Tech

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.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Why UHD Is Way Better Than HDTV–Pt. 2

Ultra HD

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range) contribute to making Ultra HD TVs and projectors a huge leap over traditional HDTVs. Here are the other two things you need to know about UHD.

 

Color

A new term you might hear when considering Ultra HD is “wide color gamut,” which refers to the significantly larger amount of colors a UHD set can produce compared to an older TV. Imagine the colors a TV can produce as a triangle, with the primary colors red, green, and blue making up the three points. Those three color points determine the number and accuracy of all the colors a TV can reproduce. New TVs produce an expanded triangle of colors, pushing the boundaries of the triangle further out at all three corners to encompass more of the colors the human eye can see. That means you’ll notice brighter, more vibrant colors than ever beforedeep crimson reds, vibrant greens, and cool, tropical blues that will pull you into the image.

Ultra HD
Bit Depth

The most technical area of the bunch, bit depth refers to the number of shades of color a TV can produce. TVs in the past used 8-bit color depth, which meant they could produce roughly 256 shades for each of the three primary colors256 shades each of blue, red, and green. Multiply those together and you arrive at the nearly 16.8 million colors a last-generation TV could produce.

 

Modern Ultra HD sets up the ante to 10 bits, and while a couple of bits might not seem like a lot, since bit rate is logarithmic, it’s actually a massive improvement. How massive? Modern sets can produce 1,024 shades per color, making for the ultimate Crayon box of more than 1 billion colors! That means not only a tremendously more lifelike image, but it also eliminates any color banding as colors transition from one shade to another.

Ultra HD TV

Individually, any one of these four improvements would be a big step beyond HDTV, but when employed together, these upgrades mean Ultra-high-defintion TVs produce the best, most lifelike images imaginable, making UHD TV a must buy for any true videophile!

—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.

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Why UHD Is Way Better Than HDTV–Pt. 1

HDTV vs Ultra HD TV

If you’re in the market for a new TV or projector, you’ve likely been bombarded by a lot of new terms and technologies you haven’t heard before. Ultra HD (aka Ultra-high-definition or UHD) burst onto the scene a few years ago and brought with it some major changes and improvements to our display systems. And now that prices are reaching mass-market levels, it would be foolish to buy a new set that wasn’t Ultra HD.

 

Wondering what all the fuss is about? In today’s post, I’ll talk about the first two things you need to know about this exciting new video tech and will discuss the final two tomorrow.

 

Resolution

The height of home video prior to Ultra HD was called 1080p, with the “p” standing for “progressive.” Those sets produced 1,920 horizontal pixels and 1,080 vertical pixels for a total of just over 2 million pixels on screen at any moment. UHD doubles the number of pixels in both directions, producing a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160, delivering nearly 8.3 million pixels on screen, or four times the amount of 1080p. That is why Ultra HD is often referred to as “4K”.

 

What do all those extra pixels mean? Greater definition, razor-edge sharpness, and finer details. Video artifacts like “jaggies” and “moire” are a thing of the past. Every strand of hair, every blade of grass, every grain of sand shows up like never before. As an illustration, imagine if you had a pencil and drew two same-sized circles, one with 10 dots and one with 40 dots. The 40-dot circle would have more resolution and be better defined. That’s the difference between 1080p and UHD.

HDTV vs Ultra HD TV
HDR

HDR is another term you’re going to hear a lot. It stands for High Dynamic Range, and it’s actually more important for picture quality than all those extra pixels. If you’ve taken any pictures on a modern smartphone, you’ve probably noticed the HDR tag. It works by capturing images with different exposures and then combining those separate images into a single photo that maintains the detail from the darkest and brightest regions.

 

In the past, TVs would “crush” the image at one end of the spectrum or the other, sacrificing black levels in bright scenes or lowering overall light output in dark scenes. But new Ultra HD TVs can simultaneously produce deep, dark blacks and bright, brilliant whites, meaning they can deliver images more like what your eye is capable of seeing. This gives the image great contrast, and delivers punch, depth, and reality like never before.

 

In Pt. 2, I’ll walk you through the other two crucial things you need to know about Ultra HD.

—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.

How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD

Best of 2017--Strato Movie Player

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 bitsor dataa 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 streamingall 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.

—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.