With the introduction of DVDs, it first became possible for a movie to contain user-selectable arrangements of scenes. This was a rarely used feature, but it did have a few interesting applications, such as a feature on the Memento DVD that allowed the movie to be watched in reverse order from normal (i.e., in normal chronological order).
Although this feature has not been widely used, nor has it made it to any common streaming video service, it demonstrates that the functionality for swapping out sections of film while watching does exist.
It would be ideal to take advantage of this in a way that would enhance the viewer’s experience.
A video streaming site could provide an on-screen dial to allow the user to select a number of movie parameters.
Among the most basic are:
- Cut (“Theatrical” vs “Director’s”)
- Rating (“PG13” vs “R” vs “Unrated”)
But with the ability to arbitrarily swap out scenes, we have more elaborate options as well.
For example, the genre of a film could be changed by judiciously switching out crucial scenes. Although this may sound ridiculous, has happened at least once: the 1977 Woody Allen movie Annie Hall was changed from a murder mystery to a romantic comedy entirely in post-production (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Hall : “It was originally a drama centered on a murder mystery with a comic and romantic subplot. […] Although they decided to drop the murder plot…”).
Fig 1: Two example genre dials: these labels might be common options. Annie Hall (1977) would perhaps have a dial labeled “Romantic Comedy / Murder Mystery.”
Fig 2: A more comprehensive genre dial that would handle the selection of various combinations of scenes / outtakes.
Fig 3: Movie length can also be controlled by a dial. We can choose a length ranging from an ultra-long 5 hour extended edition (like the uncut 293-minute version of “Das Boot”), to a theatrical edition, all the way to a trailer-length / recap version of the film in five minutes.
Fig 4: Movie ratings dial. A rudimentary version of this already exists—some movies are available in “unrated” form, which may be accessible from the same disc as the “rated” version. However, this dial would allow more granular control over rating, and would enable the movie to be stripped down all the way to a G rating (perhaps all that would be left would be the title card and a cut to the credits).
PROS: Allows movies to be tailored more specifically to the viewer’s preferences.
CONS: Would require substantial work to annotate and dice up scenes in a fashion suitable for swapping in and out at the viewer’s whims. Directors would probably be unhappy about the loss of creative control.