Frame Interpolation : Is it an Issue?

Our friends at Projector Central have recently posted a great article about “Frame Interpolation.” This has been the topic on some of the larger AV Fourm sites (like AVSForum.com) and has also been mentioned by some of our customers. We had intended to post about the issue, but Projector Central beat us to the punch. They have a very informed and complete report on the issue, so I am going to link to them and follow up with your report later. Here are some excerpts.

In the past four months we’ve seen several new 1080p projectors released with a feature known generically as frame interpolation. The new Epson 7500UB and 6500UB have it, as does the Sanyo Z3000 and the Panasonic AE3000. Epson calls it FineFrame, Sanyo calls it Smooth Motion, and Panasonic calls it Frame Creation. But it is all the same concept: the projector evaluates the differences between individual frames of film or video, and creates interim frames to be inserted between the real frames in the source. The objective is to reduce motion judder and provide a cleaner, more artifact-free viewing of film and video material. Two complaints have been circulating about frame interpolation technology. One is that it can make a movie look more like digital video, something which people are calling, somewhat derisively, the Soap Opera effect. In essence, the complaint is that it makes a film, which has a slightly surreal and sensual quality, look like a CNN Situation Room HD broadcast, which by comparison is hard, cold, clear, and real (sometimes disturbingly real). When James Bond begins to look like Wolf Blitzer, you know you have a problem. The second complaint is that, while frame interpolation can reduce or eliminate much of the film judder we see in movies, it sometimes introduces other artifacts which may be just as problematic. For example, instead of the judder, we may see some ghosting as subjects move across the screen, or some unnatural disintegration of the picture during momentary fast pans of the camera. These complaints are well-founded. Some frame interpolation systems do indeed produce these undesirable side effects. But if it is done well, the picture can be virtually free of artifacts while it retains that mystical film quality. Ideally, what you will see is a clean, stable, but still filmlike image that many will find irresistibly engaging.
When to Use Frame Interpolation

… Among the 1080p projectors that have frame interpolation, the Epson 6500 UB produce a more obvious digital video effect than do either the Panasonic AE3000 or the Sanyo Z3000. Thus, we would not use the 6500 UB’s frame interpolation when viewing regular movies. However, this does not mean that it has no application. For example, if you happen to be a fan of animated films, the digital video effect is irrelevant. The Pixar movie Cars has a reasonable amount of judder and flicker when played at 1080p/24. But when you engage the frame interpolation system on the Epson 6500UB, it has nothing but a beneficial effect on the image. … If you watch a lot of sports in HD on channels broadcasting in 1080i, you may find frame interpolation particularly attractive. For whatever soap opera effects are present in the video system you have, they are irrelevant in sports – you want that maximum reality effect. Of course, Fox Sports, ESPN, and ABC all broadcast in 60p format, so frame interpolation is not needed. But with sports broadcasts in 1080i, it can help.

So as Projector Central sees it, use the Frame Interpolation when watching sports broadcast in 1080i, animated digital films, HD music concerts, but not when watching some regular films – though the degree of video noise can vary by title. There is dissent in the user comments, but then there’s always dissent in the comments! So to read the entire article click here. Its a slightly longer, but easy read.

Art over at Projector Reviews mentioned this in his Epson 6500UB review :

As mentioned above, I consider frame interpolation to be a secondary feature, far less important overall, than black levels, brightness, sharpness, and color accuracy. Most of us never missed it, and, so far, the Epson UBs are part of a very short list of projectors that do support 96 and 120 fps interpolation. In a perfect world, Epson will solve this, and come up with a firmware fix. If they do so, excellent, but even with these issues, my enthusiasm for this projector remains strong.

He also explains with a bit more details what is actually happening with each of the frame modes on the Epson 6500UB. You can read the entire review here. The afformentioned bit is just a few paragraphs up from the bottom of the page above and below the football image.

So that’s a broad overview of the Frame Interpolation for you. We will keep you posted on the issue as the information comes out.