Tom Cruise has taken a break from flying fighter jets on the set of Top Gun: Maverick to deliver an important video message to the viewers at home. In a video posted to Twitter, Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie—who directed Cruise in both Mission: Impossible – Fallout and the forthcoming Top Gun sequel—explained how a setting on most high-definition televisions that produces something called the “soap opera effect” is probably messing up your movie-watching experience.
Many TVs come with the setting enabled by default, but it can be switched off if you know where to look. The setting goes by different names, depending on the brand of TV you own—LG calls it TruMotion, Samsung calls it Auto Motion Plus—but they all refer to a technique called motion interpolation, or motion smoothing. Essentially, it inserts fake frames to increase the frame rate and prevent blurring during fast-moving sequences. It’s great for watching sports, but not much else.
“The unfortunate side effect is that it makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video rather than film,” Cruise says. “This is sometimes referred to as the 'soap opera effect.'" According to The A.V. Club, the effect “removes the filmic, dreamlike essence from films, giving them a hyperreal quality.”
Cruise and McQuarrie aren't the only major Hollywood players to object to motion interpolation. Oscar-nominated directors Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson have waged an all-out war on the setting. And cinematographer Reed Morano, who shot a few episodes of The Handmaid's Tale as well as the Sandcastles music video from Beyoncé's Lemonade album, launched a petition four years ago to "stop making 'smooth motion' the default setting on all HDTVs." It received more than 12,800 signatures.
Check out the video below to see if you can tell the difference between scenes that have been altered by motion interpolation.
Since instructions for disabling this feature vary from brand to brand, the easiest way to figure out the steps you'll need to take is by typing “turn off motion smoothing [your brand of TV here]” into a search engine. Tom’s Guide (no relation to Tom Cruise) has detailed instructions for disabling the effect on Samsung, LG, and Sony televisions.