How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD
You wouldn’t wait two years for delivery of your new Ferrari 488GTB only to immediately fill the tank with the cheapest E80 ethanol blend you could find and then expect to blast off in a neck-snapping sub-three-second-to-sixty launch down the road. No. If you expect to squeeze the maximum performance from a high-performance machine like a Ferrari, you understand the need to give it the right fuel.
But that’s the technology equivalent of what people do to their home theater systems every day when they stream massively compressed content from Internet sites.
I believe it was Forrest Gump who said, “Bits is as bits does,” and the more bits—or data—a source has, the better the picture and sound will tend to be. But since shuttling massive amounts of data around the Internet is a tricky proposition, video delivery services like Netflix and Amazon use some serious compression to shrink video file sizes and make them more manageable. This not only saves them on storage space and server issues, it also helps to avoid the dreaded “Buffering . . .” screens people loathe.
The result, however, is highly compromised video that might look viewable on a phone or tablet but will show a variety of ills when displayed on a large screen. And while the resolution might technically be 1080p or even 4K, bandwidth compression robs the image of detail and depth, and often the modern lossless high-resolution soundtrack is replaced with late-‘90s Dolby Digital.
Earlier this week, Theo waxed about how gorgeous the 4K restoration of Lawrence of Arabia was, and how when viewed through a Barco projector with a Kaleidescape Strato providing the image, it looked even better than what he remembered seeing theatrically years ago.
Part of why the image looked so good is that Kaleidescape painstakingly creates a video file for its Movie Store that retains every bit of information found on the original disc with no additional compression or data reduction. Every pixel, every nuance of color, and every fleck of detail. Kaleidescape is also the only movie download service that delivers the same high-resolution audio track found on the disc, meaning you can enjoy that immersive new Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio soundtrack in your theater that you paid so much for.
The result is a file that’s often massive in size.
How massive? As a comparison, Lawrence of Arabia clocks in at 7.65 Gigabytes if downloaded in 1080p from Apple’s iTunes. The same film is 12.24 Gigs when downloaded using Vudu’s HDX. But the 1080p download from Kaleidescape is a whopping 68.6 Gigabytes, or almost ten times larger than the iTunes file. And that pales when compared to the drive hogging 111.3 Gigs needed for the Ultra HD transfer of Lawrence.
How does Kaleidescape do this when others can’t or won’t? One way is they don’t offer any streaming—all movies must be downloaded in their entirety before viewing. The upshot is that there’s never any buffering, and since the content resides on a hard drive on your local system, it’s always ready for immediate playback with no dependency on network speeds and always presented in maximum, pristine quality.
Bottom line: Garbage in, garbage out. Don’t expect to take a state-of-the-art audio/video system and feed it a highly compressed stream from the Internet and expect your system to shine.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at
@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.