New York magazine
Hollywood TV Entertainment Image Credit: New York magazine
Hollywood TV Entertainment Image Credit: New York magazine

Why Films Look So Cheesy On Your Fancy New TV

Hollywood is furious about “motion smoothing,” a high-tech default setting on most new TVs. But do electronics manufacturers care what auteurs think?

Bilge Ebiri

Not so long ago, I found myself at a Best Buy in Brooklyn, mesmerized by a wall filled with giant TVs, all seductively state of the art. Each was playing, on a loop, a demo designed to showcase its quality and cast a spell. I was drawn to a massive Samsung QLED TV displaying unnervingly vibrant images of sizzling butter, exploding flowers, yellow snakes, and various colors of rippling fabric. Another was airing a soccer game, and, despite being in a scentless commercial non-place of a big-box store, I felt as if I were on the pitch with the sweaty players. It all looked quite amazing, a reminder of how high-definition digital technology has upped our tolerance for the hyper real onscreen to the point where sometimes it can feel more real than, well, reality. As I wandered, however, I noticed another, smaller TV off to the side, showing a couple of film trailers—Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road—which, by comparison, looked curiously cheap and lifeless. If I had to watch all of these clips on the same TV—the exploding flowers and sizzling steaks and stretching fabrics and soccer players and then the film trailers—I might have come to the conclusion that movies today, by and large, look like crap. This is because TVs now deliver images faster than movies do, and TV manufacturers have tried to make up for that discrepancy by souping up films through a misbegotten digital process called motion smoothing.


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