In a video PSA with Mission Impossible: Fallout Director Chris McQuarrie, action star Tom Cruise made a plea to fans to turn off frame interpolation (aka motion smoothing) on modern TVs. Simply put, motion smoothing ruins the cinematic experience, and filmmakers really hate it. But it isn’t all that easy to turn it off on your TV. Here’s why.
To be honest, I think Cruise is wearing that jump suit so he can show that he’s filming Top Gun 2 for all his fans. But motion smoothing is a serious enough issue, that I’m glad that both Cruise and McQuarrie took the time to explain it. This feature causes what has been known as the “soap opera effect,” that makes a movie look like it was shot on a high definition video camera, in spite of the fact that movies like Fallout were shot on 35mm film. But with such a realistic look, that a film like Fallout gets ruined looking more like an afternoon soap opera, rather than a blockbuster action film.
The effect is caused by the technical term “Frame interpolation,” which adds frames in between in order to smooth out motion blur. It’s ideal for watching live sporting events, as no detail is missed, and is very similar to the look that Peter Jackson wanted using 48p high frame rate when shooting The Hobbit trilogy. And he received a lot of blowback from fans who said it was far too sharp and realistic, thereby taking them out of the story.
The problem is, that the feature is often turned on by default in current HD and 4K TVs, and users must drill down into the TVs menu settings in order to disable it in order to watch a movie or TV drama. Manufacturers, however, tend to use their own nomenclature when creating their menus, and so users may be confused in trying to find the feature and turn it off. One man’s frame interpolation is another man’s motion smoothing, is another man’s “smooth motion.” Basically, it should be under something like “MENU>PICTURE>ADVANCED CONTROLS>.”
But if you can’t find it, Cruise and McQuarrie recommend doing a simple Google search with the term “turn off frame interpolation” and your TV model or brand name. The results should show links to how to find it.
Well, not really. I tried that suggestion with my tv and the results were no help whatsoever. I found it easier to simply input the TV model and manual, download a PDF copy to look it up. It’s a good idea to have a digital copy of your manual anyway.
Or, you can simply ignore it. Some viewers actually like the ultra sharp presentation that frame interpolation provides, even if it isn’t how the filmmakers intended the film to be viewed. After all, it is your time and money. Besides, in time, your eyes’ persistence of vision will make you used to the soap opera effect anyway, and then when you don’t see it, the image looks muddier and ends up with the same result of taking you out of the movie. Ironies.
Frankly, I’m an old school guy. I like film, so I took the time to turn it off, and you should too. The good news is, that the filmmakers assure that Hollywood is lobbying manufacturers to make the process of turning off the feature easier. Here’s an idea … how about taking one of the dozens of buttons on a remote that nobody ever uses, and assign it to turning the function on and off? That way we can turn it on for the hockey game, and off for the evening movie.