The Soap Opera Effect (SOE) is the phenomenon that occurs when a movie or TV show is filmed at 24 frames per second (fps) but plays back at 30 fps on your TV set. This causes the video to look unnaturally smooth, specifically in scenes with pans and camera movements, which creates an effect that many describe as “the soap opera effect.”
This difference between 24 and 30 fps is due to the TV sets’ frame rate conversion (FRC), which is necessary because movies and shows aren’t filmed at 30 frames per second, but rather 29.97 (or 59.94 for PAL video). TVs have to use a method of adding or removing frames in order to accommodate this discrepancy, and the more frames that need to be processed, the greater the chance for inaccuracies.
In order to avoid this performance issue, most HDTVs will have an option called “24p direct in,” which instructs the TV to play 24 fps video at its native rate instead of adding or removing frames. This is beneficial because it ensures that movies won’t look unnaturally smooth, although it also means that movies won’t play at their intended speed.
Some modern HDTVs come with the ability to process 24p video without adding or removing frames using a method called “3:2 pulldown.” This method is more accurate than frame-blending, which is an older type of 24p detection that was common on older HDTVs. However, frame-blending is still available as an option for TVs without 3:2 pulldown support if you want to turn it on or off.
Frame-Blending And 3:2 Pulldown?
As previously stated, frame-blending is an older method of detecting 24 fps video that simply duplicates or deletes frames in order to match the TV’s native refresh rate.
By comparison, 3:2 pulldown is much more advanced since it uses sophisticated algorithms to identify motion and perform interpolation on frames depending on their activity level. This preserves motion better than frame-blending, which often duplicates or deletes static frames to create a 60 fps effect.
However, the 3:2 pulldown method requires a lot of processing power and isn’t as accurate as it could be. On TVs with poor 3:2 pulldown support, 24p videos may show judder (jerky motion), stuttering, or uneven panning, which can be quite annoying.
Since 3:2 pulldown is the best type of 24p detection that 60hz TVs can use without drastically increasing playback latency, it’s safe to assume that most movies will playback with this method enabled. On the other hand, if you’re watching a TV show or a film with lots of motion, then you might want to consider turning on frame-blending or setting a custom refresh rate between 100 and 120 Hz.
What Is The SOE Used For In Gaming?
In gaming, the SOE is used to provide a smooth and fluid performance even during fast camera movements. While this effect can be beneficial in some games, it can also be quite annoying if it’s misapplied.
On TVs with good 3:2 pulldown support and low input lag, the SOE won’t have any negative effects since TVs will play games at their native framerate. However, on TVs with poor 3:2 pulldown or high input lag, the SOE may cause motion artifacts and increased performance latency.
Some gamers find that enabling the SOE makes the game feel more fluid, specifically in fast-paced games like shooters where camera movements can create disorienting effects. However, other gamers find that this effectively removes the sense of realism and makes games feel like they’re on a movie set.
Basically, it’s all down to preference and varies depending on your TV and how well it processes 24p video without adding or removing frames.
How Do I Enable Or Disable The SOE?
The SOE is usually enabled by default, so the first step in changing this setting is to access your TV’s video options. You can do this by either accessing the “Picture settings” menu or using the remote control to directly select a picture mode.
Once you’re in your TV’s picture settings menu, look for an option called “24p direct in” or “24 Hz,” depending on your TV. If you see this option, then it means that the TV can play 24 fps video at its native refresh rate without adding or removing frames (and thus creating judder).
With 3:2 pulldown detection turned off, all 24 fps content will be played back with the SOE. However, if you enable 3:2 pulldown or set your custom refresh rate to 120 Hz, then the TV will be forced to play 24p content (like Blu-rays) without creating judder.
If you’re watching a 24 fps video with the SOE enabled and don’t want this effect for some reason, then you can disable it by setting the “24p direct in” to off. Keep in mind that this also disables 3:2 pulldown detection, so your picture won’t be as smooth with a lot of content.
Finally, keep in mind that some TVs have multiple settings for the 24p mode which may affect input lag and judder even if they’re not on 24p. If you can’t seem to find the option for disabling SOE, then it’s best to look at your TV’s manual or contact customer service for more information.