UHD Alliance Announces Amazon Prime, Hisense Support for Filmmaker Mode

The UHD Alliance on Sept. 30 announced that Amazon Prime will begin supporting Filmmaker Mode next year and that Hisense has joined consumer electronics companies Panasonic, Vizio, Samsung, LG, Kaleidescape and Philips in supporting the feature.

The announcements came during an online presentation with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Filmmaker Mode, introduced by the UHD Alliance in August 2019, is designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. It allows viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.

“Prime Video will be launching this feature on select players next year,” said UHD Alliance chairman Mike Zink. “It’s something that we’ve been working very hard on, and I think we are very, very excited for this to come to life.”

UHD Alliance president Mike fiddler noted that CE companies supporting Filmmaker Mode represent a big chunk of TV unit shipments both domestically and globally.

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Zink interviewed colorist Jill Bogdanowicz and Stephen Lighthill, president, the American Society of Cinematographers, about the importance of maintaining the intention of creators in content viewed in the home.

“Anyone that does not look at the way the image is going into the home is foolish,” noted Lighthill, adding “producers want to make sure it’s going to look the same in Jill’s suite as it does at home.”

CE company executives also joined the discussion to describe and express their support for Filmmaker Mode.

LG Electronics’ Tim Alessi said the company was putting Filmmaker Mode in every new UHD model produced in 2020.

“We kinda went all in on Filmmaker Mode,” he said, noting, “what really sets this whole effort apart is we got the entire industry to rally around one name and one set of features.”

LG is mounting an in-store display at Best Buy describing the advantages of the feature.

Samsung’s Bill Mandel said the manufacturer put the Mode in all its 2020 UHD TVs, and about a month ago launched new projectors with the feature. Samsung is running an in-store video loop about it on its TVs, he noted.

Vizio Official HDTV and Sound Bar Partner for ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ Game

Vizio announced the launch of a partnership with Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics as the official HDTV and sound bar partner for the Marvel’s Avengers video game.

From the new line of IQ 4K HDR processors to Vizio’s ProGaming Engine, every new Vizio 4K TV is designed to optimize the gaming experience, according to Vizio.

The Vizio 2021 collection has started hitting retail shelves over the past four weeks and will continue to roll out through the fall.

“Today’s gamers want to enhance their playing experience,” Bill Baxter, chief technology officer at Vizio, said in a statement. “When they combine a new Vizio 4K TV and new 5.1 sound bar they increase their ability to win and raise their gaming position. We have created an entirely new lineup of 4K TVs with a dedicated gaming engine and immersive 5.1 sound bars that offer a best-in-class gaming experience. We’re excited to be the official HDTV and Sound Bar partner for the new Marvel’s Avengers game and to give gamers every advantage as they play the highly anticipated game upon its release.”

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“Video games are our passion,” Karl Stewart, head of worldwide strategic partnerships at Square Enix, said in a statement. “Now more than ever they are essential to bringing friends and family together. That’s why we are truly excited to work with Vizio and give gamers the perfect way to experience our game with Vizio as the official HDTV and sound bar for Marvel’s Avengers when it launches on Sept. 4.”

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Vizio delivers Quantum Color, Full Array LED with up to 3,000 nits of peak brightness, according to the company. The company is further enhancing its 4K TVs with next-gen gaming performance. Vizio V-Series 4K TVs include the new V-Gaming Engine, which utilizes Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Auto Game Mode to optimize performance upon identifying the game signal. Step-up models such as the M-Series, P-Series Quantum, P-Series Quantum X, and all new OLED include a ProGaming Engine, which offers support for variable refresh rate (VRR) and support for 4K at 120fps. Utilizing 64-bit image processing and offering HDMI 2.1 connectivity along with eARC passthrough, utilizing Vizio’s IQ Ultra and IQ Active processors adjust contrast at the level of individual pixels. The 1GHz CPU smooths contours and gradients in real time for more natural-looking graphics while accurately upscaling HD content to 4K resolution, according to Vizio. The Elevate Sound Bar features DTS:X and rotating speakers that blast sound overhead.

“We want Marvel’s Avengers to be a completely immersive gaming experience and VIZIO’s high performance takes everything to an entirely different level,” Crystal Dynamics creative director Shaun Escayg said in a statement. “The all-new Vizio ProGaming Engine in their TVs will make you feel like you’re a superhero.”

Marvel’s Avengers is a third-person action-adventure game combining a single-player campaign with online co-op action. Players must reassemble, rebuild, and customize their heroes’ roster to play an original Avengers single-player campaign, then enter the Avengers Initiative to battle solo or online alongside friends and continue the expanding story around the globe. They can also customize Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and master their unique powers to defend the world from escalating threats for years to come.

Marvel’s Avengers will bow for the PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC on Sept. 4, and will be available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X when the consoles launch in holiday 2020. The game is currently rated ‘T’ (Teen) by the ESRB.

Vudu Cutting 4K Movie Pricing 50% Through Black Friday

Walmart-owned movie streaming service Vudu is offering 4K UHD movies 50% off normal pricing for 48 hours through Black Friday.

Movies in 4K UHD typically cost between $14.99 and $19.99 per title.

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The special promotion, which requires access to a 4K-compatible television, includes 222 titles, including Shazam!, John Wick 3, Bumblebee, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Venom, Long Shot and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, among others.

 

Walmart Black Friday Deals Include DVDs Under $2, 4K Discs Under $8 and 4K TVs Under $200

Walmart’s Black Friday ad features deals for DVDs at $1.96, 4K Blu-ray Discs at $7.96 and 4K TVs as low as $198.

The Black Friday in-store sale starts at 6 p.m. Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving) and the online sale starts Nov. 27 at 10 p.m. EST.

The more than 50 titles at $1.96 include The Peanuts Movie, Trolls and The Fate of the Furious. Other price points include $3.96, $5.96, $7.96 and $9.96. 4K Blu-ray Discs at $7.96 include Avengers: Endgame, Wonder Woman, Venom, Aquaman and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

4K TV deals include an onn Roku 5o-inch smart TV model at $148, an onn Roku 58-inch smart TV model at $198, a Philips 65-inch Android smart TV model at $278, a Vizio 65-inch smart TV model at $398, a Samsung 55-inch smart TV model at $328 and a Samsung 50-inch smart TV model at $278.

There’s also a 40-inch 1080p 2K Roku smart TV at $98.

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Hulu Expands 4K Content Access Beyond Apple, Google Chromecast Devices

Hulu, which dropped 4K content in 2018 after launching access in 2016, reintroduced 4K content this summer exclusively to subscribers using Apple TV and Google Chromecast. Hulu 4K content in 2016 was limited to Sony PlayStation 4 Pro.

The Disney-owned SVOD with 28 million domestic subs Oct. 14 announced it is expanding 4K access to Xbox One consoles — reportedly with plans to include Amazon Fire TV and LG smart TVs pending.

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Hulu 4K content, which requires a 4k UHD TV but doesn’t support high-dynamic range (HDR), is limited to original programming such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The First,” “Castle Rock,” “Ramy,” “Atlanta,” and “Catch-22,” among others.

The expansion comes as Disney plans to bundle Hulu with ESPN+ and pending SVOD service, Disney+ for $12.99 monthly.

 

IHS: Domestic 4K UHD TV Shipments Surge Due to Pending Chinese Tariffs

Sales and shipments of 4K UHD televisions has hit 60% market penetration in some parts of the world, including the United States, according to new data from IHS Markit.

Speaking Oct. 14 at the MIPCOM confab in Cannes, France, Paul Gray, research analysis director at the London-based IHS, said 4K UHD TVs now exceed more than half of all TV shipments worldwide.

The analyst contends there are more than 260 million 4K UHD households globally — a tally that is expected to reach 574 million households by 2023, according to Advanced-Television.com, which reported Gray’s comments from France. About 34% of North American homes have 4KUHD TVs, increasing to 64% in the next four years.

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Notably, domestic shipments of 4K UHD TVs surged in North America as distributors stockpile inventory ahead of any proposed tariff increases on Chinese-manufactured products by the Trump Administration.

Meanwhile, next-generation 8K resolution continues to grow slowly with 167,000 display units shipped in 2019. This is expected to reach 3 million units by 2023.

UHD Alliance Introduces ‘Filmmaker Mode’

The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, Aug. 27 announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. (L-R): Panasonic’s Ron Martin, Vizio’s Kenneth Lowe, Warner’s Michael Zink and director Rian Johnson were on hand to announce the launch. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for UHD Alliance)

UHD Alliance Launches New ‘Filmmaker’ Viewing Mode

The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, on Aug. 27 announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.

Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the soon-to-be-released Knives Out, helped introduce Filmmaker Mode at an event in Los Angeles.

“As someone who makes movies, I love this so much,” he said. “I know that it means that every choice that I’ve made in the movies that I make, from the choices on set all the way up through through the color grade, are going to be coming through when somebody watches them at home.”

“I want to applaud everybody with the UHD Alliance,” he added.

“This initiative enjoys broad support from some of Hollywood’s most notable directors along with the filmmaking community,” said UHD Alliance president Mike Fiddler.

Current TVs use advanced video processing capabilities to offer consumers a broad range of options in viewing various types of content, ranging from sports to video games. Filmmaker Mode will allow viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.

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LG Electronics, Panasonic and VIZIO announced support for Filmmaker Mode. Specific product and implementation plans will be announced by each company at a later date. Panasonic expects to include the mode in 2020 models, said Panasonic’s Ron Martin at the event. Vizio announced its 2020 Smart TV product lineup also will include the new mode.

Vizio’s Carlos Angulo noted that the company’s research showed that 85% of consumers leave the TV in the mode out of the box or rarely change it.

“Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions,” said director Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, Interstellar and the Dark Knight Trilogy) in a statement. “Through collaboration with TV manufacturers, Filmmaker Mode consolidates input from filmmakers into simple principles for respecting frame rate, aspect ratio, color and contrast and encoding in the actual media so that televisions can read it and can display it appropriately.”

While studios and CE manufacturers have long worked in concert to deliver new entertainment technologies and experiences to consumers, Filmmaker Mode marks the first collaboration to add leaders in the creative community to the mix.

The UHD Alliance informed the project by surveying the creative community. Of the more then 400 members of the creative community surveyed, 96% said maintaining creative intent in the home was important to them, said Annie Chang, VP of creative technology at Universal.

There were three things repeatedly heard from filmmakers, said Warner Bros. VP of technology Michael Zink. They cared about the home viewing experience of their films, they knew modern TVs delivered more advanced quality, and they wanted it to be easy for consumers to access the correct settings for their content.

“I care deeply about how cinema is experienced at home because that’s where it lives the longest. That’s where cinema is watched and re-watched and experienced by families,” added Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther and Creed, in a statement. “By allowing the artists in the tent to help consult and give feedback to the electronics companies on Filmmaker Mode, we can collectively help make the consumer’s experience even more like it is in the cinema.”

Johnson noted that he once tried to turn off motion smoothing on a bar TV and even he couldn’t figure it out. “It’s nested very often in deep sub-menus,” he said.

Unlike some picture modes which may require the user to enter one or more menus to find and select, Filmmaker Mode will be activated either automatically, through metadata embedded in the content, or through a single button which enables the consumer to activate Filmmaker Mode without moving through multiple menu levels. Further, to make finding displays that can display content in Filmmaker Mode, the name and settings will be consistent across multiple TV brands.

“With all the advances in today’s televisions, now is a great time to introduce Filmmaker Mode. It’s just impossible to ignore what the technology can do,” noted director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread) in a statement. “We can use these capabilities to preserve the intent of the filmmaker, preserve the purpose of the art.”

As part of the specification development process for Filmmaker Mode, the UHDA also worked with and solicited input from the Directors Guild of America and The Film Foundation.

“I started the Film Foundation in 1990 with the goal to preserve film and protect the filmmaker’s original vision so that the audience can experience these films as they were intended to be seen,” noted director Martin Scorsese in a statement. “Most people today are watching these classic films at home rather than in movie theaters, making Filmmaker Mode of particular importance when presenting these films which have specifications unique to being shot on film.”

“Every day on set, we make hundreds of decisions about how to present and tell our story. No one decision makes or breaks a film, but there’s a cumulative effect that results in a film that looks and feels the way we envisioned it,” added Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins in a statement. “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.”

IHS Forecasts Strong Global 4K UHD TV Growth

While 4K Ultra HD televisions have become commonplace in the United States at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, among other retailers, global adoption of the new high-definition format is still picking up speed, according to new data from IHS Markit.

The London-based research firm cited declining prices for big-screen TV driving wider consumer adoption. Speaking at the MIPTV confab April 8-11 in Cannes, France, Paul Gray, director research and analysis, technology, media & telecom, said there are more than 142 4K UHD channels on the market, including 49 channels in Europe.

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Gray says that next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo (July 24 – Aug. 9, 2020) generate will 4K UHD unit sales of 130 million worldwide.

IHS estimates that by 2022, 60% of North American households own at least one UHD video display, with another 40% among Western Europe homes.

Indeed, the report suggests that by 2022, TV’s with 75-inch screen sizes will drop to around $1,000, with some 8K units priced at $2,000.

“It has taken only five years: shipments broke 1% for the first time in Q4 2013. This is as fast as the move from standard definition to HD resolutions,” Gray said, as reported by Advanced-Television.

 

 

UHD Alliance, Blu-ray Disc Association Tout 4K UHD at CES

The UHD Alliance and the Blu-ray Disc Association were at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas to tout the success of the 4K Ultra HD format and new promotional efforts.

The UHD Alliance currently has 43 members — comprised of electronics manufacturers, film and television studios, content distributors, and technology companies — with such companies as Charter Communications and Google joining last year to better understand how to deliver high dynamic range (HDR) content, said UHDA president Mike Fidler.

“Google of course brought out the Pixel 3 and that is a certified Mobile HDR Premium product,” he said.

The group also continues to certify products as Ultra HD Premium, with 46 new products added in 2018 to bring the total to 63 products (TVs, computer monitors, mobile devices and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players) and 10 companies offering certified products. The UHDA has also offered new broadcast recommendations to facilitate broadcast of Ultra HD Premium certified content.

The group continues to educate at such events as IFA, the 4K Summit, MWC, CEDIA and, of course, CES.

“We’re out at trade shows on an ongoing basis,” Fidler said.

Its educational website, ExperienceUHD.com, which launched in 2017, has been upgraded in the past year. It offers “how to” home theater set up information; educational information on HDR, 4K resolution, wider color spectrum, color bit depth and immersive audio; and social media links. Its biggest reach is with Millennials and Generation Z, according to Fidler.

Educational information on interoperability of different products went up on the site in October 2018.

“We are spending considerable resources,” Fidler said, to identify interoperability problems and offer steps on the website to fix them. The UHDA buys product at retail to test.

For instance, the website shows consumers how to set up TVs with screen shots of menus.

“It’s been really popular from a usage standpoint,” Fidler said, adding that every year the menus change “so we continue to do this.”

Sometime in the first quarter, the UHDA plans to put test patterns on the sight to help consumers see if they are getting true HDR.

The UHDA collaborated with Amazon on a section of the online behemoth’s site — which also offers a link to ExperienceUHD.com — to better educate consumers about the format. That product launched in August 2018.

“Other retailers have gotten in touch with us recently [about helping with sites],” Fidler said.

The group also unveiled a dynamic typograph asset at CES (developed in collaboration with the Digital Entertainment Group Europe), available for retailers and partners.

The UHDA is expanding its efforts into Europe, especially Germany, France and the United Kingdom, Fidler said.

In another initiative, the UHDA surveyed the creative community, getting close to 400 responses from cinematographers, colorists, directors, digital imaging specialists, editors, producers, VFX supervisors, writers and others on their preferences for and the importance of the format. The effort was recognized at the fall 4K UHD summit. In the survey, 86.1% answered “Most Important” to the question: “How important is it to you to have a simple way to get your home TV setup similar to monitors in the color grading suite for viewing content that YOU created?”

Actor Tom Cruise’s recent Twitter missive about motion smoothing was inspired by the survey, Fidler said.

Meanwhile, the 4K UHD market continues to grow with all 55-inch and larger panels available in UHD only and 100% of 50-inch and larger TV shipments expected to be in the format by the end of this year, according to IHS Markit data cited by the UHDA.

On the content side, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) noted that Ultra HD Blu-ray, both hardware and software, experiencing approximately 40% and 60% growth, respectively, in 2018, with catalog, local/regional and episodic TV titles increasingly joining new release theatricals on the format.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales for 2018 are expected to surpass 2017 by 44%, and growth of another 30% is anticipated for 2019, according to Futuresource data cited by the BDA. Meanwhile, 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be Ultra HD Blu-ray, with 25% projected in 2019 (excluding Xbox One sales), according to data cited by the BDA. The worldwide UHD Blu-ray player installed base is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018. As of December 2018, there were 29 4K UHD BD player models and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models for a total of 40, according to the BDA.

Global 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales continue to grow steadily, with an 83% increase in 2018 vs. 2017, and a further growth of 45% forecast for 2019, according to the BDA. Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 11% of Blu-rays sold worldwide in 2018, rising to 22% by 2020 and 40% by 2022, according to the BDA.

About 430 4K UHD Blu-ray titles were available in the United States by the end of 2018, the BDA reported, with such notable recent catalog releases as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and such episodic TV releases as “Game of Thrones,” “Planet Earth 2” and “Dr. Who: Twice Upon a Time.”

BDA president Victor Matsuda was especially impressed with Lionsgate’s decision to release Twilight, which skews to a younger audience, on 4K UHD Blu-ray.

“Recognizing the business possibilities in reissuing that type of title was really encouraging,” he said.

With streaming 4K UHD still dependent on the pipeline to the home (Netflix recommends 25Mbps for 4K), the fact that most users’ service is less robust makes the physical disc more compelling, he said. Only 21% in the U.S. manage to meet the Netflix standard, while such European countries as Germany, France and the United Kingdom manage even less of a percentage.

To tout the benefits of 4K UHD Blu-ray, the BDA also unveiled a sizzle reel at CES for members.