Why Hollywood Is Pissed Off At TV Manufacturers

Have you ever watched The Young and the Restless and thought it looked like a Stanley Kubrick film? Of course not, and only part of that has to do with the direction itself. There’s a distinct visual difference between movies shot on film and TV shows shot on video, but TV manufacturers are perfectly fine having you believe that isn’t the case, thanks to the defaults for modern televisions’ “smooth motion” settings. One filmmaker in particular is pissed off at this ongoing manufacturer trend, and she’s rallying the troops to try and change that.

Cinematographer Reed Morano has worked on films such as Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings and the recent dramatic comedy The Skeleton Twins, and her staunch stance is that motion interpolation, the technical term for the reduction of motion blurring on HDTVs, is doing its part to ruin the cinematic experience for home audiences. How? Because newer TVs tend to make the “smooth motion” setting, or whatever it happens to be called on your own TV, the default option, something that average viewers don’t even know about, and something that they might mistake for being the “new” way movies are supposed to look. Wrong!

Morano wrote an enjoyable one-sided essay for Filmmaker Magazine, in which she explains her views in full. She’s even started up a Change.org petition to convince TV manufacturers to stop creating their own “smooth motion” defaults and to leave everything as it would be without that option there. Here’s how it goes in her words.

I remember the first time I saw my work affected by motion interpolation. A friend of mine had gotten a new HDTV and he called me in to the living room, he was watching my film on DVD, Frozen River. Well, I was shocked to see the film on the TV when I came in the room — the 24 fps effect had been totally wiped out, and it looked like I was watching an episode of General Hospital.It was so disheartening to see that cinematic look I had put everything into completely eradicated — all my work ruined by the default setting of a television manufacturer. Ever since then, I’ve made it my mission to turn this feature off every TV I see. It’s not fair to the artist or the viewer.

If you’re having trouble picturing how the “smooth motion” setting affects things, think back to the kerfuffle that happened after Peter Jackson announced that The Hobbit was being presented in theaters at 48 frames-per-second, which reduced the film’s actual film look. With every bit of blur, noise and grain absent from the images, it just looks like an expensively produced home video.

Does motion interpolation bother you as much as it bothers me and Reed Morano, or are you okay with the unnatural crispness that the smoothness presents?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.