Kodak Kills Off Kodachrome; Entertainment Industry Take Note

from the changing-with-the-times dept

Back in 1997, while I was in business school, I was working with a professor who was doing some consulting work for Kodak, and I ended up writing up an analysis and a report about what Kodak needed to do, facing the obvious coming onslaught of digital when its business had been based on analog photography for ages. We basically made the case for how Kodak could shift its focus to digital, and that it needed to get started right away. We actually got significant pushback on the analysis (not surprisingly), and it took a few years before Kodak woke up. But, around 2003, the company really started to bet everything on digital, and recognize that, as much of a cash cow as analog film represented, everything about the future was digital. So it's quite a milestone to hear that the company is finally killing off Kodachrome, the company's iconic color stock film.

The reports about it note how Kodak's business is now 70% digital and the company has very much embraced the digital age. It certainly hasn't been all smooth sailing, and some still question whether or not Kodak can really survive in this new world. Yet, the company has made the switch much more effectively than many imagined was possible, and folks there seem to live and breathe digital these days (though, there was heavy turnover associated with that change).

Still, as one reader sent in, it's rather interesting to compare the experience of Kodak with, say, the recording industry, which is still fighting the move to "digital" to some extent. The big record labels fought every new efficiency at every turn, while Kodak quickly learned to embrace digital efficiencies and look to see where its own core skills could be applied to make them better. The record labels? Not so much. After fighting the entire concept for ages, they just handed the business over to Steve Jobs and still have done very little to see what they can do to make the digital experience better, based on their own skills and knowledge. Just as the Kodak transition hasn't been perfect, if the labels had embraced digital and things like file sharing early on, they wouldn't have been perfect or easy either. But the labels would be in a lot better position than they are today.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Kodacrhome

    r h

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    RD, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    I just want to say...

    I just want to give a big FUCK YOU to all those people who troll on here and tear into Mike for his views and try to criticize him for "always being wrong" or whatever the latest troll-flavor-of-the-month it is now. He called this one, at least, many years ago. And no, it was NOT an obvious call, only geeks could see the complete shift away from traditional film. EVERYONE else on the business side took YEARS to see what Mike and the rest of us knew would be inevitable.

     

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  3.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Re: I just want to say...

    I just want to give a big FUCK YOU to all those people who troll on here and tear into Mike for his views and try to criticize him for "always being wrong" or whatever the latest troll-flavor-of-the-month it is now.

    Hey RD, don't sweat it. There are a few people with way too much free time on their hands who show up here and troll. It's just what they do. Some of them are threatened because their own businesses are in trouble and they don't know what to do. Some of them are just ignorant. Some of them like to troll to get a rise out of folks. It happens. It's a really small number of people honestly (a lot of repeat stuff from the same small group of people).

    There will always be some haters, but let them be. No need to curse at them.

     

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  4.  
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    max (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Re: I just want to say...

    Yes, it's hard to understand why so many people jump to negativity so quickly when something new is presented. I guess haters are a part of the filter system. Apparently Mike was able to see something Kodak and the vast majority of others didn't see at the time. That's called "vision". We are all capable of "vision" from time to time. Not all of us have the courage and resolve to see the vision through to fruition. It can get a little rough. Do we have what it takes? Time will tell.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:15pm

    I'm in a band and have been on a major label before. I just want to say I'm very glad bands are getting out of the major label mafia market. Major labels and the entertainment film/tv industry steal so much money from the little people they sign. I can't wait for major labels to go under and actual businessmen, not the mafia, to take over.

     

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  6.  
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    Paul Simon, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:27pm

    “Momma, Don't Take My Kodachrome Away!”

     

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  7.  
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    Will, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    I don't understand this article at all. The music industry went 100% digital in the late 1980's and embraced it immediately. They all made a fortune when we all had to scrap our albums and switch to CDs and rebuy the same music. The music industry is in the third or fourth generation of digital and the size of music files and the proliferation of players and computers has made it much easier for music files to propagate unauthorized. Kodak was a pioneer in digital imaging but completely missed the commercial boat. When they opened their eyes film was dead. The analogy to music, however, isn't snapshots, its movies. Movies are in transition to being shot digitally (I thought some were still on Kodakchrome, but I guess no more). A digital film, esp. bluray, is hard to share because its ginormous. Pretty soon that will be as hard to control as music proliferation.

    Will

     

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  8.  
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    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:59pm

    Kodak and commodity silver

    Back in the not-terribly-distant past, Kodak used about a million troy ounces of silver per month in film manufacturing. I recall that they spent a lot of money in the commodities futures markets hedging their supply so that they wouldn't get caught short.

    I wonder what effect that a drop in usage of a million ounces per month by one company has on the price of silver, and on the overall economy.

     

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  9.  
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    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:00pm

    Kodak and commodity silver

    Back in the not-terribly-distant past, Kodak used about a million troy ounces of silver per month in film manufacturing. I recall that they spent a lot of money in the commodities futures markets hedging their supply so that they wouldn't get caught short.

    I wonder what effect that a drop in usage of a million ounces per month by one company has on the price of silver, and on the overall economy.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Re: I just want to say...

    ...and some of us just think Mike is wrong more often than not.

     

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  11.  
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    OY VEY, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    I know that there a gazillion photosnobs out there gnashing and wailing about this inevitability, those who refuse to shoot on anything but the 'real deal'. As someone whose photographic accomplishments consist of taking birthday shots of my children and super-zoom snaps at rock concerts for my own pleasure, I can honestly say that digital made me a GREAT photographer even if my camera only cost me a couple of hundred bucks. Gotta love progress!! :)

     

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  12.  
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    boogerred, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Kodak and commodity silver

    If I'm not mistaken, there was also a significant amount of silver that could be extracted after the film development stage?...I believe Larry Polk of Kolor Print in Little Rock, AR 'invented' the process, which Kodak eventually got the patent for? At the time (1970's and on) it was a somewhat lucrative side-process for film developers.

    As far as Kodak's growth in the digital age? does anyone feel their software needs to 'grow'? every pc I've seen that runs their software runs about as fast as a drunk turtle.

     

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  13.  
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    CleverName, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:26pm

    Re:

    Why did you have to scrap your albums ?
    A well ripped album sounds much better than a CD

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:36pm

    I'd just like to point out a slight flaw in your argument, though I'm not saying I don't agree. Kodak going all digital references taking a product that is used for PRODUCTION and taking it from the analog to the digital realm. The Entertainment Industry going all digital references taking a DELIVERY METHOD from the analog (kinda) to digital realm.

    If we were going to equate Kodak to the Entertainment Industry, we'd have to talk about phasing out analog tape and outboard gear in a majority of studios. See? They're both items used in PRODUCTION.

    Is it just me? Am I the only one who minds the gap in the logic? Either way I think it's a valid point, but the error was just driving me nuts!

     

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  15.  
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    fogbugzd, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:38pm

    Sensitive nerve

    I have read TechDirt for a long time. It used to be pretty much "preaching to the choir." with almost all of the comments supportive. I can't help but think that it is now attracting attention and critical comments because people close to the industries are getting worried about what is going on in the recording/movie/gaming industries.

    The debate can be useful. For one thing, you have to make your writing better when you know there are a lot of critics reading the blogs. The comments *can* be helpful if they can manage to come up with better comments than "you are a jerk." I applaud everyone who makes constructive comments on either side of the issue.

    The irony is that the negative comments lead to a better and more interesting blog. In theory that means more people read it and are exposed to the positions advocated in the article and comments.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Sensitive nerve

    "I can't help but think that it is now attracting attention and critical comments because people close to the industries are getting worried about what is going on in the recording/movie/gaming industries."

    I'm not in the industry. I just don't agree with Mike's world view.

     

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  17.  
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    Kash, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 9:07pm

    Shouldn't it be... "Kodachrome, the company's iconic color SLIDE film."?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm an old school shutterbug, but all Chrome films are for producing slides. KodaColor, is the stuff that people load up to take birthday shots. Not too many people still shooting slides out there.

    Hey, it's the end of an era, no doubt. But it's more like hearing that that Memorex has quit producing the source material for 8-track tapes.

    Now when Kodak give up the ghost on KodaColor, then we'll know that the last of the instamatics have gone the way of the T-Rex. Or at least, if less melodramatically, has given up the market share to Fuji.

    And just to sound like those guys that tell us to rip our vinyl to CD; Please try this experiment. Shoot the kids birthday on your digital, also shoot the birthday on your old 35mm or even the Instamatic loaded up with Kodacolor. Make sure it's KodaColor, not the store brand. Develop film, print digi's and compare.

    Kodacolor made it's mark rendering skin tones in a warm and pleasant way. It a way that digital, unless you shoop it well, just doesn't do. I'm not saying it's better, or easier, clearly it isn't faster or cheaper, but it will "look" better, perhaps in that same odd analog way that vinyl sounds warmer, or whatever.

     

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  18.  
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    chris (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 9:37pm

    Re:

    They all made a fortune when we all had to scrap our albums and switch to CDs and rebuy the same music. The music industry is in the third or fourth generation of digital and the size of music files and the proliferation of players and computers has made it much easier for music files to propagate unauthorized.

    the media may have been digital but the distribution has always been analog. the industry's problem is that the world stopped buying plastic discs. the same is true for the movie industry: digital delivery killing the sale of plastic discs.

    A digital film, esp. bluray, is hard to share because its ginormous. Pretty soon that will be as hard to control as music proliferation.

    bluray films in full quality are out there on the scene. you can download them easily enough via the same technology you use to download anything else, bluray just takes longer.

     

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  19.  
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    GJ (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 10:48pm

    Two loose thoughts

    Two loose thoughts on photography.

    I just dug my old 35mm out of the basement and have been bringing it back up to speed. Been buying film (negative, black-and-white and slide film) and getting re-acquainted with my camera. I've also started to look critically at the digital pics I've been taken the last nine years. Digital looks fine on the screen, and often looks like crap when put on paper.

    I have pictures of family, going back 80 years now, and I'm wondering how many of my digital snap shots will survive even one generation.

    There's still a lot of room for improvement, that's for sure.

    --GJ--

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 11:14pm

    Kodak SLIDE film

    Kodak is transitioning to digital, but Kodachrome is just one small element of their film business. Kodak just release their new Ektar color film last year along with their TMax black and white film so clearly they haven't given up yet. There are still other companies that are holding strong with black & white film and all the processing chemicals and stuff.

    Kodak is still the popular brand name for most of the DIY store kiosks. Even if it's a no name machine in a drug store, bet it's still using Kodak paper.

     

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  21.  
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    Alessandro Machi, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 11:54pm

    Kodak Super-8mm films.

    Kodak still makes five super-8mm film stocks along with their still films.

    Super-8mm film stocks include Ektachrome 100D, Vision 3 negative film stocks, and BW PLUS-X and TRI-X film stocks.

    Learn more at http://www.super-8mm.com and http://www.super-8mm.net

     

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  22.  
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    RD, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:11am

    Re: Re: I just want to say...

    You know Mike...I try to defend you and all you can say is "let them be"?

    FUCK YOU MIKE. Don't tell me who to curse at. I'm sorry I defended your always-wrong ass.

     

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  23.  
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    David, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:17am

    Kodachrome

    Did photography for a living once (until I couldn't face another wedding to save my life! Another story). For subjects that needed reversal film, I used other film makes, such as Fuji. Found Kodachrome too slow at 25 ASA (I do realise that's why it had a reputation for virtually no grain) and it seemed to acquire a slight mauve bias too easily.
    Wonder why no. 19 comment (GJ) can't get decent paper prints from digital. I bought an "end-of-line" really tiny Olympus camera to slip in the pocket for a mere 80-odd pounds here in the UK. Stuck a large memory card in and left it in it's so-called "super-high-quality" mode and even critical ole' me is amazed at the 10 x 8 prints produced on a decent printer.

     

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  24.  
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    Rick Sarvas, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    -

    While it is sad to see yet another great film pulled from the market, I can't say as I am as broken up about this as when I heard Polaroid had stopped making instant film. Yeah, it was expensive stuff to use, but it was fun to bring a camera to a party or some other event and be able to give away the pictures right there.

     

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  25.  
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    Old_Paranoid, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Kodak's transition

    It took a long time. I worked in Kodak research 35 years ago, woking on problems in electrophotography and other areas. We saw the comming digitial issues decades ago, but Kodak was run by chemists and had a very rich cash cow in photographic paper and processing. The film sales enabled the profitable paper business.

    As for me, I didn't use Kodachrome. It was too slow. I used Ektachrome, which was fast enough for use in darker landscapes (forested gorges at dusk, etc).

    Note that Kodak is a far smaller company now.

    While the current generation of digital cameras produces quite good images, they do not have the dynamic range of good slide film, which had a dynamic range of > 4000:1.

    When I scan my old film images on my Nikon scanner, I get images of ~ 4000 x 6000 pixels, 14 bits deep (which allows me to deal with the integram masking in color negative film). This is still rather more resolution and image depth than my digital cameras.

    A real advantage of digital cameras is I can let my kids shoot lots of pictures without worrying about the cost.

     

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  26.  
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    Kris, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:46pm

    Record industry strengths?

    "...while Kodak quickly learned to embrace digital efficiencies and look to see where its own core skills could be applied to make them better."

    I would really like to hear Mike's (and other readers) thoughts on what core skills the record industry could/should leverage. If you created a record label, what would it be like?

     

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  27.  
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    Will, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    Re: why scrap albums

    if you ever ripped albums, what with all the time and click removal and track break insertion -- you're glad to pay 16.95 for the nice remastered CD -- but yes, I ripped 40 of my most favorite not available on CD and yes sometimes a ripped album actually sounds better than the remastered CD!! Maybe you need those background pops and clicks.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: I just want to say...

    > There are a few people with way too much free time on their hands who show up here and troll. It's just what they do.

    Indeed. At least we can appreciate the fact that they troll here -- otherwise, they would turn to disrupting something more important.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Will, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    that's funny - so anything physical like a plastic disk is "analog", even if it contains digital information, but once you use electrons and photons it's digital? that's an overload of the terminology, and a confusing one

    true about the bluray, but a trend I have noticed is that one of the legitimate publisher's weapons is to stay one step beyond the pirate's ability to cheaply acquire and record material - that was true for computer games on CD until the very late 90's when CD-ROM media and burners became cheap -- it ain't easy or cheap to acquire and record a bluray yet, okay there's server storage, but that's temporary

    W

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Re:

    A well ripped album sounds much better than a CD

    Well, if you like increased distortion, reduced dynamic range, increased noise, reduced frequency response, etc., then yeah, I guess so. High fidelity isn't for everyone.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    Re: Re:

    the media may have been digital but the distribution has always been analog. the industry's problem is that the world stopped buying plastic discs.

    No, you're confusing "analog" with "physical". They're not the same. Neither is "electronic" the same as "digital".

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    Re:

    The Entertainment Industry going all digital references taking a DELIVERY METHOD from the analog (kinda) to digital realm.

    No, the delivery method can be physical or nonphysical (e.g. electronic). Both methods can deliver both analog and digital information.

     

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