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Christopher Nolan Is Trying to Make Sure His Movies Won’t Look Weird on TV

Nolan is leading a phalanx of movie directors on a crusade against ”motion smoothing“ on TVs

Producer/director Christopher Nolan is on a mission to improve your television-viewing pleasure.

Have you ever been to a super store and noticed that a movie being played on a demo 4K TV looks kinda weird? Like it’s being played at 1.5x speed? That’s because of a TV setting called “motion smoothing.” Put simply, it’s a mode added to TVs to remove the motion blur that comes with high-definition presentation… and Nolan is one among many filmmakers who dislike what it does to their films so much that they’re doing something about it.

Earlier this week, Nolan, who is co-head of the Directors Guild of America’s Creative Rights Committee, sent an email to DGA members announcing that he, fellow co-head Jonathan Moslow, and “There Will Be Blood” director Paul Thomas Anderson are reaching out to TV manufacturers to make it easier to turn off motion smoothing on TVs.

“Many of you have seen your work appear on television screens looking different from the way you actually finished it. 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,” reads the letter.

Motion smoothing is done by adding fake frames between the ones that are processed from TV broadcast signals, giving a crisper presentation and a frame rate of 60 frames per second. For sports, this is great because it makes it easier to keep track of the action as it unfolds. But for movies, which are still filmed at 24 frames per second, motion smoothing removes the cinematic feel, making them look like soap operas by “speeding up” the presentation.

This has teed off many directors and cinematographers in Hollywood, from Nolan to Christopher McQuarrie to “Handmaid’s Tale” director Reed Morano.

So why not just turn off the setting when playing a movie? Well, easier said than done. Turning off motion framing — which is the default setting on many TVs — can be very complicated and vary depending on the TV. On some TVs, it’s not even called motion smoothing. It might be called “frame interpolation” or “motion liquidity” instead.

Now, in the DGA letter, Nolan says that plans are being made to create a dialogue between filmmakers and TV companies to remove those roadblocks. The letter, which was obtained by /Film, includes a survey asking directors how they’d like motion smoothing and other presentation settings to be changed, including whether they’d like a button toggling motion smoothing to be added to remote controls.

So fear not, cinephiles. The days of digging into the Stygian depths of your TVs settings to remove the “soap opera effect” may soon be a thing of the past. Hopefully.