Pivoting POVs



Netflix is letting people watch things faster or slower with new playback speed controls.


When I read that headline, my first reaction was... outrage.


I thought, "Why on Earth would anybody want to speed up or slow down a movie?!?" And that's the PG-rated version of the thought.


I can understand why people would want or need to adjust the speed of something like a podcast: people can absorb information at different speeds, and the content itself isn't negatively affected by the speed at which it's consumed. I regularly listen to The Pivot Podcast, and always do so at 1.3X: same great content, but faster.


But a movie? The pacing of a scene is often part of the film; if you were to speed up a dramatic pause, or slow down a fast-paced action scene, you're not experiencing the content in the way the Director intended. To me, as a movie-lover, that idea is outrageous.


Then I read the article, and my point of view shifted.


Specifically, it was this paragraph that did it:


Both the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind commended Netflix on adding the playback features. Since captions are slowed down (and also sped up) to keep in time with the images on-screen, it can help deaf people who might prefer the captions at a slightly slower speed, according to Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. On the other side, many people in the blind community “can understand and appreciate audio played at a much faster pace than what might be comfortable for most sighted people,” Everette Bacon, a board member on the National Federation of the Blind, said in a statement.


Allowing people to adjust their playback speed is a benefit to those who can't enjoy films today as much as I do based on the status quo. That's obviously a good thing, and it's something I didn't realize before.


There are three takeaways to this story that are broadly applicable:


1. Read past the headline. Headlines are designed to shock, not to present balanced points of view. If I had read only the headline, I would have gotten the "what", but not the "why". And the why matters.


2. It's okay to change your mind. As Winston Churchill reportedly once said to a woman berating him for changing his position, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, madam?" Before I read this article, I was firmly against giving anyone the option to play films at anything other than their intended speed, based on my belief that the director's vision of the film should be respected and maintained above all else. Now? I see two really good reasons why Netflix making that option available is a good thing. Does it make sense for me to hold on to my old perspective given the new insight I've gained? Nope.


3. Not everything is a zero-sum game. Netflix didn't take away my ability to watch movies at "full speed", they simply added additional options for others who may want or need them. People who wanted this feature have won, but that doesn't mean I've lost anything.


I'll always choose to watch movies at their regular speed.


But it's okay to enable others to choose differently.


- dp


PS. Yes, I fully realize I passed over a great opportunity to use one of these GIFs for this post.