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Movies Look ‘Like Poo-Poo'

Sony Rules Out Filmmaker Mode Support, Says It Sets Its 'Own Standards' on Creator Intent

Sony definitively removed its hat from the ring of possible Filmmaker Mode TV-maker supporters the morning after the UHD Alliance debuted the TV movie-watching feature at a Los Angeles event with broad creator backing. UHDA Chairman Michael Zink introduced LG, Panasonic and Vizio at the event as the TV-brand “launch partners” for Filmmaker Mode, the easy-to-access picture setting free of the “motion-smoothing” image processing that creators disdain for how it renders their movies on living-room screens (see 1908270001).

Don't count on Sony endorsing Filmmaker Mode anytime soon, emailed spokesperson Cheryl Goodman Wednesday. “Sony has always been close to the creative community through Sony Pictures Entertainment, and our professional products group,” which supplies professional cameras and mastering monitors to the industry, she said. With Sony's “deep understanding” of creators' needs incorporated into its products, “Sony is in a unique position to set our own standards, and to lead the market on reproducing creative intent in the home,” she said.

Sony's Bravia TVs "have respected the creator’s intent and strived for accurate reproduction for many years," said Goodman. "This has led to the development and introduction of the Custom mode (previously known as Cinema Pro mode)." She said Sony, a founding UHDA member, no longer sits on the board, but "we continue to engage in and contribute to UHDA activities at a Contributor level."

Director Rian Johnson used various character analogies from the Terminator film series to describe for the Los Angeles event audience how thrilled he was with the debut of Filmmaker Mode. “It’s astounding how far home theater tech has come in the last 20 years,” said the Star Wars: The Last Jedi director. TVs are getting bigger, better and cheaper, but “if you’re a movie lover, your Skynet is motion-smoothing,” said Johnson of the Terminator antagonist.

Motion-smoothing “has its place,” said Johnson. “It’s a technological advance” in TVs that was “created by very smart people to make images look better,” he said. Live sports “look fantastic with these new filters turned on,” as do videogames with high frame rates, he said. But if “you take a movie that was shot at 24 frames a second and put it through motion-smoothing,” it makes the film “look like poo-poo,” he said. Virtually all feature films, classics and modern movies included, were shot at that frame rate, he said.

Every TV is “its own obstacle course” of menus for the relatively few consumers who even know what motion-smoothing is and venture to turn it off, said Johnson. With Filmmaker Mode, “luckily, our John Connor has arrived,” he said of the messianic Terminator protagonist.

Pressing a “single, simple button,” labeled Filmmaker Mode, on the TV’s remote “lines up all of those settings” and “harnesses all that amazing tech that’s in your beautiful new TV, so it’s working for the benefit of the movie and not against it,” said Johnson. “As someone who makes movies, I love this so much.” Roughly a dozen film creators, including Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Ryan Coogler, James Cameron, Paul Thomas Anderson and J.J. Abrams, appeared on a four-minute video to echo Johnson’s passion about the feature.

I want to get down on my knees and offer burnt sacrifices of thanks to the TV-manufacturer partners who are in on this and are going to implement it,” said Johnson. “I hope that others follow their lead and show the world that they love movies.” Ron Martin, Panasonic Hollywood Lab vice president, represented his company on stage, and Vizio sent co-founder Ken Lowe and Director-Product Marketing Carlos Angulo to speak on the company’s behalf. No LG representative was on the podium.

Vizio has “a long history working with studios, working with tech partners, to really hone in on the different picture modes and what’s needed in order to be able to do so,” said Angulo. In striving for TVs that render content with creative intent, “we’ve built in different picture modes within our televisions that has gotten us almost there,” he said. Filmmaker Mode does “a phenomenal job of really just honing in, refining those settings and ultimately presenting something closer in the home to what the director created,” he said.

Technology needs to be “precise, it has to be repeatable and it has to be reliable,” said Martin. “The point of this Filmmaker Mode is that every time you go to it to enjoy those films that you love so much, it will be a true representation of the creative intent every time that you use it.” Besides the one-button activation, Filmmaker Mode can switch on automatically through the TV's metadata detection if manufacturers choose to put that option into their sets.

Annie Chang, Universal vice president-creative technologies, said at her previous two studios, Disney and Marvel, “we tried to work on something like Filmmaker Mode for the last 20 years.” The “tricky part” was “trying to get some consortium or body that had both the filmmakers and consumer-television manufacturers involved,” said Chang. “This time it’s different because we actually have this organization called the UHD Alliance, which has a consortium of studios and consumer electronics manufacturers.”