3D offered in major venues for the Olympics


The London Olympics this year seem to keep surprising us in 3D even before they start! Now Ultra-D 3D may be incorporated at the 3D Olympic coverage this year also.

Stream TV Networks, Inc. announced today that they choose London as the location of the first Ultra-D(TM) TV public viewing location in Europe. The Walkabout in Covent Garden at 11 Henrietta Street in London, will have installed the first ever Ultra-D display unit in the UK in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics, broadcasted live on the BBC, Sky and ESPN. Live 2D and with-glasses (stereoscopic) 3D broadcasts of the Olympic Games will be auto converted into the stunning 3D without glasses Ultra-D format in real-time, using the Ultra-D SeeCube(TM) Conversion Box. The viewing location will also host demos to highlight the Ultra-D technology’s compatibility with the iPad®, iTunes®, Appstore® and the Apple TV®. Matthew Young, European representative for Stream TV Networks in the UK said: “We chose Walkabout for the first ever screen as it’s well known as the best live sports venue in London.”

The manager of the Covent Garden Walkabout Bar, Dal Jones, states that Ultra-D is “1000% better than anything else I have seen in 3D without glasses. I am very pleased and truly excited to be the first UK bar to be able to offer this to our customers.”

Stream TV Networks is placing demo units at high traffic venues in metropolitan areas in the US, Europe, Taiwan and China to showcase the Ultra-D technology to consumer before products become available at retail. In the US, the first venue to showcase Ultra-D will be Blondies Sports® ( www.blondiessports.com ) in New York City located at 212 West 79th St., also in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ultra-D enables the seamless autoconversion of 2D and 3D with glasses content into autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D in real-time, so that virtually every kind of video feed can be viewed in 3d without glasses. The Ultra-D technology has also been optimized for the iOS® and Android® operating systems for enhanced connectivity to peripheral devices.

Additional consumer viewing locations for Ultra-D(TM) technology will be announced in the coming weeks and will include additional venues in New York, Philadelphia, London and various locations throughout China.

“Ultra-D is the first 3D without glasses solution that has been able to eliminate viewing angles and offer the high quality, glasses-free 3D experience we’ve all been waiting for,” says Matt Young for Stream TV Networks. He adds, “Being able to offer this in time for the Olympics just adds to the viewing experience and enjoyment of the games being in London.”

The Walkabout in Covent Garden is “the Home of the Awesome Spirit of Australia in Central London, and also the West End’s Premier Sport’s Bar and Party Shack!” The Walkabout is located at:

11 Henrietta Street London, Greater London WC2E 8PY

Ultra-D viewing units are available. For information regarding sales or business relationships please email contact@ultra-d.com or myoung@streamtvnetworks.com

Source: www.StreamTVNetworks.com

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Quantel’s Part 2 Examination of the Rise of Digital Film

In the second part of our look at the uptake of digital technology in the movie business we explore filmmaking innovators who are taking digital filming and post production to new levels of excellence.

Filmmakers and post-production specialists are breaking new ground in visual storytelling facilitated by the increase in technological capabilities during acquisition, post and exhibition. The advances in Stereo3D are inextricably linked to developments in digital capture: James Cameron pioneered shooting on digital cameras that were custom built for Ghosts of the Abyss – the first feature length 3D IMAX production released in 2003. Then Avatar set the bar for 3D features; however Vince Pace, co-chairman of CAMERON | PACE Group recently told The Hollywood Reporter that they  “were experimenting with Avatar” and that they “could have gone further, but we wanted to make sure we found ourselves somewhere in the middle of concentrating on a good film and focusing on 3D elements. We didn’t want to compromise the actual film by taking away from the story for the sake of 3D.”

Pace continues to state that Martin Scorsese’s Hugo does far more than Avatar to showcase 3D filmmaking’s full capacity due to Scorsese not forcing elements of 3D but instead molding it to get maximum effect from the artists and the creative team’s vision. The technological advancements in S3D that have been made since Avatar also enabled the Hugo team to utilise bespoke systems and equipment to watch high quality stereo dailies, perfect the acquisition of stereo on set and finish Hugo to such a standard the stereo grading contributed to Scorsese earning a ‘Best Director’ nod at this year’s Golden Globes.

We asked Jonathan Tustain, Editor of leading website 3D Focus, to give us his take on future advances in the digital pipeline. “No doubt higher frame rate projection will become commonplace over the next few years thanks to influential directors like Peter Jackson and James Cameron filming big budget movies like The Hobbit and Avatar 2 at 48 frames per second. Cinema chains will be able to upgrade their digital projectors with a simple software update and, like 3D, the improved picture quality, particularly during fast motion sequences, will be marketed to draw audiences in.”

Digital drives quality

Stereoscopic 3D is not the only aspect of digital that is evolving on our cinema screens. As previously mentioned in part 1, 4K digital cinema projection systems are gathering momentum in the US/Europe with audiences increasingly experiencing high resolution movies screened as the filmmaker intended the scenes to be consumed in theaters.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the largest 4K movies to date, making up almost a quarter of a million frames at 45 megabytes each.  It was shot in 4.5k – 5K resolution on RED Epic MX and Epic cameras and was finished at Hollywood Post facility Light Iron on Quantel Pablo. The sheer volume of data captured needed twocolor correction systems working non stop to deliver a 4K DI 9 reels long which is the equivalent of around six 2K two hour movies. The end result, when seen on a 4K projector, is arguably another cinematic milestone demonstrating the amplified creative / visual control for the filmmaker and a higher standard of picture quality for the movie-going public.

We spoke to Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron. He explains why he feels that his data-centric post house will continue to work on more productions like The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. “My experience with most archetypes on the set has been the common desire to incase creative control. Creative control of the crew, control over the studio, image capture, performances, editing, art direction and even the overall pace of shooting are all things filmmakers tend to want to have creative control over. Yet film as a medium physically limits a degree of control in every category simply because you cannot inspect film until after it is developed. 18-48 hour delays are normal procedure for film review which presents a massive boundary around the evaluation component of creative control. In the upcoming documentary ‘Side-by-Side,’ director Christopher Nolan says ‘There isn’t yet a superior or even equal imaging technology to film.’ In my opinion, subjective interpretation of film’s benefits is not the issue that warrants discussion. From my perspective, it is becoming ever clearer that the simplicity of how work flows ultimately commands what format is adopted. For the average filmmaker this renders aesthetic opinions on the subject a lesser priority (I see this happening at all budget levels). In the hands of the masters, the apex of today’s digital cameras has breeched every measurable category that film used to champion as technically superior. In 36 months time, the gap will be so significant that this debate simply will not exist.”

The Case for Film

There are traditionalists and big names in cinema that are sill firmly camped in film’s corner. Steven Spielberg shot the acclaimed War Horse on 35mm and was recently quoted saying “I’m still planning to shoot everything on film. I guess when the last lab goes out of business, we’ll all be forced to shoot digitally and that could be in eight-to-ten years. It’s possible in ten years’ time there will be no labs processing celluloid.” Of course Spielberg has already dabbled with digital technologies and 3D with Tintin, albeit in a motion capture sense, however he stressed “It’s 100% digital animation but as far as a live-action film, I’m still planning to shoot everything on film… I love film.”

Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming conclusion to the Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in 35mm and 70mm IMAX. Nolan resisted pressure from studio bosses at Warner Bros. to shoot and/or convert the final Batman in 3D. Quentin Tarantino is passionate about working with celluloid and from his remarks in the video below, like Spielberg, is not switching to shooting in digital anytime soon.

Filmmakers still have a choice when it comes to capturing and translating their vision for the big screen. But partly due to the rapid rise in digital projection, any motion picture captured on celluloid will almost inevitably end up being  digitalized anyway. We return to Light Iron’s CEO Michael Cioni, who sums it all up most eloquently:

“I don’t dislike film, but I do dislike unnecessary complexity. I think if film could be around forever, it would be used on some level forever. Because the art of story telling has infinite possibilities, the ways in which to tell stories should not be quantified into a single format or flavor. By this, I am in favor of film being used whenever deemed appropriate by those who are most comfortable using it. That can be anything from those who are seeking a desired texture or who have a creative preference, such as Mr. Nolan. But there is a bigger question here which presents the real root of the problem: it’s not whether people have a desire to shoot film; the question is whether or not film can afford to be manufactured at all. I predict that man’s desire to shoot film will far outlast the manufacturers’ ability to produce it. Thus, the ultimate decision will be made for us.”

http://blog.quantel.eu/2012/02/the-rise-of-digital-in-motion-pictures-beyond-the-tipping-point-for-film-part-2-of-2/

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CEA announces new standards for 3D at home

In an effort to bolster the 3D Home Entertainment industry, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced new standards for closed captioning, active 3D glasses specs as well as display brightness information for manufacturers and consumers.

Brian Markwalter is senior vice president, research and standards, CEA. “CEA’s standards committees are always looking for new ways to help grow the consumer electronics industry through technological cooperation.”

CEA-2038 standard will allow “active” 3D glasses to switch from 3D to 2D when content such as advertising is placed in a 3D program. Known as the “Command-Driven Analog IT-Synchronized Active Eyewear”, the new spec also opens up the possibility of two separate viewers playing a 3D game offering different images or game paths.

Another area which has been a tremendous challenge for providers and viewers is in the area of closed-captioning.  The VEA-708.1 standard provides broadcasters with information on where data should be encoded for closed captioning.  It is expected that the Society of Motion Picture Broadcasters (SMPTE) are developing their own set of standards to be released later this year.

The  CEA Industry Forum is scheduled for October 14-17, 2012 to be held in San Francisco, CA with the Annual International CES meeting to be held January 8-11, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV.

CEA press release

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DirecTV blinks when it comes to delivering 3D Content

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Well, in the case of DirecTV they were one of the first providers to step up to the plate offering a 24 hour n3D channel that usually lent itself well to sporting events, live concerts and special events that was backed by Panasonic.  This leaves Sony/Discovery/Imax and ESPN 3D as the only parties left standing as 24 hour providers for DirecTV.

A spokesperson for the Satcaster reported: “While 3D adoption continues to grow and more programming is being developed, DirecTV has decided to move n3D to a part-time channel.” But don’t worry, sports fans, NBC Summer Olympics opening and closing ceremonies will still be available in stereo along with selected events such as gymnastics, diving and swimming.

Is the rationale behind cutting back on 3D offerings because there are not enough displays and audience members to watch?  Or is there simply not enough programming?  As the learned voice of God, in the movie FIELD OF DREAMS pronounced, “Build it and they will come.” Probably not if you look at the nervous faces of the DirecTV execs.

In France, Canal Plus pulled back from 3D offerings this year noting “a lack of enthusiasm among subscribers”.

NBC however will be offering over 200 hours of 3D broadcasting, but like the rest of the events coming out of the U.K. they will be on tape delay and sent out the following day.  However, NBCOlympics.com website will live stream all the events in 2D, of course.

I’m curious to find out how much the British broadcasters will be offering in the way of 3D and likewise if NBC were to advertise more heavily about 3D this summer if that were to spur more sales of the 3D sets at home. Also will regular 3D broadcasts of the NFL by ESPN spur more growth? And when will the auto-stereo displays be more commonplace, thus eliminating the need for those pesky glasses?

- Scott Arundale

For more info:  Consumer Reports

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We’re Back and Raring to Go!

After a nearly six month hiatus, the 3D & DIgital Cinema is back on-line. I took a break to tend to some family struggles. Also the Spring semester was one bear of a session with over 40 Senior Thesis projects, 18 Grad Thesis and a whopping 36 Advanced Productions to attend to.

Thank you for your support and patience during what was a very difficult time.

- Scott Arundale

P.S. We will be likely dropping the 3D moniker from our masthead as stereo filmmaking has become very much an integral part of the digital landscape. Also the industry (like the the mainstream filmgoing public) has cooled considerably towards because let’s face it, making 3D movies is more costly, time consuming and frankly a pain in the ass! And as my two lovely daughters remarked about their tastes towards 3D, they wisely observed that it was just a way for the theater to charge more!

That being said we will continue to report on all the trends 3D, 2D or something recorded on a mobile phone. It is all fair game.

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Quantel and the Rise of Digital Pt1

After 120 years of entertaining audiences, countless movies and pioneering works on the format, celluloid 35mm film looks to be on the way out as the industry picks up the pace to adopt digital for major motion picture capturing, post and distribution.

This month, the IHS Screen Digest claim that 63% of the world’s cinema screens will be digital compared to 2010 where 67% of global screens were still projecting 35mm. This dramatic increase highlights the speed at which the industry is moving toward to digital innovations.

“Since 1889, 35mm has been the principal film projection technology, however, after 10 years of market priming, movie theaters now are undergoing a rapid transition to digital technology, spurred initially by the rising popularity of 3D films,” said David Hancock, head of film research at IHS.

The rise of digital in distribution

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was the first major motion picture to be released in digital on June 1999, albeit on a limited number of screens in Los Angeles and New York. In the UK the roots of the digital incursion go as far back as 2005, when 240 digital projectors were given to UK cinemas thanks to the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network initiative. Initially, the digital uptake was slow. It was not until 2009 when digital’s prominence became apparent when, for the first time, eleven 3D productions were released and could only be screened with digital projection technology. However, in late 2009 a game-changing event changed the course of digital cinema adoption – Avatar.

James Cameron’s 3D blockbuster demonstrated that what was once a novelty viewing experience could create a viable case for upgrading theatre projection technology to capitalise on audiences’ new found appetite for 3D productions. Jean-Pierre Beauviala, founder of French based motion picture equipment manufacturer, Aaton claims that stereoscopic 3D has “accelerated the demise of film.”

2010 saw a rapid succession of announcements by major multiplex operators in the UK  switching over to digital. Vue Entertainment, one of the UK’s leading operators of multiplex cinemas, partnered up with Sony Europe to install 4K Digital Cinema Projection Systems across its estates. “The transition to all digital screens heralds a new era for cinema offering greater choice…[and will] deliver the very best possible cinematic big screen experience for our customers,” said Tim Richards Vue’s CEO.

In North America the rollout of 4K digital was announced earlier than Europe, however the conversion pipeline is estimated to take up to five years to implement. The biggest theater operators in the land – Regal Entertainment and AMC both signed deals, like Vue, with Sony to install 4K digital technology to a over 850 theaters, comprising 9,628 screens.

Digital from scene to screen

Digitalization is not only experiencing substantial growth in theaters. The progression from celluloid has not happened in isolation but in unison with the introduction of digital throughout the motion picture pipeline. Over the last few years, Digital Intermediate has firmly established itself as the standard workflow for post production. In production it’s the same story. In the last year ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have scaled down their production of film cameras and have strategically aligned their business on the innovation of digital cameras.

This industry-wide shift has affected the biggest players in the image capture business. Eastman Kodak, the iconic 133-year-old photography firm synonymous with film, has seen its profitability deteriorate due to falling revenue from traditional film. However, after unveiling a new, simplified business plan to focus the company’s efforts on its digital offering, its shares briefly rose up 46%. The strategy was not enough to keep the firm out of the headlines and in mid-January Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Ted Schilowitz from RED Digital Cinema, a camera company that has been digital since its inception in 2005 points out that “you’ve got to be respectful of what film’s brought to the industry. None of us would be at the level we are at now without Kodak, so you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.” Having said that Schilowitz continues “film is becoming less used as it’s reached its retirement age.”

In the second part of our look at the rise of digital, we examine trends in filming and post using the format and speak to industry heavyweights on pushing the boundaries.

http://blog.quantel.eu/2012/02/the-rise-of-digital-in-motion-pictures-beyond-the-tipping-point-for-film-part-1-of-2/

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Avid goes mobile

Avid, maker of high-end digital video and audio production tools, is bringing its “pro-sumer” video editing software to the iPad.

The app is available starting Thursday as part of the Avid Studio suite. The app will run on iPad only, though Avid says it’s exploring other mobile operating systems.

Avid Studio for iPad costs $4.99 to start; after 30 days, the price will jump to $7.99.

That’s still much less than what other current desktop editing applications cost, including Avid’s own Avid Studio ($129.99), Adobe Premiere Elements ($99.99), Apple’s Final Cut Pro X ($299.99), and Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum ($59.95).

The iPad app marks the Burlington, Mass.-based company’s first video editing application for tablets. Video editing software generally requires a substantial desktop system or a bulky laptop; using video editing apps on relatively small smartphone screens can be cumbersome. Avid is hoping its app hits somewhere in the middle.

“We’ve seen a shift in how creation is happening, and it’s really happening on almost any device,” said Tanguy Leborgne, vice president of consumer and mobile technology strategy at Avid. “We think the tablet is more than just a consumer device; more and more people are creating on it.”

While Avid says the app captures most of the editing capabilities available on its desktop system, there are some obvious areas in which an iPad editing app would be lacking.

For starters, pro-level editors accustomed to using a large screen for edits will likely feel a tablet doesn’t provide enough screen real estate for real edits.

Also, with Avid Studio on a PC, video editors can export a Flash video file, and burn video files to a CD or DVD. On the iPad, neither of those functions is an option.

Users also likely won’t want to export lots of large, high-definition video files to the iPad and take up storage space on the tablet.

Fortunately, full projects and video files can be transferred to and from the Avid Studio app via iCloud and iTunes. Finished movie files can also be shared directly from the Avid app to Facebook and YouTube.

The idea is that the iPad app and the desktop software are complementary, Leborgne said, so that users who want to create and edit projects on the go can do so, but ultimately preserve them by taking them to the PC.

The Avid iPad app does have some nice features, including an interface that includes a storyboard area and an editing timeline. And while some video editors rely heavily on customized keyboards or a mouse, others might appreciate the ability to pinch and squeeze videos and images to scale them on the touchscreen of the iPad, or the ability to move text and titles around with their fingers.

Avid’s new product comes just a couple days after Apple released an update for its Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) video editing software, which addressed video editors’ complaints about the software’s lack of professional-level bells and whistles. Now FCPX includes multicam editing, advanced chroma-key features and the ability to open up old FCP projects in the new software.

While Adobe Premiere is considered the first popular digital video editing application, it was Apple’s Final Cut Pro, which launched in 1999, that eventually chipped away at the market of video editors using Avid’s high-end system.

Apple’s FCPX also comes at a significantly reduced price from previous iterations of Final Cut Pro, which used to cost around $1,000. Both Avid and Adobe responded to Apple’s new software by offering discounts to users who switched over to their software.

“Both Apple’s product and the pricing strategy were the same thing we’re trying to address here,” Leborgne said. “But for professionals, it relayed to them that Apple was not really focused on the higher end of the market.”

As evidence that some professionals were disappointed with the new FCPX, Leborgne pointed to Hollywood production company Bunim/Murray — the reality TV pioneers dropped Final Cut Pro in favor of Avid.

http://allthingsd.com/20120201/avid-brings-its-pro-sumer-video-editing-app-to-ipad/

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Competing for Gamers’ Hearts and Minds

Video game sales failed to live up to high hopes in December, with total industry sales falling 21 percent to $3.99 billion from $5.07 billion a year ago.

For the year, game sales were $17.02 billion, down 8 percent from $18.59 billion a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group.

The poor performance of video game sales in physical retail stores masks what’s really happening.

Gamers are shifting their purchases to online, social and mobile forms of gaming — dubbed digital gaming — while the retail side is shrinking fast.

The growth in digital isn’t quite big enough to offset the shrinking retail numbers.

In December, hardware sales were down 28 percent while software was down 14 percent.

Full told, the estimated total consumer spending on games includes physical video and retail games, used games, game rentals, subscriptions, full-game digital downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games. Not counting hardware, this had estimated sales of $16.3 to $16.6 billion in 2011, down about 2 percent or so from a year ago.

Hardware sales were down 11 percent for the year, as were accessories. Software was down 6 percent. New physical retail sales of portable, console and PC games were $9.3 billion in 2011, down 8 percent from $10.1 billion in 2010. Sales grew for used games, full-game digital downloads, downloadable content, and mobile gaming apps.

“Overall industry results are not entirely surprising given that we are on the back end of the current console lifecycle, combined with the continued digital evolution of gaming,” said Anita Frazier, analyst at the NPD Group. “Core gamers continue to be engaged and spend on established franchises across both the digital and physical format using multiple devices for different gaming occasions.”

Shed added, “Our overall estimate of the market continues to point toward the increased imperative for deeper visibility into digital distribution than is available today, not only in the U.S. but globally.”

NPD is working with research company EEDAR to try to come up with more accurate numbers for global digital and physical game sales worldwide.

For the full year, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 was the best-selling game, and it took the top honors in December. Just Dance 3 from Ubisoft was No. 2, followed by Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks, Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts, and Madden NFL2012.

During the year, Microsoft said it sold 1.7 million Xbox 360 consoles in December and it was the top console seller in 2011. Microsoft also said it outside the second-place player by more than 2.7 million units. It captured about 49 percent of consumer retail spending at $6.7 billion in sales for 2011. Of that, $2.1 billion was spent on accessories such as Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system.

Microsoft said it has sold 66 million Xbox 360s, has 40 million Xbox Live members, and has sold more than 18 million Kinect sensors. Microsoft said it ended the year with 40 percent share of the console hardware market.

Sony said it sold 6.5 million PlayStation 3 consoles in the holiday season.

source: http://dailybitenews.com/?p=7011

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Final Cut Pro X yet to be embraced by Reality Producers

Chris Foresman reports from arstechnica.com:

Following the controversial launch of Apple’s completely revamped video editing software, Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media has announced (hat tip to MacRumors) that award-winning TV production company Bunim/Murray is dropping Final Cut Pro in favor of a complete Avid makeover. Going forward, the company will use Avid Media Composer and Avid Symphony for editing along with an Avid ISIS 5000 networked storage system to replace its current Final Cut Pro workflow.

“Due to the large volume of media generated by our reality shows, we needed to re-evaluate our editing and storage solutions. At the same time, we were looking for a partner who would understand our long-term needs,” Bunim/Murray’s SVP of post production Mark Raudonis said in a statement.

The message between the lines is that Apple’s latest offerings simply won’t (ahem) cut it anymore. Earlier this year, Apple completely re-architected Final Cut Pro X from the ground up with a new, modern media handling framework as well as 64-bit support. In doing so, however, it dropped many features that editing pros had come to rely on in their workflows. Apple also dropped its Final Cut Server product after phasing out its Xserveand Xserve RAID storage products over the past few years.

The decision has left many working pros wondering if Apple cares much about the professional market anymore. And, while the company has promised to improve Final Cut Pro X over time, those promises apparently weren’t enough for Bunim/Murray and others who have since migrated to competing solutions from Avid and Adobe. Let’s just say we don’t expect this to be the last we hear about major production companies making the switch.

UPDATE:  12/31/12

Apple has updated the latest version of its video editing software, Final Cut Pro X, addressing some of the complaints video editors had voiced when it was released last June. The updated FCPX now includes multicam editing and advanced chroma-key controls, and supports a new tool for opening up old Final Cut Pro 7 projects.

http://allthingsd.com/20120131/apples-updates-final-cut-pro-x-addressing-video-editors-complaints/?refzone=topics_apple

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Ring in the New Year and Say Goodbye to Kodak

Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America’s corporate titans.

The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

A Kodak spokesman said the company “does not comment on market rumor or speculation.”

A filing could come as soon as this month or early February, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Kodak would continue to pay its bills and operate normally while under bankruptcy protection, the people said. But the company’s focus would then be the sale of some 1,100 patents through a court-supervised auction, the people said.

That Kodak is even contemplating a bankruptcy filing represents a final reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated its industry, drawing engineering talent from around the country to its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters and plowing money into research that produced thousands of breakthroughs in imaging and other technologies.

The company, for instance, invented the digital camera—in 1975—but never managed to capitalize on the new technology.

Casting about for alternatives to its lucrative but shrinking film business, Kodak toyed with chemicals, bathroom cleaners and medical-testing devices in the 1980s and 1990s, before deciding to focus on consumer and commercial printers in the past half-decade under Chief Executive Antonio Perez.

None of the new pursuits generated the cash needed to fund the change in course and cover the company’s big obligations to its retirees. A Chapter 11 filing could help Kodak shed some of those obligations, but the viability of the company’s printer strategy has yet to be demonstrated, raising questions about the fate of the company’s 19,000 employees.

Such uncertainty was once unthinkable at Kodak, whose near-monopoly on film produced high margins that the company shared with its workers. On “wage dividend days,” a tradition started by Kodak founder George Eastman, the company would pay out bonuses to all workers based on its results, and employees would use the checks to buy cars and celebrate at fancy restaurants.

George Eastman and Thomas Edison ca 1920

Former employees say the company was the Apple Inc. or Google Inc. of its time. Robert Shanebrook, 64 years old, who started at the company in 1967 and was most recently world-wide product manager for professional photographic film, recalls young talent traipsing through Kodak’s sprawling corporate campus. At lunch, they would crowd the auditorium to watch a daily movie at an on-site theater. Other employees would play basketball on the company courts.

“We had this self-imposed opinion of ourselves that we could do anything, that we were undefeatable,” Mr. Shanebrook said.

Kodak’s troubles date back to the 1980s, when the company struggled with foreign competitors that stole its market share in film. The company later had to cope with the rise of digital photography and smartphones.

It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the mood began to sour, said Mr. Shanebrook. By 2003, Kodak announced it would stop making investments in film. “I didn’t want to stick around for the demise,” he said.

The company and its board have weighed a potential bankruptcy filing for months. Advisers told Kodak a filing would make its patent sale easier and likely allow the company to command a higher price, people familiar with the matter have said. The obligation to cover pension and health-care costs for retirees could also be purged through bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

Those obligations—which run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year—as well as the unprofitable state of Kodak’s new businesses, have made the company undesirable as a takeover target, people familiar with the matter said.

During a two-day meeting of the company’s board, management and advisers in mid-December, executives were briefed on how Kodak would fund itself during bankruptcy proceedings should efforts to sell its patents fall short, a person familiar with the matter said.

Kodak is in discussions with large banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. for so-called debtor-in-possession financing to keep the company operating in bankruptcy court, people familiar with the matter said.

Kodak has also held discussions with bondholders and a group led by investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP about a bankruptcy financing package, the people said.

Should it seek bankruptcy protection, Kodak would follow other well-known companies that have failed to adapt to rapidly changing business models. They included Polaroid Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in December 2008; Borders Group Inc., which liquidated itself last year; and Blockbuster Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and was later bought by Dish Network Corp. A bankruptcy filing would kick off what is expected to be a busier year in restructuring circles, as economic growth continues to drag and fears about European sovereign debt woes threaten to make credit markets less inviting for companies that need to refinance their debts.

Mr. Perez decided to base the company’s future on consumer and commercial inkjet printing. But the saturated market has proved tough to penetrate, and Kodak is paying heavily to subsidize sales as it builds a base of users for its ink.

The company remains a bit player in a printer market dominated by giants like H-P. Kodak ranks fifth world-wide, according to technology data firm IDC, with a market share of 2.6% in the first nine months of 2011.

As the company works on a restructuring plan, a key issue for creditors is whether the printer operations are worth supporting, or whether the bulk of the company’s value is in its patents.

Nortel Networks Corp., a company that also had fallen behind the technology curve, opted to liquidate itself in bankruptcy court rather than reorganize, raising a greater than expected $4.5 billion for its patent trove.

Kodak’s founder, Mr. Eastman, took his life at the age of 77 in what is now a museum celebrating the founder and Kodak’s impact on photography. His suicide note read: “To my friends, my work is done. Why wait?”

Read more:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203471004577140841495542810.html#ixzz1ibOm8KV4

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About 3D & Digital Cinema

If you are a tech head, cinema-phile, movie geek or digital imaging consultant, then we'd like to hear from you. Join us in our quest to explore all things digital and beyond. Of particular interest is how a product or new technology can be deployed and impacts storytelling. It may be something that effects how we download and enjoy filmed entertainment. It may pertain to how primary and secondary color grading will enhance a certain tale. The most important thing is that you are in the driver's seat as far as what you watch and how you choose to consume it.