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Watch your data caps: Kaleidescape starts offering Blu-ray-quality movie downloads

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Home entertainment server maker Kaleidescape officially opened up its download store Wednesday, offering what it calls “Blu-ray quality” HD video downloads of movies like Inception, Sherlock Holmes or various titles from the Harry Potter series.

Kaleidescape is known for its DVD servers, which allow users to rip their disc collections and serve them to TVs and home theaters. The devices earned the company a lawsuit from the DVD Copy Control Association, which is currently pending after Kaleidescape was able to obtain a stay of an injunction. However, the legal proceedings didn’t stop Warner Bros. from licensing its titles for Kaleidescape’s download store.

Kaleidescape's movie server just got a download store.
Kaleidescape’s movie server just got a download store.

Titles purchased through the Kaleidescape store can be played back with a Kaleidescape system, and also accessed on the web and through mobile devices via Ultraviolet, the studios’ locker system for digital movie purchases. However, even moderate users of the service could easily burst through their ISPs’ data caps.

The HD download of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for example, comes in at a whopping 54GB. AT&T’s (s ATT) Uverse data cap restricts users to 250 GB of data consumption per month, after which the phone company charges $10 for each additional 50GB. That kind of overage charge would essentially double the price of the movie download.

Of course, this problem would only get worse if Kaleidescape — or any other movie download store — would start to offer 4K movie downloads. The company’s current HD fare comes with a resolution of 1080p. Back-of-the-envelope math would suggest that a 4K download of the same Harry Potter movie, if it was available to consumers, would consume 200GB of bandwidth.

This isn’t a hypothetical: Sony is considering adding 4K movie downloads to its next-generation game console, and Sony Electronics President and COO Phil Molyneux recently went on the record saying that those downloads would be “100 gigabytes and plus” per movie.

ISPs have long insisted that only a small percentage of their customers ever exhaust their monthly data allotment. This may be true today, but next-generation movie services show us that it caps could be a much bigger problem soon.

4 Responses to “Watch your data caps: Kaleidescape starts offering Blu-ray-quality movie downloads”

  1. Since 4K will use H.265, not H.264, it’s not going to need 4X the bandwidth. Closer to 2x in raw numbers.

    But your understanding of scaling is off anyway. Many scenes have large swaths of “same color” areas. You don’t need 4x the bits to describe those even with the same exact codec. Typically, you’d need 3x the bits for 4x the resolution (very, very roughly). So given the “spectral efficiency” benefit of H.265 and the correct resolution scaling, we get a formula more like this.

    54 GB x 3 = 172 GB
    172 GB / 2 = 86GB

    86GB = 1.6x a 54GB movie… hardly the disaster you make it out to be