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Kodak Photo CD
by Ted Felix
This article discusses the creation of Kodak Photo CDs. Kodak Photo CDs are not Kodak Picture CDs, nor are they plain CDs with photos on them. They are special proprietary format CDs that Kodak made for several years, then stopped supporting. This site is one of the few remaining references available on the subject. Now that DVD players support both plain CDs filled with JPEGs, and Kodak Picture CDs, there is little need for the older Kodak Photo CD format. When it was still around, it was a wonderfully inexpensive way to convert your 35mm film to digital. Now with digital cameras that are superior to film, Kodak Photo CD is of little use.
This article is only of interest to those who want to generate a genuine Kodak Photo CD to play on their Kodak Photo CD player.
Not exactly breaking news, but in September of 2003 I noticed several models of DVD players from Panasonic, and even Sony touting JPEG playback capability. This is the way to go if you want to view photos on your TV. I have tried a Panasonic model that I picked up at CostCo. It works much better than the Apex models I've used. Instead of crashing on an image it can't handle (like both Apex's I've had), it tells you nicely, and continues. Only annoying limitation is that it can only handle 3000 images on a CD.
In January of 2002, APEX announced five new DVD players that are all capable of playing CDs filled with JPEG images. I knew the day would come eventually. If you want to display images on your TV, there's no need to use Photo CD, VideoCD, or the Iomega Fotoshow any more. The APEX models that support JPEG are the AD-1200 ($70, no display), AD-5131 ($130, 3-disc), AD-1600, AD-2100, and the AD-2500. Check out the info on APEX's site. I have the AD-5131 and it works as advertised. I popped in a CD-R filled with several thousand JPEGs and it played them. Only a handful of images wouldn't display. I'll have to investigate further. Also note that APEX has a big following of firmware hackers. The firmware upgradeable APEX players have lots of hacked firmware available to provide new and interesting features. Unfortunately not all APEX DVD players are firmware upgradeable, so check before buying.
If you have an old Kodak Photo CD player gathering dust in an attic somewhere, you've come to the right place. Check out the KodakPCD utility. With it, you can make Kodak Portfolio CDs for playback on your Kodak Photo CD player.
The only reason anyone would want a genuine Kodak Photo CD would be to play this Photo CD on their Photo CD player. Who in the world has one of those and still uses it these days? I'd wager not too many people. So, a CD with a bunch of .PCD files on it would be just fine for the vast majority of Photo CD users who just want to open the images on their computers. There's no advantage to getting a genuine Kodak Photo CD these days.
Don't tell Kodak this, though. They want to perpetuate the myth, and the cash cow (they charge providers $7 per Photo CD blank!).
Go here to find out why it isn't that simple.
If you're still determined to cut your own genuine Kodak Photo CDs, you have two options.
KodakPCD is a utility that can take a directory full of .PCD format images and turn them into a cuesheet and track files for burning to CD with CDRWin. Right now you can only create either a Photo CD player compatible Photo CD or a CD-i/PC compatible Photo CD. You can't have both. The CD-i/PC utility is DOS command line based, so if you are not familiar with the command line you will find it a bit obtuse to use. The price is right, though: Free. Here's what you'll need:.PCD Format Images
Kodak's software is impossible to find, so this option is pretty much academic.Kodak's Build-It
The best alternative to Photo CD for displaying images on a TV is a DVD player that supports JPEG playback.APEX DVD Players
You'll hear a lot of myths circulating that it is impossible to create your own genuine Kodak Photo CD for playback on your Photo CD player. Some blame it on the secret bar code in the middle of the disk, others have even more bizarre theories. The truth is you can make your own Kodak Photo CD but the software is very hard to find.
The myths probably have some basis in twisted facts. It is probably impossible to use generic CD-R media on a Kodak PIW (though I haven't tried). Somehow this got blown into "you can't make your own". The reason Kodak doesn't allow generic CD-R media is simple: Corporate Greed. Kodak wants to make money off Photo CD blanks which they charge $5 a piece for. This makes certain that they can continue to milk this cash cow called Photo CD on into the future. Although it makes no sense to me, I'm sure it does to a company like Kodak with a stock price that has been pretty darned flat since 1986.
What's real interesting is that it is entirely possible to use generic CD-R media with the Kodak CS1200, though it won't generate a genuine Photo CD, but it will generate a CD with PCD files on it.
I asked Kodak if they would release "Build-It" for free download since it was discontinued and essentially worthless to them. They said they didn't want to deal with customer support calls. Fair enough, I guess. Though they could disclaim it by saying it is not supported software, etc....
When asked about the popularity of Photo CD and how to make your own, Kodak's Ron Baird had this to say:
"Photo CD is a great technology and is quite popular still. We are always behind this feature, and are glad to help. For many the issue is creating PCD files on their own system. Truth is the technology is quite sophisticated and yields multiple resolutions. It simply is not possible to create a PCD file from another file. Rather, it is always the other way around.
"The only way to create a PCD file is to have a negative or slide scanned.
"There used to be software available where you could use PCD files to create
a portfolio CD (kind of like a Photo CD with multimedia and other
enhancements). However, that software has been discontinued."
- Ron Baird, Kodak
Well, that's very interesting, isn't it? It sounds to me like Kodak wants to take the easy way out, and just tell people it can't be done. Unfortunately, it just makes them look bad. Here was Ron's response to my detailed reply that refuted each of his points:
"Thanks for the review. I have seen our web site [referring to the existence of an SDK that writes PCD files] and I appreciate your sharing the references.
"Truth is, Ted, I am addressing the issue of the general user and the question, "can they create their own Photo CD with a general CDwriter." I believe that was the intent of most of the questions I replied to or posted about.
"I know that you have researched this issue and are well informed on all aspects of what Photo CD is and the status of it in the industry. You are right on the fine points and that there is software that can manage and create PCD files. However, and I am sure you will admit, that for the general user, Photo CDs cannot be created using their regularly available CDROMs and commonly available software.
"I am trying to help those people asking about this issue, rather than make a point of specific fact. I concede to your content and, yes, I have been to your web site and seen my post and your information.
"My desire is to let the general poster know the status of the Photo CD format and how it might be used.
"So, you are right!"
I wrote back to point out that I don't think we are dealing with the "general user". We are dealing with someone who will do darn near anything to get their Photo CD player to work.
The Kodak CS 1200 - Well, if you've got the bucks, you might as well do it right. This is the newest "PIW"-type product from Kodak. It is Mac-based, and was introduced in 1996. I can only guess that the total cost is somewhere around $10,000 or probably a lot more given that it includes a scanner, a computer, CD-cutter, and printer. Users of the system say Kodak's support rots, and the Film Terms are as limited as those for the UNIX-based PIWs.
Press Release 4/24/97 - Announcing Kodak's CS200 software that apparently never made it to the shelves.
CD-Recordable FAQ - Brief mention of how to create a Photo CD.
Disctronics makes vague references to the Photo CD disc format here and here.
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Disclaimers: I am not affiliated with Eastman Kodak in any way other than as a customer. All trademarks are owned by their respective owners. There are no ads on this page, and there never will be. Use this information at your own risk. Perform your own experiments before committing to Kodak Photo CD for any purpose. I won't be held responsible for anything that happens to you as a result of reading this. Shake well before serving. The contents of this page are Copyright ©2001, with all rights reserved by me, Ted Felix.Copyright ©2001, Ted Felix