Kaleidescape’s big news this past week was the appointment of Cheena Srinivasan to the role of CEO. I’ve been working with Cheena, one of Kaleidescape’s co-founders, since 2003 when I was one of the first reviewers selected to review the Kaleidescape system. I’ve also spoken and met with him many times since and I’ve no doubt that Cheena is the exact right man for the job.
Over the years I’ve known him, Cheena’s vision and passion for Kaleidescape has never wavered or been anything but (red and blue) laser-focused. In fact, I can clearly recall standing on my front lawn and talking to him back in 2003 when he described his far-reaching vision for Kaleidescape. Even then, Cheena told me, “We want to be more than just a media management company. We want to eventually get into content delivery.” (A dream finally realized last year with the opening of the company’s industry leading Download Store.)
According to the Kaleidescape’s press release, Cheena “will focus his efforts on establishing Kaleidescape as the best platform for electronic sell-through by offering the convenience of streaming, the quality of Blu-ray, and a catalog of titles that is second to none.”
You’re probably all familiar with the top-level, executive summary, gee-whiz features that together culminate in the system that is the Kaleidescape experience. Things like the gorgeous cover art interface, the near instantaneous access to movies and skipping over disc menus and FBI warnings and trailers, sorting collections in any manner that a user would like, or advanced parental controls and a unique Kid’s Remote that only shows pre-selected movies in a simplified interface.
Recently I’ve had the chance to install a brand-new Kaleidescape in a customer’s home as well as help an industry legend, Theo Kalomirakis, to get his new Cinema One system up and running. In doing so, I rediscovered those buried gems of features that Kaleidescape offers, which make the system not only amazingly friendly and feature rich to the end user but also exceptionally customizable and configurable to the installer.
Here are six features that I’ve grown to love about Kaleidescape that you might not have been aware of.
Scenes, Episodes and Songs
Kaleidescape has offered users the ability to create their own favorite scenes for many years, but recently the company’s Movie Guide Team started bookmarking those four or five most iconic moments in films that make the movie what it is. Scenes are not only a great way to quickly enjoy your favorites moments from a film, but they offer a unique way to share an evening with friends demonstrating a system and showcasing your collection. I also use the scenes feature almost exclusively for our in-store system demos.
Beyond these scenes, Kaleidescape also has been steadily marking songs in concerts and musicals. This is a great way to jump to your favorite song in a film and to enjoy a concert DVD or Blu-ray much like you would a CD.
It wasn’t until I started re-watching “The Twilight Zone” episodes that I really came to appreciate or even discover the episode tagging feature. Instead of trying to hunt through the stacks of discs that make up the five seasons, I can just scroll through the episode names and find exactly what I’m looking for. Also, when watching a series like “Lost,” it’s great to get to the end of an episode and just press play to immediately start the next. It’s a binge-watchers delight!
A script is like the ultimate, hand-selected and choreographed demo. You can craft the perfect demo for action, comedy, drama, or even family videos that you can then repeat at the press of a button. In a showroom, a script can ensure that there is always something exciting and dynamic playing, but will also save you from someone walking in during an especially inappropriate moment. Say, if you were showing Terminator 2 and then an older couple walks in when Sarah Connor is dreaming about her skin melting off in a nuclear blast and the woman is horrified and asks why anyone would want to watch something so awful. Hypothetically, of course. And if you’ve never had a “shower scene” or some lengthy tirade of profanities come on the satellite while you were talking to a couple or a family in your showroom, then let me just assure you that this is a special bit of awkward that you will be glad you missed out on.
Beyond the typical settings that you’d find in a normal Blu-ray player, Kaleidescape includes several features that are absolutely crucial for a distributed system. For example, on our recent Mega Job we were trying to figure out in programming how to fix the disparity from movie volume and music volume, as switching to music would blast you out of the room. As we were digging into programming, I discovered Kaleidescape offers the ability to reduce music volume to be similar to movie volume. Perfect! You can also select the preferred audio track—like DTS—that will then always automatically play when a movie starts, or force an audio option off to resolve issues such as when distributing a single player around a home to rooms with TVs only and other rooms with TVs and surround receivers.
Further, say you had a hearing-impaired customer that preferred subtitles or another that watches a lot of foreign films. Instead of digging through the disc’s menu, Kaleidescape can automatically set things to their preference. Each time. Every time.
Ever wonder if something is broken? Or why it broke? Or when it broke? Or if the Network is up? Or how hot things are? With Kaleidescape, you can look at any of your installed systems and get a quick snapshot of their health. If the Kaleidescape hasn’t connected recently, then there is a good chance the site is having network or internet issues. If the components are running hot, then you probably have a ventilation issue in your entire system. The Dashboard is a great way to quickly look at not only how the Kaleidescape is doing, but also get a glimpse into how the whole job is doing.
Like many companies, Kaleidescape supports most control systems, with pre-built integration drivers. This is definitely cool and gives programmers a quick and foolproof way to control Kaleidescape with their automation system of choice. But way cooler than that is the information that Kaleidescape can provide to your control system, allowing you to do some amazingly cool automation magic with very little work.
Because the Kaleidescape system knows virtually everything about any movie being played, it can use this knowledge to give you exactly the kinds of information you need to trigger events. For instance, whenever the system is playing a 2.35 movie, it can engage the anamorphic lens and open the screen masking. And whenever it is playing a non-2.35 movie, it will remove the lens and engage the appropriate screen masking. Want the lights to adjust when the end credits start to role, or fade down when the movie starts or pauses? Simple. As an integrator, Kaleidescape give you the tools to do the cool stuff that your clients probably never knew was possible.
Remember those not-so-good old days where importing a customer’s collection either meant days of feeding in discs by hand one at a time or sending them off and paying a service to do it for you? Well, the Disc Vault has totally solved this problem. Simply load in all your discs—Blu-ray, DVD, CD—nearly as fast as you can, and the Vault will gobble them up, identify them and import them without any more involvement on your part. Sure, the Disc Vault got kind of a bum rap when it first came out because no one wanted to have to have it to satisfy the Blu-ray disc-in-tray requirement, but the Disc Vault is needed to solve that issue and now instead of complaining about it, we should celebrate it for how much easier it makes your life when you go to add in a client’s 300 discs.
Hand-in-hand with importing new discs is correctly identifying them. For most collections, this will be a 100-percent proposition, but say your client is into obscure foreign films, older releases, indie films, or basically any movie or CD that the Kaleidescape doesn’t recognize. Well, you can enter this info in yourself, along with cover art images and descriptions. You can also type in the UPC to see if Kaleidescape can recognize it that way. Or, you can let Kaleidescape provide you with a postage paid envelope and then send them your unrecognized discs to be individually processed and added with full metadata to not only your system but to any other owners that might have the same disc in the future. That’s called paying it forward. Of course, Kaleidescape will mail the discs back when they’re finished. Also paid for. That’s called just being awesome.
A Kaleidescape system is far more than a disc player and massive set of hard disks or something for “just” watching movies or listening to music. The sum of its parts, performance, design and features are what creates the gateway to unparalleled system enjoyment and is why it is called “the Kaleidescape experience.”
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.