Filmmakers can change your TV settings in more ways than ever before | Bot To News

In 2017, Zink met director Christopher Nolan initiation, Interstellar, and three Batman films. Nolan lamented how horrible home TV sets made his movies look, and Zink took on the task of improving that atmosphere as a personal challenge. UHDA then reached out to dozens of directors, cinematographers, colorists and other film industry professionals to ask what makes their work best on people’s televisions. The answer is simple: turn off those post-processing settings.

“There’s no real reason not to switch to Filmmaker mode, because what it’s really doing is playing the signal unchanged,” Zink says.

Filmmaker mode smooths out motion, stabilizes brightness and contrast, and avoids any color enhancements. It will wipe those settings clean and play the video on your screen without distortion.

It’s one thing to get a bunch of creative types to push for an aspect that enhances their artistic visions. It’s another thing to go to a dozen different TV manufacturers and tell them that the systems they use to market their products actually make movies worse. But that’s exactly what Zink did, flying out to meet manufacturers and making the case that his way was better than what their marketing teams cooked up.

It wasn’t an easy sell. All TV manufacturers have designed their own built-in systems for watching movies. Like their other modes, these movie-friendly modes all have slightly different names: Cinema Mode, Movie Mode, True Cinema. The problem with each company calling the same thing by different names is that it confuses users. If the image looks good enough, you won’t mind making it look a bit better through the menu settings.

“Companies need to do that to differentiate themselves,” says Michael Hook, chair of the UHDA Promotion Task Force. “But at some level, we have to have some sort of unity around certain things in the industry.”

After initial industry resistance, many manufacturers got on board. LG, Panasonic and Samsung have all released TVs with Filmmaker mode, and support is growing with each product generation. Importantly, the feature has the same name across devices to increase recognition and make it easier for interested visitors to find. But some streaming sites go a step further.

Recently, services like Amazon Prime have started sending metadata that can force a compatible TV set to automatically switch to filmmaker mode when you start watching a movie. This makes changing methods as simple as Zink and others hope to push the system. While it’s an optional system, it’s also liable to raise some hackles. At first, some will resist any changes to their image settings. While this feature makes the image look “how it should” look, it still takes control out of your hands and gives the company the ability to decide how to make it look good. And some people might not like how Filmmaker mode looks like.

Demo graphics

Zink gave me a demonstration of Filmmaker Mode at the Dolby Labs office building in Sunnyvale, California. He played a movie on the giant wall-mounted TV, turning the setting on and off to show the difference. The film is, appropriately enough, a Christopher Nolan war epic Dunkirk. When Zink turned on Filmmaker mode, the image was blurry. The colors took on a gray hue and were further washed out. When the characters on the screen are moving, the motion is not smoothed and there is no forced high frame rate. Filmmaker mode made it easy to detect jitter—the flickering between frames at low frame rates—but it looked very nice and cinematic in a dark room. On a bright setting, in a poorly lit living room, with the saturation and frame rate ratcheted up to 11, the image may not appear on the screen. If you’re used to that enhanced picture or you just can’t control your lighting settings, Filmmaker mode can actually feel like it’s making your viewing worse.

Wilcox, the TV tester, says that in his experience, Filmmaker mode makes the picture look better. “There’s always a trade-off with things,” says Wilcox, “and I’m not always a fan of companies forcing consumers to look at things a certain way. But I think that’s a benefit for the majority of consumers.

Earlier this year, UHDA began work on a new component of Filmmaker Mode, which uses ambient light sensors on TV sets to adjust the image for different lighting conditions. The goal is to reduce the appearance of darkness in bright rooms. Streaming services make it possible to disable Filmmaker mode yourself, though that’s the same menu-diving effort Zink and others try to complete.

Zink compares filmmaker mode to ordering a steak at a restaurant. The kitchen wants to cook your steak medium rare—to cook a nice steak every time. You can order it well, slap some ketchup on there, or ruin it in some other creative way. But the chef wants you to eat it the way they know it tastes best.

Updated 11/29/2022 at 10:00 am: Fixed some inaccuracies with how Filmmaker mode works. FMM is not yet available on Vizio TVs or HBO Max, and is the preferred setting on Amazon Prime. Also, Zink first spoke with Nolan in 2017, and had a more detailed conversation about the mode in 2018.

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