Kaleidescape Hard Drive Movie Server Entering New Phase

Injunction reduces product functionality, but Kaleidescape answers with downloads.

If you’ve had any interest in a Kaleidescape DVD movie server for your home theater or media room, you’ve got between now and November 30 to buy one before it loses a key part of its appeal.

For years Kaleidescape has been waging a legal war with the dark side, otherwise known as the DVD Copy Control Association. Those are the folks who won’t let you do with your movies what you already do with your music.

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Anyway, Kaleidescape last month settled a decade-long lawsuit (lots more info on that here) with the CCA over the Content Scramble System (CSS). The settlement terms require that Kaleidescape systems purchased after the injunction date will no longer be able to import (copy) CSS-protected DVDs (pretty much all the ones you’d want to own) to its hard drive movie server. You’ll still be able to play your DVDs on a Kaleidescape player, and the discs will start directly from the beginning of the movie, rather than force you to sit through boring trailers, but that’s it.

If you want the full-featured Kaleidescape experience, then you better get your system now. After November 30 it will be a download-only device for storing DVDs equivalent movies. For importing Blu-ray discs, you’ll still need a Kaleidescape disc vault attached (which has always been the case).

I should probably make it clear here—this injunction doesn’t change how Kaleidescape plays, imports or stores Blu-ray discs. This news refers to DVDs only, which you probably don’t buy anymore anyway.

The spin of all this is that Kaleidescape expects to have “most DVD movies available for download from the Kaleidescape Store in the United States.” Currently the Kaleidescape store, which lets you download either Blu-ray or DVD quality versions of movies, only has a couple of Hollywood studios represented, but perhaps this news about “most DVD movies” is a subtle announcement that more studios will be signing on soon.

The Kaleidescape video download store.

Kaleidescape clearly sees online delivery as key to the future of media, which is why the press announcement highlights movie downloads while downplaying the end of DVD copying. Kaleidescape has been moving in that direction for more than a year, ever since it first launched its online video store. Most recently Kaleidescape added more compatibility with UltraViolet, the Hollywood-approved system that lets users develop an online collection of virtual copies of movies held in the cloud.

Long before news of the injunction, Kaleidescape had been encouraging users to move from disc copying to downloads by offering a variety of ways to convert existing discs to UltraViolet copies or to upgrade DVDs to Blu-ray downloads. The image below illustrates that:

Kaleidescape has won awards for its user-friendly interface and easy access to movies, scenes and features. That part of the product won’t change. The system has long been a favorite among owners of high-end home theaters who also value the pristine quality of a Blu-ray (or Blu-ray equivalent download) over the convenience of streaming services like Netflix.

Still, it’s a shame to see such an integral feature of the system go away. The entry-level product, Kaleidescape Cinema One (read our review here), will still cost $3,995, but it won’t do everything that it currently does. When I asked Kaleidescape about that, the company replied: “We have no plans to adjust prices after the injunction goes into effect,” but added that “for most DVDs that are imported today, Kaleidescape will provide Disc-to-Digital conversion to a downloaded movie of equivalent or better quality for a discounted price. This will be especially convenient for a customer with multiple Kaleidescape systems because the customer will be able to download those movies from the store to their other Kaleidescape systems, such as in a vacation home. In addition, a larger number of DVDs loaded this way will receive UltraViolet rights that enable playback on portable devices.”

Kaleidescape also noted that a new feature will make imported DVDs playable from a disc vault, similar, but not identical to the way it plays Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray discs can be copied onto the hard drive, but only played if the system knows that the physical disc is in the connected disc vault. The new DVD vault feature Kaleidescape hinted about sounds like it plays the disc from the vault and networks it to the Kaleidescape players in the house.

In any case, if you’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Kaleidescape system, now’s the time to do it.

More home theater help here:
7 Most Important Features in a Media Manager for Music and Movies
10 Home Theater Receivers Under $1,000
Great Basement Home Theaters


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