Motion Smoothing, or the Soap Opera effect as it is otherwise known, has been in the news time and time again. Why? You could trace it to the campaign started by Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible: Fallout Director Christopher McQuarrie on Twitter against this technology. Many media outlets have picked up the celebrity campaign, generating a buzz on the internet, and joining Directors like Reed Morano, James Gunn, and Rian Johnson, who have spoken out against the soap opera effect or motion interpolation.
But what exactly is this technology, why would you want to turn it off on your TV, and how do you turn it off?
What is Motion Smoothing or Soap Opera Effect?
Let us start with the basics – frames and fps (frames per second).
- A frame is a still image, just like a photo. And when we record a series of still images of a particular scene and play it consecutively at a rapid pace, it gives a perception of motion to the human eye, just like a flipbook (see video below).
- fps or frame rate per second is the frequency/rate at which consecutive images appear on a display. The higher the fps, the human eye perceives better clarity and a smoother video.
Movies are usually filmed at the industry standard of 24 frames per second or 24 fps, while on the other hand, modern televisions typically use refresh rates of 50 or 60 frames per second or 60 fps.
With the motion smoothing feature turned on, your TV will up the frame rate from 24 fps to 60 fps, by adding extra frames in the gap between frames making the video appear smoother with less motion blur. The extra frame is added using a technique called video interpolation or motion interpolation.
It works great with sports, with a lot of fast-moving action on the screen. The higher fps give more detail and crispness to the image, giving the viewer a better feel for the action. However, this also is not without its challenges. Sometimes the action is too fast for the motion smoothing technology to accurately generate a frame resulting in a blur.
However, with movies, the smoothing technology brings a shade of ultra-realism to a scene and removes the cinematic look. Our brains have been trained on 24 fps movies for a long time, and if you watch a movie with motion smoothing, you are probably going to think that something is off, and you are watching a TV documentary of the movie, rather than the movie itself.
For viewers, this can be discomforting and give movies what is popularly called the soap opera effect. Soap opera TV shows in the past were typically shot in 60 fps video, hence the tag.
If you are a gamer, then you probably know about the Game Mode which some of the newer TVs come equipped with. Gamers need video while gaming to be quick with no lag to allow them to control or play the game effectively (means winning 😁). The latest TVs do a lot of video processing, which introduces lag due to the processing time. Game Mode effectively turns off all the unnecessary video processing like motion smoothing, noise reduction, advanced picture effects, etc., making the video more responsive for gamers.
Cinematic Effect vs. Motion Smoothing
Check out the following videos to get a visual perspective of the interpolation technology. The videos show the same clip with different frame speeds, demonstrating the soap opera effect.
If you have watched the above videos, you may have been able to discern the difference between watching it with or without motion smoothing. As always, there will be people who prefer the smoother motion and clarity and those who believe they are missing the “movie magic” and prefer to turn off this feature.
And if you are in the latter category, you should navigate to the appropriate option in your TV settings menu and turn off the feature.
Easy, right? probably. The problem is there are no standards around this feature. Every TV manufacturer has created a unique name for this feature (LG will call it TruMotion, while Sony calls it Motionflow, for Samsung it is Auto Motion Plus and so on). So if you don’t know what you are looking for, you won’t know which option to browse to in your TV’s Menu and toggle it on or off or adjust the setting to your preference.
How to turn off Motion Smoothing on your TV?
Some of the more popular TV Manufacturer’s brands are listed below with their corresponding terminology for TV motion smoothing and how to turn off the feature:
- LG TV – TruMotion
- Picture Menu > Picture Mode Settings > Picture Options > TruMotion
- Scroll to TruMotion Setting, and select the “Off” option
- Samsung TV – Auto Motion Plus
- Settings > Picture > Expert Settings
- Scroll to Auto Motion Plus Settings. Select the “Off” option
- Sony TV – Motionflow
- Picture Settings > Advanced Settings > Motion > Motion Flow
- Select the “Off” option or the “True Cinema” option if it is available
- Panasonic TV – Motion Picture
- Menu > Picture > Advanced Picture
- Scroll to Motion Picture Settings, and select the “Off” option
- Toshiba TV – Clear Frame
- Menu > Picture > Picture Settings > Advanced Picture Settings > ClearFrame
- In the ClearFrame setting, Select the “Off” option
- Sharp TV – AquoMotion
- TV Setup > Picture > Advanced > Motion Enhancement
- Select the “Off” option
- Roku – Action Smoothing
- Press the “*” button to go to the Options menu
- Scroll down and select the Advanced Pictures setting
- Change the Action Smoothing setting to “Off” mode. You have the option of setting it to Low or Medium, also
Most manufacturers above also allow you to tune or select an intermediate setting instead of turning it off completely. That is a personal choice; you must try them and select what you like best.
Our recommendation: Turn off MOTION SMOOTHING to watch movies and enjoy the true cinematic effect
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Happy viewing!