Fast Playback and the Art of Speed Leisure

When I discovered the fast playback option on VLC many years ago, it was my most used feature by far, even going as far as to set the default to 1.5x. Most reactions from friends ranged from ‘Why would you do that?’ to ‘Doesn’t that spoil the show?’. What I’ve found over time, is that the brain naturally adjusts, to the point where 1.5x feels completely like 1.0x did – the brain subconsciously slows it down automatically. The time saved is just an added bonus, because I believe that, just like reading a book, there is an ‘optimal’ speed to maximise information retention, and for video, that is around 1.5x-1.8x.

For podcasts, I stick with a default of 1.8x, sometimes 2-2.2x if the person naturally talks slowly. With the exception of highly technical or details shows which require some deeper thinking, this speedup can be universally applied now – Youtube’s HTML player, VLC defaults, even Android VLC and BSPlayer (use Youtube to ‘send to’ these apps) support this. I’d recommend the latter, as you can set the default rate which stays between videos.

“There are, at least in my mind, other perceived benefits to speeding up. In addition to saving time, it also forces me to focus. Rather than having podcasts on in the background, my attentiveness waxing and waning, speeding up playback requires me to pay attention constantly, or else I’ll lose the thread. Roundtable chat podcasts at normal speed are now almost unbearably slow to me, and the only shows I listen to at normal speed now are ones that heavily incorporate music.”

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