Kaleidescape Store Tag

John Sciacca’s Best of ’17

Best of 2017--Strato Movie Player

Best Trend: 4K HDR/Immersive Audio Content

4K Ultra HD content really took off in 2017. Ultra HD TVs have reached mass-market pricing, and we even have an incredibly affordable true 4K projector from Sony. Plus, the content side has finally caught up—I’m guessing we’ve now crested the 300-disc mark, and there are more than 220 titles available for download at the Kaleidescape store. The benefits of 4K HDR go far beyond the extra pixels, with a wider color gamut that produces over a billion colors, 10-bit video that eliminates banding and delivers an incredibly clean, pristine image, and high dynamic range producing brilliant whites and clean, deep blacks. Further, most of these titles also include next-generation immersive audio in the form of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, giving you an experience at home that can rival or exceed that of any commercial cinema. As someone who loves movies but finds it difficult to make it to the theater (thanks to a 20-month-old daughter), being able to enjoy them in fantastic quality on my home system is a real “Best of”!

Best of 2017--SEAL Team

Best New TV Show: SEAL Team

My cousin Chris was a “Teams guy,” having served with SEAL Team VII for several years. I’ve always been impressed and fascinated with his stories from abroad (one of which inspired this feature story for Sound & Vision that is one of my favorites I’ve written), and I definitely enjoy TV shows and films that cover the SEALs. (The best film—by which I mean the one that gets it the most right—is Lone Survivor. Highly recommended, and with a dynamic DTS:X soundtrack on the 4K disc!) Usually, I’m pulled out of the story by inaccuracies, poor weapons handling, bad dialogue, or whatever, but CBS’s new drama SEAL Team gets so many things right that it’s easy to overlook the stuff they get wrong. There’s also enough “storyline” in between the action that it’s engaged my wife as well. Definitely worth a viewing if you’re looking for a new show!

Best of 2017--SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer

Best Addition to My Home System: SVS SB16-ULTRA Subwoofer

I regularly make changes, additions, and improvements to my personal home theater system. This year, I added a second subwoofer in the form of the new SVS SB16-Ultra. This is a 16-inch, 5,000-watt bass monster. My system now delivers bass that is seismic, with impact and pressure waves you literally feel hammering you in the chest. At times, it almost feels like the couch is moving, and the bass is far more dynamic even at lower volumes. For the money ($2,000 list), I’m not sure there’s a better, more theatrical sub you can add to your system.

Best of 2017--The Last Jedi

Best Personal Experience: Star Wars Episode VIII

As I write this, it has been about two hours since I dropped my best friend Dan off at the airport to return home. I’ve known Dan for about 35 years now, and he is far more family than friend. Since the theatrical re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy back in 1997, I have seen every Star Wars film with him on opening day. I flew out to California to see Episodes I, II, and III with him, and he has flown back to Myrtle Beach to see The Force Awakens and (just this past Thursday) The Last Jedi with me. Beyond the quality of the films—and Jedi was really enjoyable, though not quite as good as TFA, in our opinion—the company, camaraderie, and conversations pre and post movie are every bit as important as the movie itself. Also, this is the first Star Wars film my oldest daughter, Lauryn, has been able to join us for on opening day. To be able to see and share this premiere with an old friend and my daughter was a wonderful, truly “Best of” experience!

John Sciacca

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.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

There’s no question that DC has had serious issues competing in the superhero film genre against Disney-owned Marvel. While Marvel scores hit after hit with every attempt—Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Deadpool—DC films have struggled with both critics and fans, flopping across the board, with none of its recent offerings (following the glorious Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy) scoring “fresh” on the Rotten Tomatoes meter.

 

DC looked to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a way of kickstarting a new franchise of hero films, introducing the characters that would make up the recent Justice League film. But while B v S was generally panned, we can thank it for at least one thing: it gave us Wonder Woman.

 

I’ll be honest, while I grew up reading DC comics, and was especially a fan of the Justice League series, my knowledge of Wonder Woman was pretty much limited to occasionally watching the Linda Carter TV series. I knew she was an Amazonian that wore bullet-blocking bracelets, had a magic truth-telling lasso, and used an invisible jet (not featured in the film, btw), but that’s basically it.

 

Thus, I went into Wonder Woman with fairly modest expectations. And boy, were they blown away!

 

Beyond being a good superhero movie, WW is just a good movie, period. First, the casting is terrific throughout, with every role handled perfectly. This, of course, starts at the top with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Gadot is not only very easy on the eyes, but her background serving in the Israeli army gave her a leg up in handling the fight scenes with incredible believability.

 

Beyond that, she nails the wide-eyed, girl-exploring-a-new-world innocence required to portray her character venturing for the first time beyond the Amazon island of Themyscira. In fact, Gadot is so perfect as Wonder Woman it’s impossible to imagine anyone else tackling the role. (She is also one of the best parts of Justice League, proving her character is more than a one-hit wonder!) Further, the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is believable and far deeper than pretty-girl-swept-off-her-feet-by-handsome-stranger.

Wonder Woman

Instead of trying to cram multiple superheroes into a single film, which weighed down and confused B v S, director Patty Jenkins wisely focused solely on Wonder Woman (with a brief cameo from another hero that ties in perfectly with both B v S and JL), fleshing out her backstory and developing her character as she grows and discovers her powers.

 

Since the transfer was taken from a 2K Digital Intermediate, it doesn’t feature the incredible micro-detail and pristine quality of some modern transfers; nevertheless, Wonder Woman in 4K HDR still looks mostly terrific. The image suffers from occasional noise in some of the night scenes, but it still has plenty to get your 4K TV’s 8 million pixels excited about. You can see the metal texture in Diana’s bracelets and crown, the detail in her armor, and the nicks in her sword.

 

While the color palette is mostly muted throughout in a slightly-faded World War I-era style, early scenes on Themyscira look gorgeous, with the wide color gamut revealing beautiful blue-green waters. Also, as there are a lot of night scenes, the high dynamic range does a great job of keeping shadows black while maintaining the piercing brightness of fires, searchlights, and Diana’s glowing lasso.

 

The Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack will give your speakers a workout as well, with the numerous fight scenes bringing mayhem from every corner of the room as well as overhead. You hear Diana’s lasso whip around the room, vehicles being hurled, and bullets ricocheting and whizzing past. And if your subwoofer(s) are up to the task, Diana clapping her bracelets together produces a sonic concussion that will punch you in the chest!

 

Wonder Woman scored a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 2 hour 21 minute runtime. It’s rated PG-13 for some violence and innuendo. Download it from the Kaleidescape Store today and enjoy in your theater tonight!

—John Sciacca

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.

Kaleidescape’s CEO On The New Apple TV 4K

Apple seriously expanded awareness of 4K yesterday when it announced a long-overdue refresh of its Apple TV, the Apple TV 4K. The new Apple 4K will come in 32- and 64-GB sizes for $179 and $199, and the A10X powered devices will feature Dolby Vision and HDR10, Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI 2.0a output, and “up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound” (same as the previous generation model.)

 

On the content side, Apple announced that iTunes users will get automatic free upgrades of HD titles in their existing iTunes library to 4K HDR when the new version becomes available, and that 4K HDR titles will sell for the same price as HD titles.

 

The market leader in 4K HDR content delivery is Kaleidescape, which has deals with nearly all the major studios and offers more than 260 full-quality UHD titles for download. I had a chance to chat with Kaleidescape’s CEO and co-founder, Cheena Srinivasan, following the Apple TV announcement to discuss what he thought about Apple’s entry into this space.

How do you feel about Apple embracing 4K?

 

The overall take for me is, how could this be bad news? The Apple TV 4K is a differentiated productit’s like a Swiss Army knife. It’s a multi-purpose device. It’s for the mass market. And it’s going to increase the general awareness for 4K HDR. We need a big player like Apple embracing 4K and HDRwe haven’t had it until now. We need to let them do the democratizing and let us focus on delivering the best flavor of it.

 

By Apple embracing 4K, it ensures a good chunk of library titles could be remastered and re-released in 4K, and assures that almost every new-release movie will come out in superior qualitywhich will mean these titles will also be available in this best quality to Kaleidescape customers for purchase.

 

What are the differences between 4K in the mass market and in the high end?

 

When you look at a product that is geared for mass-market consumption, you’re playing on brand recognition4K must mean it’s better. HDR must stand for better color, vivid colors, and eye popping images. That says nothing about picture quality, that says nothing about audio quality, or any guarantee of quality of service that this will be pristine, predictable playback every time. The discerning customer is the one who wants the best every time.

 

We have taken the polar opposite view of a mass-market service in what we do. We make very deliberate choices in how we transcode the video, add lossless audio, and various other unique things we do, such as event cues for control-system automation, favorite scenes, etc., before we make the movie available for sale to ensure the playback is pristine every single time, and that there are no glitches, audio drops, artifacts, etc.

 

What do you say to somebody who points out that Apple is charging the same price for HD and 4K content?

 

If you take the Sony/Kaleidescape partnership and what we bring to consumers in terms of the promise of quality 4K video, there is no question that we deliver with confidence the highest fidelity video, audio, immersive cinematic experience. Period. But that comes at a price.

 

That Apple’s 4K HDR is the same as its HD price gives me two signals. One says, the marginal differences between the two formats are dictated by the TV you own and you shouldn’t be punished for owning a better TV by charging you a higher amount. And the second says if there isn’t substantial differentiation between HD and 4K HDR, it’s hard to justify the price difference. I don’t think it makes any sense for us to just mimic someone else’s pricing strategy, because we stand by the value differentiation we deliver.

—John Sciacca

 

Click here to read my complete interview with Cheena

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.

Sony & Kaleidescape Push 4K Hard

Sony Kaleidescape partnership

(from L to R) Sony Electronics President & COO Mike Fasulo,
Sony Electronics VP of AV Specialty/Custom
Integration Frank Sterns,
Kaleidescape founder/CEO Cheena Srinivasan

The annual CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) show was held last week in San Diego. Besides the beautiful, sunny weather and abundance of craft beer, the major players in the A/V industry were on hand demonstrating their latest products. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll share some of the things that caught my eye with the Roundtable reader in mind.

 

One of the big announcements at the show was the new strategic partnership between Sony and Kaleidescape. Sony has been a leader in 4K, and is one of the few companies with a complete 4K ecosystem capable of delivering a true “lens to screen” experience. As Roundtable readers know, Kaleidescape is focused on delivering the ultimate home theater experience, with a movie-download store offering hundreds of movies in 4K Ultra HD resolution and thousands in full Blu-ray quality.

 

The two companies realized they could form a symbiotic partnership, with Sony’s 4K projectors delivering a terrific cinematic picture and Kaleidescape Strato players (shown below) feeding those systems with the best theatrical 4K HDR content.

Sony Kaleidescape partnership

The companies are offering a joint promotion where any Strato customer who buys a qualifying Sony 4K HDR projector between now and 3/31/18 can download a movie bundle featuring ten 4K HDR movies from the Kaleidescape store valued up to $350. Conversely, existing Sony 4K HDR projector owners who buy a Strato movie player can get the movie bundle to jumpstart their collections.

 

Kaleidescape founder and CEO Cheena Srinivasan commented: “We’re pleased to partner on this promotion with Sony, the company that’s synonymous with 4K innovation and shares our vision for delivering the finest picture and sound quality.”

 

Qualifying projectors include the VPL-VW285ES, VW365ES, VW385ES, VW675ES, VW885ES, VZ1000ES, and VW5000ES (shown above), with models ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Coupled with a Strato, this means a terrific “starter” 4K HDR theater package can be had for under $10,000. Both companies expect this offer to reach thousands of customers and expand the reach of 4K-projection adoption.

 

The movie bundle, which includes Spider-man: Homecoming, has been designed to deliver the ultimate 4K HDR experience to home theater enthusiasts and features a mix of classic and new releases from the major studious, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers.

—John Sciacca

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.

“Warrior” and “Southpaw”

Kaleidescape Warrior

If you watched or visited a sports or news Web site recently, you undoubtedly heard about the Floyd Mayweather Jr./Conor McGregor super fight this past weekend in Las Vegas. While the fight seemed to go mostly accordingly to everyone’s plan, it went a solid ten rounds, and seems to have lived up to the hype and given the fans a good show.

 

Inspired by this massive spectacle, I’ve got a couple of recommendations this week that are sure to entertain: Warrior and Southpaw.

 

Released in 2011, Warrior features a terrific cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte, and follows estranged brothers Brendan (Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Hardy) as they train for a massive, winner-take-all MMA tournament. The fights in the octagon are hard, fast, and real, yet the action is all PG-13, so they aren’t too bloody and brutal. The acting and pacing keep you involved and invested over the film’s 2 hours and 20 minute run time, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel track puts you right in the ring with crowd noise and solid connection of blows, as the movie builds to the inevitable brother-on-brother climax.

 

Southpaw (2015) follows practically every cliché formula in the book yet manages to be incredibly entertaining, dramatic, and enjoyable nonetheless. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, an avid boxer himself, the movie is filled with heart and has a terrific script with believable dialogue that keeps it from seeming like another retread. The supporting cast of Forest Whitaker, who throws himself into the role of trainer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who ably handles the role of sleazy agent/promoter, and Rachel McAdams as the concerned wife, helps to create a fully rounded story. But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role of Billy Hope that truly shines. Gyllenhaal got his body ripped and shredded for this role, put in a ton of training to move and fight like a fighter, and terrifically conveys Hope’s troubled I’ll-do-anything-to-get-back quest for redemption. And while “only” 1080p, the film has some terrific video detail. Check out the pool scene where Jordan Mains (Jackson) is talking to Mo’ (McAdams), and look at the fine pattern detail and texture in Mains’ jacket and hat. Stunning!

 

Both films are available in Blu-ray-quality download from the Kaleidescape Movie Store, and will be sure to entertain both boxing/fighting fans and non- alike!

—John Sciacca

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.

The Guns of Navarone

Kaleidescape Guns of Navarone

I logged in at the Kaleidescape Store last night to look for a movie I might not already have in my collection. I wasn’t looking for a new title but for a catalog title that had been upgraded to 4K. Two movies attracted my attention: The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone.

 

I had seen Kwai on regular HD recently, so I settled for Navarone, which had a special emotional appeal for me. Along with a few other American productions of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (like The Boy on a Dolphin, The Island of Love, It Happened in Athens, and Forty Carats), it had been shot entirely in Greece.

 

Regardless of my biases for liking this movie, The Guns of Navarone is still a very engrossing war epic. It tells the story of a team of British commandos sent to Greece during the German occupation to destroy a huge German canon that commanded a key sea channel. The movie is a solid adventure that focuses on action but not at the expense of characters. It’s as rousing today as it was when I first saw it as a kid at the Orpheum Theater in Athens.

 

I remember the movie always being grainy and dark on video. The Blu-ray release was a substantial improvement, especially in sharpness. But you can’t improve a movie much unless you go back to the original negative, and it seems that Navarone’s negative has been lost either out of neglect or overprinting.

 

The Kaleidescape 4K edition further improves the picture’s sharpness and the contrast ratio, but the grain from duping is still there. Nothing can be done about itI’m afraid this is as good as The Guns of Navarone will ever look.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Kaleidescape Guns of Navarone

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Kaleidescape Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Since the dawn of cinema, the established film frame rate has been 24 frames per second (fps). However, Thomas Edison said the visual cortex needed at least 46 fps to avoid eye strain. To achieve this, and eliminate any eye strain or strobing, many modern 35 mm film projectors use two- and even three-bladed shutters—flashing each frame on the screen two or three times—to achieve 48 and 72 images per second to satisfy Mr. Edison’s recommendation.

 

Yet, despite all the technological advances over the past century, all those movies you’re watching in your fancy home theater—whether via DVD, Blu-ray, and even Ultra HD Blu-ray player—are being shown at that same 24 fps.

 

Except one.

 

My latest pick for Movie of the Week is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, not because it’s a great film—in fact, it’s kind of a mess of a story—but because it looks so frickin’ amazing that it’s the brain and eye candy your visual cortex has been craving!

 

Billy Lynn is so impressive because director Ang Lee used an extraordinary shooting style, filming at 4K resolution in stereoscopic 3-D at 120 fps—five times the traditional rate. This is the highest frame rate ever used on a film, eclipsing the 48 fps Peter Jackson employed for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This approach resulted in more than 540 terabytes of dailies with a final delivery file that was 84 TB.

 

But since only six theaters in the world—including just two in the US—could actually show the film in its full glory, you probably never saw it. And since 4K/120 exceeds the Ultra HD and HDMI 2.0 spec, Billy Lynn has been released to the home market in 4K at 60 fps, the highest resolution the format can support. This high frame rate requires the full 18 Gbps bandwidth, and will lay bare any shortcomings in your system’s signal chain. But for those lucky enough to experience it in its full 4K/60 glory, Billy Lynn looks absolutely stunning and unlike any movie you’ve seen before.

 

There’s hyper clarity and focus in every shot. Tight shots on actors’ faces reveal every thought, detail, and expression down to the thinnest individual strand of hair. Fabric in actors’ uniforms reveals texture and micro stitching detail, letting you see every nuance of the patches and medals, and even analyze the diamond pattern on rifle grips. Wide shots capture every actor, building, and set piece in razor-sharp focus. One of my favorite shots happens at 6 minutes 34 seconds, where you can read details on the gravestones many rows back in the cemetery, and when the camera pans over to the service, the image remains solid and focused. 

 

From an audio standpoint, Billy Lynn includes an immersive Dolby Atmos mix that helps establish the ambience in different scenes. While the first half of the film is a bit restrained, the second half starting with the actual halftime show kicks into high gear, with the big battle scene in Chapter 11 being reference quality all the way.

 

Kaleidescape Strato owners need to be sure to download the HDR version of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, since that’s the 60 fps version. While you might not love the movie, it’s sure to become your go-to video demo material when you want to impress your guests and demonstrate what the fuss about 4K HDR is all about!

—John Sciacca

 

—> Check out John’s post on “How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD”

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.

The Lego Batman Movie

Kaleidescape Lego Batman Movie

One of the greatest things about a home theater is its ability to bring family members and friends of all ages together for an activity everyone can enjoy. While the state of computer animation has improved by leaps and bounds, studios have realized that films need to go beyond pretty graphics and kiddy jokes. For a modern animated title to create a generation-spanning mega-hit, studios have started focusing on story as well, with themes and jokes crafted to appeal to a broad range of viewers.

 

One of the more entertaining non-Pixar/Disney offerings in recent years was 2014’s The Lego Movie, where Warner Bros. assembled a terrific cast and delivered a visually stunning story that appealed to even non-plastic-brick fans, garnering a whopping 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the film’s unexpected stars was Batman, played by Will Arnett with perfect dark, brooding angst, 110% self-confidence, and a sense of self-aware humor missing from the recent live-action films.

 

My pick for movie of the week is the 2017 followup, The Lego Batman Movie. If the title didn’t give it away, this film focuses entirely on the Dark Knight’s life in Gotham and his eternal struggle against a horde of villains. But unlike the recent spate of “How dark can we make it?” superhero movies, this is a Batman film the entire family can enjoy, including a Joker voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and Ralph Fiennes tackling the stately-yet-parentally-challenged Alfred.

 

The 4K HDR image is absolutely stunning, revealing amazing detail in every frame and glistening with an array of colors that pushes the boundaries of the Rec. 2020 standard. Equally impressive is the reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which takes full advantage of the ceiling speakers to immerse you in a full 360° soundfield.

 

While fans of the Batman franchise will especially find plenty to lovewith some great tongue-in-cheek references to previous entries in the seriesthe Batman writers have crafted a humorous story that works on multiple levels and appeals to non-Bat-fans as well. Subtle jokes like a SWAT team ordered to use stun weapons shouting, “Yay! Non-lethal!” as well as a glimpse into Batman struggling with his home theater system can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

 

Available for immediate download from the Kaleidescape Store, The Lego Batman Movie is a film you can use to show off your theater to any audience.

John Sciacca

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.