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What is Filmmaker Mode for TVs?

  • 7 min read

By Robert Silva for Enclave Audio

Features and settings are always being added to TVs with the goal of improving the viewing experience, but they can also add more operational complexity for the viewer. Filmmaker Mode is a simple feature designed specifically to optimize movie viewing. 

To understand how Filmmaker Mode works and why it's being implemented into TVs, first, you need to be familiar with what a TV’s picture and motion settings do.

What Your Current TV Picture Settings Do

With different types of sources that are viewed on a TV, the days of having one picture setting for all of them doesn't always fit. 

For example, movies originally shot or presented on film look better with different settings than live or recorded content shot on video or video game content made using 3D graphics. 

There are several setting presets provided on TVs to optimize picture quality from different content sources. The names for these presets vary between TV brands and models, but typically include: 

  • Dynamic/Vivid: This setting displays very high contrast, brightness, and sharpness levels. Dynamic or Vivid should only be used for natural daylight light or a bright room. It's also often used to attract attention to TVs in retail settings. 
  • Standard/Normal: This setting provides a compromise color and contrast setting for video and movie content, suitable for most room environments. It's usually the most energy-efficient setting and often the default setting provided by the TV maker.
  • Sports: This setting displays a brighter image with cooler color temperature (towards blue) and faster motion response that looks best for live sports shot on video. 
  • Game: This setting optimizes color and contrast for the 3D graphics used in games. In many TVs, it also engages a low latency mode for better response time with game controllers. Depending on the brand/model of TV there may be more extensive game settings, such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), Nvidia G-sync, and Freesync
  • Movie/Cinema: This sets the brightness, contrast, and color temperature level for movie viewing. It is dimmer and the color temperature is warmer (toward red) than other picture settings. The Movie/Cinema mode also disables some added video processing, so movies retain a more film-like motion and look (more on this later).
  • User/Custom: This option allows the user to manually set their color intensity (saturation), brightness, contrast, sharpness, and other picture-related settings, such as color temperature and video noise reduction according to personal preferences.

Frames and Refresh Rates

In addition to the above picture settings, one or more technologies are used to display motion. 

Frames: Video images are displayed as successive frames. However, there are differences in the way video and film frames are displayed on a TV screen. Video is typically shot in 30 frames per second. These frames are either displayed in an interlaced or progressive scan method. On the other hand, the film is shot at 24 frames per second. This means to display film sources on many TVs, the original 24 frames must be converted to 30 frames by a process known as 3:2 pulldown.

Refresh Rate: The refresh rate is how many times a TV reconstructs a frame each second. The more times the screen is "refreshed" every second, the smoother the image motion appears. TV Refresh rates are measured in "Hz" (Hertz). A TV with a 60Hz refresh rate reconstructs the screen image 60 times every second. Each video frame (in a 30 frame per second video signal) is repeated twice at a rate of one-60th of a second. By looking at the math, one can figure out how frame rates relate to other refresh rates.

Motion Smoothing

In addition to the refresh rate, TV makers employ additional technology to improve motion perception. These often carry the generic label "motion smoothing". 

Backlight Scanning: The LED (or mini-LED) backlight in an LCD or QLED TV is turned on and off very rapidly. This process enables the TV viewer to perceive that image motion is smoother. 

Motion or Frame Interpolation: Black frames are inserted between two existing displayed frames or the TV creates a new frame that has elements of the preceding and following frame. The displayed frames are blended to make perceived rapid motion smoother. This technology can be used on LCD-based and OLED TVs. 

Note: For those that still own Plasma TVs, a technology referred to as Sub-Field Drive is used to improve motion.

Film and the Soap Opera Effect

Although "motion smoothing" is intended to improve the TV viewing experience, it can have a negative effect on film sources by making the motion look too smooth like it was shot on video. This is commonly referred to as "The Soap Opera Effect".

Elements like motion lag and judder are diminished or eliminated, which is great for watching sports and games, but it gives film-based sources a videotape look, like a soap opera, live, or live-on-tape TV broadcast. In other words, movie images may look too real.

Most TVs have this feature enabled, and most viewers don't realize that in most cases it can be turned off. 

TV makers promote motion processing features heavily with brand-exclusive buzzwords, such as:

  • Hisense: Motion Smoothing
  • LG: TruMotion
  • Panasonic: Intelligent Frame Creation
  • Samsung: Auto Motion Plus or Clear Motion Rate (CMR) 
  • Sharp: AquoMotion
  • Sony: MotionFlow
  • TCL: CMI (Clear Motion Index) or Natural Motion 
  • Toshiba: ClearScan
  • Vizio: SmoothMotion, Effective Refresh Rate

Enter Filmmaker Mode 

Not happy with how a TV’s picture and motion settings can negatively affect the way movies look on TV, the Film Industry, UHD Alliance, and several TV makers have teamed up to adopt a single-step way of disabling video processing and other features that detract from the filmmaker's intent. This is labeled as Filmmaker Mode.

Filmmaker Mode is designed to optimize motion and other settings specifically for film-based content without having the viewer go into a picture or motion settings menu and also standardize its capabilities as well as establish consistent labeling between manufacturers.

What Filmmaker Mode Does

Filmmaker Mode disables most video processing so that film-based movie content looks like it would if shown in a movie theater. This is similar to the movie/cinema setting on most TVs discussed previously, but makes things less confusing by using the same setting name and consistent features for optimized viewing of film-based content viewing across multiple TV brands and models, such as:

  • Motion smoothing features are turned off, eliminating the Soap Opera Effect.
  • The original frame rate is retained. 
  • Peak brightness is reduced to movie theater levels (unless HDR has been implemented). 
  • Color temperature is placed as close as possible to the industry standard (D65/6500K) depending on the TV's capability.
  • Enhanced sharpening (aka edge enhancement) is turned off.
  • Noise reduction is turned off. This also means on older movies film grain becomes visible for authenticity.

Note: Filmmaker Mode does not affect audio. 

How Filmmaker Mode is Implemented

Instead of the viewer having to find and use a TV's picture or motion setting menus to make adjustments for movies to look their best, Filmmaker Mode is designed to be an automatic detection or one-step button push process. 

Depending on the brand/model of the TV, Filmmaker Mode can be enabled if it detects a corresponding "flag" in the content placed there by the filmmakers. A Filmmaker Mode flag can be placed on disc or streaming movie content that can be detected by compatible TVs or devices. 

If a flag is not available on discs or streaming content, Filmmaker Mode also offers TV makers a manual activation option, or by detecting a 24 fps sequence in the film content being shown on screen. 

Filmmaker Mode can also be enabled by pressing a dedicated button on a TV remote or selecting the option from the TV's picture settings menu - at the manufacturer's discretion.

Regardless of which method is used, it is a simple on/off feature. If auto-detected the TV will return to its previous settings once the Filmmaker Mode flag is no longer present. 

Filmmaker Mode is being rolled out throughout 2021 and 2022 across several TV brands starting with higher-end models and filtering down. Here is how some TV makers are implementing Filmmaker Mode on select TV models in their product line.

  • Hisense: TBD
  • LG: Autosensing 
  • Panasonic (not available in the U.S.): Dedicated button on the TV remote. Panasonic also combines Filmmaker Mode with its Intelligent Sensing ambient light detection feature to compensate for both bright and dark rooms.
  • Samsung: Manually via remote or screen prompt or Auto-Detect.
  • Vizio: Auto-Detect or dedicated button on the TV remote.

Note: Sony is not adopting Filmmaker Mode and TCL has not made a decision. This article will be updated if that status changes. 

Is Filmmaker Mode Necessary?

Although pushed by powerful movie industry forces for TV and video device makers to add the feature, not everyone agrees that Filmmaker Mode is necessary.

Some opponents claim similar settings are already available on most TVs, as mentioned previously if consumers want to take advantage of them – they just need to be informed how to use them. However, this means going to the TV's menus and changing several settings, whereas Filmmaker Mode accomplishes it all automatically or at the touch of one button. 

The remaining question is whether TV viewers will actually use Filmmaker Mode, no matter how easy it is, if it is available on their TV.

TV technology review YouTube Channel: Stop The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has done some testing of Filmmaker Mode in action and has an interesting perspective.

If you have or are considering the purchase of a TV that includes Filmmaker Mode, try it to see if it works for you when viewing movies. If you prefer not to use it, TVs offer several setting options that may improve your viewing experience. Just don't unpack your TV, turn it on, and think you are seeing the best it can offer without further adjustment.