Media Servers

Kaleidescape Cinema One Media Server

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In Use

The most important feature of the Cinema One is the Kaleidescape store. The ability to purchase movies, in full Blu-ray quality, and download them is ground breaking. Much like HD Tracks has done with audio, being able to purchase and download the highest quality source material will start to put the final nails in physical media's coffin.

Currently Kaleidescape has content available from Warner Brothers and Lionsgate. Future companies might come on but right now it is limited to them. New releases appear in the store the same day as release on Blu-ray and the prices are competitive.  Today the Blu-ray release of The Right Stuff came out and is $19.32 at Amazon. I purchased it from the Kaleidescape store for $18 and it instantly started to download to my machine.

The big worry for these downloads is how long they will take. I know that is a concern I have coming in. I have one of the lower speeds of Internet access from Comcast in my area but a full 45 GB film still downloads in two hours for me. I can start it before dinner and it is ready to go by the time I can sit down to watch something at night. No driving to the store or opening up a package. I just sit down and it is there.

Even better, films on the Kaleidescape are free of the annoying features of Blu-ray. No loading times. No forced trailers or piracy warnings. You hit Enter to play and less than 10 seconds later it is on your screen. Since it is off a hard drive seeking out chapters is instant and there is no layer change. You just enjoy the movie.

Enjoying movies is what Kaleidescape is all about. There is no streaming content here. No Facebook app or web browser to use. It is just your library of movies and music and a wonderful interface to access it.

Adding your existing movies to the Cinema One is easy. You insert a disc into the drive, hit the Import button, and it copies it to the hard drive. Music CDs take around 15 minutes, a DVD movie around 30-45 minutes, and close to 2 hours for a Blu-ray. Once imported it will load instantly and have all the information and cover art added to it. But there is a catch, and this is the main problem with the Cinema One.

The Blu-ray licensing association is very picky about copying movies. They really don't want it to happen at all. So while you can copy your movies onto the Cinema One, you have to put the physical disc into the drive to watch it. You are playing it off the hard drive but you need the disc as their form of copy protection. Alternatively you can add one of the disc vaults to hold all of your Blu-ray discs in, but that costs an incredible $5,500. Not exactly cheap.

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Another option is that you can upgrade supported Blu-ray discs to Digital Copies for $2. Or upgrade a DVD to a Blu-ray digital copy for $6. After you import it to your system you can purchase the upgrade in the store and then it downloads the digital copy for you. Yes, even though you already copied it over it has to download all 40+ GB again because it's technically a different version. If you have 50 Blu-ray discs that are available in the store, you can upgrade all of those for $100. Certainly not free but much better than effectively spending $18 per disc to store it in the disc vault.

DVDs and CDs are not subject to this limitation. Once imported you are free to watch them without needing the disc in the drive. I imported all of my kids' favorite movies off DVD to the Cinema One so they can watch anything they want without needing the disc. They are still too young to insert a disc without possibly damaging a player.

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Even better, Kaleidescape offers a $40 kids remote that fits in their hand and has a minimal set of controls.  As soon as a button on the kids remote is pressed the Cinema One will only show titles you have approved. Combined with the Control4 system I have, I can set up a single button for my kids turn on the system and only allow them access to movies I want them to watch. Perfect for when they wake up at 5 AM and think it is time to get out of bed.

All of the familiar features of Kaleidescape are here. The cover art view that makes it easy to view your movies and select similar titles on your system. All of these have been around from the start and help make Kaleidescape what it is. Words don't do a good job of conveying this so I've included a movie below to demonstrate it.

There are a few things I'd like Kaleidescape to improve upon with their system. I wish that the kid's remote would use RF or Wi-Fi to communicate instead of IR. As people often hide the movie server in a closet it seems logical. I also would like the included remote to have better button layout. Most people probably use a system like Control4 with their Kaleidescape but the remote is only OK. Kaleidescape should also improve their iPhone app to allow for browsing of your library and movie selection. The iPad app does this but the iPhone one does not. An Android app would be nice as well. Overall the user experience of Kaleidescape is a wonderful one, as that is where the interface excels.