Category ArchiveBlu-ray

Blu-ray &Entertainment &Hardware Steven Kippel on 09 Sep 2014

Coming soon: 4K Blu-ray Discs

Coming soon: 4K Blu-ray Discs

BluRayThe Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) have announced an updated Blu-ray Disc standard that will include 4K Ultra-HD (UHD) content. The update will allow for UHD content to be used on 50GB, 66GB and 100GB discs. The content will support up to 60 frames per second, will feature High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression technology and both high-dynamic range and wider color gamut. The first players should be available as early as spring 2015, with 4K Blu-ray Discs available as quickly Christmas 2015.

With the prices of UHDTVs falling to near parity with Full HD (1080p) sets, and video components supporting the new HDMI 2.0 spec and HEVC codec, the only next step is providing the sources. Currently, 4k video is supplied through limited means. For example: certain UHDTVs from Samsung can stream 4k video from Netflix. A few high-end services provide first-run movies in 4k (at steep prices), and Sony has a proprietary 4k movie store with limited options from Sony Pictures.

Victor Matsuda, global promotions chair for the BDA and VP of Sony Corp.’s Blu-ray group, argues physical discs are still the best way to consume media. “I think it’s very much in line with what we’ve experienced in the past: Packaged media offers a very controlled, stable, known environment, that’s fundamentally an advantage, compared to streaming services. The more information you’re trying to stream, it becomes more of a challenge for Internet-based services.

“One of the advantages Blu-ray and packaged-media formats have is having its own, enclosed, stable environment. We don’t have to worry about … how big the pipeline is from the service provider, whether your monthly data plan is going to affected by the 4K products rolling out.”

Blu-ray Disc sales have surged recently to account for over 30% of the retail disc market. This market, as a whole, has been shrinking, but internet service providers have also been clamping down on bandwidth utilization, making physical discs attractive to some more than others.

Blu-ray &DVD &Hardware Steven Kippel on 06 Jun 2014

Kaleidescape, DVD-CCA come to terms

Kaleidescape, DVD-CCA come to terms

Just after Kaleidescape brought their DVD server to market, the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) sued and this lawsuit has been over their and their customer’s heads ever since. No more.

The Kaleidescape System copies, bit-for-bit, the entire DVD data to a hard drive for playback. Kaleidescape argued, first successfully in 2007, that this preserved the spirit of the DVD CCA licensing agreement. Being the only server manufacturer to actually possess a DVD CCA license for the Content Scramble System (CSS), Kaleidescape was saved the fate of other competing servers who were sued to oblivion who had not.

The DVD CCA argued, successfully on appeal in 2012, that the CSS encryption licensing required the physical disc to be present in the playback device. Kaleidescape was given a permanent injunction, but this ruling was stayed pending appeal.

On June 2, 2014, Kaleidescape and the DVD CCA finalized terms of a settlement which requires Kaleidescape to have the physical disc present in the player upon playback effective on servers sold after November 30, 2014. Kaleidescape Systems will then no longer store data on the hard drives and will have to be played from the tray or vault. The same tags will be used so DVDs will start immediately without warnings or trailers, and chapter and scene tags will still be available.

Why would Kaleidescape agree to such terms after building their entire business model on the idea of no more discs? Because times are changing, and DVDs aren’t as popular as they once were. Blu-ray Disc is here now, and Kaleidescape does have rights to store the data on hard drives as long as the disc is present in the vault or tray upon playback. More than that, the Kaleidescape Store allows for bit-for-bit downloads of DVD and Blu-ray movies for playback without a disc present – including UltraViolet license. The future is arriving faster than you know, because the Kaleidescape Cinema One is intended mainly as a download device.

This settlement is also opening doors to more studios to allow for far more content to be sold through the Kaleidescape Store. This future cut off date may even be a foreboding of new hardware at better price points to push a download service with better features than any other to a larger market.

For more information, read this interview with Cheena Srinivasan, CEO of Kaleidescape.

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Hardware &Online Video Steven Kippel on 23 Jul 2013

Kaleidescape introduces Cinema One

Kaleidescape introduces Cinema One

The leader in home video library storage, Kaleidescape has just announced their very first mass-market all-in-one movie server. The Cinema One stores up to 600 DVD-quality or 100-Blu-ray quality movies with zero compression to provide the full DVD or BD experience more quickly and easily. Along with DVD and BD storage, the Cinema One is fully integrated with the Kaleidescape Store for full DVD or BD quality downloads.

Priced at just under $4,000, the Cinema One offers the Kaleidescape Experience of much more costly server systems in a simple-to-install, easy-to-use package. It is so easy to use Kaleidescape is offering the new Cinema line server direct to the consumer on their website.

The existing Kaleidescape System is becoming the Premiere line and will be sold only through electronic system contractors. The Cinema line will not integrate with the Premiere line.

Two Cinema One servers can be used in the same network to double the storage and provide a second zone of playback. This is limited to two Cinema One servers.

The Kaleidescape Store will allow full downloads of Blu-ray Disc movies, including all bonus content and menus, but physical Blu-ray Discs you may own will have to be in the player while viewing stored content. The integrated BD player can start movies instantly without the FBI warning, previews and ads, just like stored content. The Cinema One can be linked with a Kaleidescape DV700 Disc Vault to allow storage of your BD movies so you don’t have to put it in the player every time you want to watch it. A bundle of a Cinema One server and a DV700 Disc Vault is available for $7,990.

The Cinema One uses the same award-winning control interface and commands as the Premiere line, including the iPad app and the Child Remote.

Blu-ray &DVD &Online Video Steven Kippel on 03 Jun 2013

Vudu announces In Home Disc to Digital

Vudu announces In Home Disc to Digital

Vudu has released the beta for In Home Disc to Digital, allowing conversion of your existing DVD movie collection to UltraViolet digital in the comfort of your own home. Previously the movies had to be taken to Walmart for verification.

To get started, log into your Vudu account and click “Disc to Digital” in the menu. (This may not be available to everyone at this time as it is in beta.) You will be directed to download the VUDU To Go app. Insert your DVD or Blu-ray Disc (if you have a BD-ROM drive) into your computer and verify ownership. Voila! your digital copy appears in your UltraViolet digital lock box.

The prices for conversion are pretty reasonable:

  • $2 per DVD to convert to Standard Definition (‘SD’)
  • $2 per Blu-ray disc to convert to High Definition with Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound (‘HDX’)
  • $5 per DVD to convert and upgrade to HDX

There is an initial offer for $2 off your first conversion.

Once you secure digital rights in UltraViolet this title is available on multiple streaming services, not just VUDU, as UltraViolet is an industry standard. Streaming is available on iPad, computer (MAC/PC), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Blu-ray Disc players with BD-Live support, and certain network enabled HDTVs.

The VUDU To Go app also allows you to download your digital copies for use offline.

The studios supporting the UltraViolet digital rights format include: Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Lionsgate Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Blu-ray &Entertainment &Hardware &Online Video Steven Kippel on 30 Mar 2013

Real home theater: Movie buff

Real home theater: Movie buff

This is the second part in the multi-part series What home theater is right for me?

The movie buff

Also known as a cinephile, the movie buff loves watching a wide variety of movies and strives to bring the cinema experience home. They might watch four or five movies every week. The movie buff will prefer a home theater setup targeted at movies with little consideration for video games and broadcast television. A home theater for a movie buff must feature surround sound audio and the largest screen size to fit in the given room.

In addition to the audio/video components a home theater for a movie buff might also include acoustic room treatments, lighting control and even cinema seating.

Tips for the movie buff

The first aspect a movie buff should consider is where the theater should be located in the home. Most people just assume the living room or family room should be where a home theater is set up, but a true cinephile is less concerned about casual viewing and more with the best quality home theater experience. We suggest using a smaller room dedicated to the home theater. But why shouldn’t the big living room be used for home theater? Most main living spaces are large and cavernous with lots of reflective surfaces; a smaller room provides less sound reflections, doesn’t require large speakers, and doesn’t require as large of a screen either. Not only does the quality of the sound improve, but less money has to be put into the equipment – or an equal amount of money can be spent on higher quality equipment. The trade off is you will likely have fewer seats to share the theater experience with friends and family. Continue Reading »

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Online Video Steven Kippel on 28 Jan 2013

No more doubt that streaming is the future

No more doubt that streaming is the future

While the movie studios are trying every idea imaginable to keep their disc business profitable, digital streaming has clearly become the future of content consumption. And nothing can prove this point more clearly than the three headlines which arrived in my inbox from Home Media Magazine; right on top of each other they read, “Netflix Posts $8 Million Profit, Stock Skyrockets,” “Blockbuster Closing 300 Stores in U.S.,” and “Verizon CFO: Redbox Instant Profit Not Likely Until 2014.”

Streaming is profitable, even unlimited subscription services, while physical disc sales and rentals are falling far behind. Even the convenience of Redbox isn’t keeping pace with streaming services.

Near my home there is an empty building bearing the once-ubiquitous name of Blockbuster. Right next door is a Walgreen’s pharmacy with a Redbox kiosk offering two renting terminals. I thought that was a telling example of how Blockbuster has failed. The convenience of picking up a movie almost anywhere just killed off Blockbuster.

Yet recently I’ve learned the convenience of renting movies from Amazon Instant Video even surpasses Redbox considering the rentals are nearly the same price, there are no penalties for returning the movie late, and you don’t even have to leave the house. Pairing Netflix with Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video means most movies are available quickly, conveniently and cheaply.

And it’s not just Amazon; iTunes, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Dish Network, DirecTV, Vudu, AT&T, Verizon, and other services all provide instant rental services at varying prices which can supplement the subscription services of Netflix and Hulu Plus.

I’m not totally over physical media. I love Blu-ray Disc quality, and I prefer to own physical copies of certain movies. I just don’t think every movie is worthy of Blu-ray Disc ownership, and when I’m rushing to pick up my kids from child care right after work, it’s so much easier to just rent the movie once I get home instead of stopping anywhere to pick up a movie, which may already be rented out.

Digital streaming is the future, and the faster the content providers can find out how to make it profitable the better.

Blu-ray Steven Kippel on 10 Jan 2013

Sony scams the public

Sony scams the public

SonyAt CES this week Sony announced a new series of Blu-ray Disc movies “Mastered in 4K.” This sounds awesome! 4K is the new cool technology, so of course we want 4K content!

Aside from the fact that 4K is now called Ultra High Definition so the label will be confusing going forward (“Is there a format war between 4K and Ultra?” some might ask), the fact is these BD movies are still 1080p – or Full HD if you want that term. Additionally, many – if not most – of the existing BD titles were mastered in 4K (e.g. Blade Runner), or even 8K (e.g. Lawrence of Arabia). This is a practice long-held in the industry. Many DVDs were mastered in 2K and then compressed to 480p, which caused a problem for Blu-ray Disc initially because many studios just used that 2K master for their 1080p BD release. But those masters weren’t quite up to snuff, so the BD masters moved to 4K or higher.

Furthermore, some movies filmed in digital were originally finished in 2K, including last year’s Total Recall. Ironically Total Recall is one of the first films Sony announced for this Mastered in 4K promotion, along with The Amazing Spider-Man, The Karate Kid, Battle: Los Angeles and The Other Guys.

That isn’t stopping Sony from putting out marketing text like this:

Get the greatest possible 1080p High Definition picture quality. Using 4K masters with expanded color, selected Blu-ray Discs from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have been optimized for upscaling on Sony 4K TV for 3,840 x 2,160 pixels for a near 4K experience.

But don’t be duped! You’re not getting 4K.

This isn’t to say these movies won’t potentially look better than the standard versions. Sony did something like this with DVD calling them “Superbit.” What it meant was they stripped out the graphic menus, trailers, and special features and used the whole disc capacity for the movie’s video file. This allows for lower compression rates, which can mean some compression artifacts may be abated.

As it is, this is Sony trying to spread their 4K feature around a bit more. They have it on a video projector, a TV, an A/V receiver and on a Blu-ray Disc player. Why not add it to their Blu-ray Disc movies too?

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