The digital technology of today has made possible high-definition TV screen images that make us feel as if we are part of what we are watching. The vibrancy of the screen images is just too bright and too sharp to be true.
Sadly, today’s films do not come close to the quality of the images we see on television. To put it bluntly, the quality of film images looks like crap in comparison to those produced by our TVs.
The reason behind this is that TV delivers images quicker than movies, and as a means of making up for that disparity, TV manufacturers do the digital process of motion smoothing.
You may not have realized it, but you’ve probably watched a film with this setting. It’s impossible that someone from the US has not seen a movie like this, for almost all TV sets sold in the country are built with this default setting.
Motion smoothing is a digital effect that most HD TVs have.
It reduces motion blur, which makes it great for sporting events. However, most people look at it with immense distaste.
The digital process has been a growing concern for filmmakers and movie lovers over the past years because of how it ruins the quality of a filmmaker’s work. As a result, viewer experience is negatively affected.
In December 2018, most Americans became aware of the digital process when Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie delivered a PSA that implored viewers to deactivate the motion smoothing feature on their HD TVs. Several filmmakers have been objecting the digital process for years. Reed Morano, a director and cinematographer, started an online petition in 2014 imploring TV Manufacturers to remove motion smoothing as the default setting. Other directors have expressed their hatred for the technology on interviews and social media. Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, even compared the process to “liquid diarrhea.”
But the effect of the digital process is already very persistent that during the Cannes Film Festival, the monitors used had the motion smoothing setting on.
According to Claudio Ciacci, the lead TV tester for Consumer Reports, most people fail to turn off most of the default settings on the TV sets they purchase. The motion smoothing setting is also tricky to find on the menu, and it’s called differently depending on the TV manufacturer. Ciacci believes this is a pressing concern because especially that an increasing number of people prefer to watch at home than in theatres. When they become used to watching films in the motion smoothing setting, they will start regarding it as the new normal. But this isn’t how one is supposed to experience movies.
Fortunately, Netflix and Sony have introduced a unique setting that allows viewers to change settings on their TV for a better watching experience. TV manufacturer Vizio has also stopped making the motion smoothing setting as their default.
But by the looks it, motion smoothing is still here to stay, and not only for the reason that people love watching sports. As televisions become bigger, the higher the need for motion smoothing setting to avoid judder or image jerkiness.
Some people will look at the motion smoothing debate as filmmakers’ struggle with technological disruptions. But for filmmakers, there might be the haunting fear that the motion smoothing setting will send their art form to extinction.