What is the Ultra HDTV Soap Opera Effect?

Q. I just bought a new ultra high-definition TV, but movies look cheesy somehow, like daytime TV. Is there a way to fix this soap opera effect?

A. Don’t worry; there’s nothing wrong with your HDTV, says our TV guru Claudio Ciacci. This soap opera effect is a common problem that comes up when a feature called smooth motion is activated, causing movies to lose much of their filmic character. It’s referred to as the “soap opera effect” because films end up looking hyper-realistic, almost like daytime soaps. Those shows are usually shot with cameras running at a higher 60 frames per second, or 60Hz, which naturally yields smoother motion. Movies, by contrast, are usually shot at a relatively slow 24Hz, with motion that can look a bit jerky during camera pans, but that’s the “film look” we’re accustomed to seeing. An easy fix for the soap opera effect is to turn off the smooth-motion feature. But with some TVs, it’s tied to anti-blurring processing—which is helpful in reducing blur during motion scenes. So by turning the soap opera effect off, you also lose any blur-reduction benefits. For TVs that have sub-controls in this feature’s menu, be sure to turn down the setting called anti-judder and turn up the anti-blurring processing. That should preserve the authentic film look.

For TV buying advice and related information check our TV Buying Guide.

Send your questions to ConsumerReports.org/askourexperts.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Copyright © 2005-2016 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.