Filmmakers slam Netflix feature that lets you binge-watch more quickly

Members of the movie industry reacted with dismay earlier this week when it emerged that Netflix is trialing a feature that lets you watch content at faster and slower speeds.

Currently undergoing testing with select Android users, the playback feature lets you watch movies and TV shows at 1.25x or 1.5x the regular speed (perfect for turbo-charged binge-watchers), or, if you’re a more laid-back type, at 0.75x or 0.5x the regular speed. To retain the original sound, the technology behind the feature automatically adjusts the pitch in the audio according to the speed.

Writer, director, and producer Judd Apatow, who co-created the Netflix Original Love, wrote in a tweet on Monday: “No @Netflix no. Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this,” at the same time warning to Netflix to step back from messing with filmmakers’ carefully timed sequences in their movie and TV scenes.

Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, whom those in the test group may be watching at 1.5x the normal speed in the Netflix follow-up to the hit TV show, was also upset by the move, tweeting, “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?”

But it doesn’t stop there. Brad Bird, whose directing credits include The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, also stepped into the row, calling the feature “another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience,” adding, “Why support & finance filmmakers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other???”

‘Frequently requested’ feature

Keen to deal with the situation before Apatow starts calling his global contacts, Netflix responded with a blog post discussing the playback feature.

“This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback — both for and against,” Keela Robison, Netflix vice president of product innovation, wrote in the post, adding that the feature had been “frequently requested by our members.”

The Netflix executive said that adjusting playback speeds could be popular with viewers wanting to “rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title.”

Robison continued: “We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test.”

While we don’t expect to see too many (or any) filmmakers coming out in favor of the feature, Netflix will be eager to find out just how popular it is with its test group. It’ll then have to weigh any positive response against the protests from those in the industry before deciding whether to roll it out to everyone.

It means that Apatow may yet have to spend a great deal of his time calling every director and show creator on the planet.

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