending of technologies from video, digital imaging, and consumer electronics to make the capture, collection, and sharing of digital photographs even more universal.

In 1990, Eastman Kodak announced the basics of its new PhotoCD system, but it wasn’t until the summer of 1992 that most computer users were able to actually use the company’s digitizing service. Kodak’s original vision for this product was one of happy consumers gathered around the family TV, viewing snapshots of their trip to Yellowstone on one of its then-new PhotoCD players. But this Cleaver family dream never materialized.

Recently, Microsoft entered this same market with similar aspirations for its TV Photo Viewer, which allows consumers to watch their vacation pictures via a video floppy disk drive. Even though this is a wonderful product, it seems to have had as much success–so far, anyway–as Kodak’s original PhotoCD concept. Not a company to be easily deterred, Kodak is now staking its claim to pictures on TV using a technology blending its PictureCD product and the DVD format.

Launched in 1998, Kodak PictureCD places digital photos on a CD-ROM that consumers can order when they have their film processed by a camera store or other retail outlet. Consumers’ images are returned as traditional prints as well as packaged on a PictureCD as digital files that can be viewed, enhanced, printed, or e-mailed. Last year, Kodak added the PictureCD Select disc to its product line. With PictureCD Select, you can catalogue pictures and create CDs of photos from specific events, dates, or occasions such as weddings or graduations. You can select up to 200 of your favorite pictures stored online to add to a disc, create slide shows, e-mail pictures to family and friends, or order reprints, enlargements, and gifts. This new service is available through Kodak Picture Center Online at Bluelight.com, CVS.com, and RiteAid.com.

What’s on TV tonight?

Merging technologies, Kodak’s deal with Royal Philips Electronics calls for the manufacturing of a number of consumer electronics devices that allow playback of PictureCD discs on DVD-related products. The first Philips products offering Kodak PictureCD compatibility was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. It includes DVD players and an audio CD portable.

Part of the deal includes an agreement with Zoran Corp. to deliver PictureCD support to DVD-player manufacturers using Zoran’s Vaddis DVD processors. The Vaddis IV and Vaddis V DVD processor chips that are currently shipping to major DVD player manufacturers support Kodak’s PictureCD. The Vaddis V is a DVD multimedia processor that handles multiple media sources and lets consumers manage DVD playback, television programming, and Web browsing simultaneously from their DVD players. The Vaddis V is capable of playing DVD discs recorded in most consumer formats. It supports many different audio and video standards including: DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, SVCD, CVD, VCD, CD-DA, and CD-ROM. Audio formats supported include DTS Decoding, Dolby Digital, Dolby Headphone, Dolby ProLogic, MPEG Layers 1 and 2, MPEG-2, Multichannel, Karaoke, and 3D Audio.

Kodak and Philips think that porting digital photography to the television via a DVD player benefits consumers because it’s quicker and easier than viewing photos on a computer. By simply inserting a PictureCD into the DVD player, consumers can browse and view their photographs. In the future, with an Internet-connected DVD (iDVD) player and an online service such as Kodak’s Ofoto print-making and print-sharing service, consumers will be able to share their photographs with distant relatives and have prints mailed to them. In this way, the new millennium’s imaging processor of choice may not be a computer at all, but a Web-friendly DVD player.

DVD-compatible digital cameras

As part of this synergy of image-making technologies, Kodak’s EasyShare digital point-and-shoot cameras, such as the DX3700 and DX3215, feature Zoran’s COACH (Camera-On-A-CHip) processor. These cameras also have Secure Digital memory card expansion slots for moving photos from the camera onto the DVD player for TV viewing. These are relatively capable digicams too.

The EasyShare DX3700 offers 3.1 megapixel resolution along with a 3X digital zoom, Secure Digital memory card slot, and 8MB of internal memory for image storage. The EasyShare DX3215 zoom digital camera has 1.3 megapixel resolution along with a 2X optical and 2X digital zoom, a Secure Digital memory card slot, and 8 MB of internal memory. Both cameras are compatible with Kodak’s docking system, making transferring pictures from camera to computer or the Internet a simple one-button operation. Once an EasyShare camera is placed in the dock, pictures are automatically uploaded to the computer using Kodak’s Picture Transfer Protocol while the dock recharges the camera’s battery pack.

Meanwhile, on the Internet

Naturally there’s an Internet component to this synergy. Planetweb has developed Kodak PictureCD viewing compatibility for its Digital Photo Manager, an application that lets users view photos, zoom and pan, e-mail, print and enjoy slide shows made from Kodak PictureCDs using consumer electronic devices. Planetweb provides multiple DVD chip solutions and offers a suite of online and offline imaging applications, including photo-viewing software, MP3 players, instant messaging, Web browsing and an information ticker.

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