If blurry motion is ruining your PC gaming experiences, tweak these settings in Windows, on your monitor, or in your game to reduce that blur.
Motion blur is one of the most divisive visual settings in PC gaming and a prime example of the “feature vs. bug” debate. In some games, the appeal is obvious. Racing games and sports titles make good use of motion blur to enhance the impression of blazing speed, and when used artfully it can enhance the drama and intensity of some of the most vivid moments in games.
The issue is when motion blur pops up unintentionally. Blur can make textures look smeary, reduce level of detail, and even make certain elements of a game world or interface more difficult to parse. In the worst examples, motion blur reduces the overall visual fidelity of a game and can negatively impact immersion. Luckily, there are a number of ways to effectively combat motion blur and either reduce or eliminate it entirely.
The first and easiest step to reduce motion blur is to look at the in-game settings menu. Check under display or graphics for a motion blur setting (some games may require you to look in an Advanced Settings submenu). Many modern games also offer stepped options for motion blur rather than a binary toggle.
You may also encounter related settings that can produce effects similar to motion blur. Depth of field, for instance, can create a blurriness in the near or far field of an image that’s not unlike the blurring you get from high-speed motion. It’s always a good idea to poke around in the display and graphics settings menus of PC games to fine tune an image and help find the optimal balance of fidelity and performance.
Speaking of performance, increasing a game’s frame rate can also help in the battle against motion blur. Higher frame rates have a number of advantages, from reduced eye strain to a more fluid presentation, and happily one of those effects is a reduction in unintentional motion blur.
If your hardware’s capable of it, you should use your gaming monitor‘s maximum refresh rate as your target. This may require you to reduce some of the graphics settings, particularly in demanding AAA titles or if you’re running an older GPU.
The best approach is to go through the settings one by one and see how much they impact the actual look of your game. Knock down settings where you don’t notice much visual difference, or those that have the highest effect on performance. Most settings, like texture quality, draw distance, or anti-aliasing, will provide several options, so just find the lowest one that you can live with in each category.
Bear in mind that if you end up pushing frame rate past the refresh rate for your display, you may end up with tearing or artifacting. In that case, be sure you also enable V-sync while you’re toying around with a game’s graphics options.
The counterpart to achieving a higher frame rate in games is to ensure you’re matching it with your display. A high refresh rate panel won’t show much difference from a lower refresh display if you don’t enable that higher rate in Windows.
You can find the refresh rate setting for your monitor or TV if you right-click on the desktop and select Display Settings, then choose Advanced display settings at the bottom of the menu. You can then set the refresh rate from the drop-down menu at the bottom.
One of the main culprits behind motion blur is the way that modern panels display frames. Flat-panel displays draw and hold an image perfectly until the next frame is ready, a technique called “sample-and-hold,” which confuses our eyes when we expect a more natural transition.
Some monitors and television attempt to counteract this shortcoming with a technology called Black Frame Insertion. BFI adds a full black frame between normal frames and tricks your brain into the perception of fluid motion. It’s often available as a discrete setting on displays that support it; check the onboard settings for your TV or monitor.
Be aware that BFI can have a deleterious effect on the brightness of an image, so you may need to alter your brightness settings to account for it. Some displays will account for the loss in brightness and compensate accordingly when you turn on BFI, so try it first before you start tweaking other settings.
If you’re piping your PC into a TV, you may also have access to a motion smoothing option (variously called TruMotion, Action Smoothing, etc., depending on manufacturer). The display will attempt to increase frame rate by inserting new frames based on the ones that come before and after it, which can help reduce blurring.
Be careful, however, as motion smoothing can add an untenable amount of input lag or create the “soap opera” effect, particularly in video, where images look too real and break immersion. This is why you may want to turn this setting off if you’re just watching TV.
Another common cause of motion blur is poor response time, which is the amount of time it takes a pixel to change color (typically measured as the amount of time it takes to shift from black to white). A higher response time means a longer delay as a pixel changes shade, which can result in ghosting, artifacts, and higher levels of blur.
Some displays will include an Overdrive setting that will help improve response time, though enabling it may also introduce the possibility of inverse ghosting. This happens when a pixel overshoots the shade it’s aiming for and has to backtrack, leaving a bright “ghost” image in its wake. If available, try experimenting with various degrees of Overdrive to find the best compromise between reduced blur and inverse ghost artifacting.
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Alan is an experienced culture and tech writer/editor with a background in newspaper reporting. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, The Escapist, ESPN, PC Gamer, and a multitude of other outlets. He has over twenty years of experience as a journalist, author, and editor.
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