Film on fast-forward

Dominic Less discusses the pros and cons of Netflix plans to give viewers the ability to change speed settings on the streaming site

Dominic Lee
25th November 2019
Image: Flickr
The world that we live in is increasingly dictated by time. It’s 2019 and everyone has about a million things to do all at once and the film industry may be suffering from this. Watching a film takes time and concentration, often 2-3 hours of it, and many people simply don’t have the patience to sit through a film.

This is now being reflected in the most popular streaming services for movies- Netflix- who are introducing a feature for a small group of Android phone users to change the playback speed of what they’re watching allowing users to speed through TV and movies faster than ever before.

Directors and Actors alike have criticised the move arguing that the art of film and TV shows being viewed will be impacted by the feature. Incredibles star Brad Bird tweeted “Why support and finance film-makers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other?”  Actors Judd Apatow and Peyton Reed also tweeted asking Netflix to not introduce the feature.

In my personal opinion I would have to take the side of the actors and directors. Films and TV shows are meant to be viewed in their entirety, you can’t simply watch a couple of scenes and get the whole story like with an album. There is no quick way to view a film. That’s why the cinema provides such a magical experience, for a couple of hours you can switch off from the outside world and immerse yourself in another world.

However, in the modern world we live in the art of filmmaking can often take a backseat. From personal experience I know friends and family members who will put a film on “in the background” while they engage with social media or other forms of entertainment. It’s this culture which is arguably prompting Netflix to introduce the controversial feature, as viewers may want to speed up their viewing experience in some parts.

Nonetheless there are some benefits to this feature. Netflix are at the end of the day a business and would not introduce a new feature if there was not demand for it. Additionally, people watching films in a foreign language may benefit from a slowed down experience which would allow them to read subtitles far more easily and possibly follow the story better. However, there is an argument that the overall cinematic experience would be hindered by this.

Technology has already interfered with our viewing experience so much that surely the ability to change the speed of viewing will not be a huge step

Overall, I doubt that the introduction of this new feature will create a huge wave or change in the way that we consume films and TV. Technology has already interfered with our viewing experience so much that surely the ability to change the speed of viewing will not be a huge step. We’ve been able to fast forward, rewind, pause and scene select for a very long time now. These features are just an example of the times that we live in and there’s really no getting away from them because they’re here to stay.

So despite the fact that the art of film is being interfered with, Netflix have arguably understood the demands of the customer with their new feature. However, Hollywood still doesn’t have to be happy about it.

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