Theo Kalomirakis: Kaleidescape & Me—Love at First Sight
I love movies. And, even more, I love collecting them. Over the years, I have been able to build a film library of over 14,000 titles that includes American blockbusters, European art-house favorites, Hollywood classics, silent movies, obscure cult curiosities—you name it.
As formats come and go, I’ve seen my collection mutate from Beta to VHS to LaserDisc to DVD to Blu-ray. I could have probably bought a small apartment with the money I’ve spent replacing titles from one format to another. After all, it’s not just the movie I’m interested in but also how it’s presented. How can you settle for an old, fuzzy transfer when a better one comes along from a source closer to the original negative and in higher resolution?
The side effect of this constant updating of formats is that I began to run out of room. Even though I’m blessed with an enviable amount of space to store my collection, and although I tend to give away older versions of a movie when I replace them with a new one, there is only so much shelving space available for a hungry collector like myself.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s called streaming.
I guess my date with streaming was inevitable. When Blu-ray Discs began to include digital copies, I said, “What the heck! It doesn’t cost me anything to develop a parallel collection that exists in the cloud, which I can access from my iPhone or iPad.” But I didn’t take my parallel collection too seriously because until recently the digital copies—at least as they were imported in my iTunes library—weren’t in high-definition. They looked good on my iPad but they fell apart when projected on a larger screen.
Then, last year, I stumbled upon Roku, that indispensable little device that streams movies on your TV in high-rez with 7.1 surround sound. With Roku as the portal that leads you to channels such as Amazon Prime, Vudu, Warner Archive, Hulu, and Netflix, I discovered an amazing thing: You can find movies being streamed in high-definition that never came out on Blu-ray. I lost track of how many times in the past I caught myself dreaming that such-and-such rare movie would show up on Blu-Ray. But I don’t need to daydream anymore—one after the other of my favorite movies is showing up in the various streaming channels in 1080p HD.
But what about the titles in my existing library that don’t make it to any of the streaming channels? Now that I’ve experienced the convenience of instant streaming, I’m becoming more and more reluctant to climb up the ladder to reach the upper shelves of my collection in search of the movie I want to watch, bring it down, take it out of its case, plop it in the player, and wait endlessly through the FBI warnings, the coming attractions, and the choices in the Start menus, before I get to the movie itself. All that hassle is enough to discourage even a die-hard fan of physical media such as me from watching a movie he really wants to watch.
But not anymore. After years of dragging my feet, I decided to take the plunge and familiarize myself with what all my friends and clients were raving about: Kaleidescape—a server for people who collect movies. As my friend John Sciacca kept telling me—but I didn’t pay much attention—Kaleidescape was invented for collectors like me.
What kept me from trying it was the fact that I enjoyed physically handling discs. But I had a more practical reason for not getting a Kaleidescape: How does one transfer 14,000 movies without spending a fortune and an insane amount of time? It’s relatively easy and not too expensive to transfer 100, 200, even 500 movies to a server. But 14,000? Companies that specialize in doing such transfers (with all the accompanying metadata) charge five bucks or more per title. That would mean $70K just to transfer my collection. Kaleidescape eliminates the need for such a middleman, but the cost of drives with enough capacity is a dealbreaker for the average consumer.
Enter the Cinema One Movie Player. Last year, Kaleidescape introduced a server that does what the company’s more expensive units do but with smaller storage capacity—which also means a much more reasonable price ($4,000). That’s the unit I got my hands on just two days ago, and I’ve been playing with it non-stop ever since.
The Cinema One Movie Player can store up to 100 Blu-ray Discs or 600 DVDs. Since my personal tastes veer toward older movies that don’t usually make it to Blu-ray, I decided to keep for demonstration purposes a good number of the 50 Blu-rays that come preloaded with the unit and fill the rest of the storage with the kind of rare titles on DVD that most people aren’t familiar with but that I love and I enjoy sharing with my friends.
What I found so exciting is the simplicity with which you can download your discs to the Movie Player and the ability to categorize movies in “collections” any way you want. In no time, I created collections of movies by my favorite directors or actors—John Ford, Frank Tashlin, Vincent Minnelli, Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis (yes, I love his movies), Greta Garbo, etc. Now, with a push of a button, I can bring on the screen the poster art of every John Ford movie in my database, and with another push I can go straight to the actual movie, without having to sit through previews of coming attractions, FBI warnings, and cumbersome title menus. Brilliant!
And being almost equally interested about the packaging of a DVD as I am with the movie itself, I found out how to improve the cover art of the titles in my database. Consumers who have bought a Kaleidescape server can log into a browser set up by Kaleidescape and edit the information about the movies in their database, import different cover art, add comments, etc. This is a great way to improve the art and other information about a movie, especially if the title is obscure and Kaleidescape doesn’t have detailed information about it.
Suddenly, the idea of having my entire collection transferred to Kaleidescape doesn’t seem that farfetched. What seemed impossible—even unnecessary—until now doesn’t sound out of reach anymore. Someday, my entire collection might be on Kaleidescape! It’s a dream, and I don’t know when or if it will ever happen—but, hey, don’t all the things we really want in life start with a dream?