OP-ED: Life hack — watch the impeachment inquiry on double speed

Eric Zorn
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The first day of public testimony in the impeachment hearings in Washington, D.C., Wednesday lasted about 5 1/2 hours, which is more time than even most of us political geeks wanted to devote to watching it. The solution — other than watching summaries and highlights at the end of the day — is to click into YouTube’s playback control options and enjoy the proceedings in double time.

Yes, everyone talks very fast, but because the technology correspondingly lowers the pitch you don’t get the chipmunk effect and voices remain normal. And you’ll find that your brain can take it all in just fine so there’s no reason to miss a single word.

How to do it: Type “impeachment hearings livestream youtube” into your search bar and choose one to watch. If the hearings for the day are already underway, move the slider across the bottom of the image to the left until you’re rewound to opening statements. If you want to watch live, just click the pause icon on the lower left. Then look for the playback speed control — on desktops and laptops it’s hidden behind the “settings” icon that looks like a gear wheel; on mobile devices you need to tap on the image and then on icon that looks like three dots stacked vertically.

The Capitol is illuminated at sunrise in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Choose the “playback speed” option, which YouTube began rolling out five years ago. It allows users to slow videos down to 25% of normal speed, a boon to musicians trying to figure out tunes, or juice it to 200%, my recommendation for political chat. Go do something else for a while, then come back to your device and watch until you catch up to live action, at which point, obviously, playback reverts to standard speed, click pause again and go about your other business until it’s time to catch up again.

No politician is going to complain that you didn’t experience the full length of their dramatic pauses.

Artists, however, are not particularly happy about viewers having this option, as Netflix has been hearing since announcing in late October that it’s testing a feature that will allow viewers to watch comedies, dramas and action shows at up to 1.5 times normal speed. The option is “frequently requested by our members,” said Keela Robison the company’s vice president for product innovation.

“No, Netflix, no,” tweeted filmmaker Judd Apatow, one of many creative types who are aghast at the prospect. “Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this. Save me the time. I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t (mess) with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen.”

I’ve tried watching some conventional TV shows and movie clips at accelerated speed and don’t care for it much, actually. Even with pitch control, the movement of the actors is distractingly herky-jerky.

But I want the choice. If I want to try to consume, say, Apatow’s 2015 comedy “Trainwreck” in 80 minutes instead of its approximately two-hour running time, well, that should be up to me if I’m paying to watch it. I feel capable of being the judge of whether absorbing all the nuances of Apatow’s artistic rhythms is worth my time.

“Save me the time” yourself, Apatow.

— Eric Zorn is an op-ed columnist for the Chicago Tribune.