When Tom Cruise jumps off a building or onto the side of a plane during takeoff to save the day, he wants you to see it at home the way it was meant to be seen. And I don’t mean camera angles that make him look taller.
Instead, we’re talking about settings on newer HDTVs and 4K that can mess with the look of your favorite movies and TV shows. Most new TVs, regardless of brand, typically come with a number of settings enabled by default, one of which has been a point of contention for the past several years. It’s called video interpolation, motion smoothing or the “soap opera effect,” depending on whom you ask.
So what is motion smoothing and why so much hate? We’ll break it down, and why Tom Cruise has something to say about it.
The dreaded ‘soap opera effect’
Have you noticed how soap operas look different from a lot of other things on TV? Even if you’d never admit to watching one, you’ve probably at least heard the term “soap opera effect” at some point over the past few years.
The big reason soaps look different is because of the camera frame rate at which they’re shot, specifically frames per second (fps). They’re typically shot on high-speed video, not film like movies. Going back years and years, most movies and (non-soap) TV shows have been shot at 24fps, which is still true to this day. But things like soap operas and live sports are often shot at a much higher frame rate, which makes motion on the screen look smoother and more natural because of all those extra frames.
Nowadays, a lot of TV manufacturers aim to make all the things look smoother and reduce blur, regardless of how it was shot or intended to look. The modern tech takes movies and shows that were shot at 24fps, guesses what extra frames would look like and creates new ones to “increase” fps. The result makes everything look more natural, maybe even in a strange way, hence the term “soap opera effect.” The problem is, it can also completely change a filmmaker’s vision of a movie by giving it a totally different look.
Some people love the feature, because after all, it really does make sports look better. Other things, though, not so much. But rejoice, because you can disable the feature. That’s where Tom Cruise comes in.
Tom Cruise and his motion-smoothing PSA
On Tuesday, Tom shared a video on Twitter from the set of his next sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick.” In the video, Cruise and filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie address motion smoothing and why it’s bad for them – and you. Take a look below.
I’m taking a quick break from filming to tell you the best way to watch Mission: Impossible Fallout (or any movie you love) at home. pic.twitter.com/oW2eTm1IUA
— Tom Cruise (@TomCruise) December 4, 2018
Their main message is, don’t mess with a filmmaker’s vision. That’s why Cruise, McQuarrie and others in the industry are working to not only raise awareness about motion smoothing, but to convince manufacturers to stop making it a default setting. But since it already is, they want you to be able to find the setting, turn it off and see for yourself.
That can be a difficult task because each brand has a fancy name for their version of motion smoothing, and it can be buried deep in the various sub menus. Samsung calls it Auto Motion Plus. For Sony, it’s MotionFlow; LG calls it TruMotion; and Vizio keeps it simple with Smooth Motion Effect. To my knowledge, no one’s claimed Supercalifragilisticexpialimotion, but give it time. Cruise advises you to Google the directions for disabling the feature on your specific TV model.
Whether you love motion smoothing or hate it, Tom Cruise wants to make sure you’re at least aware of it. That way, you at least have a choice if you don’t want “The Fast and the Furious” to look like “The Young and the Restless.”