When Geoff Stedman joined Kaleidescape as vice president of marketing back in December 2018, he got a peek behind the curtain of a company he thought he knew, and was surprised by what he saw. “I knew the company had a reputation for being a high-end source of audio-video content,” says Stedman. “But what I never realized is how much personal investment and attention to detail Kaleidescape puts into creating the content files that we make available for sale in our movie store.”
It is true: the content your clients buy and stream from the Kaleidescape store is not the same as they would see if they play the Blu-ray or stream it across another service. This is because Kaleidescape works with the studios to take the files provided and encode them so that they are optimized for home theater systems. And this is no auto-correct — each title is hand adjusted and curated by a Kaleidescape expert.
“We have a staff of people who, after the the files are encoded, watch those files and thoroughly check them to make sure that, when they’re played back on the Kaleidescape player, they’re rendered perfectly,” says Stedman. “And that takes multiple passes until we make sure that it is right. The content experts also curate all of the movies. They identify all the metadata — the interesting scenes, the songs if it’s a musical or a concert —and that allows the user to be able to watch just those scenes or listen to just those songs or jump to a favorite part of a movie.”
Which is why the Kaleidescape version may have different track listings than those versions purchased or viewed from other sources. But that is not the only difference you will find between Kaleidescape and other sources.
“On the video side, we receive the mezzanine files from the studios,” says Stedman, “and then we go through a video transcode process so that the video bitrate is between 60 and 100 megabits per second. Most online services average 12 to 15 megabits per second or less for video. We’re delivering visual information with a lot less compression than other streaming services because we download a large file and play from the Strato S movie player — we’re not modifying video playback based on variable bitrates due to internet congestion and delivery issues.”
The audio side isn’t altered from what the studio delivers, and is passed through exactly as intended. “We only use lossless compression,” Stedman explains. “We deliver lossless soundtracks for an incredible movie experience. Unlike other services, we only offer lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD-based audio stream, which has rich information for audio processors to reproduce a memorable experience. You end up with much more detail, much more precision, and a much richer sound experience while watching a movie.”
That kind of preparation to process raw files into something better than streaming involves keeping a solid relationship with the content studios and producers, which is something Kaleidescape works at. “We have structured our internal processes so that it’s designed to reproduce audio and video similar to what the director had intended for a cinema experience. We bring this to home entertainment,” says Stedman. “What we bring to the studios is that we cater primarily to people who are movie enthusiasts who have invested in home cinema or people who wish to enjoy a cinematic experience in their dedicated theater. These are some of the best customers for content owners as they are willing to spend more on content for the best experience.
“We continue to add titles to our store and get all the new releases as they come out, so our customers have a really fantastic selection of both the new releases and the classic gems from all these studios. We also offer preorders that, the moment they become available, they’ll be automatically downloaded to your Kaleidescape system.”
If a film enthusiast wants a Kaleidescape for their home theater or media, there is only one path for them to get it. “We go exclusively through the custom integration channel for sales,” says Stedman. “The primary focus of our go-to market efforts is enabling the dealers and installers to understand how our product works, to understand how to calibrate audio and video components, to know how to troubleshoot when you’re not sensing a cinematic experience, to know how it works well with other home cinema equipment, and so on. We know our systems really shine best when they’re deployed in a custom integrated home theater or in a multi-purpose media room and they’re integrated with other high-end products from both the video and the audio side.
“The one thing I think we are trying to impress upon the custom channel is that we know they’re spending a lot of effort and providing a lot of counsel to their clients on constructing a home theater or a media room, and they want their clients to be able to get the most out of the investment. We want to enable that dealer or that integrator to differentiate their projects from mass-market DIY ones, and we think that when you include a Kaleidescape as the content source, you’re going to be able to reproduce an experience that is going to make their projects look good. It’ll make the customer feel great about their home cinema investment, because everything looks and sounds the best that they possibly can.”
The custom channel plays a big part in Kaleidescape’s growth plans, as the company looks to expand the channel’s knowledge of the products through additional training programs. “We are going to focus on dealer education, so our dealers feel confident about including Kaleidescape in their home cinema projects, and giving them the tools so that it’s easy for them to explain the benefits to their clients,” says Stedman. “We’ve got a very detailed marketing and sales plan to focus on driving dealer sales productivity with measurable goals to increase the share of the home cinema projects that include a Kaleidescape.
“We’re hiring sales staff and preparing new material to make available to dealers and integrators to better understand the new Kaleidescape. We’re exploring a certification program to focus only on the dealers capable of integrating luxury home cinema experience. You’ll see us roll out these things as we progress through the year, culminating in our presence at CEDIA Expo.”
One way that Kaleidescape has recently expanded its product offerings is in the marine integration channel, providing high-quality content to yachts. Streaming issues are eliminated, as the purchased content is factory loaded on the Kaleidescape server, and it provides a way for marine customers to refresh or augment that content within the system over time. Says Stedman, “It addresses the problem of connectivity and bandwidth that yachts struggle with, and provides a way for them to be able to get cinema-quality content.”
With so many streaming services these days, Kaleidescape may find itself fighting for attention among the Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et. al. releases. But Stedman doesn’t really see them as competition. “We’re coexisting with them in all places,” he says. “There’s a place and a time for when you want to watch something being streamed, and maybe you want to watch it on a mobile device like a tablet. But there are times when customers want to enjoy a movie night — they want to have real cinema experience. And that’s where the Kaleidescape system outperforms the alternatives. It provides that extra level of depth and richness. They get a fantastic picture, they get way better sound, and they get all these other extras in the home theater that make it a more unique and cinematic experience.”
Part of that theater experience is delivering video quality at the highest fidelity customers can enjoy. Kaleidescape is currently delivering content in state-of-the-art 4K, but with 8K televisions beginning to slowly appear, it won’t be long before new standards have to be achieved. “Kaleidescape’s content superiority will continue to be relevant. When you have the highest fidelity audio and video combined with a mesmerizing user interface, the focus is all on the experience not a particular technology,” says Stedman. “We are confident that we’d make those 8K displays look gorgeous with our content, but we have no control over when 8K content might become available or whether it’s something customers even want at this time.”
For now, though, Kaleidescape is looking to help grow not just their business, but also the home cinema product category. “We see ourselves as being in a good position to help the whole custom installation market,” concludes Stedman, “and help not only the dealers, but also customers to discover the state-of-the-art for a great home cinema.”