Did you bring home a new TV, excitedly set it up, switched on your favorite movie, only for the picture to look funny? Do you feel something is off with the images and quality of your dramas?
The chances are that the visuals on your TV look too real. You can feel like the movies, and TV shows appear as if an old camcorder recorded them. There is no doubt that some things look off-putting.
But don't worry as it has nothing to do with your newly purchased TV. A 4K resolution or the panel technology in your telly is not causing this problem.
What you might be looking at is the soap opera effect, something even Christopher Nolan, along with other directors from the film industry, seems to be fighting against it as well. However, you can fix this problem and enjoy your TV shows and movies like before.
What is the Soap Opera Effect?
The soap opera effect goes by several names such as motion smoothing, motion interpolation, Enhanced Motion, and Auto Motion Plus. The way people talk about it, many feel as if the soap opera effect is a bug. Truthfully, it is a purpose-built feature that is attached deliberately. It initially was aimed at solving problems but soon became a part of it for many consumers.
Usually, you can find this feature enabled by default in the settings on modern TVs. Often, you are not even aware that the effect is switched on and is constantly at work.
How Does the Soap Opera Effect work?
The LCDs have difficulty with motion blurring and are more sensitive to others, unlike the plasma and old CRT. Thus, when an LCD TV displays fast-moving pictures like that in a video game or sports, the blur can become excessive and lead to obscuring the image detail.
It's why TV manufacturers started using displays with higher refresh rates. They moved from the native 60Hz rate used in older TVs to 120 Hz in modern ones.
Here is another way to explain how the effect works: The TV analyses and calculates the incoming frames and test out how a few frames would look. Consequently, it produces a 48p stream and even higher. It is typically out of the standard cinematic 24p.
The effect creates and interpolates or inserts additional frames in between existing ones. The interpolation or insertion of these frames is what causes the soap opera effect. It results in a sharp and crisp picture on your screen.
The action happening on your screen also looks 'real.' Sometimes, the image appears too crisp and hence seems to look funny. It occurs because the fast-moving objects lose their blur when displayed on modern and HDTVs.
Soap opera effect or motion smoothing works perfectly for sports, news programs and video games as these contents are not supposed to be cinematic. When we talk about movies and TV shows, we are used to seeing them at lower rates, where most record at 24 frames per second.
For that reason, the soap opera effect has the potential of ruining your movie night, making everything appear too unnatural or razor-sharp. Even if such a feature might sound grand in theory, the reality remains that people are never satisfied with how it makes pictures appear on your screen. For instance, the producing and recording of the latest Avengers film can look straight out of a handy cam belonging to the 90s, when this effect is in place.
On top of that, showing 24fps content by interjecting frames of 120Hz is likely to mess with the cadence. Cadence refers to the restoration of the original frame sequence in a video. It is because the display adds frames that never existed before.
You can conclude that this effect creates a fake display and removes judder in frames we expect to see. In short, it makes movies (24fps) appear as if they are soap operas (30/60fps).
As mentioned, this feature is enabled by default and hidden deep under the menus. The chances are that if you aren't aware of the soap opera effect, you will probably question it a bit initially but then get used to the look.
Is There Any Benefit of the Soap Opera Effect?
Now that you've heard of all the problems surrounding this feature, you must be wondering, are there are advantages of the soap opera effect at all? The answer to this question depends on the consumer's preferences.
The soap opera effect creates new and natural frames by inserting them between the original ones. It helps decrease motion blur on LCD TV and makes your picture appear crisp.
Thus, as previously described, the effects work best for sports and news programs as well as video games. It leads to a smoother-looking action which results in less blurring of the image. And even if the Soap Opera Effect does annoy you, you might find it suitable for sports and other content.
Depending on how the recordings of your movies and scripted TV series take place, you might like motion smoothing on them. Few people even want to watch the TV by turning on the effect, whether it's on purpose or they are genuinely unaware about it.
There is no harm in leaving the effect on and watching your content on TV. The soap opera effect does not cause any damage to the eyes or pose any health-related risk. However, if you genuinely can't stand it and desperately want to turn it off, here is how you can do it.
How to Turn Off the Soap Opera Effect
The Soap Opera Effect is turned on by default because manufacturers want to justify the extra price you pay for the built-in feature. It does not mean that you can't turn off the effect in most TV's available on the market.
The soap opera effect will vanish by just adjusting one setting on your TV. Here's the most challenging part, though: the exact setting of the soap opera effect goes by several names on various TV companies.
Many manufacturers use their terms for the soap opera effect. Here are some TV companies that you can navigate to and switch off the effect:
- In LG TV
Go to your TV's setting menu, click on Picture options and then choose TruMotion. Select TruMotion and disable it.
In TruMotion, if the effect is set too high on default, there is no problem in switching it off entirely.
You can also enjoy the User Mode, which allows you to tweak the deblur and de-judder settings subtly.
- In Samsung TV
Go to Samsung's Expert Setting menu, and disable Auto Motion Plus.
Many users prefer Samsung's recent QLEDs with Auto Motion Plus adjusted to Custom. It opens up the options of manually tweaking Clear Motion, Judder Reduction and Blur Reduction.
When you set them according to your liking, it reduces the judder and blur without adding the Motion smoothing effect.
- In Panasonic TV
On the menu, select picture settings and click on Motion Smoother. Choose to switch it off or click on Weak.
In the most recent Panasonic TVs', you need to look for the Intelligent Frame Creation option under the picture settings. By default, it is set too high, but you can switch to a minimum setting instead of turning it off.
You will also find Black Frame Insertion or Clear Motion options which are disabled already, and so, you must leave it to that.
- In Sony TV
Sony TV is one of the odd ones out of all companies as its soap opera effect is generally good to leave it enabled.
If you would still like to switch it off, head to the Picture Adjustment menu. Click on the advanced setting and select Motion. The option of Motion flow or TruCinema will appear, which you can disable.
There are exceptions where lower-end models of Sony are better off without the motion smoothing, but most of them can work well with the effect. Again, it all depends on how you like your picture on the screen.
- In Philips TV
Most Philips TVs has a simple Motion Style setting found in the picture settings menu. You can choose from options such as Smooth, Standard, Movie and Off.
If you want a natural motion, you can choose to switch it off entirely. But with two of the Philips 2018 OLED models, the OLED903 and OLED803, the movie option is more natural. On the other hand, the default standard mode is overly aggressive yet reduces enough judder.
In some premium models, you can switch to Minimum, which increases the quality of Motion without making it look unnatural or artificial.
- In TCL TV
Go to TCL's Picture menu, click on advanced setting and turn off action smoothing.
- In Vizio TV
Head to the picture menu, click on more pictures, select Motion control and then choose 'Reduce Judder: 0'.
These are a few TVs where you can turn off the soap opera effect. Understandably, you can disable the feature while looking for the word 'motion' in your TV settings.
Most of these options have remained consistent over the last few years, but if you have an older model of these companies, you can switch off the motion smoothing by searching for it.
However, there is an exception to one company, Hisense TV, that goes by the name Ultra SMR for the soap opera effect. Yet, even if the Ultra SMR is disabled entirely, Hisense TV suffers most with judder, and hence, you can opt for the medium settings.
Some Hisense TV models like the AE6100UK have no option to turn off the soap opera effect.
For Hisense and other TV companies not listed above, you can likely disable the effect under the TV's picture setting. Keep in mind that its exact location changes for different companies.
It will most of the time list out motion smoothing in the bottom after you have skipped through traditional settings like Sharpness, Contrast and Brightness. It can also be in a separate section, under Advanced Picture Settings or something similar.
It is essential to know that certain TV sets automatically turn on the soap opera effect for sports or video games but does not enable it for the Cinema settings. Indeed, it can make things easier for you, but you will need to investigate yourself if you like to adjust your TV settings.
Moreover, if you are using onboard apps in smart TV, the settings you adjust for the picture may not apply when you stream content on Hulu or Netflix. For that to happen, you will need to turn off the settings before streaming on such apps completely.
There is a recommended option which is known as the Global option for all settings adjustments. Through it, you can apply any setting of your choice across all sources.
What is Next for the Soap Opera Effect
Shortly, companies like Vizio, Panasonic and Samsung are committed to adding the Filmmaker Mode to their respective TVs in the future. This feature is also something that various movie directors want viewers to have.
Filmmaker mode will act as a solution to the soap opera effect or motion smoothing and lets you watch movies just as the directors had desired.
The mode will preserve the correct aspect ratios, frame rates and colors in films. But until that becomes a reality, you need to hunt down the settings for the soap opera effect.
It is essential to know your TV settings for different contents. You can play around with the settings of your TV and see what it has for you.
If you get rid of the annoying soap opera effect, you can find your screen images a bit blurrier. Also, a few TV models only offer two options between soap opera effect and blurring.
If you don't fancy the soap opera effect and don't want it on your television at all, it will be wise to choose a LED/LCD TV carefully.
Higher-end models provide blur options reducing that make your experience of viewing TV less jarring. If you have a new and recent TV model that comes with many options, you wouldn't have much problem getting rid of the soap opera effect, blur and judder.
With lower models, a little bit of digging can help you find the options for motion smoothing.
You can turn it on for those who prefer the soap opera effect for specific content like sports. On the other hand, while watching movies and TV shows, you can disable motion smoothing by navigating settings. This approach will offer you the best of both sides with less blur.
Moreover, your viewing experience will become smoother and enhance further.