Over the last year, the Ultra HD Alliance has continued to push forward with the expansion of its Filmmaker Mode initiative for TVs and projectors, and is now launching consumer promotional efforts to make sure its benefits are known and activated in homes.

Over the last two years the organization has seen some members leave the group, others join and the president change, but the core mission continues.

Michael Zink, president and chairman of the UHDA and Warner Bros. Technology VP, said the association’s mission — to promote the expansion of UHD content enjoyment in the home as the content creators intended — is as critical as ever, given that global online TV episode and movie revenue is on track for 200% growth to $159 billion between 2018 and 2024.

Association membership currently included 34 companies from the content, distribution and consumer electronics industries, including such companies as Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony, Samsung, LG, Skyworth, Amazon and others.

“We launched Filmmaker Mode in 2019 and the key tenets continue today,” Zink said in a video call interview during CES 2022. “We are very closely collaborating with the creative community not only defining the experience, but getting their feedback to improve the experience.”

The association is also assisting content creators in spreading the message that movies and television programs should be viewed the way the producers, directors, cinematographers and editors intended.

The UHDA has worked to have well known directors, actors and others explain the mission, such as this recent message from Denis Villeneuva, director of the 2021 version of Dune.

Among the group’s achievements in 2021 was expansion of automatic switching for Filmmaker Mode in consumer devices, he said, with [almost] all of the member manufacturers are now supporting it in the products, with the exception of Panasonic, which uses a button on the TV remote.”

The next challenge facing the alliance is to increase awareness of the feature around a single name, he said.

“That makes it easier for the filmmakers to call it by that name and to advocate for it in manufacturers’ products to ensure consumers have it in their homes,” said Zink.

The UHDA said the membership was long aware that making Filmmaker Mode known for the broadest use was going to take time “since it is a fairly complex ecosystem play,” he added.

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The group has been successful in getting the feature and its auto switching component well seated in TVs from most of the leading brands, and over the course of 2021 it has made progress in having premium streaming services providers trigger the automatic switching through content. Now it’s time to alert consumers.

“Consumers will start to see messages prompting them to do something so we need to make sure they are aware that this is a good thing and they should start embracing it,” he said.

He said six manufacturers are supporting Filmmaker Mode in TVs today, some of which have it in a subset of models. However, both Samsung and LG, which are two of the world’s largest TV makers, support it in every one of their TV models today.”

In November, LG announced that Amazon Prime was the first streaming provider to provide automatic switching for Filmmaker Mode that would be supported on all current (2021 and 2022) LG smart TVs. That means that when a movie is streamed from Amazon Prime, an LG TV will automatically switch into Filmmaker Mode and then switch back to the previous picture mode when the movie ends.

Other flat-panel TV makers supporting Filmmaker Mode in at least some models include: Hisense, Panasonic, Philips/TPV Vision, and Skyworth.

Projector manufacturers have started embracing it as well. Companies including BenQ, Hisense, Samsung and LG now offer Filmmaker Mode in some 2021 and 2022 projector models.

On the streaming service side, both Amazon Prime, and high-end movie download service Kaleidescape are also supporting Filmmaker Mode auto switching in some content and home devices.

Signaling by the two services is handled quiet differently, he pointed out. Kaleidescape triggers the feature over HDMI from its outboard server devices, while Amazon Prime Video triggers Filmmaker Mode through its app on supporting smart TVs using an API.

Further, the UHDA has been working on extending the Filmmaker Mode ecosystem into the in-flight entertainment space.

The UHDA is working with the Airline Passenger Entertainment Experience Association (APEX), which is a body that defines requirements for in-flight entertainment systems.

Apex, he said, has made Filmmaker Mode a mandatory requirement for leading airlines.

In that effort, American Airlines has announced that it will begin rolling out Filmmaker Mode in newer aircraft used for intercontinental flights beginning in 2023.

Some premium-passenger cabins will be outfitted with 17-inch displays supporting 4K resolution, high dynamic range and Filmmaker Mode, Zink said.

Zink said a number of other airlines are beginning to make similar plans now.

The UHDA is also working with giant chip maker MediaTek to put Filmmaker Mode and auto switching directly onto their chip sets.

“The goal was to make it really easy for manufacturers to lower the barrier to entry and make it easier for them,” he said. “MediaTek also makes chip sets for source devices, and we are hoping this will equally start to propagate Filmmaker Mode as well.”

As for other areas such as video games and gaming consoles, Zink said the UHDA has reached out to both Microsoft (Xbox Series X) and Sony (PlayStation 5) “to at least make sure they are aware of what Filmmaker Mode is. But sometimes these things take a little bit more time.”

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By Greg Tarr

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