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.
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.