At an event in LA yesterday the UHD Alliance, which is behind the standards for UHD Blu-rays, a group of studios, including Warner Bros, and the tv maker Vizio, announced a plan to make your TV stop looking like shit. A new Filmmaker mode will be available in TVs from Vizio starting in 2020 and this mode should eradicate that obnoxious soap opera effect. It will also do a better job of calibrating the color, brightness, and contrast of the screen so it looks more like what the filmmaker sees when they’re creating the movies and shows you watch.
You can do all of this yourself if you don’t want to wait. We’ve covered how to calibrate your TV pretty extensively. Yet calibration is an art if you don’t have thousands of dollars of tools and it can be time-consuming.
That’s why features like this new Filmmaker mode are so important. You adjust a single setting on your TV and your $500 TV is now taking it’s best shot at replicating the $30,000 editing monitors filmmakers use. The mode itself is based on a new series of standards UHDA has published, with a summary, provided by UHDA, posted below.
But this Filmmaker mode isn’t a new concept. You probably have a Movie or Cinema mode pre-programmed on your TV right now. If you have an LG set you might also have an ISF mode—which was developed with the Imaging Science Foundation, an organization that trains calibrators in the industry (disclosure: I was trained by ISF in 2018).
Almost exactly a year ago, Netflix announced something very similar to the UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker mode, Netflix Calibrated Mode. As with the Filmmaker Mode, Netflix Calibrated Mode kills the soap opera effect and calibrates the color, brightness, and contrast to better replicate what filmmakers see. The primary difference is Netflix Calibrated Mode is so far only available in select Sony sets and only functions when you turn on Netflix via the set’s smart TV software. Netflix through a Chromecast or other set-top box won’t activate the mode.
A mode that governs all TVs is not yet universal. I reached out to Sony, Samsung, and LG about UHDA’s news and to see if the mode might be implemented in their sets and have not heard back at the time of publishing (though the Verge does claim LG will support the mode).
If you’ve wondered why there isn’t an easy fix for TVs (like the way your phone and laptop come perfectly calibrated out of the box), I have too! I ask about this almost every time I speak with someone in the business of making TVs. The problem is... complex.
TVs typically ship in an “Eco Mode” designed to use less power so that it matches the amount of power drawn on its Energy Star label. This mode has an unappealing picture that is usually way too blue, and very dim. Bringing the picture up to snuff and into the realm necessary for a feature like the Filmmaker or Netflix mode requires more power.
As for the soap opera effect? I’ve received mix signals on why TVs ship with it despite a large number of people hating it. Some makers have confessed their research finds people actually like it. I don’t want to believe them, but I do still keep seeing the effect automatically turned on.
Hopefully, now people will have an easier and faster way to escape the soap opera effect. Though it will still require people actively switching to the new mode—which means it could be a lot less useful than the UHDA or Vizio hopes.
Update 10:24pm ET
Sony responded with the following statement. Curiously there’s no mention of Netflix mode.
Sony has always been close to the creative community through Sony Pictures Entertainment, and our professional products group, who provide professional cameras and mastering monitors to the industry. With our deep understanding of the creative’s needs incorporated into our products, Sony is in a unique position to set our own standards, and to lead the market on reproducing creative intent in the home. Our TVS have respected the creator’s intent and strived for accurate reproduction for many years. This has led to the development and introduction of the Custom mode (previously known as Cinema Pro mode). We cannot comment on future product plans.