Mill Valley Film Festival: The THX guide for a better viewing experience at home

The Boys Who Said NO!

If you’re on the hunt for something new and exciting to watch this October, you’re in luck. The 43rd Annual Mill Valley Film Festival is streaming for 2020! 

That means you’ll get fantastic independent films and documentaries, such as the clever, hilarious, and thrilling “The Heist of the Century” about the greatest bank robbery in Argentina’s history, or the electrifying protest documentary about the original resistors to the Vietnam war draft “The Boys Who Said NO!” from Bay Area filmmaker Judith Ehrlich streamed directly into your home via the CAFilm Roku and Apple TV apps. 

We know watching movies in your living room isn’t the same experience as watching on the big screen. So THX (as a sponsor of the Mill Valley Film Festival), has put together some easy tips on how to squeeze the best viewing experience out of your living room or mobile device. 

The Mill Valley Film Festival runs from October 8 – 18, and you can browse films and get tickets here. We hope you all enjoy the show and thank you for supporting the Festival! 

The Heist of the Century

Internet connection

Slim down the amount of data your internet connection is pulling. Think of this as driving during rush hour (remember that!). If you’re in a house where someone is streaming Spotify or Tidal, the kids are playing Fornite, and you’re trying to stream a high-definition or 4K movie, that’s a lot of “traffic” (data) trying to use the same “road” (bandwidth) at the same time. 

Depending on your home’s layout, the Wi-Fi strength, and your connection speed, your movie quality may suffer if there’s a lot of usage going on at the same time. Minimize the heavier loads on your Internet connection for the movie’s length, and you shouldn’t see a drop in quality or bothersome buffering. 

TV modes and settings

Set your TV, projector, or mobile screen to movie mode, especially if it has THX Certified Cinema Mode. 

THX Certified Cinema Mode will give you a few things over the standard picture setting. It’ll adjust all the color and brightness settings to their studio levels. This ensures your movies have the correct highlights and shadows. THX Certified Cinema Mode also corrects the color gamut, so what you see on the screen is accurate to what the filmmaker intended.

Finally, THX Certified Cinema Mode turns off unneeded video processing and adjusts noise reduction, or how it’s commonly referred to as the soap opera effect. The soap opera effect – or its more technical names, motion smoothing, and video interpolation – is meant for sports programming. It helps the viewer see what’s going on in live-recorded events. But for movies, it kills the cinematic look of a film. Do yourself a favor and turn motion smoothing off whenever you watch a movie, you’ll thank us later. We’ve listed out some of the major TV brands and options to turn off below. 

For LG TVs, turn off the “TruMotion” option.

For Samsung TVs, turn off the “Auto Motion Plus” option.

For Sony TVs, turn off the “Motionflow” or “Motion Smoothing” options.

For Vizio TVs, turn off the “Smooth Motion Effect” option. 

Room setup

Remember to take everything about the room into account. From the lights, the seating, and the position of the screen, to the speakers.

Turn down the lights and draw the curtains. Reducing the ambient light in the room and the glare on the screen will help you see what’s happening without distraction. 

Now that we can see the screen and it’s in the right mode, it’s essential to be the correct distance away depending on the screen size. Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot sit a few feet away from a giant 80″ screen TV. The bigger the screen, the further away your seat should be to reap the benefits. To find the best viewing distance for your screen, check this link.

If you have more people than can comfortably fit on one couch, we’d recommend making two parallel rows of seating if possible, instead of sitting someone perpendicular to the TV. Sitting two rows parallel to the screen will put more viewers closer to the audiovisual sweet spot.

For those of you with a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup, remember to have the speakers pointed toward this newly centralized seating position. 

Advice for smaller screens 

We get it, not everyone has the time or resources to watch Mill Valley Film Festivals’ movies on a THX Certified home theater setup. However, you can still have a great viewing experience on a smartphone or laptop. 

Mobile device speakers can be too small to produce quality sound, and that problem gets worse if the room is noisy. Fix that by finding a quiet place and a pair of comfortable headphones – especially if they’re THX Certified, such as the new Razer Opus headphones. You’ll have a more engaging experience if you can hear what’s going on. 

If your smaller screen doesn’t have a movie mode – like THX Certified mobile devices – make sure you turn down the screen brightness to a comfortable level as it’ll help with eye fatigue. 

Remember to turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode (link for iPhones) (link Android devices) or mute notifications if possible. You’re watching a great movie, after all, and don’t want to be distracted. 

Remember the popcorn or your favorite snack, sit back, and enjoy the Mill Valley Film Festival!