By now, you should all be aware of what motion smoothing (a.k.a. “the soap opera effect”) is and how to turn it off—on your TV, on your friends’ and relatives’ TVs, on the TV in any bar, waiting room, or airport lounge that will let you touch the remote. It is your duty as a pop-culture obsessive to fight this factory-set menace anywhere you may see it, and now THR reports that the struggle is about to either get easier, or twice as hard.
The subject of the article is something called “Filmmaker Mode,” an idea that was dreamed up by something called the UHD Alliance, an industry group that represents major electronics companies as well as Hollywood studios. This group asked 400 filmmakers—including Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins, Rian Johnson, Paul Thomas Anderson, James Cameron, J.J. Abrams, Ava DuVernay, Judd Apatow, Ang Lee, Reed Morano, and the Duffer Brothers—for their input on how to make their movies look better when people inevitably watch them at home on TV, along with the Directors Guild of America, American Society of Cinematographers, American Cinema Editors, and Scorsese’s The Film Foundation. (This may explain the DGA survey about motion smoothing that went out last fall.)
The result is a new TV setting called “Filmmaker Mode,” which, as THR describes it, “is aimed at giving viewers a consistent, cinematic representation of images as the filmmakers intended, in terms of color, contrast, aspect ratio and frame rates.” A few questions come immediately to mind reading this description: First, will this setting make non-movie TV programming—namely live sports, for which motion smoothing was invented—look like shit? Second, will “Filmmaker Mode” be digitally tailored to the movie you’re watching at that particular moment, or is it a blanket setting? After all, not all filmmakers’ visions are the same.
The ever-agreeable Johnson did not address these questions at an announcement introducing Filmmaker Mode—at least, not in the remarks that made it into THR’s report—saying instead, “your Skynet is motion smoothing … Luckily our John Connor has arrived.” He went on to explain “Filmmaker Mode” as “a single button that lines up the settings so it works for the benefit of the movie and not against it,” before adding,“if you love movies, Filmmaker Mode will make your movies not look like poo-poo.” (Heh. He said “poo-poo.”) Scorsese added in a statement that the mode caters to “specifications unique to being shot on film,” which does help clarify what this savior of the at-home cinematic experience will actually do.
No word yet on when “Filmmaker Mode” will launch, but it’s a UHD thing, so presumably it’ll only be on new TVs.