Directors Want Reference TV Picture Settings

Motion-Smoothing technologies to be switched off as a default

by Aaron Macarthy Beards Sep 13, 2018 at 7:34 AM

  • When Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson come up with an idea for improving TV picture quality it’s hard to ignore.
    Nolan has directed some of the past decades most breathtaking actions films including; Dunkirk, The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. Anderson has directed critically acclaimed films such as; Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. These films are meticulously crafted, over hundreds of hours, to look a particular way.

    As such, it's not surprising that directors are getting quite upset that TV makers are changing the way their films look with the out of the box presets. A letter, signed by Nolan, sent to filmmakers states that:

    “Many of you have seen your work appear on television screens looking different from the way you actually finished it. Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions.” (SlashFilms. 2018).

    This isn't the first time that directors have criticised how TVs make their films appear. In 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director, Ryan Johnson stated that; “You want movies to look like liquid diarrhoea, fine...but it should be a choice you make, not a hoop everyone has to jump through to unmake.” (Polygon. 2017)

    One key annoyance for directors is motion smoothing. The vast majority of films are shot at 24fps. This gives movies that very specify ‘film look’. TV is, mostly, shot at higher framerates and on video cameras. As such it has a much 'smoother' more 'video' look. That's why you can instantly tell when you're watching a movie made for TV, rather than a movie created for the cinema.
    Our Picture Perfect campaign was started to help everyone get the best possible experience out of their TV.
    That’s not the say that frame rates higher than 24fps are bad. Sports, video games and even some TV programmes benefit hugely from increased frame rates. This is due to the higher frame rates retaining better detail in fast moving objects. Motion-Smoothing technology attempts to take lower frame rates and add in multiple frames between them to give a smoother look. This can sometimes, depending on its implementation, be useful for sports. But, more often than not, it brings with it motion artefacts and just makes the image look and feel wrong.

    Even if the Motion-Smoothing does its job perfectly the consequence is that it creates the so-called ‘Soap Opera Effect’ (SOE). This is when a movie, intended to look like film, starts to look as if it was shot for TV on a cheap video camera. Not what the director intended.

    Unfortunately, the majority of TVs ship with the picture enhancements, including Motion-Smoothing, turned on and in a bright and vivid picture mode. This gives TVs a real boost that helps it stand out in bright shop showrooms, filled with other TVs. However, once the TV is home, in your not so bright room, the Motion-Smoothing, picture enhancements and overly bright colours start to look less polished and becomes overbearing, especially when viewed for long periods.

    We at AVForums have long pushed for an industry standard reference mode, built into all TVs as default. Our Picture Perfect campaign was started to help everyone get the best possible experience out of their TV. Most manufacturers, such as Panasonic, LG and Sony, have started to market their TV as coming with reference preset modes as an option and as the director intended.

    However, we at AVForums believe that all TVs should come with this mode set as default. Such a mode would be pre-calibrated with the intent of creating the most accurate picture. It would have all video enhancements, such as Motion-Smoothing turned off in order to best replicate the cinema experience. This would make new TVs look better out of the box, improve customer experience, and ensure that only minor, room-specific adjustments were required to give the best TV movie experience possible.

    However, Until the day all TVs come precalibrated to a reference level, we highly recommend you take a few minutes to read our Picture Perfect guide and to set-up your TV with our free tutorials. It’s simple and whether your TV is old, or fresh out of the box, it will help give it the best possible cinema experience.


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