In the very issue in which we offer you a behind-the-scenes look at one of the more cutting-edge projection designs in recent memory, on the Seattle Opera production of Parsifal, I have what may be some troubling news on the projection front. Eastman Kodak announced it would stop making and selling slide projectors by June of 2004,. The company cited the decline in usage of projectors and the rise alternative projection technologies as reasons for their move.

This decision could have a serious impact on schools and regional and community theatres, where slides are a viable low-cost option for both projection and set design. As John Ervin, technical director at the Colby College Department of Theater & Dance, pointed out, there are many projection designers who have never warmed up to either digital or video projections, complaining of a lack of resolution and clarity, not to mention price points. Kodak's decision will probably impact those people the most; it could in fact completely change the way some shows are designed.

But then again, is that necessarily a bad thing? Tools are just tools; they will never replace the design eye and artistic aesthetic of the people creating the work. Kodak's decision may force those who have long used their products to come up with alternatives that may, in the end, make their work better. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

There are more practical issues here as well, and for that I turn, as I do in all matters projection, to the Bonniols. Here's what they have to say:

“The announcement is surprising, but it hardly leaves the market bereft of slide projector options. There is a huge market for the used Kodak gear already, one that may well have helped bring about the demise of marketing new units. Alternatively Leica, Rollei, Kinderman, Vivitar, and many other companies continue to manufacture slide projection units. The entrance of sub-$1,000, compact LCD Video projectors on the market from Epson, Sanyo, and Infocus (for instance), makes the financial decision to go with slide projection and the associated film processing much less compelling, and would have to be presenting significant competition to manufacturers like Kodak.”

I'm curious to hear what others have to say about this issue; drop me a line when you get a chance.