Kaleidescape Adds Downloads

Today Kaleidescape launched a new online store where you can download movies directly to a Kaleidescape system that are bit-for-bit the same as Blu-ray and DVD.

It's a cool idea, since iTunes and Amazon downloads are compressed at best, and 720p at worst.

What this could mean, and more info, after the jump.

Kaleidescape's whole thing from the beginning has been instant access to your movie collection, in the best quality possible. It's that second part that's separated them from other media server/media streaming companies. Sure you can download movies and TV shows from iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, but these aren't the same quality as what you can get from Blu-ray (though VUDU comes closest with their HDX). 

It may not seem like a big difference, but if you have a larger TV or a projector, it's really noticeable. On the audio side, this is an even bigger improvement, giving you access to the same Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio tracks that are on the disc. Plus, you get all the extra features too.

For Kaleidescape customers, the store will know what titles you have, and will only recommend new titles. It will also give you the option, for a small fee, to upgrade your SD movies to their HD version. Knowing your library also gives them the option to suggest new titles you may like, and "buy all" options like every movie from a specific director or actor. These movies will then download over the next few hours. How fast will depend on your connection, and there's even an option to throttle back on the system's bandwidth, so if you're downloading a movie, you can still stream video, play games, or download something else without the Kaleidescape stealing the entire pipe.

There are other improvements over iTunes as well. You can download the movie to any other Kaleidescape system you own, like in a vacation house. If you accidently delete the file, you can re-download it as many times as you want.

So I like that Kaleidescape has opened this door. Discs are archaic. Blu-ray will be our last disc format, so why not just get rid of it altogether? A step back in quality is unacceptable, to me at least, in the name of convenience.

To start, Warner is the only company to have signed on. This means there are about 3,000 movies and more than 8,000 television episodes. No iTunes, for sure, but with any luck more studios will join up. After all, it seems like such a no-brainer. The studios get full price for their movie, but don't have to produce (and ship) a physical disc. Kaleidescape is a closed system, so there's no way to get the movie off the box to pirate it. 

True, you can't bring a disc over to your friend's house to watch it (or let them borrow it), but you do get access to Ultraviolet, so you can watch the movie on a portable device. Yes, this isn't a BD quality stream, but your device isn't BD quality, so I'm not sure this is a big deal.

I think another aspect of this is a clear path to 4K UltraHD. Despite my lamenting that for most people 4K is ridiculous overkill, I don't think anyone will argue that it's inevitable. So how do you get the content? Compressing it enough to fit on a Blu-ray would sort of defeat the point. Streaming seems possible, but that's a lot of bandwidth, and again, compression? I think downloads are the obvious solution. A high-end product like Kaleidescape certainly isn't for everyone, but like all big steps in technology, it's the high-end that does it first, sorts out the difficulties, and then the prices start to drop.

Kaleidescape's store is live now, with movie prices as close as possible to the price of the disc. Because it's still in beta, currently only DVD-quality downloads are available, with 1080p rolling out in early 2013. Hopefully it will be successful enough that other studios sign on, and the market for bit-for-bit BD-quality downloads expands.

Our own John Sciacca was in on the beta, and you can read his reflections on the new Kaleidescape Store.

Want to see it in action? Here's a video from Kaleidescape that'll get you started: