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Motion Smoothing, Emotion Seething

John Turnbull

Posted on December 10, 2018 20:49

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Should movies look like reality shows on your smart TV?

I was over at my friend's the other day and we put on a movie that he'd PVR'd - Hudson Hawk. The excitement I had to re-visit this movie to see if I still thought it was a dud was quickly quelled when I noticed how the movie looked.

It seemed it was shot on hand-held cameras, like a documentary crew following around a couple of large egos. I hated it! My friend said, "You get used to it" and while that may be true over a long period of time, the fact is I don't want to.

Movies have always been escapism for me, a break from reality to live vicariously through a fantastical point of view. To forget about my problems and root for (or jeer at) an actor's. Part of that separation is the film grain, for certain. It's like a light hazy veil thrown over my brain. Take that away, and the film looks like something I shot with my crappy cell phone camera.

On top of that, one can see where the makeup stops, can tell that the injuries are glued on, and can tell the CGI budget. Not the things I ever want to notice. It's a technological intrusion, almost as unforgivable as an author's intrusion

The process used to create this awful effect is called "motion smoothing," and it comes preset on most smart TVs. The good news, it can be turned off. The bad news, that most manufacturers make it hard to do so, entailing a headachy foray into remote sub-menu land.

I get why this smoothing is a preset: it's for store display purposes where they usually show sports, nature scenery or animated movies, all of which are enhanced by the motion smoothing. But why do they make it so hard to de-activate? I have no idea, not even a conspiratorial one.

And I'm not alone with this gripe of "soap opera effect" smoothing wrecking movies. Tom Cruise not only spoke out against it, but he also posted a video on how to turn it off. And he didn't jump up and down on a couch during this rant. Many other Hollywood factions are trying to ban movie networks from using it in their broadcasts. Filmmakers agree: it wrecks movies by showing them how they weren't meant to be seen. Period. No room for debate.

Thankfully, not all broadcasters are implementing the technology. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video don't use it, or at least it doesn't appear that way on my smart TV, thank you very much.

I believe it will work itself out in the very near future because after the hype wears off, consumers figure out that just because it's new technology doesn't mean it's better technology. Laserdisc, anyone?

Oh, and Hudson Hawk is better the second time around!

John Turnbull

Posted on December 10, 2018 20:49

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Source: Quartz
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