Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I’m not big fan of the recent upswing in coarseness in the modern world. It’s crazy, I know, but I’d like to be able to sit down and watch a movie or TV show without being subjected to constant swearing, nudity, over-the-top violence, and the sexualizing of everything. If that stuff doesn’t bother you then you have my permission to stop reading this piece now. If it does, however, you may want to take a look the subject of today’s article, VidAngel.
WHAT IS VIDANGEL?
Basically, VidAngel is a service for Netflix and Amazon Video that sits between you and the streaming provider and modifies the video stream of certain content. VidAngel removes content that you find offensive like certain four letter words, nudity, violence, etc and then shoots the stream on to you.
HOW VIDANGEL WORKS
The first thing you need to do is setup a VidAngel account. The service costs $7.99 per month but there is a 30 day free trial so you can test things out. VidAngel supports all of the popular streaming devices like Roku, Android TV, FireTV, Chromecast, and more and also has apps for iOS and Android devices.
I typically used the service on a ChromeCast via my Android phone for the purposes of this review. Once you have the app installed on your device, you need to sign in to your Netflix and/or Amazon account inside the VidAngel app. This gives VidAngel access to your account and allows them to stream content from the provider to the VidAngel servers where it gets filtered and sent along to your device.
You can set up very granular filtering, which is one of the best things about the service. There are several filter categories like language, sex/nudity/immodesty, alcohol or drug use, etc. Within each category there are subcategories and within each subcategory are specific words or content types. You can filter at any one of these levels and really control what type of content you see and hear.
You can check to see what affect your filters will have on the stream – how much it’s shortened and how often filters are applied. Once the stream hits your device it has already been modified. Words that are filtered are simply blanked out. Images that you choose to ignore are skipped. That can lead to a slightly disjointed experience during certain scenes that are heavily modified but there’s no real way around that.
THINGS THAT VIDANGEL DOES WELL
VidAngel is a pretty competent service. It does what it says it will do and does it well, for the most part. Some of the key points where they succeed are:
- Ubiquity. Pretty much any device you use to stream content is supported so there’s little barrier to entry (especially considering the 30 day trial period).
- Granularity. Almost any filter could you want is provided. You can choose default filters and modify them for individual streams.
- Speed. There’s a slight delay introduced by putting VidAngel between you and, say, Netflix. But only at the start of a stream and it’s very small – a couple of seconds at most. I never experienced any jerkiness or stuttering during playback.
- If you have to bail on a video, VidAngel will save your location and allow you to resume at the same spot later.
THINGS THAT VIDANGEL DOESN’T DO WELL
There are a few areas where VidAngel falls short of the mark They aren’t service killers for me, but they might be for you.
- Not all content is available to be filtered. Shows and movies must be tagged and prepped by VidAngel before filters can be applied. This can take a while which means that new shows are not available day-and-date with their release. And not all of the content you want to watch has been tagged. High profile shows like Stranger Things, though, are generally available quickly.
- Video resolution. Streams are limited to 1080p. There’s no 4K or HDR. The press rep told me they are working on implementing this but didn’t give a timeframe.
- Audio. Likewise, audio is stereo only. There’s no option for 5.1+ surround sound. Again, they say they are working on it.
- While VidAngel keeps track of the shows you watch and your progress that info isn’t synced to the content provider. So if you want to pick up where you left off in the traditional Netflix or Amazon apps you’ll have to scrub to find your spot.
- Disney content isn’t available due to an ongoing legal dispute between Disney and VidAngel based around a previous implementation of their service. That does leave a content gap.
All things considered, I really like VidAngel. I found the price to be reasonable and the service overall to be excellent. The biggest drawback to me is the lack of 4K and surround sound playback. If you are interested, head over to their site and give it a go. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions, especially the bit about providing them your access credentials, so you know what you are getting into.