Soap Effect: Tom Cruise wants you to turn it off. here’s how

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Sometimes you need to dig deeper into your TV’s menu system to get the best picture.

Samsung

Top Gun is aiming for a “feature” that makes motion pictures more like cheap YouTube videos.

Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible – Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie I want you to turn off the soap opera effect when you watch movies. They even made a video about it and added it as a sort of video quality PSA at the start of Blu-ray.

So what is the soap opera effect?

The soap opera effect is actually a feature of many modern televisions. This is called “motion smoothing”, “motion interpolation” or “ME / MC” for motion estimation / motion compensation. Some people don’t notice it, some don’t care, and a few even like it. Judging by the report from Cruise’s tweet, it seems most people hate him.

It looks like a hyper-realistic, ultra-smooth movement. It shows up best in panning and camera movement, although many viewers can see it in any movement. The effect is potentially welcome for certain types of video, such as sports and reality TV. But movies, premium scripted TV shows, and many other types of video – according to most viewers, and directors like McQuarrie who actually create the movies and shows – are worse when applied by TV. .


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TV manufacturers: “It’s a feature, not a bug”

This “whatever” movement was conspicuously developed to help diminish the appearance motion blur on LCD screens. All LCD TVs have difficulty with motion resolution. That is, any moving object on the screen will be less detailed (slightly blurry) compared to that same object when stopped. High refresh rate LCD (120 Hz and 240 Hz) were developed to combat this problem.

Read more: What is the refresh rate?

The Short Version: For high refresh rate TVs to be more efficient, they need new real frames to fit between the original frames.

Thanks to fast processors, televisions can “guess” what is going on between the images captured by the camera originally. These new frames are a hybrid of the front frame and the after frame. By creating these images, motion blur is reduced. With content of 30 and 60 frames per second, that’s awesome. Content like sports has better detail with motion, and there are minimal side effects, beyond errors and artifacts possible with cheaper or less motion interpolation processing.

Smoothing soap opera effect Tom Cruise Vizio

On Vizio TVs you will find controls for the soap opera effect under Motion Control.

David Katzmaier / CNET

However, with 24 fps content (i.e. Hollywood movies and most non-reality TV shows like sitcoms and dramas), there is a problem. The frame rate of the film, and the associated image blurring of the slower frame rate, is related to the perception of fiction. Check scathing reviews of high frame rate version of The Hobbit for proof of this. Even if this perception seems grandiose, the see of 24fps is expected with fictional movies and TV shows. Even though the television and film industries have moved away from real film shooting, new digital cameras are tuned for 24 frames per second because fictional audiences expect the look.

SOE disturbs this cadence. By creating new frames between the original 24 frames, the content looks like 30 or 60 frames per second. In other words, it makes movies (24fps) look like soap operas (30 / 60fps).

How to turn it off

The bad news: Every TV company has a different name for their motion tween processing. And in most picture modes by default it is enabled. Why? Maybe because TV manufacturers want to justify the extra price you paid for a TV with this feature built in. Ah, progress.

The good news: With almost any TV on the market, you can turn it off.

Step 1: Put the TV in Film, Cinema or Calibrated mode. On most TVs, not only will this eliminate or significantly reduce smoothing, but it will make the picture more precise in general, especially colors. If the movie looks too dark, feel free to increase the backlight (on LCD TVs) or brightness (on newer Sony LCD TVs) or OLED light (on OLED TVs) until it is bright enough for you.

Step 2: Make sure smoothing is turned off. Some televisions keep the soap opera effect on even in Movie or Cinema mode. Uncool. CNET has checked a few of the 2018 TVs in its lab – here’s what we found and how to make sure it’s turned off.

  • LG: Picture settings menu> Picture options> TruMotion: Disabled. On the 2018 B8 OLED TV we checked, smoothing is enabled in Cinema mode (TruMotion: Clear) but disabled in Technicolor. Expert mode.
  • Samsung: Expert settings menu> Auto Motion Plus> Off. On the 2018 Q9 we checked, smoothing is largely disabled in Film mode (Auto Motion Plus: Custom, Judder Reduction: 3).
  • Sony: Picture settings menu> Advanced settings> Motion> MotionFlow: Disabled or TruCinema. On the 2018 X900F we checked, smoothing is disabled in Cinema Pro mode (MotionFlow: TruCinema).
  • TCL: Image menu> Advanced image settings> Action smoothing: Disabled. On the 2018 TCL 5 series we checked, smoothing was disabled in Film mode.
  • Vizio: Image menu> More images> Motion control> Reduce jerks: 0. On the 2018 P-Series Quantum we checked, smoothing was disabled in Calibrated and Dark Calibrated mode.
Smoothing soap opera effect Tom Cruise LG

In LG’s high-end 2018 OLED TVs, smoothing is enabled by default in Cinema mode.

David Katzmaier / CNET

Most of these names have remained consistent over the past few years when it comes to smoothing features. Therefore, if you have an earlier TV from any of these brands, you should be able to find the smoothing feature by digging a bit.

CNET’s Picture Settings Forum is also a good way to research your TV settings. Our reviews generally recommend turning off the soap opera effect entirely, although some models with custom parameter settings may offer improved motion resolution without smoothing.

Whatever TV you have, it’s worth knowing where this setting is. You may want this when watching sports or other content based on “videos” (30 fps or 60 fps). Then for fictional movies and TV shows, you can turn it off. This will give you the best of both worlds approach with minimal motion blur with sports and no SOE with movies.

Originally published in 2013.
Update, December 5, 2018: Fully updated with instructions for 2018 TVs.


Have a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he’s written on topics like HDMI cables, LED LCD vs plasma, 3D active vs passive, and more. Still have a question? Send him an e-mail! He won’t tell you which TV to buy, but he could use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff Where Google+.



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