Saturday, July 27, 2019

so that's what it is

I was at my brother David's house in Virginia last year, watching "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" via David's Netflix account. I griped to David that the images on the screen looked way uncannily crisp and hyper-real, so real as to be unreal, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was that disturbed me.

This article, thankfully, gives words to my gut feelings: the process is called image interpolation or motion-smoothing, and it was originally intended to reduce motion-blur effects on TV broadcasts of, say, sports games. The effect can be switched on or or off on most modern HDTVs, but switching the effect off is hard, involving wading through menu after menu. Several Hollywood actors and directors have come out against motion-smoothing; in the article I linked to above, you'll see Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie (director of the most recent Mission: Impossible films) making a public-service announcement urging people to switch off the motion-smoothing setting so as to be able to watch the film the way the filmmakers originally intended it to be watched.

The HDTV that I bought from a coworker doesn't seem to have that setting; I think it's from an older generation of TVs for which motion-smoothing was not a standard feature. It's not a problem I have to worry about, but if I ever upgrade to a new TV, I'll have to be cautious.

Keywords: motion, blur, motion-smoothing, smoothing, image, interpolation, image interpolation, uncanny, uncanny valley, hyper-real, hyperreal, hyper-realistic, hyperrealistic, Tom Cruise, Chris McQuarrie, movie, movies, film, films, cinema, cinematic

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