Technology continues to rapidly change the world of audio/video and home theater. Over the past few years we have gone from analog tape to DVD and have seen the emergence of various technologies for video files. Also, since the MP3 revolution, we have seen the rise of hard disk audio servers that store a large number of audio files. As hard disk capacities have grown larger, and processing power cheaper, we are now starting to see the first video servers coming to market. These are designed to organize video files, and provide them instantly on demand to the user. Kaleidescape, a California based technology company, has entered this market in a major way with what is arguably the most ambitious hard disk based server in existence.
The Kaleidescape system is designed to organize a large DVD library. It is capable of making a bit-by-bit copy of a DVD, including the encryption systems, and storing it on the Server's hard drives using a redundant disk technology called RAID, which protects the DVD library in the event of a disk failure by essentially spreading each disk's stored information amongst all the drives. In the event of a disk failure, all the user needs to do is replace the failed drive with no loss of information and no down time. This system can easily organize libraries of hundreds or even thousands of DVDs. The base system is upgradeable to 12 300GB hard drives, but the one sent to me had five 200 GB hard drives that could store in excess of 150 DVDs. (Current shipments of the Base System Server use five 300 GB drives that store approximately 180 movies; a single Server can expand to hold approximately 500 movies.) The reason the Kaleidescape can actually "copy" the DVDs onto the hard drive is that it keeps the encryption entirely intact, and is licensed through the DVD Copy Control Association as well as Macrovision. Because the Kaleidescape server uses a closed, secure and proprietary operating system, the stored data can only be accessed by other Kaleidescape components. This way, the System protects the intellectual property rights of the DVD manufacturers.
The Kaleidescape System is further designed to network within a home, so multiple Movie Players can be placed around the house, hooked up to an Ethernet network, and access the Server conveniently tucked away somewhere in the house to provide the video feed to multiple spots. Since the Movie Player is about the size of a fairly thin DVD player, it is conveniently placed near any video monitor. The Kaleidescape Base System also includes a DVD reader. This is where you insert a DVD and it will automatically import it onto the Server.
None of this exciting technology comes cheaply. The Kaleidescape system is an enterprise grade server product, and uses a Faroudja de-interlacer chip to provide an excellent progressive scan output. The grand total for the system with one Movie Player, one DVD reader, and the Kaleidescape Server is a cool $27,000. Each additional Movie Player that is networked around the house is $4,000, and an additional DVD reader is $3000. Additional Servers can be added to seamlessly store as many DVDs as you wish to own. Call it the price of being on the cutting edge of technology and, in principle only (not cost), similar to buying a Maybach. To be fair, Kaleidescape does provide quite a bit of service for this price, including their own proprietary Movie Guide Service. When you import a DVD, the Server will go out across the Internet and connect to Kaleidscape, where it retrieves information about that movie. When you select the movie from the main menu, this information is presented as a synopsis, vitals of the movie, and my personal favorite, a copy of the cover art of the movie.
This information is actually researched and hand keyed by Kaleidescape employees, and if a movie is not in their data base, a customer can simply give them that movie's UPC code and they will go out, find the information on it, and catalog it. More estoric movies not found in their database can also be sent to Kaleidescape, where they will be cataloged in the database and will automatically appear on the customer's Server. Basically no matter what movie you import onto your Server, Kaleidescape will find the vitals on it and download the information to your Server. Quite the impressive service, and I am sure a significant part of that pricetag. Of course, software updates and tweaks are automatically also sent along the Internet to the server. It almost goes without saying that a broadband internet connection is very useful with this device.
One of the other very important features of this system is that while it mainly outputs 480i and 480p for the moment, it is quite capable of outputting 720p and 1080i for when HD-DVD becomes available, thereby future proofing it.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The system itself is very well built, and solidly put together. All the pieces are rack mountable, and have a white translucent plastic face that covers them. When in operation, the blue LEDs on each of the Server's disk drives, as well as the blue LEDs on the player and reader, are illuminated so all the products actually glow a very cool blue. If there is a problem with one of the Server's hard disks, the blue LEDs will change to an amber color behind the face. The different components connect together, using your existing Ethernet network. Anyone purchasing the Kaleidscape System from a dealer would have it custom installed at their house, but for the purposes of this review my units came from the company, so Kaleidescape was kind enough to send an engineer out to set it up.