Broadening the Impact of Pictures

When George Eastman marketed the first commercial transparent roll film in 1889, the impact ranged beyond consumer and professional photography. For one thing, it enabled inventor Thomas Edison to develop the first motion picture camera in 1891, and by 1896 Kodak was marketing film specially coated for motion picture use.

That's just an example of the role Kodak has played in a number of key industries.

Motion Pictures

Today, Kodak film continues to record the action on many of the world's movie sets, and is also used to print the films shown in neighborhood theaters.

Since the inception of the Academy Awards, 80 Oscar-winning "Best Pictures" have been shot on Kodak film. The company even has nine Oscar statuettes of its own -- for scientific and technical excellence.


George Eastman and Thomas Edison

George Eastman and Thomas Edison in 1928. The caption can say: George Eastman and Thomas Edison at a garden party to present an early Kodacolor motion picture film. Watch a demo film from the event.

That's more than any non-studio company--not surprising given that Kodak has been involved in technological innovations throughout the industry's history. Kodak:

  • marketed its first film designed for making then-new "sound" motion pictures in 1929.
  • earned a 1949 Academy Award for a tri-acetate safety film base (introduced in 1948) for motion picture film. This eliminated a significant safety hazard posed by the flammable nitrate film base it replaced, and also helped ensure the long-term integrity of the films.
  • earned another Academy Award for Eastman color negative and color print films (introduced in 1950), which helped popularize color movies for theaters and television.
  • introduced improved emulsion technology with its Eastman EXR color negative film products in 1989. These gave cinematographers significant creative flexibility, providing more underexposure latitude; truer colors in fluorescent light, and greater sharpness.
Academy Award
Kodak has earned eight Academy Awards.

Kodak continues to raise the bar in terms of the quality and results offered by its motion picture films. In 2002, Kodak Vision2 motion picture films became first in a series of products designed to work with both film and digital post-production systems. In fact, the technology incorporated in these films earned Kodak its ninth Oscar statuette. Further building on that technology, a family of Kodak Vision3 films was launched in 2007.


Kodak Vision2 motion picture film
Vision2 color negative film.

Kodak's Cinesite unit is engaged in digital special effects and other post-production services that are important in making movies today. Cinesite digitally restored "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in the early 1990s, and since then the unit has created digital effects for movies, television shows, commercials, and music videos.

Kodak also developed digital projection technology, licensed by IMAX Corporation in 2011, that will enable IMAX to deliver the highest-quality digital content available to IMAX® film-based screens larger than 80 feet and to dome theatres.

Health

The company's pivotal role in development of the health imaging industry began less than a year after Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the x-ray in November 1895.

In 1896, Kodak introduced the first capture medium -- a photographic paper -- designed specifically for x-ray image capture. By 1914, the company employed two radiography experts to solve customers' technical problems, and by 1929, the technical staff had increased to 26.


Hand x-ray
The first radiograph was of Mrs. Roentgen's hand.

As the business grew, Kodak adapted its film and imaging technology to meet special needs in the health industry. During World War II, for example, the company devised films to detect radiation exposure for workers developing the atomic bomb. Over the decades, other films with special characteristics were developed for applications like cardiology, dentistry, mammography and oncology (for radiation treatment of cancer).

Along the way, innovative processes improved both the quality and accessibility of x-ray images or radiographs. In 1956, Kodak's X-Omat processor was able to produce finished radiographs in only six minutes; less than a decade later, that time had been cut to a mere 90 seconds. Through acquisition of Imation's medical imaging business in 1998, Kodak incorporated dry-processed films into its portfolio. Such dry systems print film images from digital medical imaging sources such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imagers (MRI).

KODAK DirectView PACS system 5
KODAK X-Omat film processor, 1956.

Later, developments in health imaging technology included computed radiography systems (CR), digital radiography systems (DR), and Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) to allow hospitals to archive, manage, view and share a variety of digital medical images.

In 2007, Kodak sold its Health Group to Onex Corporation to more closely focus on its consumer and commercial imaging businesses.


KODAK DirectView PACS system 5.

Document Imaging

Given young George Eastman's experience as a bank clerk, it's not surprising that, in 1928, his company's new Recordak subsidiary introduced the first microfilm system -- designed to simplify the handling of bank records.

Microfilming involves photographing documents at a greatly reduced size for archiving purposes. By 1931, Recordak had automated the process, moving film in synchronization with documents fed over a revolving drum. This allowed documents of any length to be filmed.



Recordak bank model microfilmer, 1933.

In the decades that followed, technology continued to advance and microfilm became commonplace in many document intensive areas like insurance, libraries, government agencies and transportation.

During World War II, Kodak and its UK operation, Kodak Limited, even adapted microfilm technology to create a system for filming letters sent to soldiers. "Victory mail" -- or "V-mail" as it was called -- was designed to conserve shipping space needed for war materials. It enabled a single mailbag to carry the equivalent of 37 bags of letters. During the three years it was used, more than 1/2 billion pieces of v-mail were received by troops abroad.

Building on its success in micrographics and advances in electrophotography, Kodak expanded its business imaging presence in 1975 by entering the copier market. Its first product, the Kodak Ektaprint 100 copier-duplicator, offered high-speed, high-quality plain-paper copies. The company remained in the copier business for more than 20 years, and continues its involvement with electrophotography through the NexPress family of digital presses.

Kodak also continues its participation in document management with a successful range of document scanners, software and other solutions.

Technician with 16 mm V-mail
Technician with 16 mm V-mail.

Ektaprint 235 copier
Ektaprint 235 copier.
Printing and Publishing

Although - from its earliest years - Kodak supplied materials used in the printing industry, the company first sold materials designed for the printing industry in 1912. That year, George Eastman acquired London-based Wratten and Wainwright, which made photo-materials for commercial printing.

In the decades that followed, the Kodak name became increasingly known in the printing industry. Today, Kodak technologies touch about 40% of the world's commercially printed pages.

This success has been built by a number of industry milestones.

  • In 1929, the company introduced high-contrast Kodalith materials, making it easier to prepare halftones for printing. Previously, printers used wet-collodian glass plates, which they had to coat themselves.
  • In the mid-1930's Kodak researchers designed and built the world's first electronic color separation scanner to prepare images for printing. The scanner was sold to a Time, Inc., subsidiary, and a version was ultimately used to produce the color sections of Time-Life magazines.
  • In the 1950's and 60's, Kodak played a key role in the explosion of color in magazines and books. The company researched systems for high-quality color printing, and -- through numerous courses, conferences, and product introductions -- taught the industry how to do color separation, masking, and correction.
  • When electronics was introduced to typesetting in the 1960s, Kodak provided the first high-speed photo-typesetting papers and films. In subsequent years, Kodak continued to introduce many new generations of graphic arts films and printing plates that provided commercial printers with increased quality and convenience.
  • In the 1990's, Kodak was first to commercialize an infrared-sensitive, or thermal, digital printing plate. This enabled the outstanding quality of today's offset printing and was the forerunner of Kodak's current industry-leading thermal plates. Kodak also introduced the first digital halftone color proofing system, the Kodak Approval system, that made it possible to see final output quality without making a press proof.
Approval digital color proofing system
Approval digital color proofing system.

Direct image thermal printing plate
Direct image thermal printing plate.

In the 1990's, Kodak entered into two joint ventures.

  • In 1997, Kodak and Sun Chemical formed Kodak Polychrome Graphics. KPG became the world's largest provider of pre-press consumables (printing plates, films, proofing products, chemistries).
  • In 1998, Kodak and Heidelberg Druckmachinen formed NexPress Solutions LLC. It served the growing market for on-demand and variable data color printing -- providing high-speed, high-quality printing of customized brochures and other materials.

These businesses have since been brought into the company, and continue to play a significant role in Kodak's growing Graphic Communications business.

In 2005, the company also acquired Creo Inc. -- a premier supplier of prepress and workflow systems used by commercial printers around the world.

Kodak recently launched a family of Kodak Prosper presses and imprinting systems, based on innovative Kodak Stream inkjet technology. The platform provides the flexibility of digital printing while delivering offset-class output in terms of quality, productivity and cost.

Space Exploration

Kodak teamed with NASA on space science and remote sensing missions for more than 40 years. When John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, Kodak film recorded his reactions to traveling through space at 17,400 miles per hour. When Glenn returned to space more than 35 years later, he operated a modified Kodak digital camera to document the historic space shuttle mission.


Earth-rise captured by Kodak's lunar module camera, 1966.

The company was involved with other historic moments as well.

  • In the mid-sixties, NASA launched a series of five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft that collectively photographed 99% of the moon's surface in preparation for an Apollo moon landing. Each carried an ingenious photographic system, designed and built by Kodak. The system took photographs, processed and scanned the film, and converted imagery into a continuous video signal for pickup by Kodak-built receivers on Earth. At that time, it was the most complex instrumentation payload ever launched aboard a spacecraft. In addition to medium-resolution images that were taken to analyze the moon's surface topography, the system took a number of high-resolution pictures that were clear enough to show objects the size of a card table on the surface.
  • Kodak technology also went along on Apollo 11, with the first astronauts to walk on the moon. A special stereoscopic color camera built by Kodak enabled astronauts to photograph extreme close-ups of rocks, dust, and minute features of the Moon's surface. The camera, about the size and shape of a large shoebox, was easily operated using a trigger on an extendable handle. This enabled an astronaut to operate it despite the limited mobility, dexterity and visibility caused by their pressure suit and heavy gloves. Photos of the lunar soil taken by Neil Armstrong enabled scientists to see soil particles smaller than two one-thousandths of an inch.
  • The company's high-resolution image sensors were the "eyes" of the Sojourner Rover that traveled the surface of Mars in 1997 during NASA's Pathfinder space mission. These sensors enabled the Rover to see its way across the rough Mars terrain and capture color images of the Martian ground and soil.
NASA's Pathfinder's surface rover
Kodak image sensors gave sight to Mars Rover.
  • Kodak provided precision optics for the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Since its launch in 1999, Chandra has captured images of deep space phenomena like black holes and hot gas clouds in galaxy clusters -- giving astronomers unprecedented information about our universe.

Given Kodak's desire to focus more closely on its core consumer and commercial markets, the company sold its Remote Sensing Systems operation--which served NASA and the aerospace industry--to ITT Industries, Inc., in 2004. Kodak continues to provide products for aerial photography, including infrared film used in agriculture for crop management.