The One TV Setting You Should Disable Right Now for a Better Picture

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Aug 25, 2018
This is a matter of opinion.
Soap Opera Effect is so called because soap operas were shot at the TV frame rate (let's call it 30 frames per second), many more frames than movies, which are still stuck in the 1920's standard of 24 frames per second. Because soap operas are produced on budgets much below those of movies, smooth motion became associated with low budgets - hence the derogatory term "soap opera effect".
The fact is that 24 fps motion is pretty bad. Film-makers are always faced with its limitations: juddery motion, slow panning shots, long per-frame exposures to disguise the shortcomings. Of course we've got used to these issues over decades of watching movies. But they are issues, and the motion picture industry is gingerly looking into dealing with them. Now that the cost of film stock is not longer a part of the equation ( a major factor in the 1920s) we will see a move to higher frame rates, and old movies will start to look very odd.
I thought the subject of this column was going to be "edge enhancement" or "sharpness", both of which create very ugly pictures.
Aug 25, 2018
Soap operas and any directly captured NTSC video (prior to the advent of HD) ran at just shy of 60 fields per second. Two interlaced field pairs made up a full screen image, but each field actually displayed for 1/60 of a second. Because of phosphor persistence and visual perception, the image appeared as if it were running at 60 frames per second.

Though the article states otherwise, today, most professional sports in HD are shot at 60 frames per second. LCD TVs started using interpolation in order to avoid LCD smear caused by the slow refresh of liquid crystals and these features were not intended for 24 FPS motion picture presentations.

Ironically, 60 or 120 FPS are much more lifelike, and it is our association with movies in theaters that makes us prefer the abstraction of this slower frame rate for scripted material.
Aug 25, 2018
D3193, I heard a lot of noise a few years back about directors starting to experiment with higher frame rates, but a lot of that has died down since the Hobbit (which was shot at 60FPS) was panned for looking “weird” to most viewers. Some directors say that the Soap Opera Effect is tamed by higher frame rates yet, such as 120 FPS. Some experimental 120 FPS shorts have been shot and presented at film festivals, but no full length theatrical films have been made since The Hobbit experiment.

Higher frame rates pose there own problems for feature films. Along with less abstract temporal quality, shutter speeds must be shortened, removing some of the motion blur that we also expect from a film. Higher frame rates require more available light, making it harder to shoot low light scenes. Pans need to stay reasonably slow to prevent motion sickness, and so on. There is a lot of experimentation to come prior to a seismic shift in the industry.
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