6 Ways to Enhance Your Kaleidescape Experience

6 March 2009 By Louisa Beckett

It seems like almost every new superyacht we step aboard these days – as well as a large number of refits – boasts a Kaleidescape System. (That’s Kaleidescape, as in “escape to the movies”, not “kaleidoscope”, the child’s toy, although some owners persist in getting it wrong.) Manufactured by Kaleidescape, Inc., in Sunnyvale, California, this high-tech entertainment system stores a large library of music and movies and delivers it to stereos and TV screens throughout a yacht, home or jet.

Most Kaleidescape Systems are spec’d and installed by a professional A/V company, making them relatively “turnkey” for the crew to operate and maintain. But a recent conversation with Kaleidescape, Inc. staffers Tom Barnett, manager of technical marketing, and Linus Wong, director of product marketing, provided some tips that may help you in choosing and using the system on board your boat.

  1. Make Mine Mini: This week, Kaleidescape introduced its new Mini System, which integrates an entire multi-zone entertainment system into a single component. You can install it in the salon and add Kaleidescape Players to expand the system into other rooms on board. This compact system is a great space saver that should provide an A/V solution for smaller yachts and those with big storage challenges. It also costs about 40 percent less than the standard Kaleidescape System. Last summer, Kaleidescape also added a Mini 1080p Player to its collection that is less than half as wide as the normal 1080p Player. (The tradeoff is that the Mini Player can’t be used to play a DVD that hasn’t already been imported into the system.)
  2. Hot Spare: Larger yachts probably should stick to the standard Kaleidescape System combining one or more independent servers with an array of players located in various rooms on board. There are two models of server to choose from: The Kaleidescape 1U Server, which holds 450 DVDs and 5,000 CDs, and the 3U Server, which stores up to 1,800 DVDs and 20,000 CDs. The 1U is much more compact and less expensive, but the 3U increases the system’s reliability by adding a “hot spare”. In the event one of the content-filled disc cartridges inside the unit fails, this “hot spare” disc cartridge allows the server to immediately rebuild that content. “The system can repair itself in the field, while [the yacht] is away from port,” Wong says. “It’s peace of mind when you’re at sea and you can’t get back to port for a repair.”
  3. Burn Baby, Burn: “Importing” each DVD into the Kaleidescape System takes about 20 minutes per disc. That’s okay if you’re only buying one movie at a time, but most crews purchase their DVDS in big lots. “It’s very common on a yacht, two or three times a year…to freshen up the collection and you have all these discs to import at once,” Barnett says. Kaleidescape offers a Speed Reader that makes the process fast and automatic. “It is sort of like a robotic device that allows you to load up to 250 discs at once.”
  4. Rated XXX: Another key feature of the Kaleidescape System that some captains and crew may not be aware of is the ability to disable the import feature on a particular player. This is particularly important on charter yachts. “One thing I have heard from captains is they do want to control content.” Barnett says. “You don’t want people who rent the yacht to import movies. They would be taking up space in your system and they might be the kind of movie you don’t want other guests to see.” In addition, you can program each player individually to prevent guests from watching certain DVDs on it. This lets you restrict kids from viewing X- and R-rated movies in their cabins, for example. Better yet, Barnett says, “With the Kaleidescape System, the only titles you can see [on the menu] are the ones you are allowed to watch.”
  5. Keep it Cool: The captain, engineer, shipyard and A/V installer and even the yacht’s interior designer all undoubtedly weighed in on how to keep the compartment where your Kaleidescape server(s) are stored well-ventilated and cool. Barnett and Wong caution you to be careful about inadvertently changing the configuration while dusting or servicing the system, however. “All of the servers and players are designed to pull cool air in from the front…pull that through everything inside, and exhaust the heat out of the back,” Barnett says. “For example, there might be a metal side panel on the equipment rack, and you sort of think it’s just decorative. [But] if you take that side panel off to do service and you don’t put it back on…it will change the way the air flows.”
  6. Kaleidescape Phone Home: Another tip is to keep your Kaleidescape System hooked up to the Internet at all times, if possible. “One of the things that we provide as a service that’s included with the system is Health Monitoring. Our systems will call home if there’s a temperature problem, if there’s a hard disc drive failure or other kind of system-related failure,” Wong says. “This is a huge benefit for the captains, but only it only works if there’s an Internet connection.” Not only does the Health Monitoring service alert you to potential problems, but Kaleidescape also uploads software updates via the Internet to its systems operating throughout the world. Many captains limit Internet use offshore when the yacht is connected via VSAT, however, due to its expense – often disconnecting everything but the boss’s laptop and the pilothouse PC. If that’s the case on your boat, Barnett advises that you at least restore the Kaleidescape System’s Internet connection the next time you get to a port where a free or inexpensive hookup is available, so any Health Monitoring alerts can be transmitted and updates uploaded. “I know quite a few systems out there that have not been connected to the Internet in years,” he laments.

For more information, product specs, installation guides and how-to videos, visit

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