Key Takeaways:

  • BFI is a technology designed to prevent pixelation from occurring especially with content focused on high-speed movement.
  • Many manufacturers have created proprietary names for this technology
  • While BFI is effective, technology has a few drawbacks which can impact image quality.

If you’ve ever watched a movie or looked at an image and seen extra elements that shouldn’t be in that scene or image, you’ve been a witness to a visual artifact. The technical term refers to when — for whatever reason — a camera or even a top-tier monitor screen struggles to properly process and render an image as it’s intended. For monitors, this scenario is usually referenced as aliasing and typically appears as pixelation where the image looks out of focus. Thankfully, technology has evolved to tackle this annoying problem.

Black Frame Insertion Technology Defined

Also known as display motion blur, black frame insertion (BFI) is the generic name used to reference the technology used with HD monitors and televisions to help prevent aliasing from occurring. Specifically for televisions and monitors, manufacturers employ a strobed backlight to counteract aliasing. By strobing the backlight, it helps to reduce the sample time required to display a new image and minimize the potential for motion blur to kick in and aliasing to occur.

Tip: Also known as display motion blur

Warning: manufacturers employ a strobed backlight to counteract aliasing

Note though, that manufacturers may call this technology by proprietary names and use slightly different approaches to create the desired effect. For example, LG calls their technology Motion 240 while Philips calls their version Aptura. However, all of them rely on the same motion blur technology to prevent artifacts from occurring.

Warning: manufacturers may call this technology by proprietary names and use slightly different approaches to create the desired effect

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So What is BFI?

To put it simply, black frame insertion is exactly as it sounds. The backlight on a monitor or screen is dimmed completely to black between scenes or images to prevent color bleeding. When implemented properly, this is an incredibly effective way to prevent pixelation from disturbing an image.

Tip: The backlight on a monitor or screen is dimmed completely to black between scenes or images to prevent color bleeding

How Does BFI Work?

In short, BFI works by speeding up the frames per second (FPS) rate for visual content so that you’re less likely to experience pixelation. However, this can be confusing for consumers as depending on the marketing jargon used to advertise a monitor’s BFI features, manufacturers can give the impression that a monitor is capable of a higher FPS than is realistically possible.

Tip: BFI works by speeding up the frames per second (FPS) rate for visual content so that you’re less likely to experience pixelation

Warning: depending on the marketing jargon used to advertise a monitor’s BFI features, manufacturers can give the impression that a monitor is capable of a higher FPS than is realistically possible

Instead, what’s happening is that by adding additional black frames between the actual frames in a piece of visual content, the television is simulating an increase in frames. So, if your screen offers 60 hertz, BFI could give the impression that it can perform at 120 hertz. But in reality, your monitor is still a 60-hertz screen.

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BFI isn’t without Drawbacks

While BFI is a standard method employed to control pixelation, it isn’t perfect. In some cases, it can still create visual disturbances that our eyes can detect. In some cases, our eyes can detect that the image is noticeably darker as BFI is triggered. And in other scenarios, if the dimming process isn’t produced at a high enough frequency, you can see the image flicker as it transitions.

Warning: In some cases, our eyes can detect that the image is noticeably darker as BFI is triggered

So How Does This Translate to My Monitor?

Like we mentioned, most major monitor manufacturers offer some form of black frame insertion technology — regardless of whether they give it a special name or not. And in most cases, you can go into your monitor settings to activate it. But because they’re not entirely truthful about the true frame rate in their marketing materials, it pays to do your homework before purchasing a monitor.

If Image Quality is a Priority…

For average users, BFI isn’t enough of an issue to interfere with their viewing experience whether on a computer monitor or a television. But for gamers or people who are very particular about image quality, BFI can be an issue.

As we’ve shown, because of how this technology works, there’s always the risk that it can reduce image brightness. So, if you’re a gamer or someone who works with graphic arts, this can be problematic and you might want to look into monitors that rely on alternate technologies such as backlight strobing to manage motion blur.

Warning: But for gamers or people who are very particular about image quality, BFI can be an issue

STAT:

Since some TV manufacturers don’t show the real refresh rate on the specifications sheet, you’ll have to look for a detailed review of the TV if you want to know both its maximum supported native refresh rate at a certain resolution and its effective/simulated refresh rate. (Display Ninja)

Many motion blur factors have existed for a long time in film and video (e.g. slow camera shutter speed). The emergence of digital video, and HDTV display technologies, introduced many additional factors that now contribute to motion blur. (Wikipedia)

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_artifact

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_motion_blur

https://www.rtings.com/tv/tests/motion/image-flicker

https://www.displayninja.com/what-is-samsung-motion-rate-sony-motionflow-lg-trumotion/

Black Frame Insertion Technology in Monitors Explained FAQ

Does black frame insertion matter?

It matters especially when you’re watching content that’s moving at a high rate of speed. For example, if you’re watching a racing car show, you may notice the flicker created by the inserted black frames.

Is BFI good for gaming?

It depends on the type of gaming you use. If you are a console gamer, it can be ideal but for PC gaming it might be distracting.

What is OLED Motion Pro?

OLED Motion Pro is simply a proprietary marketing name given to BFI. With this technology, black frames are still being inserted between content to reduce motion blur.

Dorian Smith-Garcia

Dorian Smith-Garcia is a bridal and beauty expert/influencer and the creative director behind The Anti Bridezilla. She is a diverse writer across beauty, fashion, travel, consumer goods, and tech. She also writes for Inverse, Glowsly, and The Drive along with a variety of other publications. When Dorian's not writing she's collecting stamps in her passport, learning new languages, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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