Imagine being a Hollywood director who has just spent months of their lives making their latest visual spectacle, only for it to look like weird floaty garbage. Now imagine you're not Peter Jackson making The Hobbit and it wasn't even intentional. You'd be pretty upset! Finally, after years of waging a forgotten war against TV makers and their obsession with smooth images, filmmakers have figured out a way to make us commoners listen to their pleas: getting a celebrity to speak for them.
Coming from the set of the upcoming Top Gun sequel (boy, it's going to be hard defending movies as important art after that line), Tom Cruise and his screenwriting Goose Christopher McQuarrie have released a tongue-in-cheek public service announcement. In it, they warn people against the harmful effects of motion interpolation, or why your Netflix movies look like they were filmed by the same people who make The Real Housewives Of Butte, Montana.
Motion interpolation, often marketed as motion smoothing, is the process whereby your fancy new TV creates false frames in your moving pictures in order to remove motion blur. Now, that's great if you're watching an ESPN clip show of the NBA's greatest nut shots. But if you're viewing anything else from a cinematic perspective, motion blurring creates the dreaded "soap opera effect," making movies and shows look like they were shot on video like unaesthetic soap operas, reality shows, or, ugh, the news.
This is because everyone born after 1927 grew up with movies being shot in 24 frames per second, which has hardwired our brains into seeing that frame rate as the cinematic one. As a result, watching movies in any other frame rate can feel unpleasantly weightless and unnatural, like a dream about your father making love to a balloon animal.
So if we want cinema to look cinematic, there's really only one option: Set fire to our TVs. Or switch motion smoothing off, but that's often a lot harder. As Cruise and McQuarrie note, even if you realize that your TV is barfing out soap opera effects, manufacturers have made it pretty tricky to turn that off. Even those of us brave or suicidal enough to venture into the Escherian hellscape that is the Settings Menu likely won't find a motion smoothing setting. That's because, like a dictionary salesman posing a riddle in a cave, most big brands use their own obscure, meaningless buzzwords for the setting.
Luckily, now we have Tom Cruise in an old-fashioned PSA telling you to goddamn Google it. Just remember, when you forward this video to your parents, tell them not to maintain eye contact with Cruise for longer than ten seconds at a time. Otherwise, they risk serious overexposure to harmful Xenu rays.
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