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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

A Server by Any Other Name is Not a Kaleidescape

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Last week Kaleidescape introduced a new product, the Cinema One, that I and many others in the industry – Residential Systems, CE Pro, Home Theater, Digital Trends, Engadget, USA Today – felt was pretty big news. (You can read my post on the Cinema One here.) For a company known for making systems for the luxury market costing as much as automobiles, breaking the $4,000 barrier was a major move to capture a much broader segment of the market. That is good for them as a company, and good for Kaleidescape dealers because they finally have a way to overcome the one major hurdle that killed most sales.

But almost as soon as the announcement came out, the typical anti-Kaleidescape comments started flooding in, typically about how someone could build their own system for far less money that works as good as a Kaleidescape.

I’d like to take a few paragraphs to tell you exactly why these other solutions may be media servers but will never be the same as a Kaleidescape, even the new, $3995 Cinema One. And before you accuse me of being a fanboy, I’m going to take impartiality off the table and admit that, yes, I am a Kaleidescape fanboy. Having reviewed, sold and lived with the product in various incarnations for years, they have earned my fanboy status. It’s also one of the few products that continues to get as much use in my home now as the day it was first installed.

I’ve left the comment text complete, poor grammar and all, in italics below.

Homebrew Solutions

“I was talking with a buddy last night about [the Cinema One] and he just started to laugh hysterically. He went on to inform me that he had ‘magic software’ that cost him nothing that rips ‘all’ DVDs and Blurays. He said only a fool would pay such a price, and the more I think about it, he may be right.”

The typical “this can be done for way less money!” media server solution is generally built around some kind of media center PC running some brand of third-party software that is illegal. (Do your own research on the matter, but I doubt you will find any information that says breaking the DVD-CCA’s CSS copy protection present on all commercial DVD discs – one of the first steps in making a copy – is legal.) Now you can argue that the Fair Use act gives you the right to make a backup, and you feel that breaking the disc protection for that purpose is warranted, but technically, it’s illegal. But let’s look past that for a moment, shall we? At the end of the day, some kind of PC and third party software is running the show, and from a reliability standpoint, these don’t hold a candle to a Kaleidescape system. Restarts, reboots, lock-ups, fan noise and lights and random WTF’s?!? are often in play. Kaleiedescape, on the other hand, runs on a purpose-built operating system – KOS – that is the closest thing to bullet-proof you will find in the home market. Also, from an integration standpoint, Kaleidescape supports everything from a simple IR remote from Harmony to the most elaborate automation system from Crestron and all points in-between; no mouse required. Ever.


Breaking the disc’s encryption and importing the movie is only half the task; once the content has been imported you need a way to browse your collection to find what you’re looking for. While there are some automated ways of identifying a movie and adding the appropriate information in a cobbled media server, the reality is owners often need to manually search for this information enter it on their own. Kaleidescape employs a full-time Movie Guide team to meticulously update metadata making sure every disc imported has the correct high-resolution cover art, actor and director information, along with year, rating, running time, aspect ratio and more. If you ever run into a title that isn’t in their database, Kaleidescape will pay the cost for you to send them the disc, and then they will add it to their database and return it to you. Kaleidescape then takes this metadata and uses it to automatically sort your films in a variety of ways, even suggesting movies that are similar to the last title you stopped on, making it simple to always find the perfect movie in your collection.

Click here to continue reading why just having a movie server is not the same as having a Kaleidescape...

Categories: July 2013, Movies, Rants