The end of the NFL season is a popular time for people to invest in big new television sets at sale prices. Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time to enjoy your favorite movies and series on your glorious TV. But something is not quite right. You're streaming a big blockbuster superhero action movie, but the visual quality is off. It looks more like a daytime soap opera than a modern film. You've stepped into the realm of what's known as the "soap opera effect."
The soap opera effect is actually a side effect of the wonderful new television technology we now enjoy. But don't worry. It's adjustable and you're not going to be stuck forever feeling like George Clooney is starring in some weird version of "All My Children."
The soap opera effect explained
The soap opera effect is generated by a television's motion-smoothing technology. Its purpose is to reduce blurring during motion scenes, which sounds nice, but it can create a hyper-realistic look in the process. These motion-enhancing features can be great for when you're watching sports, but it's not so hot when it makes movies look different from how we're used to viewing them.
Want a little more detail? We'll need to step back into motion picture history, all the way back to the dawn of talkies, the first movies with sound. Those movies and most films since were shot at a frame rate of 24fps (frames per second). A frame is a single still image, so think about what an old film strip looks like and you'll get the idea. The modern video tech version of that is called 24p since physical film strips are no longer a requirement in the digital age.
Tip within a tip: If you have a smart TV, blurring isn't the only problem you might encounter. Owners of these particular models could be sending more data to the TV's manufacturer than they realize. Click here and discover how smart TVs can track you without your permission.
Soap operas, however, were typically shot at a much higher frame rate of 60fps. The result is smoother motion, but it's not what we're accustomed to seeing when we go to the movies. Your high-tech television can create that same sort of look with its motion-smoothing tech, which is why "The Avengers" looks like it was shot on the same camera as "The Young and the Restless."