Tom Cruise made headlines recently – not for professing his love while jumping on a couch, but for something that affects everyone who watches television or movies. The long-time A-lister recently expressed his distaste for motion smoothing, which is otherwise known as video interpolation or the soap opera effect. What does this even mean? Let’s take a look!
To first understand what motion smoothing is, let’s first talk about what frame rate is.
Although movies, videos and TV shows appear to be one continuous flow, they’re actually composed of countless images strung together to simulate a smooth motion. Think about how a flip book works: You flip through a sequence of images that, when combined, give the illusion animation; that’s essentially how movies and videos work. Films look very smooth and seamless because they are typically shot at 24 frames per second (fps), which means that there are 24 images displayed per second appear to be a continuous video. Going back to the flip book example, this would be the equivalent of flipping the pages at a 24 page per second rate. If you were to increase the number of images per second, the video would appear a lot different.
Have you ever noticed that soap operas and daytime television shows have an odd look about them? It’s hard to place your finger on what’s different, but the quality just isn’t the same as movies. Well, that’s because are filmed with a higher frame rate than most flicks.
As mentioned earlier, movies are generally filmed at 24 fps, but a new technology called motion smoothing will digitally increase your frame rate. These images digitally created by your TV aren’t really noticeable by the naked eye, but the overall feel of the show or movie you’re watching will seem drastically different with motion smoothing on, which some compare to the quality of how soap operas look.
If your TV supports motion smoothing, it can most likely be turned on or off in the device’s settings. Most film purists will advise that you turn off motion smoothing so that you can watch the content unaltered as the director intended. For live TV such as sports, motion smoothing can enhance your experience. Also, consider that motion smoothing might affect your gaming experience. At the end of the day, use your eyes. Do you like or dislike the appearance of the soap opera effect? We believe it’s up to the viewer whether they want to have it on or off.