Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Soap Opera Look (and how to avoid it)

I had a client call the other day complaining that the HD final edit they were sent looked like "it was shot on video" when they showed it in their lobby. After many phone calls and questions I found out that the problem was their giant plasma tv itself.

It turns out that it had a non-user controlled "look" to it to interpolate frames between frames which makes the footage look (in effect) like it has more frames than it does, hence the video look…like a soap opera.

There's an interesting little discussion here about it which is well worth a read. The salient point is this:

"Most film is recorded at 24 frames per second, but your LCD TV probably either displays at 60 fps or 120 hz (hertz is just a measurement of frequency per second). There are three main ways to cope with this.

First is to simply display each frame longer, this is the oldest technique in LCD tech. However, its undesirable side effects include the possibility of motion blur, or of judder. Judder is an artifact of adjusting the framerate and it looks like a sort of stutter in movement that would otherwise be smooth (a slow pan, for instance).
The second technique is one used on Plasmas and CRT TVs. Instead of showing a bright image the whole time, they display the frame, then a short frame of either darkness or a very dimmed picture. This alleviates much of the issue with judder and motion blur as it allows your brain to fill in the gap faster than you can consciously notice. It is also an old technique, and is used in theaters. It provides the traditional cinema feel.
The most recent and advanced technique is motion interpolation. Motion interpolation is a process by which your TV analyzes the current frame, and the next frame, then creates an average. It inserts these averaged frames in between. The result is extremely smooth motion with no motion blur and judder becomes almost non-existent. There are a few technical issues with this, including the possibility of ghosting or artifacts in rare cases. Also the smooth movement this creates is slightly disconcerting."

Which is taken from this page (also worth reading).

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