Because everything he touches turns to gold, Tom Cruise, the Hollywood superstar and the only man in history who ages in reverse, took a break from filming “Top Gun: Maverick” to produce a little PSA that has, of course, gone viral — not only because Cruise is in it, but because it addresses an issue that has been annoying HDTV owners for years: Why do movies look like freaking soap operas on my TV?
The video features Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, who are in the middle of filming their next big film, the much-anticipated “Top Gun” sequel. They decided it was time to finally explain to film buffs why the movies filmmakers put so much effort into making don’t look as good as they could on their televisions. The occasion for the PSA is the release of the “Mission Impossible: Fallout” Blu-ray, which McQuarrie says they want viewers to enjoy “to the fullest possible effect, just as you would in a theater.”
“To that end, we’d like a moment of your time to talk to you about video interpolation,” says Cruise, which McQuarrie explains is also called “motion smoothing,” a feature on televisions intended to “reduce motion blur in sporting events and other high-definition programming.”
“The unfortunate side effect is that it makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video rather than film. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘soap opera effect,'” Cruise says. Most HDTVs come with this feature as a default setting, he adds, and most viewers don’t realize they can turn it off. Interpolation, he notes, is often referred to by different names depending on the television brand and thus isn’t always easy to figure out how to switch off.
Cruise says that filmmakers are currently working with television manufacturers to change how interpolation settings are presented to make it easier for viewers to access, but in the meantime, he recommends simply searching: “Turn off motion smoothing for [TV brand].” Here’s the video Cruise tweeted out (h/t Allahpundit):
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
Digital Trends provides a helpful guide on “how to kill video interpolation” on your TV, so you can stop watching “Mission Impossible: General Hospital” and actually watch what looks like a real movie. Here’s the site’s explanation of why motion smoothing looks so wrong to us:
Motion smoothing works fine for sports programming and video games because of the way that content is recorded and/or produced, but we’re actually used to seeing lower frame rates in many TV shows and movies, most of which are shot at 24 frames per second. This is why people were unnerved watching The Hobbit at 48 frames per second as opposed to the 24fps we’ve been seeing from film reels for decades, and which was later mimicked by digital cameras and projectors. Many people who saw the film thought it looked unnatural, and frequently commented that it looked too real. Sound familiar? What’s more, showing 24fps content with frame interpolation for 120Hz displays messes with the cadence, as the display is adding frames that never existed. It is literally fake and removes the judder between frames we actually expect to see. That’s why it can be so annoying.
As Cruise mentions, Digital Trends points out that interpolation is given different names by different manufacturers. “LG calls it TruMotion, Samsung calls it Auto Motion Plus, Sony calls it MotionFlow,” the site notes. “Outside of a few edge cases, the setting for your TV probably has the word ‘motion’ somewhere in the name. One notable exception is Hisense, which calls its motion smoothing UltraSMR.”
Once you’ve figured out what it’s called by the brand, the next step is accessing the settings on your TV, specifically Picture settings:
To find motion smoothing, you’ll need to go in the Settings menu and find the Picture settings sub-menu. In many cases, motion smoothing will be listed toward the bottom, after you’ve passed more traditional settings like Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness. In some cases, you may have to go into a separate section, sometimes called Advanced Picture Settings or something similar.