Members of the multi-industry Ultra HD Alliance (UHDA) in association with the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) announced in a virtual seminar Wednesday that its new Filmmaker Mode picture setting control, which preserves in the home the look of film intended by the content creators, will soon expand to include participation by TV brand Hisense and over-the-top service Prime Video.

UHDA Chairman Mike Zink said the OTT service will launch content with not only AV info frame information for automatic switching inside television sets, but will soon include signals relayed through an application program interface (API) in Filmmaker Mode in addition to HDMI relayed Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) information from streaming media players that will begin arriving next year.

Zink didn’t mention which players will have such capability, but pointed to Prime Video that is to offer auto switching signals to trigger Filmmaker Mode enhancements when film-based source content is recognized by supported displays. These auto-switching signals will then communicate the filmmaker-determined settings for parameters including: aspect ratio, brightness, and color adjustments (in addition to shutting off motion smoothing functionality) to present the program in a way that preserves the creative intent.

Meanwhile, after the forthcoming addition of Hisense to the fold of Filmmaker Mode supporting manufacturers, four of the top five TV brands in North America, representing 79% of the total TV market share in the region, will have Filmmaker Mode in at least some television models, according to research data from Omdia. These brands include, Samsung, Vizio, LG and Hisense. TCL is the one exception among the big five. Sony, which is lower in the rankings, also does not support Filmmaker Mode at this time.

In Europe, Filmmaker Mode is also supported by four out of the top five brands, representing 64% of the total TV market for the region. Those brands include: Samsung, LG, TPVision (Philips), and Panasonic. Sony is the one exception among the top five European TV brands, opting to use its own picture modes that it says do effectively the same thing as Filmmaker Mode.

Logos showing UHDA member companies

UHDA President Mike Fidler said that since making its debut last August, Filmmaker Mode has been a rare example of collaborative success among the electronics industry, movie studios, video distributors and others who have worked collectively to define picture setting parameters that best achieve the look of the movie theater in the home.

The association represents the entire content ecosystem, Fidler said, from content creators, distributors, technology enablers, as well as device manufacturers.

“The breadth of that membership enabled us to work within that ecosystem to develop Filmmaker Mode, including the industry’s first integration of the creative community in the development of [a home theater] feature,” he said. “The UHDA is in a unique position given our position as an unbiased trade organization with broad ecosystem representation, to deliver on our mission statement, which was at its core, to deliver on a premium audio/video experience to consumers.”

He continued that the goal was accomplished by preserving the creative intent of the filmmaker through a faithful reproduction of the movie theater image in the home. Hence, Filmmaker Mode was achieved only after consumer electronics manufacturers and content producers worked collaboratively to devise the system’s protocols.

Filmmaker Mode was first announced in August of 2019, and achieved almost instantaneous acclaim from video enthusiasts and the technology press, Fidler noted.

During the development of Filmmaker Mode the UHDA adhered to three guiding principles, he said. These included:

  1. Define the parameters done in collaboration with the creative community.
  2. Ensure a seamless experience for consumers, with easy access via either automatic activation and/or the use of a remote control button.
  3. Make sure that it was communicated effectively across the entire industry utilizing a single name that identified Filmmaker Mode incorporated by all of our member companies that were supporting Filmmaker Mode in products they brought to the market.

“So Filmmaker Mode allows us to preserve creative intent, ensuring we provide the correct aspect ratio, colors, frame rates, and switching off motion interpolation (motion smoothing) features that can produce the Soap Opera Effect.”

More than anything that artifact, which makes film-based images overly sharp to the point of appearing to be video source material, seems to disturb producers and directors the most. But Filmmaker mode also shuts off video noise reduction and other image processing that can take away from the look of the theatrically projected images, preserving a clear and somewhat flickery look of film on screen.

Filmmaker Mode’s early TV and player hardware brand supporters around the world include: Samsung, LG, Vizio, Panasonic, Philips and Kaleidescape, and as mentioned, soon to include Hisense and Prime Video.

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Fidler said Hisense will announce later more details for its plans to add Filmmaker Mode “to some of this year’s products moving into next year.”

Similarly, more is expected to be heard soon from Prime Video concerning the use of Filmmaker Mode in content streamed from afar into the home via the popular streaming service.

Fidler said the collaboration between TV manufacturers and the creative community underscores a commitment of all parties involved to deliver on home television screens exactly what the creators intended.

Leading a panel of content “collaborators,” Mike Zink, UHDA chairman, said all parties involved in the establishment of Filmmaker Mode recognized that it is “crucial for the viewer to be able to see content as originally intended.”

Zink read a message relayed to the panel for public announcement by Curtis Clark, member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the Motion Imaging Technology Council, who said: “It is the ultimate goal of the filmmaker for a finished film to be seen and experienced by the viewer as intended by the filmmaker. For this to happen, it is crucial that the display device be able to faithfully reproduce images, with the same color, contrast, resolution and screen brightness as the mastered original. Since many films are now being viewed via streaming services to the home, it has become imperative that different consumer display device settings have the ability to reproduce the filmmaker’s creative intent.”

“Cinematographers work with a number of collaborators to create an image that moves the story forward,” further explained Stephen Lighthill ASC president. “Those collaborators include colorists, editors, production designers, directors and the folks paying the bills — the producers. The cinematographer is usually the best informed person on the set about how an image is captured and moves off to editorial and post production. The whole point to all of this effort is to have an image that satisfies all of those collaborators so that it does tell the story in a way that is intended. That is creative intent — the work of all of those people coming together in a storytelling effort. Any sort of hiccup along the way, particularly in distribution, is going to interfere with the telling of the story.”

He added that when there is an interruption, and the way a film was intended to be seen is altered, it takes away from the narrative intent of that image.

Jill Bogdanowicz, a noted Hollywood colorist, said: “I sit in a room with the creators, the directors, cinematographers and sometimes producers and I know the importance of all the tiny details we put into polishing that final image, making sure of the subtle ways and sometimes not so subtle ways, we are helping direct the audience’s attention to the characters. You don’t want the audience to be looking over at something that might be bright on the left side that snuck into frame somehow.

“There are little things we can do in an image that will help heighten and tell the story,” she continued. “Whether it be with color palette or whether it be warm or cool [tones] or directing the eye to where you want to see something…. when you see it and that image finally hits the home TV, you want to make sure that the creative intent which is telling the story is preserved. It is something that is extremely important and something that I deal with often in my profession. There is always a question at the end of a color session, “Ok, how is it going to look on my TV?”

From the hardware perspective, panelist Tim Alessi, LG Electronics USA senior product marketing manager, reminded that over 40 4K and 8K UHD TV models in his company’s 2020 product line now feature Filmmaker mode, even though the company has long offered picture modes (manually set) that achieve many of the desired results.

“LG has always endeavored to provide an optimized experience regardless of the type of content they watch, whether it’s video gaming, sports and of course cinema. So when the UHDA started talking about Filmmaker Mode it was kind of a no-brainer for us to sign up for that, and we took an active role in the development discussions in the technical committees and decided to implement it across the board beginning in 2020.”

Alessi said LG is about to engage in a Filmmaker Mode promotional effort in association with the UHDA to communicate the benefits of the technology to end-users. This includes information on the company’s web pages, and through in-store call outs in retail displays to appear in “hundreds of Best Buy stores” among other places.

Similarly, Bill Mandel, Samsung Research of America industry relations senior VP, said his company has added Filmmaker Mode in all of its 2020 8K and 4K UHD televisions, including its high-end QLED [quantum dot] models on down to its more mainstream Crystal LED sets. The company recently introduced its first ultra short throw 4K DLP projectors through its Lifestyle TV Series, that also incorporate the feature.

“In the stores, the TVs run a video loop that goes into a Best Buy, Target or Walmart, and you’ll see an icon screen that moves back and forth to the left or right of the screen and the Filmmaker Mode logo is in that,” Mandel said.

Joseph Cates, Panasonic Hollywood Labs senior manager product development, said Panasonic is including Filmmaker Mode in all of its 4K OLED TV models distributed across Europe, Asia and the Middle East (the company no longer sells consumer TVs in the United States).

Mark McKenzie, Kaleidescape engineering VP, said the high quality video movie servers his company sells for its internet-delivered Ultra HD Blu-ray-quality movies streamed into well-heeled homes will support Filmmaker Mode auto switching. The company offers over 11,000 movies for sale and “once the customer purchases one of these movies they are downloaded to the player so they can be played back with perfect quality every time.”

“Filmmaker Mode is about cinematic experiences as well. It’s about understanding the filmmaker’s intent, and that’s what our focus is. Our dealers install Kaleidescape products because they care about this, and they are excited about Filmmaker Mode as well,” he said. “We market directly to them and it makes their lives easier as well, given that more things work right out of the box.”

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By Greg Tarr

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