The Soap Opera effect is probably the reason your TV looks weird

If you bought a new tv Over the past few years, you may have noticed something about the image that seemed…off. It didn’t look good. You may have described it as looking “too real”, “too slick” or having “strange movement”. It made everything look like a daytime soap opera. Many people thought that was exactly what 4K resolution looked like, since the switch to 4K happened around the same time as this “feature”.

The good news is you’re not crazy. Your TV could absolutely change the look of your movies and TV shows. Colloquially, the feature that causes this look is called “soap opera effect”, but goes by many names such as “motion smoothing”, “motion interpolation” or “ME/MC” for motion estimation/motion compensation .

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The best news is that on almost all TVs with this feature, you can turn it off. Do your family and friends a favor and turn off theirs too. A lot of people (including me) don’t like it, but many also don’t realize that it’s something you can turn off. So here’s what the soap opera effect is and how you can banish it from your TV forever.

So what is the soap opera effect?

The soap opera effect is actually a feature of many modern televisions. Some people don’t notice it, some don’t care, and a few even like it.

Filmmakers, by and large, don’t like it. Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, for example, I want you to turn off the soap opera effect when you watch movies. They even made a video about it in 2018 and added it as a kind of video quality PSA.

Many newer televisions even have a special picture modecalled Filmmaker modewhich, among other effects, is designed to ensure that no soap opera effects are activated.

The soap opera effect looks like hyper-real and ultra-smooth motion. It shows up best in pans and camera movements, although many viewers can see it in any movement. The effect is potentially welcome for certain types of video, such as sports and reality TV. But movies, high-end scripted TV shows, and many other kinds of video — according to most viewers and the directors like McQuarrie who actually create the movies and shows — are worse when applied by the TV.

TV makers: “It’s a feature, not a bug”


Getting the best picture sometimes requires diving deep into your TV’s menu system.


This “whatever” movement was ostensibly developed to help diminish the apparent motion blur on LCD screens. All LCD TVs – what is nowadays any TV that is not OLED — have difficulty with motion resolution. This means that any object on the screen in motion will be less detailed (slightly blurry) compared to that same object when stationary. High refresh rate (120Hz and 240Hz) LCD screens were developed in part to combat this problem.

The short version: For high refresh rate TVs to be more efficient, they need real new frames to be inserted between the original frames.

Thanks to fast processors, televisions can “guess” what is happening between the images captured by the camera originally. These new frames are a hybrid of the before frame and the after frame. By creating these images, motion blur is reduced. With 30 and 60 frames per second content, it’s great. Content like sports has better detail with motion, and there are minimal side effects, beyond errors and artifacts possible with cheaper or lesser motion interpolation processing.

Soap opera smoothing effect tom cruise Vizio

On Vizio TVs, you will find controls for the soap opera effect under Motion Control.

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However, with 24fps content – namely Hollywood movies and most TV shows like sitcoms and dramas that are not reality show or soap operas – there is a problem. The frame rate of the film and the associated blurring of the image of the slower frame rate are related to the perception of fiction. Check out the scathing reviews of high frame rate version of The Hobbit from 2012 for proof of this. Even if this perception seems grandiose, the see of 24fps is expected with movies and fictional TV shows. Even though the TV and movie industries have long since moved away from shooting live film, newer digital cameras are tuned for 24 fps because audiences of fictional programs expect that look.

SOE ruins this cadence. By creating new frames between the original 24 frames, it gives the impression of 30 fps or 60 fps content. In other words, movies (24 fps) look like soap operas (30/60 fps).

How to turn off the soap opera effect

The bad news: Every TV company has a different name for their motion tween processing. And in most picture modes by default it is enabled. Why? Maybe because TV makers want to justify the extra price you paid for a TV with this feature built in. Oh, progress.

The good news: with almost every TV on the market, you can turn it off.

Step 1: Put the TV in filmmaker, movie, cinema or calibrated mode. On most TVs this will eliminate or greatly reduce smoothing, but will make the picture more accurate in general, especially colors. If the film seems too dark, feel free to increase the backlight or brightness (on LCD TVs) or OLED light (on LG OLED TVs) until it is bright enough for you.

Step 2: Make sure smoothing is actually turned off. Some TVs keep the soap opera effect on even in Movie or Cinema mode. Not cool. Here’s what many companies call their motion tween features. These can be found in the picture adjustment menus, often in deeper menus called “Advanced” or “Expert”.

  • LG: TruMotion
  • Samsung: picture clarity Where Automatic movement More
  • Sony: Motion Flow Where TruCinema
  • TCL: Stock Smoothing
  • Vizio: motion control

In some cases, there will be adjustments for the amount of motion smoothing. Feel free to experiment to see what gives you the best combination of detail and fluid motion. Completely off is what we recommend for fictional movies and TV shows.

Soap opera smoothing effect tom cruise LG

On some TVs, smoothing is enabled by default even in Cinema mode.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Most of these names have remained consistent over the past few years with the smoothing features, so if you have an earlier TV from one of these brands, you should be able to find the smoothing feature with a little digging.

No matter what TV you have, it’s useful to know where this setting is. You may want this when watching sports or other “video” based content (30fps or 60fps). Then, for fictional movies and TV shows, you can turn it off. This will give you the best of both worlds with minimal motion blur with sports and zero SOE with movies.

As well as covering television and other display technology, Geoff takes photographic tours of museums and cool locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all of its tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling science fiction novel about city-sized submarines and a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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