With the physical video disc business in decline, last week’s CEDIA Expo 2019 in Denver offered a look at the advancements of several alternative systems for bringing digital movies and television programs to the home with convenience, ease and high-quality performance.

Instead of relying on Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players, these systems and services are centered on hard-drive equipped entertainment servers capable of storage and playing hundreds or even thousands of some of the latest home video releases, and in one case, even day-and-date box office releases.

With its focus on custom-installed electronics, CEDIA provided the perfect audience for these companies, whose offerings are targeted at higher-end customers looking for the lastest and greatest in home video.

The following is a glance at what three home entertainment server companies currently have to offer serious movie lovers with the best gear:

Red Carpet Home Cinema

Red Carpet Home Cinema, is a new startup founded by former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen and film distributor Dan Fellman. The company made its first formal appearance at CEDIA Expo 2019 to recruit custom installers to help push its pricey day-and-date video download movie rental service to well-heeled clients.

The service is offering major home theater buffs the chance to rent and view Hollywood movie releases at home the same day as their box office releases. For the unusual pleasure of doing so, Red Carpet “subscribers” will need to shell out $15,000 for a media server, to which digital versions of movies are downloaded for playback on connected home big screens.

Subscribers will have a credit card limit of at least $50,000, and will need to pass a rigid vetting process and sign legal agreements with copy right holders not to engage in piracy actives and other stipulations.

On top of that, subscribers will need to put up between $500 and $3,000 per title to watch first-run movies own home. Viewers will have the opportunity to watch their rented movies twice over in a 36-hour period, after which the title is deleted from the server.

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Also, don’t expect to watch these movies in 4K resolution or HDR. Because they are being released day-and-date from the studios, they will not be in Ultra HD Blu-ray or even 4K streaming form, meaing they will not have been edited, graded and prepared for typical home market release. Movies will be offered in Full HD 1080p without HDR, wide color gamut or other enhancement, just as they come from the studio.

Participating studios include Warner Bros., Paramount, Lionsgate, and 20th Century Fox, which have agreed to distribute their movies to the company.

However, Studios including Universal, Sony Pictures, and Disney (other than its Fox acquistion) have not yet to signed on with the company.

Obviously, Red Carpet Home Video isn’t positioning this service for the mainstream. Only well-to-do hardcore movie enthusiasts who enjoy having bragging rights to seeing the latest blockbusters at home are expected to be interested. But these customers fall into demographic serviced by custom home electronics installers and integrators. Naturally, Red Carpet wants to tap the channel to push its product and service to home theater customers with high-performance systems that would benefit with such “luxury” fare.

Rosen has predicted that his service could garner up to $300 million in annual revenue with fewer than 4,000 subscribers.

Red Carpet expects to have a revolving library of about 40 rental movie releases per year. The service will not provide access to older or legacy titles — day-and-date releases only.


Bill Meenan, Zappiti regional sales manager

At the show, the France-based Zappiti showcased its new flagship Pro 4K HDR media server which is billed as one of the first servers of its kind to earn Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) certification. The system is said to produce one of the purest levels of signal output available in the cateogry.

The Windows-based unit, which retails for $3,500 (hard drives are added on), connects with one of the company’s Zappiti media players connected through a giga-network to serve large catalog s of video content from internal storage. The system is said to seamlessly decode and present all of the popular audio and video codecs.

The server and connected player system leverages an intuitive user interface, high-performance picture and sound quality and support for advanced audio and video formats including: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 4K HDR, parental control, and IP control through a wide range of control systems. The system also includes the company’s proprietary MagicPixel v2.5 technology, which is said to enable each frame of video to be deeply analyzed, entirely cleaned and rebuilt for “picture-perfect rendering of the original cinematic performance.”

The server includes advanced components to minimize noise and simplify operation including: a toroidal transformer, a double 3.5-inch SATA slot, a “Zero Signal” terminal, a new remote control and a reinforced frame, the company said.

The enhancements produce high-level upscaling of lower-resolution content or users have the option to use direct output connection to the display. Another feature in the unit is the Zero Signal RCA connector that will allow connection to the input of an A/V device to obtain a reference mass signal.

The Zappiti Pro 4K HDR media server also includes dual 2.0 main type HDMI output with support for 4K/60p signals and HDR10. Other connections include: coaxial, optical SPDIF output, HDMI input, and a 6.3mm headphone terminal. The server is powered by a quad-core Realtek Power RTD1295 with 1 MB of cache memory, associated with 16 GB of storage memory and 2 GB of RAM.

To access and play content from the server, the entry level player, called The Mini, is a simple client that retails for about $300. Additional players, include the One with a single bay for on-board storage and the One SE. The latter includes an HDMI audio-only output for older systems. These are joined by other more advanced player units.

How the content gets onto the server is up to the users. Content typically comes from purchased video discs including Blu-rays and Ultra HD Blu-rays transferred to one of the server’s on-board hard disc drives using bit-for-bit duplication software that must be purchased, registered and installed by the end user, independent of Zappiti.

“It’s not something we do [referring to the sale and distribution of duplication software],” said Bill Meenan, Zappiti regional sales manager. “All we do is sell a Windows-based server with hard drives and an optical disc reader in it that can do 4K Ultra HD.”

for a more turnkey solution, Meenan said Zappiti is trying to work with studios to gain their blessing for transferring purchased content to the server.

“We are in the process of trying to close the gap, and create good relationships with the studios,” Meenan said.


Kaleidescape, which started out selling a movie server system similar in concept to Zappiti before it replaced the bit-for-bit video disc cloning system with a digital download service, used CEDIA to demonstrate how the Kaleidescape system and content integrates with the latest home theater control systems and high-performance displays and surround sound systems.

The total system integration message was underscored by the latest lines of Strato movie players, Terra Movie server and the expanded library of content available from its online digital movie store, said Geoff Stedman, Kaleidescape marketing VP.

In fact, Kaleidescape equipment and content now goes beyond just playing back high quality movies, TV programs and sound, they can also control the room environment when played through systems with compatible control systems. So, for example, Kaleidescape movies are encoded with metadata flags that are read by connected compatible control systems to do things like automatically adjust the lights and lower the drapes when a movie begins.

“When you press the button the play the movie, it will send a signal to play the movie and you can have programmed into your home automation system to do what ever you want to have done as soon as the movie is triggered to begin,” Stedman explained. “Then when you hit the `intermission’ button on the remote you can program the next scene in to, for example, turn the lights up to 50 percent, turn on the floor lighting, and when you hit play again, it goes right back, lowering the lights and playing the movie. Then when the movie credits begin to roll, a flag in our movie can trigger the system to turn the lights up to 80 percent or whatever you want.”

As an aside, Stedman said Kaleidescape is very interested in the Ultra HD Alliance’s newly annouced Filmmaker Mode, adding that it is conceivable that the company could use metadata flags in its content to make adjustments to a display system’s settings to ensure the content is played back with the correct picture and sound quality levels determined by the title’s creators.

In addition, Kaleiescape content includes full lossless surround sound formats (Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio) through digital downloads, Stedman said.

“One of things that sets us apart is the high quality sound we can provide to create the most immersive experience,” Stedman said.

Most recently, Kaleidescape has added new studio support including BBC and A24 (with more coming) to join the long list of major studios already enabling the sale of their titles in Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray-quality movies and television programs.

By Greg Tarr

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