Got a New TV for Christmas? Change This Setting Immediately
Did you get a new television for Christmas this year? Or did you decide to get one for the house and call it a Christmas gift? No matter what your reason, if you got a new TV this season, congratulations. You’ve made quite an upgrade to your home entertainment. With streaming now more a part of the landscape than ever, you’ve also made an investment in your home entertainment future as well. However, before you settle in to see what all the fuss is about, and catch all the little differences, there’s one point to consider. Open up your TV’s menu, go looking for “motion smoothing”, turn it off, and then forget about it. Forever. Mostly.
What is ‘Motion Smoothing’?
Motion smoothing, sometimes called frame interpolation, has been around for years now, going back to at least 2017. It was designed as a way to bridge the gap between frame rates. Most films are shot at 24 frames per second (fps), while many HDTVs can refresh at 60 fps. While some programs are specifically created to take advantage of this technology, those that are not let the TV fill the “gaps” - the end result infuriates directors like John Hillcoat (“Black Mirror,” “The Road”).
“Watching a film with motion blur or the sports setting is so heartbreaking because it looks like moving plastic sludge,” Hillcoat says. “Digital has plasticity even at the top end [that] we’re all working to break it down or to add texture. So we shoot with old lenses. But the worst thing of all is just intuitively, if you aren’t a tech person, and you just happen to watch something, experientially and emotionally there is an alienating effect. It’s diminished in its power to reach you. To me, that’s the biggest heartbreak of all—audiences are being duped. Other forces have taken over and are not addressing the fundamental issue of maintaining quality.”
In fact, large portions of Hollywood have come out against it. Tom Crusie himself spoke out against motion smoothing in this video.
I’m taking a quick break from filming to tell you the best way to watch Mission: Impossible Fallout (or any movie you love) at home. pic.twitter.com/oW2eTm1IUA— Tom Cruise (@TomCruise) December 4, 2018
“The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson called motion smoothing “liquid diarrhea.”
And this is a tweet from James Gunn, director of a slate of movies from “Guardians of the Galaxy” to 2006 monster movie “Slither.”
So @rianjohnson, @edgarwright, @mattreevesLA, @chrismcquarrie, @TomCruise & I are all on board the anti-motion-smoothing campaign. Who else?— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) October 5, 2017
That makes it pretty clear how not only Gunn feels about motion smoothing, but also, a bundle of other big names. That’s a lot of firepower to have against this platform. But is there any good to it at all?
The One Possible Exception
It turns out there’s one major exception for motion smoothing: sports. Live sports, as it turns out, is not really all that live. The camera feed from a live sporting event can pass through a couple different points before it reaches your home television. So since the video presented to you is already a bit doctored, your system can more safely run best-fits and interpolation to provide even more smoothness. The back-and-forth nature of live sports presentations also works well for artificial smoothing.
For the most part, however, you’re likely better off losing the motion smoothing effects. It’s likely better to watch a movie or television show how it was intended to be presented than how your TV thinks it looks best. In the end, it all comes down to a matter of personal taste. So, the next time you watch a movie, consider watching it a second time with the motion smoothing on and off. If you listen to filmmakers, they’re all firmly on the side of “off.”
Where to Find the ‘Motion Smoothing’ Setting
You’ll usually find this under the “picture” setting on your TV, although every manufacturer calls it something different. Samsung calls it “Auto Motion Plus,” Sony calls it “MotionFlow,” while LG calls it “TruMotion.” You also might have to do some digging before you’ll find the settings.