Why does my new LCD TV make everything look like a soap opera?

Ok, so I bought a new LG 55" LCD TV. It has a 120hz refresh rate, so it doesn’t do all that ghosting that I’ve seen others do, but for whatever reason, every TV show and movie has this weird, studio-lit quality that makes everything look like a daytime soap opera set. Is there some setting I’m missing here? Does anyone even know what I’m talking about? I love the resolution on my TV…but I can’t seem to get past this weird, “artificial” look it seems to have…

Anyone got any suggestions?

I noticed exactly the same thing when I bought mine a month ago.

I’m pretty sure it’s the refresh rate.

And it’s not just TV. I watched a regular old DVD (The Godfather) on my blu-ray player on my 120 hz tv and was astounded at how different it looked, specifically wrt the refresh rate. Like you say, almost unnaturally smooth.

Unlike you, though, I like it. Makes everything seem more real, to me at least.

A real trip is watching something old that they had proper film for and can now broadcast in HD, with the same higher refresh rate (does the TV interpolate the frames maybe to upsample to 120 hz? Not sure).

I watched an entire 1990 episode of Seinfeld in HD with my mouth agape. I know exactly how that episode looks on a crappy old CRT, seeing it anew was … well … unreal.

Have you got the Gamma set right?

Yep, I think it’s the refresh rate. Most 120 Hz TV’s can be switched to 60 Hz; try it and see if it makes a difference.

I’ve read that 120 is great for watching sports, but when you use it for normal TV shows it gives the sort of plastic/fake look which you’re describing.

The refresh rate has doubled to 120, since they can’t put in frames that don’t exist, therefore every frame is there two times as opposed to once, and you have less flicker and choppiness, as with 60 cycles a sec. If you didnt do this it would run in FF the whole time.

On the other hand, film is 32 frames a sec. so now its all quadrupled in HD.
Four times the screen time for one frame.

With and HD cam to an HD screen it’s all in sync with no loss/addition of frames.
To revert back they would cut every other fram out to get back to 60 hz.

…boo I need to read up on this again.

Wasn’t the gamma - when I turned off the 120hz “TrueMotion” and the “TrueCinema” options, it started looking like a “regular” TV show. I probably won’t leave it with these options turned off, but for the record, it still looks absolutely amazing.

Wow. I thought it was just me.

We bought a new TV last month, after a lifetime of CRT crapology. One of my first realizations was that most programs seemed like an afternoon soap opera! I mentioned this to my wife, who didn’t get it. But I still notice an eerie difference that is almost surreal.

Uh, yeah, you do, because film is 24 fps, so it’s five times per frame.

A bit of a tangent; why DO soap operas look different from other programming? Are they shot at different speeds?

Not all people can tell the difference. My mother, who has severe macular degeneration can see the difference between an old TV and a new flat screen. My father, who has 20/80 vision after a lifetime of 20/400 prior to cataract surgery cannot tell the difference at all.

I thought it was because soaps are recorded on video tape, whereas most other programs are recorded on film.

Two reasons, I believe. One, because of the tight production schedules involved in shooting several episodes a week, they are generally shot on sets, with extensive use of artifical lighting.

Two, they are often shot on videotape rather than film. But if my fancy-Dan new telly made everything look like it’s shot on video, I wouldn’t be too happy.

A lot of TVs come out of the box with various hyped-up settings that make them stand out in the showroom. The brightness and color will be cranked up. A lot of TVs also have settings that artificially increase the sharpness of the picture. I had a Sony Wega CRT that had a setting called “Velocity Modulation” or VM that increased the sharpness, but added a lot of artifacts.

I don’t have much experience with 120Hz monitors, but I think this is more likely to be the reason for the OP’s problem than 120Hz settings. When I bought a Samsung 58" plasma earlier this year, I found that it looked best with the sharpness all the way off. It arrived with it all the way on.

I’d recommend the OP get a calibration disk like this one (assuming you have a Blu-ray player), and spend some time learning about display tuning and the characteristics of his particular set. It can be an interesting way to spend a couple of evenings, although it does require taking some time to learn and apply the principles.

You can also go to the AVS Forum thread on your particular model and see what people have found about tuning it, although I would not recommend simply applying someone else’s settings, since their ambient conditions will not match yours. But you can learn about the issues people have had in setting up your display.

If you’re not interested in doing all that, you can look for a professional or semi-pro calibrator to come and do it for you (for a fee, of course). He/she should have the signal generator and digital color analyzers to do the job right. The store where you bought the monitor may have one on staff or have a recommendation. There is a professional organization of calibrators whose name I forget now. Look for someone certified by it.

To answer your last question, yes, but not in the sense I presume you meant (i.e, film speeds). Soaps are shot much more quickly (one a day!) than features or primetime dramas.

It mostly comes down to lighting. Movies and most primetime dramas are shot “single camera,” that is, captured with only one camera (film or video), and edited later. This means that every shot is set up and lit separately. It is time consuming and expensive, but results in the high standard of image quality that is characteristic of those kinds of shows.

Soaps and sitcoms (and variety, talk, and news shows, too) are shot “multi-camera” in a studio where three, four, or more video cameras are shooting simultaneously and a director in the control room is editing in real time by electronically switching between them. Because they move around and shoot from different angles, the lighting setup has to be more generalized, to provide adequate light from virtually any angle.

In the 1950s and '60s, the solution to this problem was often a bland wash of light from instruments called “scoops.” It was bright, but had little contrast, and cast many shadows, which is highly unrealistic. Typical “flat” studio lighting had few deep shadows and little backlighting, which helps separate a person or other foreground object from the background.

As video cameras improved, the light levels they needed dropped, and it became easier to do more realistic lighting. But the time pressures of producing a daily drama still limit the amount of creativity possible in lighting. So although I assume the lighting of today’s soaps is miles beyond that of 40 or 50 years ago (I wouldn’t know: I never watch them), the stereotype lives on.

And shooting video makes a difference, too. Video has a sharper, brighter appearance than film, which has a wider dynamic range from shadows to highlights, and a distinctly different color gamut. Some people consider video to be more “realistic,” others see it as unnatural.

Gah, just glad to know I’m not the only one this has happened to. We’ve had ours for about six months and it does indeed become unnoticable, but in the beginning it drove me nuts. I’m happy to find out there’s a real reason for it.

So is a 240Hz flat screen better than a 120Hz? Does it refresh 4 times for each frame?

My new LG is 240 Hz, and you can count me among the people who noticed the effect. It’s a sort of 3-D depth that makes some scenes appear like they’re taking place in an adjacent room, and it’s surreal.

It’s not the 120Hz refresh rate itself that’s the problem, it’s the fact that the TV interpolates between every 24Hz / 60Hz frames to produce smoother movements. Most (I’d venture to say all) TV’s have a way to turn this off in their settings.

It was one of the biggest reasons I went with plasma. That look just annoyed the crap out of me.