What Is Filmmaker Mode on a TV, and Why Will You Want It?

Display of Vizio's Filmmaker mode at CES 2020.Justin Duino

To live a film as it was planned, you should really see it in a theater. However, if you want to reproduce this authenticity at home on your sofa (with your own popcorn at competitive prices), you will soon be able to do so with the Filmmaker mode.

With a single switch, you can watch a movie (or TV show) as expected, turn off post-processing effects (like motion smoothing), correct the color profile of your TV, and adjust the movie to its aspect original height / width.

Unlike other options (like HDMI-CEC), this is not called different things on different TVs: the filmmaker mode switch is clearly identified as such on all TVs that have it.

What is filmmaker mode?

TV manufacturers were showing Filmmaker mode at CES 2020. It lets you watch content the way directors, producers, and movie studios want. It disables the additional features on modern TVs that change the way content is presented to preserve the cinematic aesthetic.

By pressing a button (and, in some cases, automatically), you disable all additional post-processing functionality. The original aspect ratio, color profile and frame rate are retained. Today, you often have to adjust the picture quality options scattered throughout the different menus on your TV to accomplish what filmmaker mode does. Soon, however, this feature will be universal on all TVs, regardless of make or model.

This new way of viewing content will make its way to the upcoming 2020 TV releases of Vizio, Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Philips this year, with more manufacturers likely to jump on board before the end of the year.

The filmmaker mode was motivated by the growing number of filmmakers unhappy with the way TV manufacturers activate post-processing by default on their screens. In 2017, James Gunn was one of the first to publicly denounce this in a tweet (see below), in which he named a few other filmmakers who agreed with him.

Therefore @rianjohnson, @edgarwright, @mattreevesLA, @chrismcquarrie, @TomCruise & I am all on board the anti-smoothing campaign. Who else?

– James Gunn (@JamesGunn) October 5, 2017

While the new standard has been led by the UHD Alliance, he has also received official mentions from the Directors Guild of America, the Film Foundation, the International Cinematographers Guild, and the American Society of Cinematographers.

Why do we need it?

Modern televisions make heavy use of post-processing effects, such as motion smoothing. This artificially “softens” the content via image interpolation, which means that it inserts additional images to achieve a higher (and therefore “smoother”) frame rate. Motion smoothing is often called a “soap opera” or is marked with manufacturer-specific labels, such as “TruMotion” (LG), “MotionFlow” (Sony) or “Auto Motion Plus” (Samsung).

Hollywood and much of the world of cinema use a standard cinematic frame rate of 24p. This means that 24 images are displayed per second (technically, this is closer to 23,967). This film rate is what gives films their recognizable “cinematic” aspect.

Motion smoothing, on the other hand, replaces the original frame rate and tries to match the content to the refresh rate of the TV (often 60 or 100 Hz).

Tim Brookes

Not only does it make film productions too smooth, but it often introduces unwanted visual artifacts. Screens that use motion smoothing often have difficulty interpolating precise images, resulting in blurred images (especially in animated or action scenes with a lot of movement).

The filmmaker mode also solves the problems of aspect ratio and correct color output. Although these problems have little to do with motion smoothing, each screen maker implements them in different ways. He could take a series of convoluted menus to adjust the color temperature or apply a particular aspect ratio.

Some manufacturers define the proportions and display parameters on an “per entry” basis. This means that the parameters of a PS4 connected via HDMI 1 are different from those of the cable box connected via HDMI 2. The filmmaker mode solves these problems (temporarily, at least) by pressing a switch.

Why is filmmaking a big deal?

Filmmaker mode is not proprietary technology. It is introduced by the UHD Alliance, a group that includes some of the biggest players in the film and technology industries. Screen manufacturers Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio and Panasonic are all members. Amazon, Nvidia, Dell, Google, Dolby, Intel and Asus are also part of the alliance.

This means that, unlike proprietary technologies, Filmmaker mode will be implemented identically on all devices and manufacturers. This eliminates any confusing branding or complicated menus that you may otherwise have to go through to activate this feature.

It is important to note, however, that the mere fact that a company is a member of the UHD Alliance does not automatically mean that the filmmaker mode arrives on its televisions. For example, Sony has not yet committed to offering filmmaker mode on its televisions.

A standardized implementation means that all TVs that support filmmaker mode will either have an identical button on the remote control or switch automatically, thanks to the metadata that accompanies the media. Right now, we know that LG has opted for automatic switching, while Vizio will provide both automatic switching and a dedicated button on the remotes.

The UHD Alliance developed these standards in collaboration with members, including Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal and Technicolor. Such alliances are common in the industry, but normally relate to technical aspects, such as color resolution and depth, rather than specific features or modes.

How is the filmmaker mode different from the game mode?

If you have purchased a television in the past decade, it likely has a variety of profiles available, including cinema or game modes. The role of these modes rests entirely with the manufacturer. A Game mode generally removes as much post-processing as possible in order to reduce the latency (and therefore the input lag).

Some screens have no game mode, but rather specific inputs designed with low latency in mind. For example, if you have an HDMI port labeled as “PC Input” on your TV, it is probably designed for low latency input. You can plug in your PC or console without going through a series of menus for the best results.

While filmmaker mode is also waging war on movement smoothing, its ultimate goal is not the same. Its main function is to preserve the image rather than eliminating the latency. So while filmmaker mode may be a great way to play games, it may not go far enough.

While lower latency may be a side effect of filmmaker mode (we don’t know yet), it’s not a primary concern. Although proprietary profiles (such as game mode) and universal standards (such as filmmaker mode) may overlap in some regions, they are not a substitute for each other.

RELATED: What does “game mode” mean on my TV or monitor?

How to buy a TV with filmmaker mode?

Currently, there are no televisions on the market that use filmmaker mode. However, you can expect a wave of models that support this new standard to launch this year. To get your hands on it, look for the filmmaker’s logo (see below) on the TV box or on marketing materials.

The filmmaker's logo.UHD Alliance

An LG representative said Variety The filmmaker mode would be present on “all the new 4K and 8K televisions that we will introduce in 2020”.

Panasonic also said that its next OLED HD 2000 2020 series will include support. You can also expect retailers to promote the technology at the point of sale, so it will be much easier to find a compatible display in the coming months.

Will my old TV benefit from filmmaker mode as part of an update?

Currently, it is unlikely that older screens will be updated to include support for filmmaker mode. No manufacturer has confirmed whether the functionality can even be added via a firmware update.

A Vizio representative also completely excluded this when we spoke to them at CES, stating that the technology will only make its way into the new TVs released in 2020 and beyond.

This may be due to the hardware requirements or to the manufacturers who are using their latest cool feature to encourage the upgrade.

If you want the best TV for games, filmmaker mode is probably not your top priority. here is what to look for in a game screen.

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