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New TVs may automatically disable the awful Soap Opera Effect

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

The Soap Opera Effect is real, and it makes big-budget Hollywood movies and TV shows look like they were shot using a HandyCam from the early 90s. Thankfully, it seems like content creators, industry consortiums, and manufacturers are finally acknowledging what a dreadful thing it is, and are now taking steps to combat it. “Filmmaker Mode” is a proposal from the UHD Alliance that would add a new mode on TVs that turns off all (or most) post-processing of video in order to preserve the original look of cinematic material as closely as possible.

If implemented on TVs, it would accomplish three key things: First, TVs would attempt to assess the on-screen content and automatically engage Filmmaker Mode (thus disabling the Soap Opera Effect (or Motion Interpolation as it is formally referred to) using meta-data embedded into the video stream. Second, should the TV fail to identify cinematic content, users will be given a one-button ability to engage Filmmaker Mode without having to navigate multiple layers of settings menus. Third, the proposal would make Filmmaker Mode an industry-standard name so that no matter which TV you buy, the mode will be called the same thing by every manufacturer, which should help with the confusion that exists right now over how to get rid of the Soap Opera Effect.

We here at Digital Trends are ecstatic about this idea, and clearly, we’re not alone. The UHD Alliance has the support of some big names, like Paul Thomas Anderson, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins, Martin Scorsese, and Christopher Nolan — filmmakers who have all been appalled at the way their filmed works look when shown on un-tweaked home TVs. And, lest we forget, one of Hollywood’s most powerful and prodigious creators, Tom Cruise, has already publicly aired his feelings on the topic (thank you again, Tom).

Critically, however, it also has the support of a few big manufacturers. LG Electronics, Panasonic, and Vizio have all expressed an intent to make it easier to watch filmed entertainment as it was meant to be seen, though so far, none have announced specific plans as to when they will implement Filmmaker Mode on new TVs, or if it will be made available to older models via a firmware update.

Wonder Woman director Patti Jenkins summed up our thoughts on Filmmaker Mode perfectly when she said, “Every day on set, we make hundreds of decisions about how to present and tell our story […] As a filmmaker, I want to see … and think viewers want to see … that vision carried through to every possible viewing environment. Filmmaker Mode makes it possible for all those choices to be seen in the home.”

Motion interpolation may be a necessary technology for improving the way certain content looks on today’s modern flat-panel TVs, but it has been altering the look of filmed entertainment for far too long. Filmmaker Mode is an idea whose time has come, and it can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, check out our comprehensive guide to tuning your TV — including how to rid most models of that pesky Soap Opera Effect.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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