A group of notable Hollywood directors are calling on TV manufacturers to turn off motion smoothing, which causes the “soap opera” effect.
For cinema there is DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives), which is a set of stringent requirements that exhibitors must meet in order to screen Hollywood movies. There is no equivalent for the living room. This is why some Hollywood people refer to TV as the wild west.
A group of Hollywood directors are now calling on TV manufacturers to turn off these “motion smoothing” systems. The systems are activated per default on almost any TV today.
The group is led by James Gunn who is best known for the ’Guardians of The Galaxy’ movies. In addition, Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Edgar Wright (Baby Driver), Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Chris McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Reed Moreno (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Tom Cruise support the initiative.
- “I call motion smoothing Satan’s spectacles," said James Gunn.
The method works by analyzing the video stream in order to insert extra, artificial frames into it. The goal is to smooth out motion but unfortunately it makes a movie look like something that was recorded with a handheld camera. The industry generally refers to it as the “soap opera” effect.
Not the same as HFR
James Gunn is actively engaged in the debate and says that it makes “Blade Runner look more like One Life to Live”. Rian Johnson believes that it makes movies look like ”liquid diarrhea”.
- ”You want movies to look like liquid diarrhea, fine. But it should be a choice you make, not a hoop everyone has to jump through to unmake,” said Rian Johnson.
James Gunn added that motion smoothing is not the same as movies shot at higher frame rate (HFR). Hollywood continues to shoot movies at a low 24fps, with only a few exceptions. The Hobbit was shot at 48fps and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was shot at 120fps.
- ”Motion smoothing - fake extra frames added to your TV picture - is NOT the same as films shot at actual higher frame rates,” argued James Gunn.
The directors are not the first to speak out against motion smoothing. In 2014, a petition was started to make the bad practice stop. TV manufacturers have refused to do so. In some perverse way they see it as their job to “enhance” the video – even when the source is in pristine 4K quality. It goes beyond motion smoothing by also covering sharpness enhancement, oversaturated colors, noise reduction, and more.
Whenever FlatpanelsHD reviews a TV, one of the first things we do is to turn off the motion interpolation system, which goes by many names depending the brand of your TV. You can find our TV calibration settings here.