Our family really enjoys watching movies together. Getting the family together and watching a good movie is one way we like to spend our time - but it is difficult to find movies that we can watch as a family - expecially with the age ranges that we have in our home.
Several years ago we looked into ways to get movies that would meet our family standards. We found two different ways of accomplishing this - one was the companies like CleanFilms and CleanFlicks that would edit the movie, re-burn it on a new DVD and rent that DVD to us. The other was ClearPlay, which uses a special DVD player to edit the movie on-the-fly. We chose to use CleanFilms, and enjoyed that service for a couple of years.
Soon, however, CleanFilms, and those like it, were put out of business because Hollywood didn't like someone else editing thier movies - so, we were left without a way to watch movies as a family without worrying that the PG or PG13 rating still didn't meet our family standards (for example, you are allowed one F-bomb in a PG13 movie...we don't want any...).
Because of how their technology works, ClearPlay doesn't have the same legal issues - although they have been challenged in court. That is because they are not modifying the DVD itself at all - instead, they provide a "filter" that you can download from their website, and the movie is "edited" in real-time as you watch it. Once I realized that they had come out with a high-definition version of their player - well, somehow one of them made it under our tree this past Christmas.
Now that I have had a chance to watch a few movies on it, I figured I'd provide a quick review here.
To use a ClearPlay device you will need to purchase the device itself, then pay for the filters on an ongoing basis. We purchased the annual license, which gives us full access to all filters for a full year. Not a bad deal.
Our first experience was not good. After loading the full library of filters, we put in our rented DVD, which was of a fairly new release movie, and sat down to watch the movie. The ClearPlay device told me that there was no filter loaded. I looked on thier website and saw the filter listed as one that they offered, so I ended up calling support. Turns out that the filter is tied to the version of the movie - widescreen is one filter, standard picture is another, etc - and we just happend to get a version that they didn't have a filter for. Bummer. I had to keep the remote handy, and we did indeed have to fast-forward a few scenes. Not fun.
Our next two movies were much better. We inserted the DVD, and immediatly our player found and loaded the filter. The experience watching the movie was not too bad. There are two possibilities when ClearPlay is editing the movie - 1. it will skip a scene entirely, and 2. it will automatically mute the sound.
The first time ClearPlay muted the sound it was a bit odd - I thought something had gone wrong with the DVD. A conversation was going on, and suddently all sound was gone. We saw the actor moving his mouth, but we heard nothing - including all of the background noise (the discussion was happening in a subway). Then, I realized that he was using expletives, and the device had edited them out for us. Very nice.
We could not always tell when a full scene was edited out, but once one of the actors made a reference to something that had happened earlier in the movie, and we realized the scene had been skipped - but it really didn't affect the flow of the story at all. I did notice some slight pauses in some scenes, as though the DVD stuck for a half a second - I am not sure whether that is an indication of a scene being edited out or not - but if so, it is a small price to pay for removing a scene that we don't want our family to see. Still very worthwhile.
So, bottom line: ClearPlay is a great way to watch movies. We are very happy with our device, and plan to use it to, as ClearPlay says, bring back family movie night.