By this point, I feel I am a qualified subject matter expert when it comes to video servers. I have reviewed virtually every model that has graced the market, including quite a few that no longer exist and even a couple that were literally killed by the manufacturer while in my possession for review. (Oh, Escient Vision. The high hopes we all had for you! We waited so long, but, alas! You were just not meant to be!)
It’s also no secret that I am an unabashed fan of the Kaleidescape system. Having reviewed all of the options out there, I can say with authority that Kaleidescape’s solution offers the most when it comes to features, performance, polish, support, and on-going product development and evolution. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t other great movie servers available – the boys at Fusion make a really nice system as well – it’s just that when you’re talking about the best, Kaleidescape sits atop the short list.
Little of my life is spent more than about 25 feet from a Kaleidescape. We have a system at home with players in the theater and bedroom, and a demo system at our showroom. At home, Kaleidescape tames my 320-plus disc DVD and Blu-ray collection, making sure that I now longer have to hunt through that horrible stack of discs under my pool table. And at work, Kaleidescape is our showroom’s primary demo tool; being used for everything from stereo, music-only demos for bookshelf and in-wall speakers, to sub $1000 surround systems to a near six-figure reference theater.
But, for all that I know about movie servers in general and Kaleidescape specifically, I have fallen into a mindset that I think may be all-too-common amongst integrators: we sell/pitch movie servers primarily to clients as a solution to managing their large movie collections.
Case in point, I was giving a pitch to a builder a few weeks ago. He was building a massive home – over 21,000 square feet on one floor – which was a textbook Kaleidescape job. The home needed video distribution, the budget was there, and there was a high-end dedicated media room. As I’m going through my demo for the builder, he is really into the Kaleidescape system. I’m showing him all the key features, pointing out the gee-whiz high points, demonstrating what a great lifestyle solution it is, and he’s nodding and saying, “Oh, yeah. We totally need that. Spec that in for sure.”
And then… I keep talking. And I find myself saying something to the effect that Kaleidescape is really great, but it’s really only the right solution if the homeowner is really a movie lover with a big collection. That if she is the kind of person that just rents the occasional Blockbuster or Redbox movie and she doesn’t have a large collection of films, then the Kaleidescape really wouldn’t be right for them.
The builder responded with a lifeless, “Oh. Well, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to ask then.”
We’d gone from “we totally need that,” to “I don’t know” in a matter of seconds. It was like one of those giant firefighting planes had slowly cruised overhead and dropped thousands of gallons of buzz kill on my sale and momentum. And what’s worse, I had been the one to do it! #Idiot
But Kaleidescape – and movie servers – are only meant for film collectors right? Only for those people with giant stacks of existing discs that they’ve been wondering how to manage for all of these years.
When I described this encounter to Kaleidescape’s principal product evangelist, Eric Larsen, a few days later, he immediately pointed out that Kaleidescape wasn’t just for people with large movie collections. Rather, movie servers address many issues that even people with nary a DVD or Blu-ray disc in their current library would appreciate. We had a great discussion that was a real eye opener for me, and I asked him to share the story with the world.
So, here is Eric describing why a Kaleidescape system makes sense even to those customers who aren’t sitting on a treasure trove of shiny discs. Take it away, Eric! (I’ve added my comments in parenthesis and italics below.)
If you know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow…you might be a movie nut.
If you walk along the beach screaming “Pippet!” to freak out swimmers…you might be a movie nut.
If you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that you're not in Kansas anymore… you might be a movie nut.
And if you are a movie nut, then you likely already know the Kaleidescape System is right for you. Having your entire film library at your fingertips makes it easy to find your favorite movie, no matter how big your collection is (or how obscure the title!). Skipping previews, menus and advertisements means more time watching movies and less time waiting for them to start. And revolutionary features such as Play Song (where Kaleidescape’s Movie Guide team “bookmarks” all of the songs from concert videos and musicals for instant access to your favorites) and Kaleidescape Scenes (again, the most iconic scenes from films – “Running from the Boulder,” “Quint Recalls the USS Indianapolis,” “The Red Pill or the Blue Pill,” or "Taking Down the AT-AT” – are automatically bookmarked) enable you to enjoy your movies in completely new ways.
But the Kaleidescape System was not designed solely to help cinephiles manage massive collections of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. The Kaleidescape System is perfect for anyone who simply loves movies.
So let’s take a look at two groups of people who love movies but are not the aforementioned movie (collector) nuts and see how Kaleidescape’s combination of convenience, quality and control help improve their movie experience.
First up: Families with small children.
Not surprisingly, households with small children benefit greatly from the Kaleidescape Experience. Whether they have young children of their own, or simply play host to nieces, nephews and grandchildren, the Kaleidescape System includes a number of cool features designed to protect and empower younger viewers.
Cool Feature #1: Parental Controls
Each player in a Kaleidescape System can be set to a different Parental Control level, based on movie ratings. This way, families can easily set the player in the living room to show all movies in their library, while the player for the upstairs playroom only shows movies that are rated G… or PG… or PG-13. It’s up to the parent and incredibly easy to set up. (Also, you can easily “override” a rating if you feel that the MPAA didn’t get it right for your family. Say, if you feel that Temple of Doom is more PG-13 or that you don’t want your already beach-averse young visitors watching Jaws…)
Cool Feature #2: The Child Remote and the Child User Interface
Designed to fit small hands, the Kaleidescape Child Remote is bright, bump-proof and easy to use. (It’s also very durable! Ours has taken multiple drops and it survives and returns each time ready for more!) More importantly, when a child presses any button on the Child Remote, the Kaleidescape System instantly switches to the Child User Interface, a simplified interface displaying only movies the parent has placed in the Child Collection. It also eliminates all text from the display, not requiring the child to read or navigate any complex menus. It’s as easy as point, click, movie! (This is something that we have used significantly in our home with my daughter, Lauryn. In fact, here is a video of her when she was 4-years old explaining how she uses “her collection.”)
Cool Feature #3: Common Sense Media
This new addition to the Kaleidescape Experience enables parents to make informed decisions when choosing a film for family movie night. Built into the Kaleidescape App for iPad, Common Sense Media goes beyond simple MPAA ratings and breaks down a movie's content — from violence, sex and language, to positive role models and messages. This detailed information helps Kaleidescape System owners confidently find the perfect movie every time.
The next group consists of people that we refer to as the entertainers.
This is an interesting and diverse group. Some of these folks have kids, and some don’t. Some are big-time movie enthusiasts while others are casual fans at best. In fact, they often have only one thing in common: they have achieved a certain level of success and enjoy sharing the fruits of their labor with family and friends. Their homes are often designed with entertaining in mind. They pride themselves on making sure that their guests are well taken care of. And this leads to some very interesting behavior.
These folks may never have picked up a racket, but may still have beautiful tennis courts behind their homes. Maybe they don’t drink, but still maintain a fully stocked wine cellar (or well-appointed bar with the oldest and finest of single malts…). And while they may not subscribe to Variety, or watch five movies a week, they want to be sure that their home theater is well stocked with great movies.
Once again, the Kaleidescape System is a perfect fit.
Cool Feature #1: Finding and Selecting Movies
Not only does the Kaleidescape System make it easy for guests to enjoy movies at full Blu-ray quality, it also makes it easy to find the movie in the first place. Visitors no longer need to poke around cabinets or crawl under the pool table trying to find the Blu-ray collection. Rather, the entire collection (or, at least the part of your collection you’re willing to share and openly display in your non-password-protected collection…) is up on the screen and ready to watch. They can browse the Covers view to see what catches their eye or use the List view to search by title, director, actor, genre, running time, rating and more. (Merely pressing enter on a category automatically sorts that column; a great way to isolate or find titles by whichever browsing method works best for each user.) This way, guests spend less time looking FOR movies and more time looking AT them. (And Kaleidescape’s awesome cover-shuffle feature is awesome at suggestion similar content. Stop on a Bond movie, and the system will automatically aggregate all of your spy content together. Stop on a kid’s movie, and all the other animated titles will be displayed. The larger the collection, the greater this feature is to help you find things you might have forget you had!)
Cool Feature #2: Build an Instant Terrific Collection
These people are busy. And while they like movies, they simply do not have time to build a complete movie library film-by-film. Once again Kaleidescape provides solutions: Kaleidescape Collections and the Kaleidescape Store. With Kaleidescape Collections, system owners are able to purchase preselected sets of DVD and Blu-ray titles such as “Academy Award Winners – Best Picture,” “Great Concerts,” or “The New York Times Best DVDs”. These curated collections of discs are a great way to easily (and instantly) create a world-class movie library. And for those who prefer their movie collecting with a modern twist, the Kaleidescape Store enables owners to go online to browse, buy and download movies directly to their Kaleidescape Systems, making it easy for the entertainers to maintain a complete collection of films. The movie store knows what movies the customer already owns and adds unique features such as the Buy All button to allow shoppers to purchase every movie in a given collection — that they do not already own — in a single purchase. (Click here to read my full review of the Kaleidescape Store.)
And these movies are available at full Blu-ray quality to ensure an uncompromised audio and video experience. Only Kaleidescape makes it this easy to be this good.
So remember, if someone walks into your showroom and asks for help managing his collection of five thousand movies, then yes — the Kaleidescape System is the perfect solution. But don’t limit your thinking only to this group of film buffs; the Kaleidescape System is for anyone who wants to enjoy the best possible movie experience at home. Whether for themselves, their grandkids, or their guests.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.