Netflix playback speeds

Hey, are you some sort of deranged maniac who wants to watch movies and TV shows at fasters speeds? Well, Netflix might have something for you. The streaming service is testing variable playback speeds which allow viewers to watch titles at faster paces. Why anyone would want to do this remains a mystery to me, but I’m sure someone out there thinks this is a great idea because we live in hell.

A common trend among podcast listeners is to increase playback speeds. I myself have never done this, because I think it’s a weird idea. But I know many folks who do, and even though I’m not fond of the concept, I can sort of understand it. A slightly sped-up voice isn’t the worst thing in the world. But watching sped-up footage is a whole different can of worms. I can’t imagine watching a movie or TV show at a faster speed because then it would feel as if I weren’t really watching. Pacing is a big part of visual storytelling, and if you’re intentionally throwing that off, you’re in effect ruining the material.

But hey, that won’t stop Netflix. Android Police revealed that Netflix has been testing variable playback speeds on Android devices, which allows viewers to “slow down speed to 0.5x or 0.75x, or raise it to 1.25x or 1.5x.” Slowing down is just as strange, but I suppose if you wanted to replay a specific scene in slow motion to catch certain details it could come in handy. But speeding up? No thanks. I’ll just watch things the normal way. Or fast forward through them while looking at my phone like a sensible person.

So far the testing has only be noticed on Android devices, but that doesn’t mean Netflix isn’t testing it elsewhere. However, that also doesn’t mean Netflix will go ahead and implement it across the board. As Variety reports, “Netflix is regularly testing all kinds of new features this way, and only successful tests end up in actual product implementations.” Time will tell if Netflix decides to adopt this concept for everyone, and of course, even if Netflix does use this idea there’s no law saying everyone has to use it, so, in the end, everything will be okay. Maybe.

Regarding the test, a Netflix spokesperson said to /Film: “We’re always experimenting with new ways to help members use Netflix. This test makes it possible to vary the speed at which people watch shows on their mobiles. As with any test, it may not become a permanent feature on Netflix.”

Netflix also posted a blog post about this, which you can read here. In the post, they wrote:

This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback – both for and against. Given the questions being raised, I wanted to share more details about what’s happening.

This is a mobile only test and gives people the ability to vary the speed at which they watch on phones or tablets – choosing from normal to slower (0.5X or 0.75X) or faster (1.25X and 1.5X). It’s  a feature that has long been available on DVD players – and has been frequently requested by our members. For example, people looking to rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title.

We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test. We’ve also automatically corrected the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds. In addition, members must choose to vary the speed each time they watch something new – versus Netflix maintaining their settings based on their last choice.

We have no plans to roll any of these tests out in the short term. And whether we introduce these features for everyone at some point will depend on the feedback we receive.

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