UHD Alliance Announces Filmmaker Mode for Smart TVs to Preserve Director’s Vision


Over the past year or two, there has been a lot of push back against motion smoothing and other settings on modern smart TVs that taint the cinematic experience at home. Last year Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie posted a short PSA on YouTube to try and raise awareness while several high profile filmmakers including Christopher Nolan approached the UHD Alliance to push for a new setting on TVs to preserve their vision. Now these efforts have paid off and resulted in something called “Filmmaker Mode” with manufacturers like LG, Panasonic and Vizio committing to add this new viewing mode to their future TVs as early as 2020. Nolan had this to say about the announcement:

“Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions… Through collaboration with TV manufacturers, Filmmaker Mode consolidates input from filmmakers into simple principles for respecting frame rate, aspect ratio, color and contrast and encoding in the actual media so that televisions can read it and can display it appropriately.”

The UHDA supposedly consulted with over 400 filmmakers, including 140 directors and cinematographers, with such big names as Martin Scorsese, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins, Rian Johnson, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and Paul Thomas Anderson all pledging support. The best part is that Filmmaker Mode will be “activated either automatically, through metadata embedded in the content, or through a single button which enables the consumer to activate Filmmaker Mode without moving through multiple menu levels.” It will also have a consistent name across all brands (unlike motion smoothing, which helped create some of the current confusion). Can Filmmaker Mode save the home viewing experience or is this already a lost cause?

  • Jake

    I’m curious to see if this will be offered in a firmware update for any of the existing TVs already on the market from these manufactures. Kind of sucks that you may be forced to buy a brand new TV just for this mode. Although I do welcome the inevitable story we will get to hear on the podcast about the trials and tribulations of Frank and Jay trying to hunt one of these filmmaker mode enabled TVs down. :)

  • Lisa V Benson

    I wonder how long it will take for this new setting to be set up on new TV’s?

  • Loren

    Well now you can pick the directors version auto calibrated each time to your digital or physical media. Makes sense, shouldn’t be that difficult.

  • Lior

    I want to cheer this but I admit I don’t get it. How is this different than the usual Cinema mode found in TV’s today? You have a basic mode for movie watching and with a few tweaks you can make it even better.
    The problem with motion-smoothing is that it’s automatically enabled, so the one good thing I got from this was that the “filmmaker mode” will be turned on automatically for movies, but I think most of us like to custom our settings to our preference so I hope it will be customizable. In any case I won’t be buying a new TV just for this.

    Honestly, my view of consumers and motion-smoothing was always that if you care about watching movies the right way than you know what to do, and if you don’t care enough, if the soap opera effect doesn’t bother you etc. than you won’t care about “filmmaker mode” as well. Many people just watch sports and reality TV and news, and if the occasional movie looks like a football match, they don’t even notice.

    Edit: Ok, I watched the video, and it is definitely aimed to educate the general public, it’s not for the average cinephile (admittedly, some home theater owners still use motion smoothing, but it’s usually a choice they make for whatever reason, rather than the result of ignorance.)
    Also, not sure what Nolan means here, no two filmmakers shoot their films the same way and expect them to be screened the same way, so a new TV mode can’t optimize every single film the way it was meant to be seen.

    At the end of the day it’s better to have it than not having it, obviously, but for real change TV manufacturers simply need to disable the auto-function of motion smoothing. It needs to be something you activate out of choice and after you saw how it looks without it, it being the default option is the real problem, not the lack of any film-specific viewing modes.

  • So I guess there’s gonna be perfect grain.

    I’m in the Frank camp and don’t optimize my settings. If this works then awesome. My lazy ass will finally get to see movies on my TV as close to how they were meant to look by the person who decided.

    Would be awesome if they did a firmware update on an AppleTV to get this out rolling quickly.

  • Isildur_of_Numenor

    “…a new TV mode can’t optimize every single film the way it was meant to be seen.”

    “…activated either automatically, through metadata embedded in the content…” – This sounds like it can be optimized for each film. The settings come packaged within the film, the TV just reads them and configures accordingly. If that’s true, it’s pretty sweet.

  • Lior

    But there are so many question:
    – is this optimizing movies retroactively? If it’s metadata then it must mean only movies going forward, and only certain movies?
    – how does this setting knows how every filmmaker wanted the movie to be seen? who will decide on this metadata? The filmmakers themselves? and what about old movies?
    – will the applicable movies be across all platforms, physical and digital?
    – what will the metadata include other than the obvious, which is aspect ratio?

  • Isildur_of_Numenor

    Those are valid questions. Clearly, we don’t have all the details so who knows. It’s possible that the metadata was always there but TVs didn’t read it because it would throw people off to see a movie in Academy ratio for example. Other metadata could include lighting/brightness, contrast, frame rate, etc.

  • Lior

    At least with respect to aspect ratio, this is not an issue with physical media or for that matters with Netflix, where it’s 99.9 percent of the time the correct AR. You need to actively turn on the zoom on your TV to ruin that. But yeah, I can’t attest for broadcast or other streaming services.
    I would LOVE if this metadata we speak of would prevent streaming services like Netflix from cutting out the end credits, for example! Can it fight commercials as well? They ruin movies much more than the wrong contrast. :-)