I Use Motion Smoothing on My TV—and Maybe You Should Too

(A quick note for the TV nerds: I’m talking about 24 frame-per-second stutter here, not the telecene judder produced by using 3:2 pulldown to fit 24 frames into a 60-Hz refresh rate. That’s an entirely different phenomenon, though many people conflate the two. You can fix telecine judder by using a streaming box capable of outputting 24 Hz properly, like the Apple TV 4K or Roku Ultra. Not all streaming services will support proper 24-Hz playback, though, so a TV that can reverse this pulldown process is also helpful.)

Motion Interpolation Is the Best Solution—Used Sparingly

So here we come to the crux of my dilemma. Twenty-four frames per second is not an ideal frame rate for modern displays, but it’s what we’re all used to, and it doesn’t seem to be going away soon.

Sample-and-hold displays are sticking around for now too, but the latest models attempt to combat these motion issues with two primary features: black frame insertion and the dreaded motion interpolation. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of black frame insertion too much, but RTINGS has a great explainer on how it works and what some of its downsides are. On most TVs, it dims the picture significantly and causes a flicker that some people find uncomfortable—not to mention image duplications that can mar the image.

Which brings us back to frame interpolation, aka motion smoothing. And yes, its default settings are usually far too dramatic. But I’ve found that lower settings are less offensive. A bit of interpolation adds just enough information to “clean up” the picture during moving scenes, giving you a clearer, less stuttery image without making it look like an episode of Days of Our Lives.

That said, finding this balance can vary from TV to TV, and some brands do it better than others. Remember, the TV is taking frames from your movie and guessing how frames in between them should look—which can result in artifacts, or glitches, in the picture when it guesses wrong. O’Keefe says these artifacts are more common on higher interpolation settings, but it depends on the TV, its interpolation algorithm, and its processing power—and, to an extent, on how much you notice them to begin with.

In my experience, no one does it better than Sony, who has a reputation among A/V enthusiasts for having the best motion processing. This is, in big part, due to their Cinemotion feature, which has been present on Sony TVs for many years. The company tells me this feature uses de-telecining (to reverse that 3:2 pulldown judder) and tiny amounts of frame interpolation to present 24-fps content the way you expect to see it, rather than the way modern sample-and-hold displays show it in its purest form. Most people probably don’t even realize this is happening, especially since Sony’s main Motionflow interpolation feature is separate from the more subtle Cinemotion setting: Even if you turn Motionflow’s Smoothness down to zero, there’s still a bit of interpolation happening in the background with Cinemotion on.

But part of Sony’s reputation is also due to its fantastic processing algorithms, which can interpolate frames with fewer artifacts than competing brands. And ultimately, it’s why I bought a Sony TV after many years of motion-induced frustration—no other brand could hit that sweet spot quite as well without side effects. Their current flagships, the X950H LED and A8H OLED, use their most advanced processing hardware, and having had personal experience with both, they’re the models I’d recommend looking at if you want the best motion on a modern TV. But you can try it on your current set, too—you just need to play with the settings.

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