Recently Netflix has been selectively testing out a feature for users to which allows them to control playback speed on its platform, a feature seen on many platforms focused around video content.
This limited test offered some users the ability to set the speed to 0.5X, 0.75X, 1.25X and 1.5X. These options are relatively universal and have been seen on platforms such as YouTube for years now. YouTube actually took the concept further earlier this year allowing for more granular control in 0.05X increments.
The ability to control how fast you consume content is an important one, and I agree with those who state that it’s becoming as crucial as control over volume. Everyone perceives media differently, and that’s not even accounting for physical or mental handicaps which may affect this.
Adjusting for this with playback speed options is always welcome and there’s just no downside to including it on a platform as it’s always optional.
With all of that in mind, then, certain big names from Hollywood have taken great offence to this. Notably directors Judd Apatow, Brad Bird, Peyton Reed and Peter Ramsey have all taken to Twitter to decry this decision. It’s not just directors either, as actor Aaron Paul weighed in on the matter too.
“No @Netflix no. Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this. Save me the time,” Apatow writes, “I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t fuck with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen.”
Did you hear that everyone? They gave us these movies and shows. This real modern day Prometheus gifted us mere mortals the cinematic marvels of Knocked Up and Trainwreck. Except for the fact that you need to pay to sit down in a movie theatre, and Netflix subscriptions aren’t free either.
“Whelp— another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience,” Bird tweeted, “Why support & finance filmmakers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other???”
Because it’s an optional setting and people have been requesting it for years now. To clarify, by “people” I mean “customers”, because that’s what we are, contrary to what Apatow has said.
Reed throws his hat into the ring with “This is a terrible idea, and I and every director I know will fight against it”. Looking past the fact that he has formatted his tweet like a formal letter, it’s good to know that even millionaire Hollywood elites harbour the same Twitter mob mentality like everyone else.
The last of the directors, Peter Ramsey, tweets in reply to another user stating “Do ‘customers’ want to eat or have sex 1.5x faster too? Are they right? Does everything have to be designed for the laziest and most tasteless?” If you needed any more proof that these filmmakers are deluded, comparing your work to a literal orgasm is right up there. And 1.5X faster sex is called a quickie, Ramsey, it’s what a lot of people do while Netflix is playing in the background anyway.
Aaron Paul also decided to comment on the matter, seemingly because a website used him in their header image. “Stop. As the person talked about in this article I felt the need to speak out. There is NO WAY @netflix will move forward with this. That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it. Netflix is far better than that. Am I right Netflix?????”
Once again, I have to hammer home this fact to Paul and the rest: if Netflix decides to make playback speed settings a permanent fixture, they will be optional. I used the same image in my header image too, Paul, I hope you don’t mind. I did edit it slightly.
All of this reeks of the filmmaker elitism that pops up whenever some kind of technology is brought up. Before Netflix was the punching bag it was phones. David Lynch once said that it’s impossible to experience a movie on a phone – “You think you’ve seen a film on your f*cking telephone. Get real“. It seems all that money and all that power Hollywood gives also comes with extremely thin skin when someone wants to watch a movie on a phone at 1.25X speed.
Also, did these people just forget that you could always change playback speed? Many Blu-ray players and even cable boxes have this option. It was and will continue to be possible on Netflix too by using plugins like Video Speed Controller. That last part is just a little reminder, because I’m pretty sure Netflix is going to pull this feature.
Remember The Death of the Author? Who knew the dead could complain so loudly.