If you've ever unboxed a new HDTV and set it up only to find the picture quality irritatingly smooth, the problem is probably motion smoothing. The setting is usually turned on by default, and turning it off will give you the experience you're looking for.
Picture: William Hook
Over at How-To Geek, Jason Fitzpatrick explains that HDTV manufacturers often apply motion smoothing to their sets in order to counter the motion blur that's inherent in large-screen HD sets with 120Hz and 240Hz refresh rates. That refresh rate is key -- by drawing as many frames as possible and leaving motion smoothing turned on, you get that effect where everything seems too smooth and fake, often called the "soap opera effect", named after the overly smooth pans and overly realistic sweeps that came from the low-budget cameras used on soap sets.
The fix, they explain, is simple -- just disable motion smoothing on your set. Different manufacturers call it different things, but it's almost always listed as something like "MotionFlow", "Auto Motion", "Smooth Motion" or "ClearFrame". Check your owner's manual to make sure you have the right setting, or just search online for your TV manufacturer and "motion smoothing". Turning it off gives you a more cinematic look and presents the video you're watching in a manner more true to the source material.
Hit the link below to read more about the issue, and while you're in your TV's settings, take a few minutes to properly calibrate your set. It will make a world of difference.
Ask HTG: Why Does My New HDTV's Picture Look Awful? [How-To Geek]