Listen, Tom Cruise has been a controversial figure over the years. He’s done some weird stuff. He’s made a lot of really popular and absurdly successful movies. Some people love him, others find him grating. But Tom just wants what’s best for you. He wants you to turn off that horrible “soap opera” mode on your television set. If ever you’re going to listen to Tom Cruise, make this the one time.
Motion interpolation. It makes sports look great and ruins virtually anything else you can do on your television. Tom is right on this one, kids. Motion interpolation is bad.
Here’s a quick refresher on how it works. Most movies run at 24 frames per second. Most pre-recorded TV shows run at 24 or 30 frames per second. That means that for every second of Game of Thrones you watch, the TV is flashing 24 still frames at your eyes to make you think you’re watching actual movement.
Motion interpolation will add frames into that by looking at the previous frame and the next one and making some quick guesses about what might come between. They’re actually really good at it, and it makes for a convincing effect. Depending on what kind of framerate your TV is capable of, this can involve adding anywhere from 1 to 8 frames of algorithmically-generated images per second.
The effect this has is that it makes motion look smoother. This effect can make sports look great and make the action on-screen easier to follow when things are frenetic. When watching movies or most television shows, though, it makes it look like an old soap opera. Soaps were recorded on cheaper video that ran at 60 frames per second, which is what gives them that weird ultra-real look. Slight differences in frame rate are also why British television shows have looked weird in the past. Not so much these days, but if you ever happened across some old British comedy on your local PBS station and noticed it had that distinct look, that’s why.
Some people prefer this. I’m not going to tell you you can’t turn this feature on. But movies are filmed at a certain speed to get that cinematic look, and motion interpolation makes them look weird. If you happened to see The Hobbit in certain theaters, you might’ve seen a version that looked distractingly weird. That’s because Peter Jackson filmed it at double the normal speed – 48 frames per second. There, Jackson actually did that intentionally, so it’s not some weird TV effect, and I don’t believe this version was ever released on disc.
As the video above notes, every TV has the setting somewhere different, and brands like Samsung and Toshiba call the effect different things. Auto Motion Plus, Motion Interpolation, Motion Smoothing, or whatever else. Search for your model of TV and “motion smoothing” or “motion interpolation” to figure out how to turn it off if you still have it running. Flip it back on for the big game if you want, but leave it off when you’re diving into the latest HBO event or watching that good, good Riverdale on the CW.