You’d get little argument from the statement that Kaleidescape offers the richest on-screen user interface, with a terrific GUI letting system owners browse and navigate their collections in a variety of ways with near instantaneous playback of any movie or album. On top of supporting virtually every control system that you can imagine—not to mention working with RS-232 and having a ridiculously large library of discreet IR control codes—the company also has developed a truly terrific iPad app (available free of charge) that lets users browse and control their systems from the comfort of the mini screen.
You would think that with this embarrassment of control riches, there wouldn’t be much more to say. And for years I’ve been more than satisfied with the up/down/left/right/enter control over the on-screen GUI that Control4 (URC, Harmony, etc.) offer, so why should I want for anything else? Have I been missing out all this time?! Obviously, you can see why I was intrigued when I got an email touting Chowmain Software & Apps new Kaleidescape app. Could it be better?
Because I own both a Control4 system and a Kaleidescape media server, I felt duty bound to install this driver and play with it. And now after living with the app for a couple of weeks and thoroughly enjoying it, I can say that, yes, it CAN be better.
The app lets you browse your Kaleidescape movie collection on whichever device your customer prefers—on-screen, handheld remote, iPhone, iPad, Control4 touchscreen, or via the traditional Kaleidescape OSD. In Composer you now get three options: Kaleidescape OSD, Kaleidescape Movies, and Kaleidescape Music. You can make them visible (or not) in each room as you like. And one license works for every Kaleidescape player on an entire project.
Here are a variety of images of the different ways the Chowmain app looks on a variety of interfaces (top photo, on a Control4 SR260 remote; middle photo, on an iPad; bottom photo, on an iPhone):
You can also browse movies by Collection as you would do via the traditional GUI:
Selecting on a collection lets you browse by alphabetically by cover art:
Navigating your entire collection is a bit easier, as you can jump straight to a letter by using the numeric keys on the remote. For example pressing “7” four times will take you to your S titles and pressing 6 twice will take you to N titles. This works on the onscreen GUI as well. Both the iPhone and iPad interfaces offer an A-Z list on the right side of the screen for quick jumping to a title:
Once you select a movie you get additional options...
…including access to all of the disc’s bookmarked special features and scenes.
You can also view a brief synopsis of the movie right on the SR260’s display.
The great thing is that the Chowmain app takes absolutely nothing away, but only adds more ways to get to it, letting you find your favorite method of control. Of course the on-screen display has more real estate to deliver a richer experience, and here you can see how you can browse and select a specific TV episode before starting it:
You can also easily see the status of your Kaleidescape system, like checking to see how much storage space is left, the status of any disc imports or downloads, what version of Kaleidescape’s KOS your system is running, the last time the system checked in, etc.:
If you use your Kaleidescape system as a music server, Chowmain’s app also has a really nice music browsing feature as well. Here are some images of browsing music in a variety of ways from the iPad interface:
You can also use any of the control interfaces to browse artist information including the genres they fall under and their biography. And if you’ve never read Fiona Apple’s biography on an SR260, well, I dare say you haven’t lived.
Another feature I really love about the app is that it helps to bridge the “Sonos problem,” where customers will pick up one device to start an activity and then to grab another to finish it. You know, how customers will turn on Sonos with their phone and then need to grab another remote to turn the stereo on and put it to the Sonos input. With the Chowmain app, the system can automatically turn on a room and get it totally set for playback if the customer starts playback using the Kaleidescape app on their iPad. This is a huge bridge and makes for far more user friendliness.
The app also makes it simple to add programming to start playback of a favorite movie, album or track, or video script. Say a customer wanted to give kids an easy, one-button press to start their favorite movie, or they created a “movie night” script. Or, they just really loved a certain album they wanted instant access to. The option is there, and you have the flexibility to use it however you feel like using it.
If you’re a Control4 dealer, Chowmain offers you a free license for your showroom system, so you can play with the app and check it out for yourself. Details about showroom licenses can be found here. (Did I mention that it also comes with a really thorough 32-page installation guide that walks you through the installation and configuration process? I didn’t. Well, I probably should.) Your customers can also try the app for 48 hours before buying to see if they like it.
The Kaleidescape system is a premium product with an excellent interface, and the Chowmain driver takes it to the next level with Control4 systems, giving you all the integration and control options that your customer could possibly ever want. If you are a Control4 dealer looking to take your Kaleidescape integration to the next level, I’d highly suggest checking out. For your customers that prefer using the Control4 on screen GUI, or that like to browse using the Control4 interface on their phone or iPad or even on the SR260 remote control, the Chowmain app offers the rich level of control that Kaleidescape users expect.