October 28, 2014

Check out DP Reed Morano's Petition to Nix That Awful 'Smooth Motion' Effect on TVs

Man Smashes TV
On most modern HDTVs, motion interpolation, or the "Smooth Motion" effect, is cheapening the aesthetic of content that filmmakers lovingly create. World-class cinematographer Reed Morano ASC has started a petition to put an end to this insanity by requesting that TVs come out of the box with the effect turned off.

Chances are, if you've walked through the TV section at your local electronics shop, you've probably noticed that the sample content playing on the display models is not only absurdly bright and over-saturated, but that the motion is reminiscent of the digitally shot soap operas that populate our televisions during the middle of the day. It's an effect that is called motion interpolation, or "smooth motion" depending on the brand of television, and it uses algorithms to generate extra frames between the existing frames in the content, which, in theory, reduces motion blur and makes for a more "realistic" television experience. Essentially, it turns our lovely 24fps content into something that vaguely resembles content shot at 60fps

In her Change.org petition, Morano had this to say about the ubiquitous motion smoothing effect.

Reed Morano Motion Interpolation Petition

We would like to request that the TVs come to the consumer with "smooth motion" turned off so they are seeing everything in its original look intended by the filmmakers.

As artists, these new HDTVs are preventing our vision from being seen the way we shot it, and it's also affecting the viewer's experience with the story because they are often put off by the odd "home video" look.  It's actually very distracting watching a classic like "Five Easy Pieces" and having it look like a sitcom shot on video.

As a consumer, you should know that this function is ruining the theatrical experience that you are supposedly paying for when you purchase these expensive HDTVs. Don't you want to see the films and TV shows as the filmmakers intended you to see them -- how beautiful and rich they look in the movie theater? If you are going to spend most of your time at home watching movies on your television, don't you want it to be as much of a theatrical experience as possible?

The issue here is an interesting one. On one side, filmmakers and folks involved in video production have been keenly aware of motion interpolation since it began appearing on TVs, largely because we're so used to seeing our content and the content of others at the intended frame rate. For that reason, we all know motion interpolation when we see it, and we know to turn it off.

However, for average consumers, the difference between content shown at 24fps and 60fps might not be as readily apparent. Therefore, since motion interpolation is the default setting on most modern televisions, a sizable percentage of consumers leave it turned on, which presents a problem for filmmakers who have a stake in having their content seen at the intended frame rate. The argument that Morano and many others are making is that motion smoothing inherently cheapens the aesthetic that filmmakers so carefully craft, and that television manufacturers, by making sure that motion smoothing is a default, are preventing consumers from experiencing cinematic content the way it was meant to be seen. 

Whether this petition will convince television manufacturers to remove motion interpolation from their list of default options is questionable. However, with enough support from both filmmakers and consumers alike, it's entirely possible that the manufacturers will heed the call and future consumers will be able to experience our content the way we intended it to be seen. 

To learn more about/sign the petition, click here    

Your Comment

44 Comments

This!!!! So im not the ONLY one I see

October 28, 2014 at 12:35PM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1927

In the comment section, I wrote:

"Would you smear Picasso's artwork after he painted Starry Night?"

Is it fair to compare our work to Picasso? Maybe not.
Is it a pretty accurate comparison? I think so.

October 28, 2014 at 12:37PM

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Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker
1217

Starry Night was painted by Van Gogh.

October 28, 2014 at 12:47PM

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The reason you go to film school

October 28, 2014 at 1:35PM

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Or edit your comment before posting.

October 28, 2014 at 6:18PM

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Charlie K
1389

Much to my dismay, there is no 'edit comment' feature. So yes, I quickly facepalmed after posting. I actually wrote the correct version of this sentence in the petition.

"You had one chance kid... and you blew it!"

October 29, 2014 at 10:28AM

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Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker
1217

Oh man, the first time I saw Tommy Boy with the 120 Hz setting I just about threw up. Actually I felt the same when I saw The Hobbit at 48 FPS! I fear this is where cinema is headed, I hope I'm wrong... So how does the TV generate extra frames?

October 28, 2014 at 12:41PM

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Jef Gibbons
Music/ Video/ Photo
81

It adds frames between existing ones. The movement seems awkward for a while, but eventually your eyes adjust. The hardest part for me was watching movies that were filmed primarily handheld-style. You notice camera movements more than anything. Now, I barely notice anything.

October 28, 2014 at 3:23PM

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The 120-Hz setting by itself doesn't do this but rather functions like the multibladed shutter on a film projector. It takes what would look stroby (24 fps or 24 Hz) and by displaying each frame two or three times increases the effective display frequency (to 48 or 72 Hz). Some sets allow you to retain the 120 Hz frequency but turn off the interpolation, so that each original frame is simply repeated four times. (Higher-range plasmas use a 96-Hz frequency, or, in the case of the old Pioneer Elites and some current LG plasmas, 72 Hz. Inexplicably, until the swan-song ST60 series, midtier and low-end U.S. Panasonic plasma models had a nausea-inducing 48-Hz rate, whereas European versions always had the higher rate.) There are only two answers -- 3:2 pulldown to 60 Hz (not ideal, either), or a multiple of 24 Hz, preferably with interpolation turned off by default.

October 28, 2014 at 4:12PM

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Well, it actually is two very different things. Or rather, three. Interpolation, refresh-rate and response-time that is getting mixed up for a lot of people.

1. Refresh-rate is simply the amount of times that a monitor will redraw an image. Most projectors and TV's nowadays can cruise at upward of 120 hz and more. And we as viewers would accept it. The higher the rate, the lower the strobe. But I'm not talking about movement-strobe, but rather strobe that can be likened to cheap fluorescent bulbs and the funky lights on the disco. The higher the Hz, the lower, the amount of black screen per refresh you are watching. THIS is basically what the multiblade-shutters on film-projectors are made for. To lessen the strobe compared to a straight 24 hz single-bladed 180 degree shutter. Find an old CRT computer-monitor capable of only 50Hz and relive-the migrane-inducing strobe when trying to read a document in word.

The image, it's worth to note here, doesn't have to change 120 times per second. But the monitor will read out the video-memory 120 times per second and refresh the screen content anyways. The screen doesn't care or know if it's different, it will just do it.

2. Interpolation, on the other hand, is another beast entirely. This is what's doing the damage. This takes the frames from the video-stream and tries its best to estimate the motion if it was shot in a higher fps. The problem is multifold, because the filmmakers chose the rate for a reason. And on top of that it needs to work in real-time. So it not only robs you of the filmmakers intent, but also, it does so in a way that just barely looks like motion to begin with. Leaving you with something that looks like a cheap sopeopera shot with a dreaded smear-filter over anything moving. And god help you if the film is grainy or contains stroby scenes (I'm looking at you Gaspar Noé), then the difference between the frames are so great that the smear-algorithm breaks down completely.

3. Then we have this notion of response-time. Which started to come on the boxes of flat-screen monitors. That is a different thing than refresh, somewhat. It's basically a refresh without having to blank out the screen with black between frames. And it makes it so that we can have a 50hz screen that doesn't induce migranes. Early cheap screens had so slow response-times so slow, though that motion would ghost drastically. Not really an issue on modern sets, though.

So, in conclusion. Keep the ability to refresh the screen in hundreds of hz without strobing this, for future-proofing. But just get rid of the interpolation, it has and will always have a habit of making us all look bad.

My two cents.

November 9, 2014 at 7:38PM

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In the market for a new TV now and that smooth motion stuff drives me crazy! Anyone out there have recommendations for a 60" TV in the 1K range that looks best when motion interpolation is turned off?

October 28, 2014 at 12:51PM

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See my post re plasma monitors. 1000 bucks ain't gonna curt a deal for any sizable TV. But how serious are you about your picture?

Tomshardware.com is a highly credible, hardcore test site of all kinds of hardware and especially of monitors. They're serious engineers who have rated countless sets over the years. Among the many test wizardry they employ is a 1000 fps camera to examine the response timings of the pixels.

They recently rated a plasma (I think Samgsung but could be wrong) I'm headed for another plasma for a different residence and was highly impressed with what I read. IT apparently comes quite close to the absolute gold standard of sets, which is the Pioneer Elite. Sadly that is no longer made.

All of the original poster's complaints are about motion. The other big selling point of plasma is the highly superior black levels.

Finally I'd strongly suggest that THX mode is superior to many another so-called "Movie Mode". If a set doesn't at least have that forgettaboutit!

October 31, 2014 at 1:16PM

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W Smith
Doer
227

Please god yes, please! This smooth motion crap kills my faith in humanity.

October 28, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited October 28, 12:55PM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

Amen to that! How many friends' TV settings have I changed in the battle against "smooth motion" sickness...

October 28, 2014 at 12:59PM

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Agreed. And usually they’re thankful, most of my friends hated the look of it but didn’t know what was causing it or how to turn it off.

October 29, 2014 at 3:09AM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1240

I have a no tolerance policy on true motion. If it's on in your home and I enter your home, I guarantee you that it will be turned off by the time I leave. But I prefer for it to be disabled upon my arrival.

October 28, 2014 at 1:47PM

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I've always hated that "smooth motion" effect on tv's. I'm ok with it on porn though.

October 28, 2014 at 1:56PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
771

I'm probably alone on this but...I don't mind it. In fact, sometimes I even prefer to have it enabled. It's great for sports, nature, video games, and even most TV.

I don't watch many movies but I can see how it would be distracting for certain narrative drama stuff.

October 28, 2014 at 2:52PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2826

I'm with you on this one. I have it as well and I enjoy it. Takes some getting used to, but it's like watching regular tv after a while.

October 28, 2014 at 3:29PM

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This is great, but I highly doubt that a petition directed towards the manufacturers is going to do anything. I'm not saying the petition isn't a good idea, it just shouldn't be directed towards the manufacturers. Rather it should be directed towards government bodies that regulate technology, like the FCC. Not sure that the FCC can do anything, or any other government body can for that matter, but I'm not exactly optimistic that a petition sent towards the manufacturers is going to have an effect. It's none of the concern of the manufacturers whether or not the artists vision isn't truly realized, in fact they probably don't care.

October 28, 2014 at 3:10PM

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I'm a fan of HFR, but "smooth motion", no way. Most the time it looks like crap, and more often than not screws up the audio sync with the external sound system.

October 28, 2014 at 5:13PM, Edited October 28, 5:13PM

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Anthony Powell
Film Maker
133

It gets worse.

I've seen interpolation make an old black and white movie look like a soap opera. A simple, albeit hard to find in menus, adjustment made that giant Sony TV go from unwatchable to beautiful.

And I've seen auto aspect ratio settings, unfortunately dynamic. That meant the set altered the aspect ratio, often multiple times within a scene!

Some TVs do not offer an option to turnoff the interpolation!

The ASC would do better to define standard settings for movies, old TV, sports, games, etc. First, it needs to get NAB and SMPTE involved, as well as their counterparts in European and Asian countries. Then ask the manufacturers to adopt the settings and make them easily accessible. Each step involves a huge amount of work.

The problem today is engineers decide the parameters. Sure, a manufacturer prefers you be happy with the purchase. But how many people return TVs because of the motion? Resellers deal with that.

Speaking of hideous motion, how about a petition to force DSLR shooters to use ND filters to cut light instead of shutter speed?

October 28, 2014 at 6:42PM

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Charlie K
1389

Sometimes I watch a 1940s film, like the Big Sleep, with motion flow on, and the live video look transforms the film into very present event. Like Bogart and Bacall are on live. The motion flow transforms the chemical emulsion of the past into a live feed in HD and it kind of makes the dead live. Kind of a trip.
Still, I agree, that I prefer to watch cinema in 24p without motion flow.

October 28, 2014 at 8:34PM

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James
Director
95

Sometimes I watch a 1940s film, like the Big Sleep, with motion flow on, and the live video look transforms the film into very present event. Like Bogart and Bacall are on live. The motion flow transforms the chemical emulsion of the past into a live feed in HD and it kind of makes the dead live. Kind of a trip.
Still, I agree, that I prefer to watch cinema in 24p without motion flow.

October 28, 2014 at 8:34PM, Edited October 28, 8:34PM

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James
Director
95

First time I saw this on a TV, I was at a friend's place watching The Royal Tenenbaums. I spent the whole movie wondering why Wes Andersson had chosen to shoot the film on a VHS camcorder.

Worst technological "advancement" ever.

October 28, 2014 at 9:09PM

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Josh Stafield
Director of Photography, Editor
231

It's like reading Shakespeare in comic sans.

October 28, 2014 at 11:23PM, Edited October 28, 11:23PM

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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
199

You can turn this feature off if you want. It's not that big of a deal.

October 29, 2014 at 1:30AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1346

"...Essentially, it turns our lovely 24fps content into something that vaguely resembles content shot at 60fps..."

That's the main problem. Interpolated frames are not the same as video captured at higher framerates. I think HFR is the way of the future and 24fps will be left to a few diehards that embrace older methods... like film compared to digital.... But this bad interpolation gives some filmmakers the wrong impression. Once most films are shot at framerates higher than 24fps and those HFR techniques have been mastered, our children will rarely consider 24fps content to be better. I don't how many more blurry fight sequences some filmmakers have to see before they see that HFR has it's clear advantages.

October 29, 2014 at 2:13AM

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Michael Gyori
Editor, Camera Op
168

Have you seen films shot at higher frame rates? They loose their magic and it just looks like you’re watching actors on a stage. It could be useful for certain films. Sports documentaries especially. But for narrative fiction? No thanks.

October 29, 2014 at 5:52AM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1240

*lose their magic. Sorry.

October 29, 2014 at 5:53AM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1240

I love this!! People are always telling me I'm crazy, because for years since the introduction of "Motion Plus" or "Smooth Motion"(different manufacturers call it different names) I've been totally frustrated by the setting on tv's. "I saw the film in the theater, I know how it's supposed to look, and that's not it...", I would tell people, but they'd just brush me off and say I should just stop complaining and get used to it. But it drives me crazy. I knew that directors and cinematographers out there were rolling over in their graves over the fact that their work was being raped in such a way. I guess my only question is why didn't someone start this petition sooner, and will the manufacturers even listen? I hope they do, because that would keep me from secretly turning it off on all my friends and family's tv's when their backs are turned.

October 29, 2014 at 7:31AM, Edited October 29, 7:31AM

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Shaggy White
Multimedia Production Assistant
81

I've hated this from Day One!!

October 29, 2014 at 8:54AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
954

Surely there are a million better 'causes' to think about than wasting time on this profile raising nonsense.

Also some forum housekeeping requests. Can you please add:

A comment notification system.
Edit after posting functionality.
Redirect back to the comment a user has just typed (when clicking on post asks for login) instead of taking the user to their profile page.

Thanks.

October 29, 2014 at 9:37AM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
406

The amount of times I've showed up at a friends house and instantly said: "Give me the remote" is way too high. What's worse is, I'll ask people - "How can you watch TV like this," and they don't even know what I'm talking about.

It's like turning everything into a Soap!

October 29, 2014 at 11:08AM, Edited October 29, 11:08AM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1368

What's astounding is how many ignorant people assume that their films look weird because they're watching it in HD, not because the framerate is getting screwed up.

October 29, 2014 at 8:45PM

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David West
Filmmaker
941

Where is the link to videos so I can see the difference? Hard to get the picture with just words. Thanks. -Bob

October 29, 2014 at 11:00PM

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I found a YouTube link that shows the difference but you'll have to download the original file from the guy's google drive to play it at the right frame rate: https://drive.google.com/a/ivanorlov.com/uc?id=0B4BpP0bOeCmjY2xrMXNvWUMz...

October 30, 2014 at 4:07AM

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Steve Uhr
138

What's worst is some TV comes without a mechanism to turn it off. I personally hate this marketing "feature". Gives me motion sickness.

October 30, 2014 at 12:15PM

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seanmclennan
Story Teller
949

I thought it was just me initially too. Fought with my brother who was so proud of his new TV...the picture made me nauseous. I struggle to find the right words to explain to him what it was doing...soap opera effect was the best I could come up with at the time. It is not easy to turn off in some of the TV's I have battled with. My last one seemed to be a 'vivid' setting plus another area that mentioned 'smoothing'...I would love for this to off by default.

October 30, 2014 at 4:32PM

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Robb Boyd
Managing Editor, Writer, Host
88

"Don't you want to see the films and TV shows as the filmmakers intended you to see them ...?"

And yet how many people have no problem jacking up the bass or playing with the highs on an equalizer instead of listening to music as the artist and a team of sound recordists in a studio intended you to hear them?

Seriously? We need a law that forbids TVs from displaying a feature in a store? How many TVs in Best Buy, Walmart or Costco are playing a fucking Reed Morano movie? Shouldn't these elitists be more concerned about the highly compressed and totally crap signal their "art" is reduced to when the studio sells it to appear on television in the first place?

October 31, 2014 at 7:51AM

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Zan Shin
486

Maybe this is why 9 out off 10 (or more) pro installers prefer plasma. I love my 50" Panasonic Viero, with its THX Mode for movies. Sports action look great too. I have friends who were annoyed that I didn't want to watch a movie on their inferior sets (unless it was second viewing that I wanted to see, manily to see how lousy their picture is). Many have grudgingly conceded that plasma is better after seeing my set.

The unwashed masses just want the cheapest option. And they often profess that they cannot discern any difference between the monitor that they so discerningly chose and the more costly alternative when looking at them in-store. So the retailers greatly reduced their stock of plasma.

I loved the old anecdotes about how many a discerning consumer walked into an outlet and astutely discerned the qualitative differences between available sets, with the gross over-brightness and saturation. Then they went home and ordered that set on Amazon only to bitterly complain that it "ain't nothin like" what they saw in the store...

Gotta love the wisdom of masses.

October 31, 2014 at 1:03PM

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W Smith
Doer
227

Add TV-generated sharpening to the petition, I say.
I've seen just as many, if not more, people's HDTVs running ugly aliasing-inducing mega sharpening over all their images.
These aren't blurry standard definition CRT TVs with rounded bubble glass on the front and color bleeding between pixels; they're 1080p-capable HDTVs displaying HDTV content, yet they still have a tremendous amount of sharpening applied. It's even worse when watching animated content, where a character's outline looks like it's doubled and out of focus. When producers over-sharpen content to begin with, it's already annoying (see: FX's re-released Simpson's episodes), but it's that much worse when even more is sloppily added by the TV.

November 1, 2014 at 4:09PM

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While a little different, this reminds me of the "loudness wars" in audio production as they are both playback vs. production discrepancies. Many consumers don't notice over compressed audio (loudness wars....) or the color/tone/feel effect of motion interpolation (soap opera effect) but it's significant because the playback system and medium control a great deal of the actual product being experienced.

November 2, 2014 at 5:47PM

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Why stop at 240fps interpolation? How about 500? Or more!!!!

My father in law loves it for his football and NASCAR. "It's like I'm there!"

The first time I saw how fast frame rate interpolation corrupted movies was in 2007 or 2008 at Costco when a Blu-ray of Transformers 1 was playing. There was John Turturro sitting in the back seat of his limo talking and it looked...weird. Like he was plastic. Did. Not. Like. It.

Definitely not the way to watch movies. But an interesting psycho-perception topic for study.

Or we're just stuck at 24fps -- a frame rate developed in 1927 so optical audio would work in the newfangled talkies. Before that, the standard was, what, 16-18 fps...or whatever rate the cameraman was cranking at the time. And that framerate was established so the minimal amount of expensive film was expended to achieve adequate motion.

A larger question might be, why do so many of today's viewers like the 120 or 240 frame rate?

November 2, 2014 at 11:37PM

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This is ridiculous. They are intentionally keeping their framerate low! It should obviously be as high as possible. Sign my petition to stop intentionally degrading picture quality: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-degrading-picture-quality

November 16, 2014 at 3:53AM

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