What is Motion Smoothing and Why Does Tom Cruise Hate it So Much?

What is motion smoothing and why is Tom Cruise talking about it in his latest tweet?

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2 min read
Tom Cruise in <i>Mission: Impossible – Fallout.</i>
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Hollywood actor Tom Cruise is famous for doing all of his death-defying stunts himself. Wanting the audience’s experience to be as authentic as possible, he has been a long-time proponent of doing it all himself and not relying on a body double.

His most recent grouse has everybody googling the words “motion smoothing”. Bathing in the glow of his most recent offering, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he took to Twitter last week, along with director-friend Christopher McQuarrie, to warn movie-watchers at home about the perils of motion smoothing or video interpolation.

What is Motion Smoothing?

As McQuarrie puts in the video clip, motion smoothing is a digital effect on most high-definition televisions that is intended to reduce motion blurring during sporting events and other high-definition programs.

What this effect does, is that makes most movies appear as though they were shot on high-speed video as opposed to film making them hyper-real and losing the dreamlike quality films possess. This is also commonly called the ‘Soap Opera Effect’.

Why Have you Never Heard of This Before?

Most television sets have this feature on by default, never giving viewers the option to view the original. Movie watchers at home would have to dig deep into the TV program guide to find and remove the setting.

It might even be hard to make out the difference if not looking out for it.

Motion smoothing off vs on.
Motion smoothing off vs on.
(Photo: AV Club)

Why Do Filmmakers Have a Problem With it?

The way the technology of automatic blur corrections works is that the television processes two frames and on that basis, inserts an artificial frame of what it assumes should go between the two. This is expected to reduce the blurred movements and give a seamless watching experience.

While this is great for sports or nature shows, filmmakers argue that it takes away from the artistic vision of the director. By adding additional frames, it deviates from the intended visual impact they had in mind.

Who Else has Talked About it?

This has been a long-standing grouse of several filmmakers over the years. James Gunn, Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson and Matt Reaves have spoken out against the software. Reed Morano had even started a petition to fix motion smoothing years ago.

The industry standard for shooting is 24 frames per second. Any more, and it changes it imagined effect of the film.

A formal objection had even gone out a few months ago that stated “It is important that we harness new technologies to ensure that the home viewers sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions.”

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