David's Take: Why I'm Not Excited About Filmmaker Mode

David Susilo

Published: 02/06/2020 08:59:25 AM EST in Feature Articles

David's Take: Why I'm Not Excited About Filmmaker Mode

Last year around CEDIA 2019 in late September, Hollywood and display manufacturers teamed up and announced Filmmaker Mode to the public. The idea behind it is that by having that mode, viewers can easily watch their movies and TV shows as directors intended.

Once again at CES 2020, the group behind Filmmaker Mode announced that major display manufacturers including Philips, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic will have Filmmaker Mode on their TVs in 2020.

But I'm not really convinced that there's anything to this feature.

The idea behind Filmmaker Mode is to get rid of all unnecessary processing such as motion interpolation, colour expansion, sharpness, and noise reduction. It's a good idea. However, Filmmaker Mode is nothing more than the Movie/Cinema/Custom/ISF Modes that have already been made available on every TV for the last decade or more. It's just a renaming of those modes along with a clever marketing campaign.

On one hand, it is nice to have a universal name for those modes that makes it much easier to understand for the less uninitiated, so I'm not totally pooh-poohing the idea. But on the other hand, the less uninitiated probably won't care about Filmmaker Mode anyway.

Most people will still do the exact same thing when they buy a new TV: open the box, connect and mount the TV, and use whatever mode they get with the default setting from the manufacturer (usually "Standard" mode, or, with some manufacturers, "Vivid" mode - eek!). Even when they know about Filmmaker Mode, they will still think that it's only useful to watch movies. Most might even still turn off Filmmaker Mode when they're watching Game of Thrones or whatever is the hot TV series du jour, using the warped logic that, well, it's a TV show not a movie. Ergo, Filmmaker Mode doesn't apply.

The more initiated who bought into Filmmaker Mode, however, will think that this is a calibrated mode and their display no longer needs calibration. But that can't be further from the truth. The closest thing to being calibrated for any TV is when the TV is viewed in near complete darkness. In reality, of course, nearly no one watches their TV that way.

Some manufacturers, Panasonic for example, recognize this problem so they have the option for automatic switching to Filmmaker Mode. How? By detecting a Filmmaker Mode flag and/or 24 fps sequence in the program being shown on screen. While this is a noble effort, again, the use of auto switching will be useless, too. The reason is that it will be years, if ever, until cable TV providers pass on the Filmmaker Mode flag into their programming. With Game of Thrones, for example, although episodes were recorded in 24 fps, they do not have the Filmmaker Mode flag, and the cable companies broadcast and/or rebroadcast after converting to 60 fps. So, when there is no flag and the program is broadcast in 60 fps (regardless of how the source was recorded), the Filmmaker Mode will not be automatically activated. This goes beyond Game of Thrones to apply to any movie and TV series on any channel. Even streaming services like Netflix convert 24 fps materials (most of its catalogue) to 60 fps. Useless, right?

The only way to push Filmmaker Mode (or whatever they want to call it) is by having it as the default setting for any TV. Or better yet, as the only setting for any TV. After all, it is the most faithful mode for any video reproduction, be it 24 fps source or 60 fps source, and content like news, sports, game shows, and more.

Filmmaker Mode may only create confusion and incorrect assumptions by consumers and sellers, alike. Heck, I have encountered more than a couple dozen professionals, even, who thought Filmmaker Mode meant upcoming TVs will be professionally calibrated from the factory. But this isn't exactly the case. It's still a mode worth choosing if you want to enjoy a better visual experience, in the same way that you might have previously chosen the Movie or Cinema modes. But it isn't entirely what you might think.

Article Tags:  filmmaker mode, video, calibration, television, cinema mode, movie mode, david's take


David's Take: Why I'm Not Excited About Filmmaker Mode

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