How to optimize your TV to watch Game of Thrones

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The episode of Game of Thrones that aired in the USA on Sunday, April 28 that was visible the next day in Europe, depicting the Battle of Winterfell, was highly anticipated by fans, and that’s an understatement. Nevertheless, something that a lot of viewers picked up on and relayed across the internet was that the episode was really dark.

Game of Thrones fans can rest assured: this article does not contain any spoilers!

It’s hard to avoid spoilers concerning the plot of the most recent episode on social media, at work or when you are out with friends, but it is practically impossible not to have seen the hordes of comments about how dark the picture of the third episode of season 8 – The Long Night – was. Not everybody agreed with these comments, however, especially the episode’s cinematographer, Fabien Wagner, who said the following during an interview: “I know it wasn’t too dark because I shot it”. Wagner maintains that the issue is due to not using the correct screen settings, or simply due to the TV itself.

It is difficult to fully enjoy the episode without adjusting the TV’s settings beforehand.

Game of Thrones: how to be sure that you don’t miss anything

Fabian Wagner himself affirmed that smartphones, tablets and laptops clearly aren’t suited to a show of this magnitude. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to watch the episode on a television rather than on one of the aforementioned devices. Naturally, it is recommended to eliminate all light sources to avoid any unwanted reflections and optimize the TV’s brightness and contrast.

The bitrate is also a key factor in optimizing the picture. For example, Amazon Prime Video’s HBO service streams Game of Thrones at 10 Mbps, whereas HBO GO streams the episodes at 5 Mbps. A difference that may seem minimal in theory but is critical when trying to avoid pixelation and under-exposure. It is therefore important to ensure that you are streaming content with a resolution of at least 1080p, at an optimal bitrate. For most shows, these problems aren’t very obvious, but dimly lit scenes such as the battle of Winterfell definitely suffer from too much compression and mediocre streaming quality. To obtain the best possible image quality, the prefered solution is to wait for a physical format release to enjoy ultra high definition with a Blu-ray player or, even better, a 4K UHD Blu-ray player.

The bitrate provided by HBO GO isn’t enough for complex scenes such as these.

Game of Thrones: choosing the correct settings for your TV screen

The vast majority of televisions now offer multiple picture modes in order to provide a restitution adapted to various uses. For example, if the gaming mode is selected because you use your TV for playing video games, make sure that you choose the cinema mode to watch episodes of Game of Thrones. The picture’s refresh rate and the image processing applied to ensure an optimal restitution of the video signal streamed by your console won’t be appropriate for watching movies or TV series. Color settings may also allow you to enhance the picture, for example choosing the “warm” mode for dark content. The same goes for backlighting. If a movie or television show is mostly light, it is likely that you’ll want to reduce this setting, but for this particular episode, it is recommended to boost it.

The cinema mode provides optimal restitution for movies and contemporary TV series.

Although these particular adjustments provide a clearer restitution, it is recommended to deactivate other image processing settings. This is true for the dynamic contrast, which has a tendency to reduce detail in dark areas.

For an episode like The Long Night, it can be tempting to increase the brightness to lighten the image, but the problem is more complex than it seems. This technique works for dark scenes during shows in low definition that are several years old, before HDR and personalized settings were a thing, but it isn’t a great idea to increase the brightness too much in our case, as the picture would lose a lot of depth and the blacks would become gray. Another important point is that the episode doesn’t always take place in the dark, and some lighter scenes in the fog create a contrast with the darker sequences. Consequently, increasing the brightness would make the foggy scenes much too bright and virtually illegible.

Some foggy scenes contrast strongly with the darker sequences, so it isn’t recommended to push the brightness setting to the maximum.

Motion smoothing: on or off?

Many HD and UHD televisions feature motion compensation technology developed to make motion more fluid. The Sony Motionflow, Panasonic Intelligent Frame Creation, Samsung Motion Plus, and LG TruMotion technologies, which insert intermediate frames created from existing images, are especially useful when watching sporting events and ensure that you don’t miss a second of the action. However, these image processing techniques create what is called the “soap opera” or “video” effect with TV series and movies in high definition. This side effect generates a restitution that looks unnatural, as well as visual artefacts and noise around moving objects. Therefore, it is recommended to deactivate this function to watch the episode without deteriorating the picture.

What type of screen?

For this much-awaited episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, the film crew have put every effort into its creation, and the Battle of Winterfell is clearly meant to wow the viewer. Therefore, it goes without saying that an OLED TV, a QLED screen or a 4K UHD projector are the most fitting solutions to ensure the best possible conditions and fully enjoy the series, especially this episode depicting an epic battle.

OLED televisions allow you to experience the same detail and image quality at home as you would at a movie theater.

While the third episode of this conclusive season kept viewers on their toes, it seems that the best is yet to come. Emilia Clarke, the actress who portrays Daenerys Targaryen, has announced that episode 5 of season 8 would be even more breathtaking. The episode in question will be aired on Sunday, May 12 in the United States and during the night of May 12 to 13 in Europe. The actress promises that the episode will be emotionally charged and action-packed, and strongly suggested during an interview that it should be viewed on the biggest screen possible.

The fight for the Iron Throne is coming to an end. A 4K UHD TV such as the LG 65SM8200, the LG 75UM7600, the Philips 65PUS6753, the Sony KD-75XF8596B, the Philips 65PUS6753 or the Sony KD-75XF8596B, an OLED screen such as the Sony KD-65AF9  the LG OLED65C8, the Panasonic TX-65FZ950E, or a projector such as the BenQ W1090, the Optoma HD39 Darbee, the Optoma HD35UST, the Sony VPL-VW270ES, or the Optoma EH470 should be your weapon of choice so that you don’t miss out on any of the action.


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