TV owners unite: stop the Soap Opera effect!

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The makers of the TVs you buy from Best Buy and Amazon assume that the more frames per second the better, especially when watching a sporting event on a store stall. So they developed technologies – all with different names, depending on the brand; see below – who would “guess” what the intermediate frames would look like, then process and interpolate them, increasing the frame rate to the upper limit of the set. And they sell you the TV with this technology enabled as a default option.

Why is this important? Here’s why: A higher frame rate doesn’t look like a movie, but a videotape: a soap opera, TV news, or live sporting event. The visuals are warm, crisp, “live”; the movements are smoothed until smooth. It looks great when you watch the Patriots. It’s the death of cinema when you watch “Casablanca” or “Dunkirk” or any movie or TV show where the director and the crew have worked on a 24 fps image.

Classic movies look particularly grotesque – just wrong
– when viewed with motion smoothing enabled. Interpolated images brighten the contrast until you feel like you’re watching a video from a movie (you are); the characters move around the frame with a buttery hyperrealism that is the antithesis of how bodies should behave in movies. It’s the equivalent of seeing the corpse of a beloved old friend reanimated while fighting back.

But a lot of people don’t get it, in the same way that most theater goers don’t notice the appalling projection and sound quality of your average multiplex experience. (Movie directors are betting on that, actually.) I quit watching movies at my friend Eddie’s house for a while because he not only kept motion smoothing by default, but he and his wife. couldn’t see the difference. (I eventually pulled his remote away and turned the option off – and they still couldn’t tell.)

You could argue that the celluloid is dead and that since we can
have all these frames, we should
having them – it’s progress, and if you don’t like it, go back and watch movies on a hand-cranked zoetrope. But watching movies, especially older ones, with motion smoothing turned on undoubtedly robs them of an essence – a visual sense of mystery. What is poetry becomes prose, and prose without grace. And filmmakers hate it.

Rian Johnson, director of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, has been dealing with motion smoothing for years now – he called it “watery diarrhea” in a now-deleted tweet – and Reed Morano (“The Handmaid’s Tale” ) circulated a petition on Change.org in 2014, asking TV manufacturers to stop making it a default setting. Directors like James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”) and actors like Tom Cruise have recorded their dissatisfaction, and the Twitter hashtag #tvninja loves those who surreptitiously turn motion smoothing off on public TVs.

Now two big Hollywood hitters, directors Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”, “The Dark Knight”) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights”, “Phantom Thread”) intervened. The two sent an email last week to members of the Directors Guild of America, stating that they had opened a dialogue with TV makers to help “make sure the home viewer sees our work showcased on. as close as possible to our original creative intentions. . “A survey included in the email is intended to refine and further attract support from DGA members.

Essentially, filmmakers want TV makers to deliver their TVs with motion smoothing turned off or easily adjusted without going through a series of confusing submenus. This is currently the only way to watch a movie that actually looks like a movie instead of a ghoulish parody, and the makers aren’t making it easier by adopting a different brand name depending on who is selling it.

It’s calledMotionFlow on a Sony, TruMotion on an LG, Auto Motion Plus or Clear Motion on a Samsung, ClearScan on a Toshiba. If you access your basic “picture” settings, most televisions allow you to switch between preloaded modes like “movie”, “sport”, “game” and others. Some of them turn off motion smoothing, some don’t.

If you really want to watch TV without the added ghosting, which means that the filmed shows will look like a video and the filmed footage will look like a movie, you’ll have to dig in with a sense of mission. On my living room LG TV, for example, I have to go to the Picture menu, then to the picture mode settings, then to the picture options, just to find and turn off the default TruMotion setting. (If that doesn’t work for you, Google “how to turn off motion smoothing” and brand name your TV.)

Is it worth it? All that filmmakers like Johnson, Nolan, and Anderson are asking for – as well as crisp purists like the #tvninja and I crowd – is for the TVs to be sold with the Soap Opera effect already turned off or with the setting easily explained and accessible. to the average viewer. Otherwise, you don’t look at the images like the people who created them wanted them to be seen. You watch them as the manufacturers want. There are worse things than training your eyes to notice the difference.


Ty Burr can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @tyburr.



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