In a tweet last week, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn kicked off a personal campaign against HDTV ‘motion smoothing,' drawing enthusiastic support from many other major movie creators.
This new tweetstorm is just the latest salvo in an ongoing protest by creators against the HDTV feature known by various euphemisms, or tradenames - ‘interpolation,' motion boost, TruMotion, Fine Motion Enhanced, ClearScan, and so on. Essentially, all of these insert interpolated frames into video content, simulating a higher frame rate in the hopes of compensating for the subtle ‘motion blur' exhibited by LCD panels.
Unfortunately, for many cinematic content creators, the cure is worse than the disease. Gunn's Twitter post, from last Thursday, reads as follows:
- James Gunn
So @rianjohnson, @edgarwright, @mattreevesLA, @chrismcquarrie, @TomCruise & I are all on board the anti-motion-smoothing campaign. Who else?
10:29 AM - 5 Oct 2017
The tweet refers, respectively, to the directors of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Shaun of the Dead, War for the Planet of the Apes and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - as well as actor Tom Cruise.
Numerous other movie creators swiftly joined in, including (as near as can be determined from sometimes cryptic Twitter handles) James Mangold, director of Logan; actor/director Steve Agee; and Minions writer Brian Lynch.
Reed Morano, producer/director on The Handmaid's Tale TV series, linked to a petition she had already started on Change.org, now signed by over 12,300 people, asking HDTV manufacturers "Please STOP making ‘smooth motion' the DEFAULT setting on all HDTVs." Recipients of the petition are to include Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, LG, Philips, Hitachi, Loewe, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Vizio and Insignia, as well as TV Broadcasters, and the Consumer Electronics Trade Group.
"Motion Interpolation was an effect that was created to reduce motion blur on HDTVs," says the petition, "but a very unfortunate side effect of using this function is that is takes something shot at 24 fps or shot on film and makes it look like it was shot on video at 60i. In short, it takes the cinematic look out of any image and makes it look like soap opera shot on a cheap video camera. It is unbelievable that this is a default setting on all HDTVs because essentially what it is doing, is taking the artistic intention away from filmmakers...
"It's fair to have smooth motion as one of the options in the picture settings on HDTVs, because it actually is a great way to watch sports. But for literally everything else on TV, it cheapens the look and makes it look as if it's a soap opera...
"A further irony is also that some of the manufacturers of these HDTVs (Sony and Panasonic) also manufacture the high end digital cameras that shoot in 24fps to give a more cinematic "film" look and they are the very same people negating that artistic choice."
Typical comments on Change.org include:
- "As a filmmaker I want my work to be seen the way it was meant to be seen. And also it's just a stupid idea. and it looks objectively worse."
- "As a filmmaker, this setting drives me bonkers. As a film viewer, it ruins my experience every time it's used."
- "I'm tired of putting in weeks and months of work to make things look nice, only to have it destroyed by motion interpolation."
The movement espoused by Gunn, Morano and other creators ask that, at the very least, motion smoothing be disabled by default on new TVs. Or made easier to toggle on and off, rather than being buried deep down a tree of cryptic menu selections. Or, if possible, turned on automatically for sports, where it's actually useful, and turned off for dramatic content, especially movies.
With frustration obviously mounting in Hollywood, it will be interesting to see how TV manufacturers respond.