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Author Topic: Motion Smoothing' Makes Films Look Different On Your TV And Hollywood Is Not Happy
Harold Hallikainen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 906
From: Denver, CO, USA
Registered: Aug 2009

 - posted 08-01-2019 10:10 AM      Profile for Harold Hallikainen   Author's Homepage   Email Harold Hallikainen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post

'Motion Smoothing' Makes Films Look Different On Your TV And Hollywood Is Not Happy



July 29, 20194:40 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Bilge Ebiri who writes about a digital process called motion smoothing, a technical component of TV that "makes movies today, by and large, look like crap."


Your TV may be hard at work altering the Hollywood feature films you're watching, and many in the movie industry aren't happy about it. Here's Tom Cruise, in a PSA he created recently, warning viewers.


TOM CRUISE: The unfortunate side effect is that it makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video rather than film. Now, this is sometimes referred to as the soap opera effect.

CORNISH: The technical term for what your HDTV is doing is actually motion smoothing. Writer Bilge Ebiri of New York Magazine wrote about this phenomenon.

Welcome to the program.

BILGE EBIRI: Hi. Good to be here.

CORNISH: You've written extensively about this. I hate to do this to you, but how do you explain it to people who say, yeah, I didn't read all the way to the end? What is motion smoothing?

EBIRI: Motion smoothing, which is also called image interpolation, is a process whereby your TV takes individual frames of a film or show that you're watching, and it predicts, creates and inserts new frames in between those frames in order to give you what manufacturers - and, presumably, the engineers who developed this technology - hope will be a much smoother experience watching action on screen.

CORNISH: From what I understand, movies are shot at a frame rate of 24 per second. TV - it's 30 per second. Can you help us understand why that makes it look different or feel different?

EBIRI: Well, originally, TV in the U.S. was 30 frames a second. Today, HDTVs and high-definition cameras can do higher frame rates. In fact, a lot of sports and live shows that you're watching today are shot at 60 frames a second.

CORNISH: And that's why we have such crisp images when we're watching those programs.

EBIRI: Exactly. And that's also why, when you're watching sports, for example, you watch a slow-motion replay, it's a very smooth slow motion. Back in the day, if you watched a slow-motion replay, it wasn't nearly as smooth.

CORNISH: Why are the film people so upset about this?

EBIRI: Film people are upset because, just as a matter of course, their art form depends on 24 frames a second. The way actors perform, the way shots are composed, the way the camera is moved, the way narrative works - it's a language that's developed around 24 frames a second.

CORNISH: As we mentioned earlier, Tom Cruise filmed this PSA. Directors Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson have reached out to television manufacturers directly to say, hey, can you not make this the default setting? But here's the thing - if we've all been watching already for many years on this default setting, is it too late?

EBIRI: It's interesting. When I published my piece, I got a lot of responses from people saying, so that's what's been going on with my TV. And a lot of people said, OK, now I'm going to try and turn this thing off. I didn't realize I could turn it off. You assume that the TV is doing everything right. So if you turn it on, and suddenly a movie looks like a soap opera, a lot of people just say, well, I guess this is the superior way of watching it. And they just don't - even though they don't like it, they just kind of sit there and watch it.

CORNISH: The hardest part of your article was the sidebar that explained how to turn it off.

EBIRI: Well, the problem with turning it off is it's different on every TV. In every case, motion smoothing is called something different. On Samsungs, it's called Motion Plus. On Sony, it's called Motion Flow. On Panasonic, it's called a motion smoother.

CORNISH: OK, yikes. Stop (laughter).

EBIRI: It just goes on and on. I can go all day (Laughter).

CORNISH: Bilge Ebiri - he writes for New York Magazine. And you can read his piece on motion smoothing in Vulture.

Thanks so much.

EBIRI: Thank you.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10973
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001

 - posted 08-01-2019 02:27 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
HDTV monitors with high refresh rates and motion interpolation features have been around for more than a decade. But in the year 2019 NPR figures out this is a news item? The word "new" is in the word "news." Maybe NPR should call this tid bit of info "olds." We can even have "oldspapers" telling us a bunch of stuff we knew already.

Still there's a couple things worthy to nit pick.

Bilge Ebiri's explanation of TV sports broadcasts and slow motion was very over-simplified and overlooked some key details. The broadcasts are (usually) 60 frames per second, but only in 720p resolution. So that doesn't really deliver a sharper, more detailed image. It only resolves motion better. As for slow motion replays, many of those cameras are capturing the action for slow-motion playback at significantly faster frame rates than 60 per second.

All of these articles about motion interpolation filters in HDTV sets go on and on about the soap opera effect and how it is adversely affecting the "art" and "narrative" of "filmmaking." That's still subjective stuff that any anti-art asshole might reject outright to support some form of anti-intellectual ideology. They might leave the motion flow crap enabled in a form of rebellion against the artsy fartsy people, especially if the advice is coming from freaking NPR.

I don't think I've seen a single one of these articles mention what is the very worst thing about motion interpolation: the effect scrubs away image detail. There is nothing artsy fartsy about that. Objectively speaking, the motion interpolation stuff DEGRADES the movie image.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

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From: Forsyth, Montana
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quote: Bobby Henderson
As for slow motion replays, many of those cameras are capturing the action for slow-motion playback at significantly faster frame rates than 60 per second.

I have a friend who works in sports broadcasting and he told me slo-mo replays are shot anywhere from 60 to 240 FPS and some of the newer equipment can go even higher than 240.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 08-01-2019 07:18 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If I remember correctly, the Fox camera that captured Hunter Pence's triple hit on a broken bat in the 2014(?) NLCS was 10,000 frame per second.

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Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1517
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Aug 2000

 - posted 08-03-2019 05:58 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've always wondered why TVs can't come defaulting to the RIGHT settings- and there really is only ONE correct setting. I see this as an intelligence test though- if you can't figure out that it's doing something wrong and needs to be disabled, you don't know anything about electronics and shouldn't have a license to operate them [Razz]

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Kenneth Wuepper
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Saginaw, MI, USA
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You don't have to be "Flat Screen Certified" to buy one. [beer]

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012

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The Sony 4K OLED screen I bought for the living room about a year and a half ago, came with the setting enabled by default.

Granted, the effect wasn't as awful as on our previous set, so there seems to be some kind of progress, but it still makes movies entirely unwatchable. Now, I don't watch many movies on there anyway, but still, that effect had to go.

There is a side note though: While it makes all scenes involving human acting look entirely awful, it actually improves some action scenes and scenes with relatively fast panning. They become hyper-smooth, but don't seem to lose their cinematic feel, it's really only when human acting or some creatures come into play, when stuff breaks down immediately.

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