Motion Smoothing: What It Is and Why Filmmakers Hate It

In the age of OLED TVs and HD displays, movies should be looking better than ever when we watch them at home. And yet, the opposite seems to be true. If you throw on an MCU flick in your living room, you might notice something vaguely… off. The cinematography could seem flatter; the characters’ movements might seem poorly captured; and the whole film could even become nauseating to look at. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: it’s more likely that you still have motion smoothing working against your TV set.

Motion smoothing, also known as motion interpolation, is a default setting on many TV sets that acts as a “fix” to a problem that doesn’t really exist. The vast majority of films and TV shows are captured at a standard 24 to 30 frames per second frame rate. (The rare exceptions include “Avatar: the Way of Water,” which shot a few scenes at 48 frames per second.) And modern TVs are capable of operating at 60, 120, or even 240 fps. So those aren’t a problem for a TV; without motion smoothing, most sets are stilll fully capable of playing a movie at the standard frame rate, and presenting the title as it would appear on a movie screen.

But motion smoothing attempts to bend film and shows’ presentation to match the capabilities of TV sets, rather than the other way around. When the motion smoothing setting is on — as is the default for nearly every TV sold in the United States — a film’s frame rate gets bumped up in order to match the max frame rate possible on the set. Most motion smoothing settings work by having the TV calculate the paths where a given object moves between frames, and then generating what are effectively fake frames estimating the trajectory of that object.

This high frame rate isn’t without its benefits: it can be ideal for watching sports, when it provides more clarity about what’s happening during a game, for example. But for most film, motion smoothing leads to what many have deemed a bizarre uncanny valley look: ignoring the basic tenants of cinematography and creating what has come to be known as the “soap opera effect.” It makes the images onscreen look cheaper, like a behind-the-scenes featurette for a film rather than the film itself.

Not surprisingly, the list of enemies that motion smoothing has made in the film industry is extensive. “Jennifer’s Body” director Karyn Kusama said that motion smoothed images cause “my brain, my heart, my soul shuts down.” Rian Johnson called it “liquid diarrhea.” In 2019, Johnson, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Coogler, and Patty Jenkins were among a group of filmmakers who partnered with the UHD Alliance for an initiative to introduce a “filmmaker mode,” which optimizes the picture for TV as an explicit counter against motion smoothing’s effects. In 2018, Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie appeared in a social media video during the streaming rollout of “Mission: Impossible: Fallout” asking viewers to turn off motion smoothing when watching the blockbuster at home.

So, if this story did what Cruise has failed to do and convinced you that motion smoothing is the devil, how can you turn it off? The name motion smoothing has on TV sets differs depending on which companies make them, but the process of turning it off is usually the same. A trip to the picture settings menu will typically help you locate the setting and allow you to turn it off.

Here’s a guide to how to turn off motion smoothing on most major TV brands. If yours is not listed for some reason, try and find a setting with “motion” or “smoothing” in the title. It’s also worth noting that Hisense, LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Vizio all have Filmmaker Mode options, if you want to check that feature out.

Amazon Fire TV (Motion Processing)
1. Go to settings.
2. Select picture on the settings menu.
3. Click on advanced options.
4. In the dropdown menu, scroll to motion processing and select off.

Hisense (Motion Smoothing)
1. Press the remote’s home button.
2. Click on settings.
3. Select system settings and picture.
4. Select motion smoothing and hit off.

LG (TrueMotion)
1. Click on settings.
2. Select picture menu.
3. Click on picture mode settings, and then click on picture options.
4. Select TrueMotion, and change the setting from smooth to off.

Panasonic Viera (Intelligent Frame Creation)
1. Press menu on your remote.
2. Click picture settings.
3. Select Intelligent Frame Creation.
4. Switch from on to off.

Roku (Action Smoothing)
1. Hit the “*” button on your TV remote.
2. Click on advanced picture settings on the menu.
3. Look for the Action Smoothing option. There are four different levels of smoothing: high, medium, low, and off. Select off to turn motion smoothing off completely.

Samsung (Auto Motion Plus)
1. Select settings.
2. Open the picture options submenu. Click on expert settings at the bottom.
3. Find the Auto Motion Plus setting. Select, and move to off.

Sony (MotionFlow)
1. Select the picture settings menu.
2. Click on advanced settings.
3. Open MotionFlow settings, and switch to off.

Vizio (Smooth Motion Effect)
1. Go to settings and select the picture menus submenu.
2. Scroll down to the advanced picture submenu and select it.
4. Click on Smooth Motion Effect, and switch to off.

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