Protecting family values with filter chips

Can't help feeling we've been here before – most DVD and Blu-ray players come with parental locks, allowing their use to be limited according to film ratings, Sky asks you for a PIN if you try to watch certain movie material during the day, and in the States there's the V-chip to control what kids can watch on the TV.

It's either that, or the whole family watches looking away from the screen...

Yes, it seems parents and children can't be trusted to decide what the younger members of the family can and can't watch, but now this control technology has gone even further.

There's now a system able to censor films as you watch them, turning the full horrors of a 15 or PG title into something even the In The Night Garden addicts – no, not university undergraduates, but the pre-teens – can enjoy safely.

ClearPlay has come from the States, and is now available in Europe, using a library of filters and a special player to expunge any dubious content from the movies you choose to watch.

Choose a movie from your local shop, rental place or whatever, then download filters for that title from a subscription database onto a USB thumb-drive – the subscription includes one, branded as a ClearPlay FilterStik.

Bung the USB thingy into the player, choose what you want to avoid – everything from profanity to violence to nudity – and then play the movie.

You can even set the level of filtering you want, for example choosing to avoid everything from 'Kissing and Dancing' upwards under the 'Sexual Occurrence' heading, and from 'Violence Fatal' to 'Dishonest Behaviour'

Hey presto: Debbie Does Dallas becomes Debbie Does Daisychains, and Reservoir Dogs turns into Lassie Come Home. The player skips any dodgy scenes, leaving the whole family to enjoy the shredded remains.

Well, sort of: the database at the moment is rather limited, and tends to concentrate on making almost family-friendly content totally innocuous, so you might go from a 15 to a 12, or a PG to a U. But the system has been getting rave reviews back in the land of the free – one user writes:

"I have four children, all in their teens, that I have tried as long as I can to prevent them from hearing or seeing anything that I think will pollute their minds, especially from watching TV.

"I discourage them even to watch the PG movies. With your invention, I know that we will have more movie selections to watch. I thank you very much, and I pray that God will bless you always for what you have done."

Another customer hails the fact that "We can watch movies without fear", while a third praises the company for "making it possible to 'clean up' the movie industry".

To use the system, you'll need a special player, and this is it: the celebrated Akira DVD-B28HU. No, nor us, but then again it is only €50, or about £45, plus an annual membership of around the same amount allowing you to download the filters to the player.

And the company says that "ClearPlay Filters are tailor-made to preserve the entertainment value of each film. Each ClearPlay Filter is screened multiple times to ensure that the integrity of the plot and story of the film are maintained so that the viewer's experience is enjoyable."

It says filters for new titles are usually available within 48 hours of the release of the DVD, and members can even request new filters for movies they want to watch.

Tempting, isn't it? "Er, yes, could you do me a U filter for Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Or a version of A Dog's Tale without the deaths?".

As they say, hours of harmless fun, but we can't help feeling the company's slogan could have been worded rather better:

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.