The UHD Alliance, a group of filmmakers, distributors, and TV makers, has announced a new viewing mode coming to future TVs that hopes to both eliminate one of the worst (non-smart) parts of modern TV viewing, known colloquially as the “Soap Opera Effect.” The new mode, called Filmmaker Mode, promises to make it easier for viewers to watch movies and television shows as their creators intended them.
The alliance developed the mode in conjunction with over 400 filmmakers, including creators like Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson, and it will have consistent naming across TV brands, and it will likely be possible to activate through metadata embedded in shows and movies, or with a one-button activation that would skip over the need to tweak settings.
Filmmaker Mode will adhere to the “frame rate, aspect ratio, color and contrast, and encoding in the actual media” so that televisions can read and display the content accurately. The mode is quickly picking up support, with LG, Panasonic, and Vizio already onboard. Vizio announced that it will even include the mode in its 2020 TVs. On the studio side, Warner Bros., Universal, and Amazon Prime Video are all on board.
The Soap Opera Effect is the opposite of Filmmaker Mode
Even if you aren’t familiar with it by name, you’ve probably seen the so-called Soap Opera effect. The feature at the core of this blight on televisions is called motion smoothing or motion interpolation. This feature adds frames between existing frames by guessing at what should be there. It’s not a worthless feature; it can help bring televised sporting events to life. But for just about everything else, especially movies and games, it provides no benefit. In games, it adds input lag and artifacting. For movies, it makes them look like, yes, soap operas.
Soap operas were recorded on video, rather than film, at a framerate close to 60 frames per second, compared to the 24 frames per second used in most movies. 60 frames per second is great for games and sports, but makes movies look really weird; people often describe them as hyperreal. Motion interpolation tries to smooth out lower-framerate video by adding in frames, turning a 24FPS movie into a 60FPS soap opera.
It’s easy to turn this setting off, and TVs already have a movie mode that will disable this setting. Most TVs these days also have a “game mode” that disables all post-processing in favor of minimizing input lag.
When we talk about displays here, we’re usually talking about PC-focused displays rather than televisions. For some of us, this is just going to make setting up our parents’ televisions easier, and seeing televisions in public less painful. For movie fans, though, the Filmmaker Mode feature will make getting an ideal movie-watching experience as dictated by the filmmakers themselves that much easier.