Clearplay: Watching movies on your own terms

Like movies but don't want to have to see "that one scene?" Clearplay provides a way....

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
4 min read

There's a rich irony in Hollywood today. If you look at where Hollywood makes the most money, the vast majority of its cash comes from PG-13, PG, and G-rated films. R-rated films? It's hard to find any in a list of Hollywood's all-time highest grossing films at the box office.

Indeed, within the top-25 highest grossing films of all time, only one rated-R film even makes the list, The Matrix: Reloaded at number 28. If you include the top 50, only one other R-rated movie (two total) makes the list. In the top 100? Only 11 R-rated films.

So why are more and more movies (perhaps intentionally) laced with content that guarantees an R rating and poor attendance?

I don't know. I can't imagine it being anything other than a cynical, smug Hollywood attitude that insists on adding "that one scene" in the name of art, pretending that it knows what audiences really want.

For those interested in watching movies on their own terms, or who have children that you'd really like to see Saving Private Ryan, for example, but you think the gritty violence may be too much, you now have a choice.

It's called Clearplay, a 100-percent legal DVD player and software service that edits movies on the fly without actually altering the physical DVD. As such, it gets a free (but begrudging) free pass from the Directors Guild of America, which successfully sued into oblivion Cleanflicks and other DVD editing services (though it's still possible to buy edited DVDs online).

How does Clearplay work, and why would you want to use it?

You can think of Clearplay like you would a remote. Instead of you physically managing the remote to fast forward through "that one bad scene," Clearplay does it for you. Clearplay doesn't physically alter the DVD, which keeps it legal, and allows you to watch the same DVDs you rent or buy through Netflix, Blockbuster, or Wal-Mart, but on your own terms. Most interestingly, you can actually set the levels of sex, nudity, violence, profanity, vulgarity, etc. that you'd like to watch.

For me, I can do without the sex, nudity, profanity, and vulgarity: All of it. In most movies, this means that I miss all of 30 seconds of a movie that some Hollywood director threw in to appeal to her audience (conveniently overlooking the fact that an R rating might make a director cool with her peers, but it's a virtual guarantee that her movie is going to be a financial flop, comparatively speaking). As for violence, I watched 3:10 to Yuma the other night and I felt that a certain amount was necessary to tell the story, so I turned the violence option to "Moderate." I saw all the gunplay without the gore.

For those Europeans reading this, you probably would do the inverse settings: Maybe sex and nudity doesn't offend you but you could do with less violence. With Clearplay, you can easily set your preferences to scrub movies of the aspects you find distasteful.

Or maybe you want to see the full monty, but you'd like your kids to be able to watch the same movie, but with sex or violence or whatever removed. Clearplay makes that a cinch. You can watch the movie unedited while having your kids watch it later, completely edited on your terms.

It's a fantastic service, one that makes Hollywood more money while allowing people to enjoy Hollywood's creations on their own terms. I rent more movies because I don't have to see "that one scene" or the gratuitous profanity or violence.

The Clearplay DVD player costs $67.95 or $79.99, depending on the version you get. This prices includes a year of filter updates. Thereafter, the price is $7.95 per month. In other words, you get a new DVD player for as cheap (or cheaper) than you can buy one in the store, but you get a valuable service, too.

The Clearplay service isn't without its faults. The DVD player doesn't support high-definition DVDs. Also, the editing of the profanity and vulgarity isn't as clean as the editing out of violence and sexuality, because it mutes all sound when it bleeps out a swear word. (If Clearplay were physically altering the DVD it could alter the voice track while leaving the background sounds/music untouched, but it can't technologically do this with its process, at least as I understand it.)

Even so, I heartily recommend the service to anyone who wants to watch movies on their own terms, not someone else's.