Jumping Into HD: The "Soap Opera" effect...


Do movies look weird on your new TV? Does everything have a hyper-real, ultra-smooth motion to it? Are you sure something is happening with the TV's image you don't like, but you can't figure out what? Everything looks really, really, vivid and sharp, but almost fake? Like you are watching National Geographic or something. Or the BBC?

Chances are, what you're seeing is called the "Soap Opera Effect," as descriptive a moniker as we get in tech, in that this feature makes everything on your TV look like a cheap soap opera. This is actually a feature of most new TV's called "Motion Smoothing" or "Motion Interpolation".

That effect that unnerves you is a common issue with 120Hz & 240 Hz HDTV's. These TV's with refresh rates higher than 60Hz are designed to make action movies and fast moving sports programs look much smoother. And sports watchers were one of the key and most influential target groups that HDTV was developed for. 120Hz sets did an amazing job of that effect, The leap to 240 Hz is supposedly a further improvement but the trade-off is that it can make the picture look fake. Or simply make it look too good to be real because our brains have been trained to expect movies to look different to TV shows.


The impact of the effect also varies depending on the content you're watching. Movies tend to be produced in 24 frames per second, while TV shows are shot and produced in 30 or 60 frames per second. That may not seem like much of a difference, but you start to notice it once you ramp up the refresh rate on your television. A 240 Hz television creates extra frames to smooth out the action, but it's only taking an educated guess and sometimes the results look worse rather than better. You don't tend to experience this problem with plasma TVs. Another thing to note though, is that some movies and shows are intentionally now shot in HFR or High Frame Rate. Movies like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It was filmed and projected at 48 frames per second as opposed to the traditional 24 frames per second.

If you're experiencing the effect on your television then you should try going into your video settings and dialing down or shutting off the Motion Interpolation. Every TV manufacturer has a different name for it; Sony calls it MotionFlow, Samsung calls it Motion Plus, & LG calls it TruMotion. If you're watching a show or movie and you start to notice the unreal  effect, try changing these settings. Most televisions should remember the individual picture settings for each HDMI input, so you can change it for your Game Console or Blu-ray player without effecting your Cable DVR, or vice versa.

Hope that helps folks!!