Motion Smoothing: Tom Cruise Explains Why You're Watching Movies Wrong
And how to fix it.
Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible — Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie want to let film fans know: Your TV might be muddling your movie watching experience. That’s because of a digital video processing effect, known as motion smoothing or video interpolation, that is often times turned on by default on many HDTVs.
The public service announcement came hours after Mission: Impossible — Fallout was released on Blu-Ray. In the video, Cruise and McQuarrie state that while the technique reduces motion blur in sporting events it makes movies shot on film appear like they’ve been captured using high-speed video. This side effect is known as the Soap Opera Effect and both Hollywood stars suggest switching off interpolation when sitting down to enjoy a movie.
“If you own a modern, high-definition television there’s a good chance you’re not watching movies the way the filmmaker intended and the ability to do so is not simple for you to access,” states McQuarrie.
What Does Motion Smoothing Do?
Motion smoothing increases a video’s frame rate. The TV splices in extra frames to make every shot seem smoother. This is done using the mathematical concept of interpolation, which adds new data points within range of known data points.
This makes everything on the screen appear more fluid and less jumpy. That’s ideal for, say, football or hockey games where players are zooming around and hard to keep track of, but it completely overwrites directors’ cinematographic choices.
What Is the Soap Opera Effect?
The digital video processing results in movies that were actually shot on state-of-the-art film cameras seem like they were recorded with cheaper equipment. This byproduct was dubbed the Soap Opera Effect because it makes film movies look like most TV soap operas, which are commonly shot using 60i video and not film.
Most modern day TVs come with an option to toggle motion smoothing off, but Cruise and McQuarrie take issue that displays come with the effect turned on by default. Turning off motion smoothing can also be tricky on some displays.
Many popular HDTVs refer to the effect by a commercial name, like X-Motion Clarity on Sony TVs. The option is often times buried in submenus, making it cumbersome to get to.
Directors Are Speaking Out Against Motion Smoothing
Cruise and McQuarrie aren’t the only people in Hollywood speaking out against the TV setting. Christopher Nolan, who directed Interstellar and Inception, and Paul Thomas Anderson, known for his work on There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love, have mobilized against motion smoothing.
The directors sent an email to the Directors Guild of America where they voiced their complaints about directors’ work not being seen as they intended. They called for the implementation of a “reference mode” on TVs to ensure films are watched how they were meant to be.
This followed an “anti-motion-smoothing” tweeted by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, that stated the directors of The Last Jedi, Baby Driver, and War of the Planet of the Apes were all on board as well.
With Cruise and McQuarrie renewed effort make motion smoothing simpler to turn off, we could see the option be introduced in displays in the near future.
*Related video: Tom Cruise Does Crazy Stunts in ‘Mission Impossible 6’ Trailer