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It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

We’ve been trying to caution the public about TV motion interpolation and its resulting “soap opera effect” for years, but in the end, it took one of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities hopping on Twitter to get the issue the attention it deseves. On Tuesday, December 4, Tom Cruise issued the following public service announcement, which went viral:

The Mission Impossiblstar successfully accomplished one of Digital Trends’ own core missions by breaking down a complex tech topic in a way that is both meaningful and easy to understand. At the time of publishing, the video tweet had received just under 5 million views in 48 hours.

Motion interpolation is a technology which is intended to smooth out fast motion and eliminate blurry images on TVs. Sports programming, for instance, tends to be extremely fast-moving content, but since television is delivered at a relatively slow framerate, all that fast motion can turn into a blurry mess. Motion interpolation essentially fills in the gaps between video frames by using intelligent digital guesses at what image should go in between those frames. The result is a much smoother picture with less blur. Unfortunately, while this technology looks great for sports, it absolutely destroys movies and most TV shows.

Movies, in particular, are shot at 24 frames per second, a practice that dates back to when movies were shot on and displayed via film. As such, that is the way we are used to seeing them — it’s been that way for decades. Movies have a certain cadence to them, and when that cadence is altered, most viewers take immediate notice. Motion interpolation destroys the cadence we’re used to, and the result is a film that looks more like it was shot on a video camera, hence the term “soap opera effect.”

Despite the knowledge that motion interpolation is a put-off to movie buffs, most major TV manufacturers ship their TVs with the feature turned on by default, at least in the “Standard” and “Vivid” picture presets most people use. Motion Interpolation is usually defeated in the “Movie” or “Cinema” picture modes, but since these modes tend to be dimmer than their counterparts, they aren’t used as frequently. A spokesperson for Vizio was quick to point out to Digital Trends that all of its TVs ships with motion interpolation turned off for all picture modes.

If you would like to learn more about soap opera effect and, more importantly, how to turn it off on your TV, we have everything you need on the topic at Digital Trends.

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Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
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