There are two types of people in this world: those who are profoundly infuriated by the motion smoothing, or interpolation, effect on modern HDTVs, and those who don't seem to notice that everything they watch looks like it was shot on video like a crappy mid-90s sitcom. Coinciding with the release of Mission Impossible: Fallout on Blu-Ray, Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie have released a video pleading with viewers to disable motion smoothing on their TVs.
For several years now motion smoothing has been a default setting, shipped out on most new TVs, and it's often notoriously difficult to find the appropriate menu to switch it off. Part of the reason has been that each company labels the feature with a different name. On LG televisions it's called TruMotion, Samsung calls it Auto Motion Plus, Sony has its MotionFlow and Toshiba badges it ClearScan.
The effect essentially arose out of a tendency for LCD flat-panel televisions to display a motion blur that reduces the crisp picture TV manufacturers are constantly striving for. If you watch a lot of sport, or play video games, you probably welcome the function, however, an unfortunate side effect is it makes movies and TV shows look like they were shot on cheap HD video.
Hollywood creatives have long cried foul of motion smoothing, euphemistically referring to it as "the soap opera effect." Years ago, Reed Morano, an experienced Hollywood cinematographer, gathered thousands of signatures on a petition to try to get TV manufacturers to simply not ship televisions with the function set on as default.
Morano obviously didn't win the battle then, but more recently the issue has again bubbled to the surface, with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn recruiting some famous director friends to fight the good fight. Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi perhaps put it most succinctly when he tweeted, "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."
In September, the issue reached a new peak with directors Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson revealing they had been talking to TV manufacturers in an attempt to have the function switched off as default.
Now getting in on the anti-motion smoothing bandwagon is Mr Top Gun himself, Tom Cruise. In a video recently published on Twitter, Cruise is admirably diplomatic in describing the motion smoothing situation to his legion of fans. His frequent directing collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, on the other hand, is much more frank, offering explicit directions on how to google the right way to disable the function.
TV manufacturers so far aren't really paying much attention to Hollywood's interpolation concerns. Last month Samsung suggested customers have the opportunity to disable the function if they don't like it. Sony also released a statement that felt a little like it was suggesting it knew its customer's preferences better than Hollywood.
"While some directors don't like excessive motion interpolation because of the 'soap opera effect,' they need to consider that the average consumer watches a lot more than just 24 (fps) movies," Sony said. "Other content, like sports greatly benefit from 'smooth motion.' The default setting for Sony MotionFlow is designed to provide the best compromise between cinematic motion for movies and smooth motion for live action."
So the battle is still raging and it remains to be seen whether the power of Tom Cruise can force TV manufacturers to care. At the very least, we can all hope that at least one person out there, who maybe never realized that they have their TV set to motion smoothing, will see Tom Cruise, listen, and start watching movies the way the directors intended.
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