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Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson Join Forces to Fix TV Settings That Mess With How Movies Look

Motion smoothing, also known as the "soap opera effect," is just one of many television settings altering the way movies are intended to look.

Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan

Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan

Rob Latour/Shutterstock

Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson are joining the fight to correct television settings and preserve filmmakers’ original visions for how their movies should look. An email sent to members of the Directors Guild of America (via /Film) notified them that the directors were taking action by reaching out to television manufacturers to ensure audiences can see movies without settings that drastically alter the original look of movies.

“Many of you have seen your work appear on television screens looking different from the way you actually finished it,” the email reads. “Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions.”

“To this end, Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson reached out, via the studio UHD Alliance, to television manufacturers,” the email continues. “By starting a dialogue with the manufacturers themselves we hope to try and give directors a voice in how the technical standards of our work can be maintained in the home.”

The email, signed by DGA Creative Rights Committee co-chairs Nolan and Jonathan Mostow, included a survey asking DGA members to weigh in on which television settings are most disruptive to the intended look of their movies. One setting that has made the most headlines over the last several years is motion smoothing, which is applied to correct high-definition screens’ tendency to make objects in motion appear blurry (via Gizmodo). Motion smoothing is often referred to as the “soap opera effect” because of the way it crisps the outlines of actors and makes the backgrounds appear fake or set-like.

Motion smoothing has been targeted by numerous directors in the past. “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn launched a campaign on Twitter in October 2017 to convince television manufacturers to get rid of the controversial setting. Gunn notified his followers that fellow directors Rian Johnson, Matt Reeves, Edgar Wright, and Christopher McQuarrie, plus actor Tom Cruise, were all anti-motion smoothing. “I Think We’re Alone Now” director Reed Morano has also fought her own battle against motion smoothing, launching a petition four years ago against the setting.

The DGA email concludes that Nolan and Mostow believe there is “real possibility here to try and improve the situation.” Head over to /Film to see the full survey.

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