If you’ve watched a movie on a TV show in the past few years, chances are you’ve encountered motion smoothing. Even if you don’t know what it is, you might have noticed that a favorite movie you’ve seen in theaters looks noticeably different, some might say uglier, on the small screen, thanks to the work of technology, a default setting on almost all modern televisions.
Motion smoothing, also known as motion interpolation, was born out of a discrepancy between the frame rates of movies and the frame rates that modern televisions are capable of running. A standard movie or TV show is usually shot at 24 to 30 frames per second, while modern televisions are capable of running at 60, 120, or sometimes even 240 frames per second. When Motion Smoothing settings are enabled on your TV, the TV essentially adds fake frames into a movie or show in order to artificially boost the frame rate. According to Cédric Demers, president of personal electronics testing and review company rtings.com, motion smoothing creates new frames by calculating where objects in a video move between the original frames and interpolating the trajectory of objects.
“Several techniques can be used to estimate motion, but none is perfect because the actual information about what lies between the two images is not present in the original sequence,” Demers explains. “Therefore, there will be errors and artifacts. Motion smoothing works best when the scene is moving slowly in a predictable way, such as panning or a large object moving sideways. Small objects moving quickly in unpredictable ways or complex transformations like explosions are the most difficult to estimate and will result in strange visual artifacts.
Theoretically, motion smoothing makes the movie faster and cleaner. In practice, the errors and visual artifacts it causes have made it hugely controversial, and many directors, filmmakers, and critics have decried it as film-ruining technology. In 2018, Tom Cruise and “Mission Impossible: Fallout” director Christopher McQuarrie released a public statement asking viewers to turn off the setting while watching their movie at home. Directors as varied as Rian Johnson, Patty Jenkins, Martin Scorsese, Reed Morano, Karyn Kusama and Paul Thomas Anderson have all publicly expressed their hatred of technology. In 2019, several filmmakers announced a partnership with the UHD Alliance to develop a new “Filmmaker Mode” TV setting optimized for watching movies at home. Filmmaker Mode has been added to some TVs made since 2020, although it’s nowhere near as widespread as Motion Smoothing.
What is it about motion smoothing that makes it bad for watching a movie? According to Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge, the problem is that technology ignores how people have been trained to understand how motion works in film. Film traditionally used a flicker effect to stimulate movement, and audiences learned to accept and understand the film’s lower frame rate as part of cinematic language. Motion smoothing doesn’t replace that cinematic language with actual realistic motion, but rather creates an eerie valley effect that simply degrades the filmmaker’s original intent and makes the film look cheaper and uglier.
“What we’re seeing with motion smoothing is that instead of trying to present movies as they were, as they naturally appeared, everything is transferred to these new digital devices, and everything wants what works best for them on these digital devices,” says Debruge. “But your TVs don’t replace the kind of magical flicker of movies with something that’s necessarily more realistic. They erase that flicker and use some kind of scary equation to turn it all into zombie movement.
So if you’ve been annoyed with how movies look on your TV, you might want to check if motion smoothing is turned on. Here’s how to find the feature and how to turn it off, sorted by TV types. The name of Motion Smoothing varies by TV, so this guide will help you identify its name on your TV. (If your TV isn’t listed here, look for something with the word “Motion” in the settings menu.)
1. Go to settings.
2. Select the picture menu.
3. Click picture mode settings and picture options.
4. Change TrueMotion from Smooth to Off.
Roku (Smoothing actions)
1. Press the “*” on your TV remote control.
2. Select Advanced Picture Settings from the menu.
3. Look for the Action Smoothing option. There are four different smoothing levels: high, medium, low, and off. To completely disable the feature, select off.
Samsung (Automatic Movement Plus)
1. Open the settings menu.
2. Go to picture options and scroll down to expert settings at the bottom.
3. Select Expert Settings and scroll down to Auto Motion Plus Settings.
4. Select Auto Motion Plus and turn it off.
1. Access the image settings menu.
2. Open advanced settings.
3. Scroll down to MotionFlow.
4. Open MotionFlow settings and turn it off.
Vizio (smooth motion effect)
1. Go to settings.
2. Select image options.
3. Scroll down to the advanced picture menu and select it.
4. Select Smooth Motion Effect and turn it off.
Panasonic Viera (intelligent frame creation)
1. Press menu on your remote.
2. Select image settings.
3. Scroll down to Smart Frame Creation.
4. Switch off.
Amazon Fire TV (motion processing)
1. Access the settings menu.
2. Select the picture.
3. Choose advanced options.
4. Scroll down to motion processing and turn it off.
Hisense (motion smoothing)
1. Press the home button on your remote.
2. Go to settings.
3. Select System Settings.
5. Select the picture.
5. Scroll down to Motion smoothing and turn it off.
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