Netflix Ignores Creative Intention as they Scramble After gimmicky Innovation
Ever since Netflix got the world hooked on online streaming, the company has innovatively transformed how people consume both film and television. For a long time, it was also uncontested, seemingly secured as the premiere streaming service. However, with the launches of Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Apple+, and the streaming war that will ensue by the end of the year, Netflix will no longer be in the safe zone.
To survive this oncoming competition, Netflix has been looking for ways to distinguish itself. It has done this partially by creating more original content and making a name for itself as a production company. At the same time, though, Netflix is also trying to get creative within its distinct medium.
Unlike Disney, WarnerMedia, or NBCUniversal, Netflix did not begin as a TV station or a film studio. It started as a DVD rental site and evolved into streaming to keep up with the digital age. Therefore, the company has always been seeking ways to use its online platform to its advantage—from offering multi-lingual subtitles, to recording new dubs, to implementing the choose-your-own adventure model in “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”
1.5 Playback Speed Isn’t New, but for Movies? That’s Uncharted Territory with Good Reason
Almost all of these innovations have been embraced and accepted by viewers and filmmakers alike. However, Netflix’s next move in harnessing its digital medium may be taking things a step too far.
Currently in the works, Netflix may soon give its users the option to view content at 1.5 the original speed. This means that they could watch an hour-long television episode in just forty-five minutes, or a two-hour movie in no more than ninety minutes. Everything would go by 50% faster. The company has already started testing this development on Android mobile devices, but has not yet declared when or if it will become available to all subscribers.
Granted, consuming media and watching videos at non-standard speeds is not completely novel. YouTube has been allowing its patrons to adjust playback speeds for a while now. At the most severe, viewers can speed through content twice as fast or slog through videos at a mere quarter of the original pace. These options are also common on podcast sites, allowing listeners to hear material more efficiently.
However, there is a difference between watching a five-minute video on YouTube and watching a full-length movie on Netflix. The service’s extensive library contains the work of many esteemed filmmakers—its original content alone comes from the directorial likes of Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso Cuarón, Martin Scorsese, and even Orson Welles. It seems borderline blasphemous to consider rushing these masters’ works with improper haste.
Film Playback Speed-up option Cheapens Work Extracted from Movie Industry Creators
Likewise, all of the content available on Netflix has a degree of artistic merit. There are screenwriters, directors, cinematographers, animators, editors, and many more people behind each of the titles. Film being a collaborative art-form, there are hundreds of names (and not to mention millions of dollars) attached to every project. Perhaps Netflix ought to honor all of the individuals who creatively and financially slaved over its material.
Ever since Netflix started creating more prestigious original work, it has been held to a new standard. Today, the company is a rather divisive topic amongst the Hollywood elite—Scorsese is obviously willing to work with it, while Spielberg openly dug into it following the 91st Academy Awards. This new 1.5 speed addition to the site, however, is unlikely to earn it any new friends in the filmmaking community. Judd Apatow and Brad Bird have already pushed back against the idea.
After all, a film’s timing is not a haphazard thing. Directors and editors take time and effort to create ideal pacing in a movie. When curated correctly, a movie’s tempo can be just as meaningful as its script. Imagine, for example, if Hitchcock’s camera ran through a house rather than crept through it, or if Kubrick’s painfully long takes were cut off too soon—we would all lose something.
Watching content at 1.5 the speed is essentially watching content on fast-forward. While Netflix may be responsible for binge culture and slip-screen viewing, this latest idea of theirs may be pushing the envelope too severely. It jeopardizes filmic integrity and comes at the expense of so much creative effort. Netflix should certainly continue to think progressively and outside the box when it comes to entertainment, but meanwhile, it should also keep a toe in the waters of tradition and not forget the fundamental values of cinematic art upon which the company stands.
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