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Tom Cruise wants you to disable motion smoothing on your TV

Tom Cruise wants you to disabl...
Tom Cruise and director Chistropher McQuarrie asking fans to turn off motion smoothing on their televisions
Tom Cruise and director Chistropher McQuarrie asking fans to turn off motion smoothing on their televisions
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Tom Cruise and director Chistropher McQuarrie asking fans to turn off motion smoothing on their televisions
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Tom Cruise and director Chistropher McQuarrie asking fans to turn off motion smoothing on their televisions
The Google query McQuarrie suggests fans of film use
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The Google query McQuarrie suggests fans of film use

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.

The Google query McQuarrie suggests fans of film use
The Google query McQuarrie suggests fans of film use

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.

13 comments
Grunchy
"The battle is still raging" is sort of a bit inflated, wouldn't you say? Too much hyperbole for anyone to take newatlas seriously...
aksdad
Silly. The only reason "purists" complain about motion smoothing is that we have all become accustomed to the lousy 24-frames-per-second rate that became the motion picture standard a hundred years ago. Because we're used to it, higher frame rates appear "unnaturally" smooth, which many call the "soap opera" effect because live TV shows like soap operas were shot on TV cameras operating at 60 (interlaced) frames per second. In fact, higher frame rates simulate motion more accurately and smoothly. Higher is better, except to so-called "artists" who think that slow, crappy 24 fps is the only true, holy and blessed frame rate. In fact it is 24 fps video that creates numerous problems; for example when the camera pans too fast, the image stutters and directors of photography have to plan carefully to minimize the stutter. With higher frame rates that is no longer a problem. It's silly to be stuck using a hundred-year-old standard that was chosen simply for economy. Back at the dawn of the motion picture era, the fewer the frames used to achieve the illusion of motion, the less expensive it would be to shoot the film. On modern digital displays, refresh rates below 60 Hz (60 "frames" per second) produce noticeable flicker, which is hard on your eyes and tiring to watch. That's why video games are displayed at much higher frame rates. Movies at 24 fps are well below this threshold and if watched at a matched refresh rate of 24 Hz, would be unbearable, like watching a strobe light. Digital displays double or triple the length of time each frame displays (24 x 3 = 72) or even display some frames for twice as long and some for three times as long to fit 24 frames into a 60 Hz refresh rate, which adds its own stutter because of the uneven frame rates. If Hollywood would get busy and shoot movies at 60 or 72 frames per second, we'd all be a lot happier. So make it happen, Tom, instead of telling us we're all wrong.
Joshua Tulberg
I never liked 4K home TVs and I still find them annoyingly "crisp". I think that's the soap-opera effect (?). Anyhow, standard HD (1080p) is still my favorite.
KaiserPingo
SONY happens to be an extremely arrogant company. Shown here again.
guzmanchinky
I agree with aksdad, I shoot all my home movies at 4k60p and it looks so good, especially when things move fast. So why the old 24fps? Do they not have enough money/data bandwidth/hard drive space to shoot faster?
toyhouse
I get it. The visual artist spends a lot of money, works hard to make a creation and product, only to have it cheapened, they feel. The soap opera effect is a fair description as that's the look it gives to a movie shot in 24p. And I don't think anyone I grew up with ever said, I sure wish they'd make movies look more like soap operas, cheap video or that 24p was ugly. They use that frame rate because it has a certain look. Remember how many folks complained when they released a hobbit movie in high frame-rate, 48p I think? Folks said much of the same - it looked cheap. So, there's a small bit of controversy here for some - if you're interested in the visual arts and want the presentation to be seen as intended. If not,...then you don't care about the altered look just as the article states many folks don't. It's your tele, you have a right. And the artists have a right to ask you to turn it off. In that - no controversy.
Captain Danger
If Curise says to turn it off , then turn it off. End of story
ljaques
I wonder if I have that setting on my 18 year old Panasonic flat square CRT television... <giggle>
T N Args
My Sony projector defaults to OFF, and I admit I turned it ON, after noticing very shaky scrolling effects with it OFF. Maybe I will try it OFF again, and experiment with different frame rates instead.
KungfuSteve
The soap opera effect, is not due to frames. Its because of LCDs poor clearing time-frames, and processor LAG.