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What's the Soap Opera Effect? The TV Setting Sports Fans Should Know

BY: Sarah Gorr | Jan 16, 2018

Ever wondered why everything on your brand spankin' new TV has this strange soap opera effect that you're almost (key word being "almost") certain shouldn't be there? You're trying to catch the latest blockbuster in HD and instead you're wondering, "Is it supposed to look like this?" Don't worry—there's nothing wrong with your set, and you don't need to call in the pros; that's just a new feature known as "motion smoothing." With a little guidance, we can help you get the best viewing experience possible. So . . .

What is the soap opera effect?

The soap opera effect is actually known by a wide multitude of names: motion smoothing, Vizio Smooth Motion, Panasonic Intelligent Frame Creation or IFC, LG Trumotion, Sony Motionflow, and Samsung Motion Plus. What this setting does is artificially increase the frame-rate on your TV to decrease the appearance of blur.

While this can make movies and TV shows look strange, if not terrible, this feature is great for sports. You can easily turn it on and off from your basic on-screen menu (this will vary by brand), but you'll probably want it on during games. It makes following the ball easier and helps give you extra confidence when disputing a ref's terrible call.

Now that you know all about motion smoothing, what else can you do to ensure the ideal viewing experience?

HDMI Support

  • Make sure your HDMI cable is plugged into the right port. On cheaper 4K TVs, only a couple of the ports may actually be able to support 4K so if your Blu-rays don't seem like they're displaying high enough quality, try switching the plug to a different port!
  • Get the right HDMI cable. If you've got a 4K TV, get an HDMI 2.0 cable.
  • Use decent source components. That means you'll want to feed your TV HD content from a Blu-ray player, an HD set-top box, or gaming console.

Room Lighting and Seating

  • Arrange chairs to face the TV as head-on as possible. Viewing from an angle, especially if you have a curved TV, can significantly alter your viewing experience. Out of couch space? Invest in some floor chairs or cushions to keep everyone comfy.
  • Put a lighting source behind the TV. LCD screens have backlit displays that can actually make blacks look greyer and less sharp in a darkened room. By putting a small light source behind the TV, you'll actually make the colors pop more.

Color and Sharpness Settings

  • Turn down the sharpness setting. It only sounds like a good thing, but instead of actually adding sharpness, it'll add a weird and distracting halo effect around everything. Do yourself a favor and leave it off.
  • Avoid "Dynamic" or "Cinema" modes when watching sports. The best TV settings for sports are Standard, while the others might make it harder to follow the action.
  • Turn off your TV's light sensors. This feature is standard on most TVs now and is designed to automatically adjust its brightness to the light in a room. But this can end up creating and annoying and inconsistent viewing experience, especially if it automatically dims while you're trying to watch something! Turn it off in your TV's settings.

Now that your TV's set up correctly, take your viewing experience to the next level with cool gear:

  1. Vizio 28" 2.0-channel sound bar ($59.99+) or shop similar.
  2. Ultrathin full indoor HD antenna ($17.99) or shop similar.
  3. 50-inch portable projector screen and bag ($68.99) or shop similar.
  4. 1080p HD projector ($49.99) or shop similar.
  5. Audro Surge Power Dome 5-outlet USB charger ($17.99) or shop similar.