The fastest a video can be

September 14, 2020 — by Edwin Chen
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I found out how much a video can be sped up and still remain watchable.

With quarantine now in its sixth month, I have been bored out of my mind and often cannot come up with anything that will satisfy my boredom. I don’t really feel like committing to watching a movie or spending a lot of time playing a game, so I like to surf YouTube in hopes of finding something entertaining. Most of the time, though, there is nothing really interesting on YouTube.

When my editor first suggested that I should watch YouTube videos at 4x the speed for a week, I disregarded the idea as stupid and a waste of time. But with nothing better to do, I decided to give it a shot. This was a clear mistake.

At first, I had to figure out how to turn the video up to 4x the speed since the default maximum is 2x on YouTube. I did a quick Google search and found a piece of code to paste into the inspect element feature of Chrome where I can adjust the speed of the video to anything I want. 

When a video is turned from normal speed to 4x the speed, it goes from being comprehensible to garbled and confusing. After 30 seconds of watching a video at 4x the speed, I gave up on the idea. It was pointless. But I wondered what the maximum speed I could watch a video on.

After some testing, I found that 2x is the maximum that most videos can be watched and still be comprehensible. Watching a video at 2x speed makes the audio significantly faster, but each syllable can still be clearly heard and distinguished. The same cannot be said for all the visuals, but it really depends on the video and the amount of detail necessary to understand what is happening.

My personal sweet spot for speeding up videos is 1.5x. At 1.5x, all of the words are still easily understandable. The visuals of most of the videos are also easy to see. They are sped up but not too much to the point where they become a blur.

I still think the best way to watch any video is at its original speed. Watching it at faster speeds does not mean the viewer can pick up the information quicker. If anything, it only causes more confusion.


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