While Sony’s been generating buzz for a 4K media player and video download service that will serve to prime the pump for its flashy, new UltraHD TV sets, it’s not the only company that will ride broadband connections to deliver movies in the eye-popping format.
A much smaller company, ODEMAX, is developing one, too. In fact, it beat Sony to the punch when it lit up a private beta of its 4K download service last month.
But rather than focusing initially on big name movies and a player that can work with only one brand of TV set, ODEMAX is concentrating its efforts on a batch of independent films shot that can be downloaded to Red Digital Cinema’s 4K-friendly, high-capacity Redray Player, which can also support widely used 1080p and 720p TVs. Early on, more than 50 titles are on offer as ODEMAX looks to flesh out its initial “ODEMAX 100” slate. ODEMAX launched its private beta on July 11, when it delivered its first movie: the 24-minute movie short, The Ballad of Danko Jones.
But much like Sony’s $699 4K media player, which comes pre-loaded with ten movies, Red’s 1-terabyte device isn’t cheap either. The Redray Player sells for a cool $1,750. But if consumers are in the market for a pricey 4K TV, perhaps they won’t sneeze at another $1,750 to feed it with UltraHD goodness.
“Our vision is not only to get Redrays into people’s hands, but to get our content into their hands,” said Scott Poarch, the president of GlobalHost, which is managing the launch of ODEMAX.
The ODEMAX system relies on a software client that resides on the RedPlayer that communicates with the ODEMAX servers. Users log into the ODEMAX site, where they make their content selection and set up the download.
“We are a store and forward service,” Poarch said. Progressive downloading, a technique that lets users start to playback the title as the download continues in the background, is also built into ODEMAX’s system, but it hasn’t been enabled yet.
“We’re getting creative with our download system,” he added, noting that ODEMAX has built BitTorrent into its 4K distribution system, hopeful that the inclusion will accelerate the downloading process.
Because of its initial reliance on the Redray Player, ODEMAX is encoding its movies in the proprietary .RED format (Sony is using a proprietary compression system from eyeIO to squeeze down the size of its 4K movie files). File sizes depend on the length of the movie, but average size of a feature-length film in the .RED format is about 9 Gigabytes to 10 GB, though ODEMAX has been able to pack a 90-minute feature into a 6 GB container, Poarch said.
ODEMAX is currently relegating access to a small batch of consumers with RedPlayers who have also signed a non-disclosure agreement and provide feedback to ODEMAX during the testing phase. ODEMAX hasn’t set a commercial launch date, but expects to exit the private beta phase later this year – “Definitely by Christmas,” Poarch said.
ODEMAX will eventually add mainstream films to its 4K repertoire, but sees its initial focus on indie films as a way to set it apart as others join the mix.
“We’ll have the big names, and so will everybody else. Everyone will get rights to those films. Rarely is there an exclusive on big, blockbuster films,” said GlobalHost board member and cable industry vet Lowell Hussey, hopeful that ODEMAX’s strategy to work with filmmaking visionaries will pay off. “We’re pretty much the first game in town.”