Category ArchiveBlu-ray

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Hardware &Online Video Steven Kippel on 11 Dec 2012

Kaleidescape launches download store

Kaleidescape launches download store

Kaleidescape has launched the beta version of their online retail store for owners of a Kaleidescape System. Backed by a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the store is providing bit-for-bit downloads of DVD and Blu-ray Disc content directly to the Kaleidescape server.

Content is continually being added to the storefront, and there will soon be nearly 3,000 feature films and over 8,000 television episodes from Warner Bros. alone. Looking through the titles, you will find impressive collections including the entire Warner catalog of Clint Eastwood directed movies, a laundry list of Stanley Kubrick films, and a whole library of Rotten Tomatoes “Certified Fresh” titles.

How the process was described to me by a Kaleidescape representative is that Kaleidescape buys physical copies of the movies for each download and stores them in their own warehouse. This way the copyright license is intact without having to create a new digital version with its own license structure and licensing rights to be negotiated, and the studio gets their “disc” sale. This is also beneficial to the end user who doesn’t have to store the physical discs at home, and the download comes complete with the special features every DVD or BD comes with as well – unlike other digital versions. Obviously this is a hokey legal work around, so hopefully these high-quality, feature-full downloads will be available without the disc ownership issue in the future.

Because the data is bit-for-bit identical to the physical disc, the video resolution is not compromised, and the audio remains high-definition surround sound. Additionally, titles with UltraViolet digital copies provide additional digital access from tablets, smartphones, and computers.

To make things explicit: This is not a streaming service, but a complete digital download. The files are stored on the local hard drive, and played from the local server to the local player. Once the video is downloaded to the local Kaleidescape System, the full HD video will play immediately with no buffer.

The Kaleidescape System features a proprietary RAID hard drive array which prevents data loss, but if there is a catastrophe and the server data is lost, the downloaded titles may be downloaded from Kaleidescape again for no cost. Any titles loaded into the system at home would have to be loaded again from the physical disc.

The store will allow the end user to purchase individual titles, or they can select a complete collection to purchase. The store is smart enough to know what movies you already own so you won’t purchase multiple copies. For example: you can purchase a collection called “Academy Award Nominees — Best Picture” to purchase and download the entire listed collection, but if you already own the Lord of the Rings collection, those titles won’t be purchased.

One interesting collection is the Leonard Maltin Recommends collection, an exclusive to Kaleidescape partnership of movies selected by famed film critic Leonard Maltin.

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One feature that isn’t active yet but I’m told will be is the ability to upgrade a DVD copy to a Blu-ray Disc copy. I’m not sure how this would work, and I won’t make any assumptions. The new high-def copy would replace the standard def version, but I’m not sure if the standard def version is completely wiped out or made available through the menu still. Some DVDs have different special features, so some collectors may want to have both. UPDATE: Kaleidescape claims DVDs can be upgraded to Blu-ray Disc for $8 each, to include all bonus features of the BD. This is only available to titles with UltraViolet HD rights.

The Kaleidescape System is expensive, but it’s also the best and only solution of its kind. If you have a few bucks and are serious about movies, find out where your local dealer is and ask for an in-home demonstration.

Blu-ray &Hardware &Online Video Steven Kippel on 19 Jun 2012

The affordable Blu-ray Disc player

The affordable Blu-ray Disc player

Some say the largest factor in DVD adoption in American homes was the PlayStation 2, the video gaming phenomenon that has still yet to be surpassed. But another important factor was the sub-$100 DVD player, which put DVD players in the homes of non-gamers. Blu-ray Disc players have recently dropped below $100. Are they worth your time?

I’m going to cover two BD players here. There are more than two in this price range, but these two come from major brands and aren’t the store-brand or generic brand players which may not have enough features to be worth it, or in the least the ability to support a warranty. They can be found online or in retail stores such as Target, Costco, and Walmart at similar price points.

The Samsung BD-E5300 is the entry-level Samsung BD player available on Amazon for $79.99 and is eligible for Prime (free 2-day shipping). I’ve recommended Samsung BD players to everyone who has sought my advice for the fact that they are high-quality and provide the most internet features. However, the BD-E5300 is an austere device. Its features include BD, DVD and CD playback, of course, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio decoding (no DTS HD Master Audio support). Its connections are sparse: only an HDMI video output, a coaxial digital audio output, a USB input and an Ethernet connection. This is fine for most people, but it’s the internet features which are lacking, and out of character for Samsung. Where Samsung BD players have had an App platform providing the widest array of content providers and internet apps, the BD-E5300 only has a selection of five providers: Netflix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Vudu and Pandora. Apart from that, Samsung’s AllShare can link to DLNA-enabled devices to stream local video and audio files. Wi-Fi is not available on this model.

The Sony BDP-S185 is the entry-level Sony BD player available on Amazon for $84.97 and is eligible for Prime. It has the same physical characteristics as the Samsung BD player above: a single HDMI output, coaxial digital audio, USB and Ethernet. The BDP-S185 also includes analog audio and composite video outputs, though that’s useless if you want high-def content. It also plays BD, DVD, CD with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio decoding. The BDP-S185 does have a leg-up on the Samsung when it comes to internet content, and for $5 more seems to be the better deal. Sony gives the consumer a growing list of content sources, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, CinemaNow, Crackle, Sony Entertainment Network, Pandoa, Music unlimited, Slacker, YouTube, Flixster, NHL Vault, and a lot more. They’ve also provided basic social media apps through a service called Socialize, which includes Twitter and Facebook. The BDP-S185 is also DLNA-enabled for streaming files on the local network. This device is not Wi-Fi enabled.

Which Blu-ray Disc player should I buy?

Between these two players, I would have to recommend the Sony BDP-S185 unless you are using a complete Samsung setup using their proprietary HDMI control scheme. Otherwise, the $5 premium Sony is charging simply provides more features.

Full disclosure: after comparing the two players, I chose the Sony player for myself for the simple fact that I’ve already purchased content on Amazon Instant Video, and Samsung would not allow me to access it.

The player powers up quickly, plays BD movies and DVDs quickly, responds quickly to commands, and is a small form factor. It’s not quite as fast as the more expensive players, but for most people it works just fine. My only complaints are with the internet video. Wi-Fi wasn’t important to me, but that is necessary for some people. However, even with an Ethernet connection, sometimes the video app has to be relaunched to make a connection. The Netflix app isn’t very elegant, but that’s probably because I became accustomed to the very clever PlayStation 3 interface. The BDP-S185 interface has tiny artwork which makes it difficult to see, and the search function is cumbersome.

Sony has a network video box for just under $50, but for $30 more this box provides Blu-ray Disc playback as well.

I think these price points are absolutely affordable for everyone, even someone like me with three kids and a very tight budget.

Blu-ray &DVD &Video Rental Steven Kippel on 11 Jan 2012

Bad news: Netflix burdened with longer DVD window

Bad news: Netflix burdened with longer DVD window

As if Netflix hasn’t had enough bad news recently, they’re now telling us Warner Bros. has extended the rental window from 28-days to 56-days. This means, instead of waiting a month to rent a new DVD or Blu-ray Disc, you now have to wait almost two months.

Warner Bros., along with many other Hollywood studios, had instituted a 28-day sales-only window for newly released DVDs and Blu-ray Discs in order to encourage disc-sales. Clearly the 28-day window was an homage to Danny Boyle, because sales of movies have not been bolstered by such a stupid plan.

It’s not clear why Netflix is entitled to such a long window as brick-and-mortar renters like Blockbuster (if they’re still into that sort of thing), and Redbox now get the titles a month earlier. Not that this was any different than before, because Netflix usually had long-waiting times for newly released movies anyway due to their demand. From reading the press release, it seems like they might be doing this to give UltraViolet and the Warner-owned Flixster an advantage over Netflix.

Read the press release after the break.
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Blu-ray &Entertainment &Online Video Steven Kippel on 21 Dec 2011

Are movies on disc dead?

Are movies on disc dead?

During the Great Format Wars of 2007, some Outsiders kept their distance from the fray by declaring all physical media a lost cause. In spite of their valiant efforts, Blu-ray Disc sales have grown considerably, and the format is picking up the slack where DVD has left.

But the rag-tag bunch of insurgents would not give up, and now Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, HBO Go and other mercenaries have kept their fight up and streaming video has become ubiquitous. Netflix instant-only subscribers far outnumber disc-only subscribers.

Given all that, nothing comes close to the director’s original intention of a cinematic experience like Blu-ray Disc does. Academy Award-winning director Ridley Scott even wrote an article for the Huffington Post arguing this point:

Blu-ray disc, of which I’ve been a supporter since its inception, is the closest we’ve come to replicating the best theatrical viewing experience I’ve ever seen. It allows us to present in a person’s living room films in their original form with proper colors, aspect ratio, sound quality, and, perhaps most importantly, startling clarity.

The problem with an argument like this is that it is directed at the geeks like me who care about quality over convenience. The people who have massive screens at home who can really make use of the higher definition video, and powerful speaker setups capable of delivering the audiophile-quality Blu-ray Disc provides.

The mass market consumer buys eggs at Walmart because it’s more convenient. They order clothes on Amazon without ever trying it on to avoid going to the store. And for years have complained about DVDs presented in their original theatrical aspect ratio, which lead to the horrific pan-and-scan copies that lopped off the sides of the picture.

Even more damning, the younger generation are watching more video on portable 3″ screens than on larger televisions or computer screens. At that size, high-definition really doesn’t matter.

Ridley Scott argues that, “Technology will need to make many more huge leaps before one can ever view films with the level of picture and sound quality many film lovers demand without having to slide a disc into a player, especially with the technical requirements of today’s 3D movies.” The important part of that sentence is “film lovers.” There are film lovers, and then there are casual film consumers. There is the guy who watched The Tree of Life four times in his local indie theater, and then the girl who stayed up all night to watch the latest Twilight regurgitation.

Personally, I spend more time streaming video from Netflix on my computer than I do in front of my TV with a Blu-ray Disc. This is borne out of practically though, as I can’t really blast my surround sound system while my kids are asleep. What I prefer is the high-definition quality and emotional impact of Blu-ray Disc, but what the reality I’ve come to is compromise happens where the rubber meets the road.

And in the end, I feel like going out to the Imax last weekend to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was the best compromise of all. Big screen. Big sound. Kids at home asleep.

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Online Video Steven Kippel on 19 Oct 2011

UltraViolet has arrived

UltraViolet has arrived

The most promising content ownership solution from the owners of properties has finally arrived. On October 11, Warner Home Video released Horrible Bosses on Blu-ray Disc and DVD with UltraViolet enabled. Warner is committed to including UltraViolet on all upcoming releases, including Green Lantern, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, and Shameless: The Complete First Season.

Sony has also announced the upcoming releases of The Smurfs and Friends With Benefits will be UltraViolet enabled.

Every major studio except Disney is on board with the technology, and there is massive support on the hardware manufacturer side as well. The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) group of companies is hoping to challenge the streaming or renting concept we’ve all embraced for one of true content ownership.

Best Buy and Walmart are both interested in selling UltraViolet hardware.

How it works

UltraViolet logos will be located on compatible Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, and inside there will be a redemption code. The user will set up an account at and enter the codes. The content will then be available for use on up to ten devices (PCs, HDTVs, BD players, mobile devices, etc). Up to six people may be registered on each account with access to the content.

Eventually, UltraViolet content will be available for purchase as digital-only, but this may be burned to disc by the end user.

The caveat

Until UltraViolet-enabled hardware becomes available, owners of Horrible Bosses (and other future Warner Bros. UltraViolet content) will only be able to watch the digital copy at Hardware support should follow in early 2012.

Blu-ray &DVD &Online Video &Video Rental Wes Novack on 25 Sep 2011

My Netflix account is now on hold

On September 19th, I put my Netflix account in an “on hold” status. This is the day that the new Netflix price increases were set to kick in for my account.

With my account in an on hold status, I won’t receive any Netflix service, but more importantly, they won’t receive any of my money, as all billing is halted.

So why did I do it and why am I writing about it? This move is just my little way of protesting their price increases, their poor “justifications” and their anti-customer behaviors. After all, the strongest consumer voice is the wallet.

Interestingly enough, the same day that I put my account on hold, Netflix announced that they were spinning off their DVD & Blu-ray Disc rentals into an entirely separate service dubbed Qwikster.

When I heard that Qwikster would require completely separate billing and queue management, I actually wasn’t that shocked. Netflix has been making dumb decisions and pissing off customers for quite some time now. By now I just expect them to do things that aren’t customer friendly.

I haven’t yet decided on whether I will be fully cancelling my Netflix account or removing the hold to reactivate service. At this point I’m still thinking about it and waiting to see what else the company will (or won’t) do.

In related news, I didn’t receive an email from Netflix regarding the Qwikster spin-off and I didn’t receive the “apology” email from CEO Reed Hastings, maybe because my account is on hold? If so, WTF?

According to rumors online, Netflix could lose up to 1/3 of their subscribers due to the recent fiascos. Is your service with Netflix or Qwikster still active or are you cutting them off?

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Online Video Steven Kippel on 21 Apr 2011

DirecTV launches premium video on demand service

DirecTV launches premium video on demand service

DIRECTVLaunching today, DirecTV’s premium video on demand service will provide the Adam Sandler movie Just Go With It for home rental less than 70 days after the film’s premier, and before any DVD or Blu-ray Disc release.

The price for such early access will be steep, at $29.99 for a 48-hour time frame. This is high, but may be competitive compared with taking a whole family to the cinemaplex at $10.50 per head.

This is the first time any major studio has allowed a movie to be released for home viewing this soon after playing in theaters. Just Go With It will be followed by Hall Pass, The Adjustment Bureau, and Cedar Rapids. Release dates for those films have not been announced, but may be as soon as 60 days after their theater release debut.

In 2006, under the direction of Mark Cuban, Magnolia Pictures released the Steven Soderbergh film Bubble simultaneously to theaters, cable/satellite and DVD as a pilot to test how such a release would work. A few months later, The Road to Guantanamo was similarly released by Roadside Attractions to theaters, cable and with internet download.

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