My Problem with a “Filmmaker Mode” for TVs

At CES yesterday, directors and cinematographers further endorsed the concept of a “Filmmaker Mode” setting for new TVs. New TVs from Samsung and LG will include this setting, which will disable post-processing effects like motion smoothing. Motion smoothing is a technique used to make 24fps videos look like they were shot at a smoother framerate, like 120fps. These post-processing effects cause the TV to display media in a format quite different from the way that it was intended to be displayed.

The concept of “Filmmaker Mode” for televisions is a fantastic idea. I believe that people watching movies and TV shows at home should be able to experience media in as close to its original format as possible given the technology that they own.

My only problem with this mode is that some filmmakers don’t give me enough frames in their movies. Filmmakers have been stuck producing content at 24 frames per second for a very long time. There are several good reasons for this: fewer frames means more of a chance for our brains to fill in the gaps with magic, and fewer frames means cheaper CGI. But certain types of movies beg for more frames. And sometimes, I want more frames, and I’m going to use technology to enhance a movie by adding more frames via motion smoothing.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think every movie benefits from a higher framerate. There are many cases where movies benefit from being shot at 24fps. In those cases, I don’t want to ruin the director’s vision with blurry, artificial pictures inserted in-between frames.

But take a movie like Avatar (2009). That’s a movie that would have looked spectacular at 60fps or more, especially during the Pandora sections. That’s a movie for which I’m going to enable motion smoothing on my TV while wishing that I didn’t have to.

There have been a few movies released over the past several years that are shot at beyond 24fps, but none of them have been great movies. The two that come to mind are:

No good. Where are the 120fps movies that actually take advantage of more frames without looking silly? Where are the movies that make Bong Joon-ho wish he’d shot Parasite at 48fps? Where are the movies that change the standard?

I eagerly await these movies. In the meantime, I’ll keep “Filmmaker Mode” off, just in case I need a hit of extra frames.

PS: Here is a 30-second clip where David Lynch tells you to watch movies how they’re meant to be watched:

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