Film & TV Makers Debut New Feature to End the “Soap Opera effect” Scourge
Aug 29, 2019
Vizio, Panasonic, and LG will include it in their new TVs.
A group of filmmakers, distributors, and electronics manufacturers called the UHD Alliance has announced a new viewing mode coming to future TVs that will, among other things, disable the controversial motion smoothing effect that fakes a higher frame rate when showing regular TV shows and movies.
The consortium is focused on standardizing 4K and HDR content in home theaters and says it developed the new "Filmmaker Mode" with input from 400 filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, and Rian Johnson. The mode could either automatically be enabled by metadata present in the content (such as an UltraHD Blu-ray disc), or enabled by users with a single button press, without the need for digging for the setting in menus.
Filmmaker Mode would also preserve aspect ratios (that is, ensure the proper aspect ratio is displayed even if the user has set their TV to something different) and color coding. The goal is to accurately represent the artist's intent, which is often diluted or distorted by TVs bloated with features to differentiate them from other similar TVs in the marketplace.
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Motion smoothing in particular has drawn the ire of film buffs and filmmakers alike, as it produces unnatural movement that is radically different from that which was intended and often even creates distracting artifacts in the image. Many TVs ship with it automatically enabled, and while it can leave a positive impression when watching video content at 60 frames per second (such as sports broadcasts), it is a poor fit for movies.
Smoothing is often derogatorily called "the soap opera effect" because it evokes the cheap visual look of classic daytime soap operas, which were generally shot on videotape rather than film out of practical necessity due to their daily production schedules.
Many users do not know how to disable this feature or do not even realize it is enabled to begin with. The new Filmmaker Mode would guide them to what content creators deem to be the optimal experience.
The UHD Alliance solicited input from individual creators as well as the Director's Guild of America and Scorsese's Film Foundation to develop Filmmaker Mode. A handful of prominent directors provided statements to include in the consortium's press release, including this one from Patty Jenkins:
Every day on set, we make hundreds of decisions about how to present and tell our story. No one decision makes or breaks a film, but there’s a cumulative effect that results in a film that looks and feels the way we envisioned it. As a filmmaker, I want to see—and think viewers want to see—that vision carried through to every possible viewing environment. Filmmaker Mode makes it possible for all those choices to be seen in the home.
TV manufacturers on board with Filmmaker Mode include Vizio, LG, and Panasonic. Vizio has said it will include it in its 2020 TV lineup. As far as studios go, the mode has been backed by Amazon Prime Video, Warner Bros., and Universal. If the mode achieves widespread use, film buffs and filmmakers around the world might end up being a lot less annoyed with TV tech undermining creatives' visions.