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Why Is Tom Cruise Talking About ‘Soap Opera Effect’?

Q. I saw a video online yesterday that had Tom Cruise talking about soap operas or something called the soap opera effect. Is that a show he’s doing? A soap opera show? If so, where can I watch it? And what is this soap opera effect? — Tammy, Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Tammy, Tom Cruise is not going to be in a soap opera, unless you count his estranged relationship with ex-wife Katie Holmes! That’s a definite soap opera!

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What you saw was an online video posted yesterday by Tom on his Twitter account which detailed the film industry’s concern regarding overuse of the motion smoothness feature on today’s televisions.

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The motion smoothness setting, if turned too high, or simply turned on at all, can make a movie look like it was shot with a video camera rather than a traditional film camera. This, of course, is not how the director intended you to see the movie.

The display has become known in the industry as the ‘soap opera effect’ and it drives film directors and other cinemaphiles crazy. The image is smooth and clear, but for many people, it’s too smooth and clear. Every scene looks like it came out of a soap opera, which explains the term.

TV makers include this setting in today’s 4K and HDTV sets because people often complain that they can see a quick blur on the screen when a fast action occurs, such as running back pivoting during a football game. The motion smoothness setting, if turned on, can reduce that blurring.

Cruise complains in his video, however, that TV makers often have the motion smoothness setting ‘on’ as a default when you first buy the set. Consequently, many people don’t even realize they have it on when they start watching their brand new TV at home.

The star of Mission Impossible urges people to go into the advanced settings of their TVs and turn the motion smoothness setting to off.

But what about that blurring during quick movements on screen? Don’t you need the setting to be on to keep that to a minimum?

It depends on the set, and the viewer. Many people are not bothered by the blurring, or don’t even notice it when it does occur. And some sets seem to do a better job with the blurring problem.

But if you want to support Tom, and kiss off the soap opera effect — and perhaps accept a occasional burst of blur — there is a relatively easy solution.

As Tom suggests, you can adjust your set’s motion smoothness feature in the TV’s Picture settings. Each manufacturer has a different name for it.

For example, LG calls it TruMotion; Vizio calls it Smooth Motion Effect; Sony calls it MotionFlow; and Vizio calls it Reduce Motion Blur, and so on. As you can see, Motion is the key word here so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right setting in your specific TV.

Once you find the Motion Smoothness feature, simply turn it from On to Off.

Then, hit Exit and see what your picture looks like. If you prefer the new image, you’re all set. If not, you can go back into Settings and turn it back on.

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— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1648 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

1 Comment on Why Is Tom Cruise Talking About ‘Soap Opera Effect’?

  1. This feature also causes video game headaches. In a high-speed game, like Call of Duty Black Ops 4, where milliseconds can make or break a win. If the feature is turned on, there is clearly a delay (input lag) between pressing a button on your controller, and the weapon your charaector is holding actually firing. The soap opera effect literally ruins everything good about the display of the picture on your monitor. Most TV’s give a unnecessary warning that the picture will have “minimal input lag, but a slightly worse picture” (from a TCL) — The truth is you will not notice a slightly worse picture, so turn the feature off if it’s on your particular monitor.

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