Eastman Kodak has etched itself firmly in the digital cinema arena with the announcement yesterday (March 8) that it has forged an alliance with QUALCOMM Inc. and JVC in developing a prototype digital projection system.

QUALCOMM's expertise in the compression and encryption techniques together with JVC's advanced projection chip technology will be used in testing and developing a digital end-to-end system at Kodak's new Imaging Technology Center in Hollywood.

This agreement comes hot on the heels of another e-cinema deal at ShoWest(March 6) under which Christie Systems Inc. will develop, manufacture and market Texas Instruments Digital Light Processing (DLP) Cinema projectors. Prototypes of these projectors have been tested in the US and are currently being used in five European screenings of Toy Story 2.

However Kodak stressed that film will be around for some time yet and that the company's prime objective is to improve the quality bar of movies - projected both on 35mm and digitally. Driving improvements in final picture quality for today's traditional film is Kodak's ScreenCheck certification program which is now running in almost 500 auditoriums in North America since its launch at ShoWest last year.

Speaking at the Las Vegas exhibitors' convention, Bob Mayson, general manager of Kodak's cinema operations, was adamant that no compromise for picture quality would be made in developing Kodak's universal digital system. 'The image must be better than film - a high quality universal system of preparing and delivering superior pictures to the cinema audience.' The heart of this system is the 'digital intermediate' - a huge data file already available that is created from a film negative and can be reproduced in any form on any media.