What is Motion Blur In Games, and Should I be Using it?

Avatar photo Bojan Veselinovikj | September 9, 2023

If you're a video game enthusiast, chances are you've stumbled upon the "Enable Motion Blur" setting in the "Video" or "Display" section within a game's menu.

Motion blur is one of the most widely-used video effects in games, just like both in photography and videography.

This complete guide on the motion blur effect will help you understand more about what it is and why creative minds are so eager to include it in their project, as well as help you decide whether you should keep it enabled while playing a game.

So, without further ado, let's get right into it.

What is Motion Blur?

The motion blur effect emphasizes movement and speed. It is achieved by playing around with a camera's shutter speed and shutter angle, but in modern video game editors and engines, we can add it artificially with the help of complex computing algorithms.

We're not going to get too technical here, so let's define the motion blur effect as the "streaking, smearing, or blurriness of an object within our shot due to their quick change of position in time and space."

For example, if you're taking a shot of a highway and a car "flies by" very quickly just as you're capturing the image, it will come off blurry in the photo.

what is motion blur in games

You can of course get a different result by modifying the shutter speed and a few other things, as mentioned above, but since this guide is for motion blur in video games, we'll leave that for another time.

How Does Motion Blur Work in Games?

One of the most common examples of the motion blur effect in gaming is the way developers use it in racing games. If you speed up or use a nitrous boost, for example, the camera puts the focus on your car and everything from the sides becomes blurry.

This creates the illusion of going really fast and makes the game more immersive, which is the main role of VFX in Gaming.

But, motion blur isn't just used in racing games. In fact, almost every first-person video game, whether that be a shooter or an exploration game, has a motion blur effect to achieve photorealism.

If you move your head from left to right and vice versa very quickly, you'll notice that the brain doesn't clearly visualize everything your eyes see throughout the movement. So, it's safe to say that we have a natural motion blur effect included in our vision, and games want to replicate this to make the camera movement as close to real life as possible. This makes motion blur a common and highly-valuable video effect.

There are different motion blur techniques available, and games usually allow the player to modify the settings, but this effect is so common that you rarely see a game not having it as an option within the settings menu.

Motion Blur in Games with Boris FX Plug-ins

Edits, montages, frag movies, skill showcases, and more, are just some of the things content producers create from previously-recorded gameplay footage.

When it comes to such edits, effects like the ones included in Sapphire and Continuum by Boris FX come in really handy.

The different motion blur techniques offered by Boris FX plug-ins include: Channel Motion Blur, Directional Motion Blur, Smear Motion Blur, Gaussian Blur, Radial Blur, and more.

These effects are a part of the Continuum package and are GPU accelerated. You can use them across different platforms, like Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, VEGAS Pro, and more.

So, the Boris FX plug-ins are very useful for applying camera motion blur in footage that may have been recorded without it due to the ease of application and myriad customization options.

As an editor primarily focusing on video game edits, you'll often have to manually include these effects after receiving the footage, as competitive gamers looking to score and record high-level, impressive plays almost always play the game at its "barebones" graphic settings level, without any effects enabled.

If you edit and export the footage without applying motion blur and other effects like the ones available in Continuum and Sapphire by Boris FX, they may feel less impressive compared to others made by editors who add a lot of detail through filters and effects.

Motion blur plays a crucial role if you want to simulate smoother movement as if the gameplay was recorded on a higher frame rate. Implementing motion blur through any of the Continuum and Sapphire filters and effects can make the viewer's experience much easier on the eyes, which should be your main goal as an editor.

Should Motion Blur in Game be On or Off?

Whether motion blur should be on or off in video games is a discussion as old as gaming itself, and the most interesting part about it? There's still no definitive answer on the topic.

There are some things to take into consideration when making a decision about enabling or disabling motion blur, though.

  • Motion Blur Effect in Competitive Games

    If you like playing multiplayer games, especially ones that are highly competitive, such as Call of Duty or Counter-Strike, keeping the camera motion blur enabled may have a negative impact on your performance.

    In such fast-paced games where paying attention to every pixel could be the difference between seeing the enemy or missing them out completely, having something that impairs visibility enabled is not good.

    Motion blur reduces your ability to see clearly while turning around quickly, which happens very often in such games. For example, if you're getting shot at and trying to find out the enemy's location, you'll quickly move around your mouse to gather as much information as possible, but with motion blur on, all you'll see is a smeared image.

    If you take a look at the top 100 pro players' settings for each of these competitive games with a blooming esport scene, you'll notice that none of them play with motion blur enabled.

    Now this doesn't mean that you're automatically a worse player if you prefer having this effect enabled, or that you should hate motion blur just because the pros don't use it. But, if you want every slightest bit of competitive advantage while playing and you don't care how the game looks without it, our recommendation is to disable motion blur.

  • Disable or Enable Motion Blur in Single Player Games

    When playing a single-player game, there are no other players you're competing against, so minimal skill differences or advantages don't mean much, because most of the time you'll win/complete the game without any issues anyway.

    So, since motion blur improves the looks and the realism of the camera movement in the game, you shouldn't disable motion blur unless it has an impact on your performance, and this is where things get interesting.

    There are different motion blur techniques, and some games allow you to modify the settings in more detail when it comes to this effect. Others simply have "enable" or "disable" options. Some games feature a per object motion blur, which is separately added to only some items shown on the screen, such as a weapon ViewModel. Popular games featuring this type of motion blur technique are Borderlands 3, Jedi Fallen Order, and Call of Duty.

    Motion blur is a beautiful effect, and when you're trying to make the game look as aesthetically pleasing as possible, you should definitely keep it enabled. Unfortunately, the downside is that it can reduce your performance and drop the frame rate in-game, as it's often resource-heavy, especially on the highest setting.

    So, if you're struggling to get a smooth frame rate. maybe enabling motion blur effects is not such a good idea, but if that's not the case and you can "afford" to run the game just fine with desirable FPS, we wholeheartedly recommend enabling this effect.

Final Words

That covers everything you should know about motion blur and its uses in video games and gaming montages from an editor's perspective.

Hopefully, this knowledge will prove useful and help take your work to the next level the next time you think of adding motion blur in your projects.


Does Motion Blur Increase FPS?

Enabling motion blur in your game won't increase game performance. In fact, it will often decrease it since you're giving your hardware yet another task to process. Motion blur is one of the "heavier" effects in games that often gets disabled when a performance increase is needed. However, it also has a huge impact on aesthetics, so if you can "afford" to keep it enabled, it will definitely increase your overall enjoyment of the game.

The good news, though, is that games made by larger studios often include options to choose a quality preset for motion blur, so instead of "on" or "off" you can set it to "medium" or "ultra" depending on your PC performance.