Tom Cruise has a new public service announcement that he wants people to become super aware of: he’s taking a stand against motion smoothing on TVs.
Cruise and Mission: Impossible — Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie — reunited on the set of Top Gun: Maverick — appeared in a 90-second video meant to bring attention to motion smoothing, known more technically as interpolation or more casually as the “soap opera effect.” Cruise acknowledges in the video that “the unfortunate side effect” of motion smoothing technology is that it makes it seem like movies were “shot on high-speed video rather than film.” Fallout was released on Blu-ray today, which is the reason for the announcement’s timing.
Cruise starts the video with a smile, but gets pretty serious at times. Just listen to the indignation in his voice when he says, “Most HDTVs come with this feature already on, by default” and as he complains how manufacturers obfuscate ways of disabling it. McQuarrie straight up tells people to just Google the answer for whatever TV they’ve got.
Motion smoothing, once referred to as “liquid diarrhea” by Rian Johnson, is a factory setting on many television sets that is supposed to enhance the picture that appears on screen. It reduces motion blur in content on HDTVs by creating frames that aren’t actually in the original source material. That leads to smoother video, which is great for sports — but bad for most everywhere else. As the nickname implies, the artificial smoothness can make a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster look like a daytime soap opera. McQuarrie has called out motion smoothing technologies in the past, alongside other directors like Johnson and Christopher Nolan.
Nolan and director Paul Thomas Anderson are among those who have voiced their concerns in a letter sent out to television manufacturers through the Directors Guild of America that asks for certain settings to ensure that film quality remains top notch when customers buy sets.
“Many of you have seen your work appear on television screens looking different from the way you actually finished it,” the letter reads. “Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions.”
TV manufacturers are reportedly ready to hear directors out, and the PSA notes that some are making motion smoothing easier to switch off. But in the meantime, Cruise and McQuarrie are on a crusade to bring attention to the issue.