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Is Frame Interpolation a Godsend or the Devil's Spawn?

Anyone who owns a 120 or 240Hz LCD TV has seen frame interpolation at work, though they might not realize it. These TVs create new video frames and display them between the actual frames as depicted above to reduce motion blur. The problem is that this process has an unwanted side effect—it makes movies look like they were shot on video, just like soap operas. Most videophiles hate this "soap-opera effect" so much, they turn it off and live with more motion blur.

If you have a 120 or 240Hz LCD TV and aren't familiar with this effect, go into the TV's picture menu and turn frame interpolation on and off while watching a movie clip with some fast motion. (In most such TVs, it's on by default.) In many cases, this control is in a submenu called something like "Advanced," but don't be scared, you can't damage anything. Also, this control often has several settings like Low, Medium, and High; try them all and look for any differences.

The frame-interpolation function goes by different names in different brands; here are the names used by the biggest manufacturers:

  • LG: TruMotion
  • Samsung: Auto Motion Plus
  • Sony: Motionflow
  • Toshiba: ClearScan
  • Vizio: Smooth Motion

Those who have seen frame interpolation at work usually have a strong opinion about it, so I ask you: Do you think frame interpolation is a godsend for reducing motion blur or the devil's spawn because of the dreaded soap-opera effect?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice; I look forward to reading your thoughts on this.

Is Frame Interpolation a Godsend or the Devil's Spawn?
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Jarod's picture

I do not own a 120hz or 240hz LCD, but I have experience viewing and tinkering on them. It is my opinion that with movies, it is indeed very much the devil's spawn. Totally takes away from the director's vision and always seems to add unwanted artifacts to the picture. Although I do think that with sports frame interpolation can be a fair trade-off for better motion resolution. The goal is indeed to recreate the original source as accurately as possible and frame interpolation goes against that.

meli's picture

Having your monitor display frames that the director never shot is antithetical to the goal of video fidelity.

For people who have never seen the (negative) effect of video interpolation, it looks very similar to watching a movie that has pan-and-scan when you see a video "pan" happening at the same time as an original camera pan. It's yucky.

Video interpolation may be alright for sports, I'm not sure. I don't really watch sports so I don't have a strong opinion.

gunhed's picture

it makes movies look like they were shot on video, just like live television... You know, like as close to Reality as you an get ! Isn't that the whole point of higher resolution, true black, true color, surround sound etc, etc ... ?

I want technology to make up for hollywood's stubbourness. Why suffer the primitive frame rate hollywood continues to cling to ?

To those who like to live in the dark ages, I have a few LPs and super 8 reels to give away. They will go nicely with your grammaphone ...

meli's picture

Gunhed, your analogy comparing video interpolation with listening to vinyl is completely flipped. People who listen to new music (that was almost definitely recorded and/or mixed digitally) on vinyl enjoy the distortion (they would say "warmth") that vinyl introduces.

Similarly, video interpolation introduces distortion (defined as an alteration of the original signal) that its advocates call "detail". So if anything, fans of video interpolation are likely to be (at least theoretical) fans of vinyl. Both things introduce distortion that they enjoy, but are less accurate to their original sources.

To your other point, the goal of reproduction is not to be as close to reality as possible. Where would that leave "Fantastic Mr. Fox"? The goal is to reproduce the original source as accurately as possible. Video interpolation, and modern vinyl, are antithetical to that goal.

uavKenny Kraly Jr.'s picture

For me frame interpolation is 50 / 50 depending on how the user wants to use it on or off. For me the soap-opera effect I keep off for movies and on for sportting events.

Phopojijo's picture

Didn't select any option. I tend to adjust it depending on the content. "Coraline" goes straight off... live action usually goes higher... etc.

The biggest problem is hand-animated video which is approximate to begin with.

uavakak's picture

Given the problems with LCD technology, and how the fixes seem to create problems of their own, it simply makes more sense to buy a plasma set if you care about picture quality -- the blacks are better, there's no need for frame interpolation, and the picture looks more like film to begin with.

In response to gunhed, the fact that films are meant to be shown in theaters is what keeps Hollywood from adapting a different frame rate -- new technologies are only viable to the studios and exhibitors when they bring in more patrons, which a higher frame rate, which would entail new projectors and additional shipping costs for all the extra reels of film, would probably not do.

Chosen's picture

I have debated this issue with a lot of people. The feedback I get is that they like the look and Hz would be a buying factor for a TV. I personally don't like the effect. I agree with the comment that these are frames that directors didn't film. When I recommend a 120 HZ or 240 HZ I always ask the key question "Do you watch sports?". Sports games look great for the fast running and ball motion. Other than that fact the normal 60hZ or 120hz is fine.

gunhed's picture

Have any pro 24fps users here seen an Imax film lately ? Notice how detailed they are ?

48fps people !

Plasma sets need interpolation almost as much as lcd sets do. I have 4 plasma sets including 2 kuros. The kuros in particular require proper interpolation. They have a smooth mode but its quite useless.

I will finally be able to watch my blu rays and hd dvds on the kuros in smooth 60fps thanks to a soon to be released program by mirillis called splash pro export. It converts 24 fps to 60 fps artifact free as the conversion is not in real time.

Enjoy your choppy 24fps !

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