Q My new TV is great, with one catch: some movies look weird. Something about the motion is strange, almost as if the movie is animated. What’s going on?
A Most films are recorded at 24 frames per second, whereas TV is usually recorded at 60 frames per second – more faithful to human vision, but less cinematic-looking. What’s causing the effect is something called motion interpolation, which takes low-frame-rate content and converts it to higher frame rates by inserting computer-synthesised frames in between real ones. To turn off this feature, you’ll have to figure out what it’s called: Sony’s version is MotionFlow, LG’s goes by the name TruMotion, Samsung labels it Auto Motion, and Toshiba’s is ClearScan.
That’s not to imply that high frame rates are inherently bad. In fact, Peter Jackson is filming his upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit at 48 frames per second, and James Cameron plans to shoot the sequels to Avatar at high frame rates as well. As he explained at a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards panel in October last year: “Being able to show movies at 48 or 60 frames a second would really improve the way they look. We’ve adapted to (low frame rates), and we expect movies to look the way they do, but every time you pan the camera, the whole image strobes.” Take heed: in movie technology, where Cameron goes, many others will follow.