Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Ask about motion blur reduction in gaming monitors. Includes ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur), NVIDIA LightBoost, ASUS ELMB, BenQ/Zowie DyAc, Turbo240, ToastyX Strobelight, etc.
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Talrivian
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Joined: 04 May 2019, 09:12

Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Talrivian » 04 May 2019, 09:33

Hello,

I am new to this site, and I have been reading all of the guides and articles and forum stickies I can find on the various subjects. I am finding it all very interesting. However, I am struggling to find a good medium for what I looking to achieve.

I am currently playing Total War: Warhammer 2 and Borderlands 2. I have a Geforce 980ti and an ASUS vg248qe 144hz monitor. I experimented with lightboost, and found that I couldn't stand the washed out dim look, so I went back to regular mode. I found that Trace Free is perfect at 40 for me.

While playing Warhammer 2, I get frame rates that go from 35 FPS in EXTREME combat with thousands of units, to as high as 141 FPS in smaller battles. It really depends on the level and unit compositions. In Borderlands 2, I have the same issue. I can get anywhere from 75 FPS to 190+ FPS depending on the level and combat situations.

I've experimented for the past 3 days with every setting combination imaginable. I've tried Scanline Sync, Vsync On, Vsync Off, Fast Sync, I've capped my frame rate in RTSS. I had to rest the last day because of severe eyestrain I received from constantly swapping back and forth and trying different blur motion tests, lol!

No matter what I try, however, I can't find a combination that's satisfying. Some of the differences are so subtle that I don't know if it's a placebo and I'm imagining it, or if it's real. Essentially, I've come down to two different modes, but can't decide and which one would better suit my needs. I also have a question I need verified by some of the more expert people on this forum:

1) Does a lower refresh rate always cause more blur on my monitor?

2) Would raising my refresh rate, and playing with less FPS be beneficial or harmful when it comes to reducing blur? (i.e. playing with perfect capped 60 fps at 120hz. Would I be better off just capping the FPS to 60 and setting it down to 60hz?)

3) I tested a benchmark in Warhammer 2, and got between 65 and 35 FPS during the battle. I tried it multiple times at 60hz and 120hz and 144hz. I tried all 3 with vsync off and fast sync on. I feel like 60hz made the blurring worse, and I feel like the fast sync improved the blurring, but introduced microstutter somewhat. It's hard to tell because of the severe eye strain I'm prone to getting.

4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L07t_mY2LEU In this video, he claims that tearing almost completely disappears with VSYNC OFF at high refresh rates like 144hz. I've found this to be TRUE, I don't notice the tearing at all at those refresh rates, even if my FPS drops below, but it seems like a double edged sword because I feel like the blurring is worse when VSYNC is OFF.

Am I crazy? Does VSYNC OFF make motion blur worse? Does FAST SYNC improve it?

I guess my ultimate question is this:

If I can't maintain consistent FPS, and I'm very sensitive to eyestrain from motion blur, but not sensitive to tearing, what would be the best middle ground for my situation? VSYNC OFF with unconstrained FPS? FAST SYNC, and uncapped FPS, and just accept micro stuttering?

Sorry for the rambling post! Thank you for any help in advance!!!!!!

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Chief Blur Buster
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Chief Blur Buster » 05 May 2019, 14:15

Chief Blur Buster answers, with expert advice:

Prioritizing on input lag versus prioritizing on visual quality (And reducing headaches) can be complately opposing goals. VSYNC OFF is common because it reduces lag. It's the common parroted advice all over the Internet for competitive game players. It certainly has its usefulnesses. However it's not necessarily the most ergonomic mode for every single individual.

Microstutter and blur is a continuum
High-frequency microstutter can blend to blur when the microstutter vibrates so fast that it blends to motion blur. Most people don't recognize this until they finally purchase their first FreeSync/GSYNC monitor. Look at http://www.testufo.com/vrr to recognize the continuum of stutter-vs-blur! .... Low framerates looks like stuttering and high framerates looks like motion blur. That's because the microstutter vibrates higher than flicker fusion frequency. Microstutter and motion blur actually are related to each other. Much like a piano/harp/guitar string. Fast vibrating string is blurry. Slow vibrating string is noticeably shaky. Stuttering can be exactly the SAME continuum of "blur <-> microstutter" in many ways -- whether it's regular stutter or erratic stutter or microstutter -- when the stutter is so fast it can simply be blur instead. It's the same cause, it's simply a function of stutter frequency.

VG248QE is known as an eyestrain inducing monitor
The VG248QE is a great trailblazer. But it's old. It's circa 2013. You should upgrade. I get eyestrain complaints from VG248QE all the time.
(A) It has PWM-dimming. That's bad for eyestrain
(B) It doesn't have FreeSync/GSYNC, which can be options for stutter-sensitive people
(C) It LightBoost mode is very dim and poor-colors.
(D) Some VG248QE units have poor LCD inversion (fine checkerboard-pixel artifacts, http://www.testufo.com/inversion ...)

Leaps in Comfortkind
VSYNC OFF: Microstutter(or blur), more tearing
Fast Sync: Microstutter(or blur)
VSYNC ON: Zero stutter if full frame rate, bad microstutter if less than full framerate
FreeSync/GSYNC: Zero stutter most of the time at all framerates (in some games), zero tearing.
ULMB: Zero blur, but amplifies visibility of microstutter due to lack of blur (unless you use VSYNC ON + stay full framerate).
Talrivian wrote:I am currently playing Total War: Warhammer 2 and Borderlands 2. I have a Geforce 980ti and an ASUS vg248qe 144hz monitor. I experimented with lightboost, and found that I couldn't stand the washed out dim look, so I went back to regular mode. I found that Trace Free is perfect at 40 for me.
Lightboost is an old mode. In newer monitors, the motion blur reduction can have fewer compromises than the year 2013 LightBoost monitors. Most particuarly, the 240Hz GSYNC monitors have a ULMB mode about 3x-4x brighter than the ASUS VG248QE LightBoost mode, while being more colorful.
Talrivian wrote:1) Does a lower refresh rate always cause more blur on my monitor?
Short answer: Yes. Most of the time.
Long answer: It's Complicated
There's some error margins:
(A) Microstutter(or blended blur) generated from harmonic frequencies / beat frequencies (frametate MODULUS refreshrate, etc). For example, 100fps@100Hz is smoother than 100fps@120Hz. Overkill can help erase most visibility of this (e.g. 300fps@144Hz VSYNC OFF in CS:GO).
(B) Strobed modes at the same pulse widths. 100fps@100Hz 1ms MPRT has exactly the same blur as 120fps@120Hz 1ms MPRT. For strobed modes, blur is controlled by pulse width instead of frame rate.

You can fix (A) by using FreeSync/GSYNC. On those monitors, the framerate is the refreshrate. The refreshrate is the framerate. There's no difference, it looks like a permanent "perfect VSYNC ON" during fluctuating framerate. 60fps->59fps->60fps don't even have visible microstutter on FreeSync or GSYNC. There's no concept of a "dropped frame" on a variable refresh rate monitor.

Everybody's eyestrain is caused by different factors. If part of your eyestrain is caused by stutter, then GSYNC/FreeSync can help be pillows for your eyes (in addition to newer PWM-free backlight).
Talrivian wrote:2) Would raising my refresh rate, and playing with less FPS be beneficial or harmful when it comes to reducing blur? (i.e. playing with perfect capped 60 fps at 120hz. Would I be better off just capping the FPS to 60 and setting it down to 60hz?)
Short answer: No
Long answer: It's slightly complicated
Perfect 60fps@120Hz versus 60fps@60Hz has exactly the same motion blur, if the LCD pixel response is identical (for both MPRT and GtG) which is usually the case for non-strobed modes. Now, if you are playing 60fps content like an emulator then, yes it is easier to avoid microstutter when doing 60fps@60Hz. However, 60fps@120Hz has less input lag. So there can be an incentive to use 60fps@120Hz, provided you use stutter-control tricks like half-VSYNC mode or framerate capping. It's just harder to control microstutter for 60fps@120Hz than 60fps@60Hz, so you're fighting between two tradeoffs. It depends on your goal. Right Tool For Right Job.
Talrivian wrote:3) I tested a benchmark in Warhammer 2, and got between 65 and 35 FPS during the battle. I tried it multiple times at 60hz and 120hz and 144hz. I tried all 3 with vsync off and fast sync on. I feel like 60hz made the blurring worse, and I feel like the fast sync improved the blurring, but introduced microstutter somewhat. It's hard to tell because of the severe eye strain I'm prone to getting.
Blurring and stuttering can blend into each other sometimes. Just like a guitar string. High-frequency vibrating(stutter) is blurry. Low-frequency vibrating(stutter) is shaky. Once you view stutter/blur through the same lens, it starts to make better sense. (Good example see-for-yourself animation: http://www.testufo.com/vrr ...)

Don't forget that multiple harmonics/beatfrequencies overlap each other. At 29fps@60hz you've got two simultaneous vibrations: 2Hz stuttering (60 MODULUS 29) and 29Hz stuttering (29 itself) that's overlapping each other. Dizzy? Get FreeSync/GSYNC and say goodbye to stutter harmoics/beatfrequencies with perfect "framerate=refreshrate" matching where random-fluctuating framerates look visually stutterless.

Nobody except experts (like me) can explain stutter science like I can. You're welcome, buddy. Anybody who doubts it, just squeal one thing: http://www.testufo.com/vrr -- to them to shut-up the luddites who don't understand the complex "stutters=blur" continuum.
Talrivian wrote:4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L07t_mY2LEU In this video, he claims that tearing almost completely disappears with VSYNC OFF at high refresh rates like 144hz. I've found this to be TRUE, I don't notice the tearing at all at those refresh rates, even if my FPS drops below, but it seems like a double edged sword because I feel like the blurring is worse when VSYNC is OFF.
Correct. Stutter equals blur, blur equal stutter, it's a continuum.

And different people see vibrations while others see blur -- some people are more motion sensitive than others. It's the same thing as a guitar string -- when a string vibrates very near flicker fusion threshold -- to one human the string might look blurry -- but to a different human the string might still look visibly vibrating. The flicker fusion threshold varies from human to human; less flicker-sensitive humans will find it harder to see the edge-flicker/vibrate of stutter on moving objects of a display.
Talrivian wrote:Am I crazy?
Nah
Talrivian wrote:Does VSYNC OFF make motion blur worse?
Sometimes yes, but very very slightly. You're simply witnessing high-frequency microstutters blending itself into motion blur.
Talrivian wrote:Does FAST SYNC improve it?
Depends. Microstutter mechanics are slightly different for VSYNC OFF versus FastSync.
Talrivian wrote:If I can't maintain consistent FPS, and I'm very sensitive to eyestrain from motion blur, but not sensitive to tearing, what would be the best middle ground for my situation? VSYNC OFF with unconstrained FPS? FAST SYNC, and uncapped FPS, and just accept micro stuttering?
Since the VG248QE is a known eyestrain redflag (complaints from other people to me)

As you are prioritizing on eye-strain and comfort, I have a different solution for you.
1. Buy a 240Hz GSYNC monitor.
2. Upgrade your GPU (you can even do step 2 later)
3. Your eyes will thank me later

You have multiple pillows for your eyeballs because of:
(A) All GSYNC monitors are always PWM-free
(B) Double the framerate has half the motion blur. Even without using ULMB, 240fps has 1/4 the motion blur of 60fps.
(C) You say goodbye to stutters of varying framerates.
(D) Less blur, no PWM-dimming, no stutter
(E) And icing on the cake is the brighter/better ULMB bonus if you decide you want to use it. 144fps@144Hz perfect motion can look better than 240fps non-ULMB.

You'll probably eliminate >90% of your eyestrain with the upgrade.

If you want, click the monitor lists below to research 240Hz monitors & support Blur Busters! (thank you!)
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Talrivian
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Joined: 04 May 2019, 09:12

Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Talrivian » 05 May 2019, 17:31

Wow!!! Thank you so much for the super detailed long reply! That was super nice of you and very educational. I had to re-read it multiple times to absorb everything.

Seeing as how I am currently supporting my significant other through a bankruptcy at the moment and can't possibly afford a monitor just yet, do you have another suggestion in the mean time that would be a little better for my situation?

Thank you!

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Chief Blur Buster
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Chief Blur Buster » 05 May 2019, 20:10

Ouch!

If optimization of existing assets is your numero uno priority:

(1) VG248QE is PWM-free at maximum brightness (and mostly PWM-free when almost max brightness).
Use maximum brightness on your VG248QE and DO NOT stare at the brightness directly, as brightness can kill your eye health. You can dim a full-brightness VG248QE via these tricks:
(A) Smoked glass/grey filter/cellophane sheet/"neutral density sheet" to dim the screen.
(B) And/or dimming via NVIDIA Control Panel
(this will worsen contrast since blacks cannot be dimmed without physical filter)
(C) You can also simultaneously use "Windows 10 Night Mode" to reduce blue-light eyestrain

(2) Optimize your frame rate by adjusting detail down, lowering your resolution, to try to get "framerate=Hz" matching.
And maybe strategically adjusting refresh rate only a bit (100, 120, 144) to improve sync of framerate=Hz without adding too much blur. This will vary per-game. You want your refresh rate to be near max Hz, but catch most valleys of your frame rate fluctuations. if your game mostly varies 100fps-144fps, then forcing 100fps@100Hz + 100fps cap (VSYNC ON or cap or low-lag VSYNC tricks) can smoothen things right up. If your game fluctuates badly (like way down to 30fps) your optimizing will have more limited effect.
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Talrivian
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Talrivian » 05 May 2019, 20:14

Thank you for the tips. I'm gonna experiment with these tomorrow after work. If I can get my frame rate back up to meet my refresh rate sufficiently, do you think fast sync would be helpful?

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Chief Blur Buster
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Chief Blur Buster » 07 May 2019, 10:18

Talrivian wrote:Thank you for the tips. I'm gonna experiment with these tomorrow after work. If I can get my frame rate back up to meet my refresh rate sufficiently, do you think fast sync would be helpful?
It's hard to answer as it depends on what you're sensitive to.

The microstutter mechanics are different between VSYNC OFF and Fast Sync. It can look similar but different people have different preferences on how it feels. Try both ways and go with what you prefer.

For eye ergonomics, perfect VSYNC ON is always superior to VSYNC OFF and Fast Sync, as long as you can keep framerate at Hz. The biggest problem of VSYNC ON is the input lag, but that's a different issue than eye comfort and ergonomics.

For older GPUs that can stay at framerate=Hz roughly 90-99% of the time, a compromise can indeed be Fast Sync + framerate cap. That's lower lag than VSYNC ON, and a lot fewer side effects than other low-lag VSYNC ON tricks, especially for older GPUs that can't keep up at 99.9%-100% of the time.

Try to measure your framerate fluctuation range, and strategically lower your refresh rate (only very slightly -- up to a quarter or third) and catch 99% to 99.9% of your framerates.

If your framerate fluctuates 95fps-144fps in a specific game then try either
(A) 100Hz + VSYNC ON
(B) 100Hz refresh rate + Fast Sync + 100fps RTSS cap

Both (A) and (B) will often help de-stutter your motion with slightly different cons as (A) will suddenly halve framerate if performance is bad and (B) will simply have increasing amounts of microstuttering when framerate drops. Use RTSS rather than the in-game cap because you're prioritizing precision over input lag. RTSS is slightly higher lag than in-game cap but (when combined with Fast Sync) much lower lag than VSYNC ON. This is a pretty good compromise as you want the refresh rate to be high, yet catch your framerate dips. Unfortunately, framerate dips will probably be well below that for your older GPU, but you should have no problem with older games (like CS:GO).

You can also try the low-lag VSYNC ON tricks posted elsewhere too, but given your older GPU, the combination of "Fast Sync + simple framerate cap" is probably the easiest and least-fiddly way of smoothing your frame rates once you lower your refresh rate to the valleys of your framerate dips (hopefully no less than 100Hz though). Your GPU is likely too slow (except for emulators, for Quake, and for CS:GO) to take advantage of RTSS Scanline Sync.

In certain cases, a perfect-smooth stutterless 100fps@100Hz can visually have less motion blur than a very-high-frequency-stuttery (100-135fps)@144Hz from the "very-fast-vibrating-stutters-blending-into-blur" contribution.

But there's a limit to how much lower you can lower your refresh rate, before the sheer persistence-based blur starts to really show -- halving refresh rate will double your motion blur.

That's why in this particular trade-off, for a blur-sensitive/stutter-sensitive person, lowering the refresh rate up to roughly 25% (or so) can actually lead to clearer motion when you're faced with such a tough tradeoff.
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Talrivian
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Talrivian » 08 May 2019, 09:28

Man! This post should be stickied! Your advise helped tremendously. I raised my monitor brightness to 100% and lowered it to 40% in Nvidia Control Panel. Then I put my hz to 100 and capped my fps to 100 exactly in rtss and turned on fast sync. Borderlands 2 has never looked better!

Sadly, for warhammer 2 my options are limited. I decided on leaving it on fast sync with 144 hz because the blur is worse than the micro stutters for me when the game dips to 35 fps. Sadly, I've read that the game runs at 70 fps or so even with the best of the best hardware because it's so badly optimized.

I tried Terraria at 120 hz with x/2 scanline sync and it was amazing. Best experience ever in that game. Only way to run it if you ask me.

I read the gsync 101 articles and it sounds amazing. I think once I get some money, I'll get a new 240hz monitor with gsync, set my fps cap to 237 in rtss for every game, and never look back.

Thanks again!

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Chief Blur Buster
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Re: Help with VSYNC OFF or ON and eye strain

Post by Chief Blur Buster » 11 May 2019, 10:57

Talrivian wrote:Man! This post should be stickied! Your advise helped tremendously. I raised my monitor brightness to 100% and lowered it to 40% in Nvidia Control Panel. Then I put my hz to 100 and capped my fps to 100 exactly in rtss and turned on fast sync. Borderlands 2 has never looked better!
You're welcome!

Glad my advice has successfully solved the majority of your eyestrain problem for that game.
Head of Blur Busters - BlurBusters.com | TestUFO.com | Follow @BlurBusters on Twitter

       To support Blur Busters:
       • Official List of Best Gaming Monitors
       • List of G-SYNC Monitors
       • List of FreeSync Monitors
       • List of Ultrawide Monitors

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