To experience a movie as it was conceived, you should see it in a theater. However, if you want to reproduce that authenticity at home on your couch (with your own popcorn at competitive prices), you’ll soon be able to do it with Filmmaker Mode.
With a single switch, you can watch a movie (or TV show) as you like, turn off post-processing effects (such as motion smoothing), correct the color profile of the TV, and set the movie to the original aspect ratio.
Unlike other options (such as HDMI-CEC ), is not called differently on different TVs – the filmmaker mode switch is clearly labeled as such on any TV that has it.
What is the filmmaker mode?
TV manufacturers have shown filmmaker mode on CES 2020. It allows you to view content as filmmakers, producers, and studios want it to look like. Disable additional features on modern TVs that change the way content is presented to preserve cinematic aesthetics.
At the touch of a button (and, in some cases, automatically), it disables all additional post-processing features. The original aspect ratio, color profile and frame rate are retained. Nowadays, you often have to adjust the image quality options, spread in different menus on the TV, to achieve what Filmmaker Mode does. However, this feature will soon be universal for all TVs, regardless of make or model.
This new way of viewing content comes at the upcoming 2020 launches from Vizio, Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Philips this year, with several manufacturers joining before the end of the year.
The filmmaker mode has been driven by the growing number of filmmakers who are unhappy with the way TV makers allow 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 mentioned a few other directors who agreed with him.
While the new standard was driven by UHD Alliance, has also received official approval from the Directors Guild of America, Film Foundation, International Guild of Cinematographers and the American Society of Cinematographers.
Why do we need it?
Modern TVs make extensive use of post-processing effects, such as smoothing movement. This «smooths» the artificial content by interpolating frames, which means you enter additional frames to get a higher (and therefore «smoother») frame rate. Motion smoothing is often referred to as the “soap opera effect” or is marked with manufacturer-specific labels such as “TruMotion” (LG), “MotionFlow” (Sony) or “Auto Motion Plus” (Samsung).
Hollywood and much of the film world use a standard 24p frame rate. This means that 24 frames per second are displayed (technically, it is closer to 23,967). This frame rate is what gives movies their recognized «cinematic» look.
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).
This doesn’t just make film productions appear too fluid rather, it often introduces unwanted visual artifacts. Displays that use motion smoothing often have difficulty interpolating accurate frames, resulting in blurry images (especially in busy or high-motion action scenes).
Cinema mode also solves problems with the correct aspect ratio and color result. While these issues have little to do with smoothing the movement, each display manufacturer implements them in different ways. You may need a series of complicated menus to adjust the color temperature or to apply a certain aspect ratio.
Some manufacturers set the aspect ratio and «on input» display settings. This means that setting up a PS4 connected via HDMI 1 is different from a cable box connected via HDMI 2. Filmmaker mode solves these problems (at least temporarily, at least) by pressing a switch.
Why is the filmmaker’s way such a big issue?
Filmmaker mode is not a proprietary technology. It is presented by UHD Alliance, a group of some of the biggest players in the film and technology industry. Display manufacturers Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio and Panasonic are members. Amazon, Nvidia, Dell, Google, Dolby, Intel and Asus are also part of the alliance.
This means that, unlike proprietary technologies, the Filmmaker mode will be implemented identically between devices and manufacturers. This eliminates any confusing bookmarks or complicated menus that you would otherwise have to navigate to enable this feature.
However, it’s important to note that just because a company is a member of the UHD Alliance doesn’t automatically mean that Filmmaker Mode comes to their TVs. For example, Sony has not yet committed to offering Filmmaker Mode on its TVs.
A standardized implementation means that all TVs that support the movie mode will either have an identical button on the remote control, or will switch automatically, thanks to the accompanying media metadata. Currently, we know that LG has opted for automatic change, while Vizio will offer both automatic change and a dedicated button on the remote control.
The UHD Alliance has developed these standards with members, including Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal and Technicolor. These alliances are common in the industry, but usually refer to technical issues, such as color resolution and depth, rather than specific features or modes.
How is the filmmaker mode different from the game mode?
If you’ve bought a TV in the last decade, you probably have a variety of profiles available, including ways of cinema or Play. What these modes do depends entirely on the manufacturer. A game mode generally eliminates as much post-processing as possible to reduce latency (and thus delay entry).
Some displays do not have a game mode, but specific inputs designed with low latency in mind. For example, if you have an HDMI port labeled «PC Input» on your TV, it’s probably designed for low latency input. You can connect your computer or console without navigating through a series of menus for best results.
Although the Filmmaker mode makes war on the smoothness of the movement, its ultimate goal is not the same. Its main function is to preserve the image, rather than eliminating latency. So while the filmmaker mode can provide a great environment for gaming, it may not go far enough.
Although lower latency could be a side effect of the filmmaker’s mode (we don’t know yet), it’s not a major concern. While proprietary profiles (such as game mode) and universal standards (such as how to make a movie) may overlap in some areas, they do not replace each other.
How do I buy a TV with a director?
At the time of writing, there are no TVs on the market that use the filmmaker mode. However, you can expect a number of models compatible with this new standard to be released this year. To get your hands on one, look for the Achievement logo (see below) on the TV box or in the marketing materials.
An LG representative said that variety Filmmaker Mode would be on «all the new 4K and 8K TVs we introduce in 2020».
Panasonic also said that its upcoming OLED HD 2000 2020 series will include support. You can also expect retailers to promote the technology at the point of sale, so finding a compatible display should be much easier in the coming months.
Will my old TV have movie mode as part of an update?
Older displays are currently unlikely to be updated to include support for Cinemaker mode. No manufacturer has confirmed whether the feature can be added through a firmware update.
A representative for Vizio completely rejected this when I spoke to them at CES, stating that the technology will only find its way into the newer TVs launched in 2020 and beyond.
This may be due to hardware requirements or manufacturers using their latest and greatest feature as an incentive to upgrade.
If you want the best TV for games, Filmmaker mode is probably not your top priority. This is what to look for on a game screen.