These instructions are for using a streaming service with the VideoSkip extension. The standalone version is even simpler to use because all the controls are on the same page.
The fist thing you'll need is a computer capable of running Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or one of their derivatives. Install the extension from the appropriate app store (links in Get VideoSkip page), which puts a green "fast-forward" icon on your browser. Connect the computer to your TV with a sufficiently long HDMI or VGA cable and make sure your computer screen is seen on the TV.
1. Now go to your favorite streaming service and rent or purchase the film you want to watch. Play it until the initial logos show up (after ads and trailers have passed), then stop playback and click the VideoSkip icon.
2. A popup window appears on top of the video, but you can move it to any location you prefer by dragging its top. Now you need to load a skip file for this movie. You may have obtained it from someone, or from the VideoSkip Exchange. There is a button on the VideoSkip window that will open the VideoSkip Exchange on a new tab of the browser. You can find titles through the search box on the Exchange. Click on a skip file link and it downloads. No need to make an account to do this.
3. On the VideoSkip window, load the skip file with the "Load skip file" button (likely, the file is in your Downloads folder). If the skip file has been synced previously with your streaming service, you can move on to step 4. 3b. Otherwise, a screenshot will appear in the VideoSkip window, and the movie itself may change to a different time. Now find the spot in the movie where the image is the same as the screenshot, using the movie's own forward and backward controls or dragging the slider on the timeline. The arrow buttons on the VideoSkip window do the same (frame by frame, if you check "Fine"). There is a button to superimpose the screenshot on top of the movie. When the image matches the screenshot, click the "Sync times" button. A new skip file will be created so that users you share it with won't have to do this step anymore.
4. Adjust the strength of the category filters as needed: High for children, Medium for teens, Low for adults, or Off altogether. Text under the sliders will tell you what is filtered.
5. You're set! Dismiss the VideoSkip window by clicking the X on the upper left corner, resume playback, sit back, and enjoy the movie, which now will skip over problematic content flagged in the skip file. If you move the mouse, the VideoSkip logo will appear on the movie, and then you can click it to view the whole VideoSkip window. In fullscreen view, a banner will remind you of which filtering categories are active.
If you want to use the automatic profanity filter, just load a file containing subtitles for the movie (.vtt or .srt format) on the "Filter" tab. Set the Profanity slider to High.
The "Edit" tab, which opens with the "Edit skips" button, lets you see the skips and possibly edit them. You can also save them to share the improved skip file with other people.
These instructions are for the browser extension. The process with the standalone version is simpler.
1. Start streaming the movie as if you were going to watch it. Let ads and trailers pass. Freeze playback when the initial logos and credits show up. Click the VideoSkip button on the browser, which will open a popup window.
2. Click the Edit button so the window expands and you see a box, where you will enter the skip information, plus a few more buttons. In the following steps, I'm assuming you have a pretty good idea of what you want to skip in this particular film. You can find clues in the Parental Guide section of the IMDB.com for the film, plus a few other family-oriented websites.
3. Because the skips are triggered by time, and the same film can have different timings coming from different sources, you need to take a screenshot and its time, near the beginning of the movie, by clicking the "Take screenshot" button. You get better accuracy if the screen is showing something that is moving fast (it can be paused at the moment).
4. Some services allow taking screenshots this way, but others do not. In the latter case, a "Load screenshot" button will appear in the window. Then take the screenshot from the operating system (cmd-shift-5 on a Mac, "snipping tool" app in Windows), and save it locally so you can load it back with the button. It is best to exclude the black areas around the image.
5. By now you should see a time in hour:minute:second (HMS) format in the box, and a screenshot on its right. It is a good practice to describe the screenshot in the line below the time. Then leave an empty line before the first actual skip.
6. Individual skips have this format: a line containing the initial time in HMS format, followed by an arrow written like this " --> ", and the final time also in HMS format; then on the next line a category label (such as "sex", "violence", etc., or just the first three letters of it), a numerical rating from 1 to 3, an optional handling label (such as "image" or "word", explained below), and optional text between parentheses describing what it is. Example:
0:14:08.27 --> 0:14:14 nude image 1 (male, from behind)
There are buttons to enter the current time in the movie, or a correctly formatted arrow, but you'll need to type everything else. Leave an empty line before the next skip. The general idea behind the numerical ratings is: 1 = problematic for children, 2 = problematic for teens, 3 = problematic for adults. If you don't enter a number, VideoSkip will take it as a "1"
7. To get done quickly, you can play the movie in fast forward (click the double-arrow button to toggle this), or move the handle on the time slider until you reach the general place where a skip is needed. Then you can find the precise times to begin and end a skip with the single arrow buttons. To make sure a skip works completely, it is best to begin and end within "clean" sections of the film, without trying to get too close to the problem sections. If you want to blank the video with the sound still going, add the "video", "image", "blank" or "img" handling label. To mute the sound (and subtitles) but keep the video going, add the "audio", "word", "speech", or "sound" handling label. You can blur the image rather than blank it with the "blur" label, and fast-forward rather than skipping outright by adding the "fast" handling label. The order of the labels does not matter to the engine, and neither does whatever is written between parentheses.
8. The blanking keywords and "blur" can affect only a small portion of the screen if desired. To do this, click the "Blur box" button so make a blurred spot appear on the video. Move it around with the mouse (resize by holding the Alt key also, or the right mouse button). When you are satisfied, click the "Blur pos." button to insert the exact position of the blur box into the skip, as a list of four numbers within square brackets. Bear in mind that on playback the blur spot will not move during the time of that skip.
9. A single skip will involve just a single category. If a particular section of the movie contains several kinds of problematic material, or they overlap in time, make separate skips for each category. The order of the skips does not matter, though it is best to write them in sequential order.
10. When you have written all the skips, save the file with the "Save" button, which will also ask you for a name. You can consider yourself done at this point, but the next couple steps are to check that the skips work as intended.
11. You can take the movie to any particular time written in the box by clicking on the time and then clicking the "Go to time" button (for some streaming services, you may need to bring the playback near that time manually first, because of buffering issues). Go to the initial time of a skip, rewind a little by clicking the back arrow button a few times, make sure the appropriate category filter is set on High (or any level that would activate the edit), and resume playback.
12. If the movie skips, blanks, or mutes as intended, you're good with that item and can check the next one. But if you feel that one of the times needs to be adjusted, just highlight that time on the box and click the forward or backward arrow buttons (you can also use the Fine setting; the Alt setting causes all the timings to change simultaneously). Don't forget to save your corrected skips. A new version of the skip file is saved each time you click the "Save" button.
You can share your skip file by email, texting, or whatever method you prefer. Please keep the .skp extension at the end of the name, so VideoSkip can recognize it as its own. You can also post it for the world to enjoy on the VideoSkip Exchange (there's a button to get there). You will need to make a free account in order to post on the Exchange.
A final word on the "Insert silence" button. Clicking this during playback (not stopped) will insert a level 1 profanity muting a fraction of a second *before* the moment you click. The idea is to mute single words that might be offensive to kids. You will need to edit the entry if you want the muting to be longer or change its rating.
Likely, you have heard that companies such as Clearplay and VidAngel, whose products are also used for filtering content from feature films, have gotten into a lot of legal trouble, mainly through lawsuits from the film industry. Back in 2005, Clearplay made special DVD players that would skip content based on a control file. They were sued, and the US Congress protected them by passing the Family Movie Act (17 U.S.C. 110(11)) which establishes that skipping content is legal so long as the video is not edited from its source, thus effectively making a different version of the video that could be marketed to viewers. VidAngel later made special edited DVDs, which the courts agreed were not in compliance with the Family Movie Act. Today, both companies offer a pretty similar service involving movies from Amazon servers that are skipped very much the same way VideoSkip does it. But they do charge a subscription fee. Clearplay works on computers and special DVD/BluRay players, VidAngel on mobile devices.
VideoSkip is unlikely to run into legal trouble because:
It works by skipping as the video plays, without altering the source in any way. This is the way the other products work today, which has been confirmed to comply with the Movie Family Act. The film industry is leaving them alone, too.
It charges no fees, which further puts it in compliance with the law (the other services market their products for profit).
Skip files are made by individual users, who post them freely. This activity is protected as Freedom of Speech almost everywhere in the world. Users are free to use whatever version they like, or none at all.
Even if loaded, VideoSkip does not interfere with playback in any way until a particular filter is enabled by the user.
Who are you and why are you doing this?
My name is Francisco Ruiz (a.k.a. PR Gomez, in my fiction projects). I am a native of Spain living in Chicago for many years now. I am a Christian (not LDS, though, as most people working on this kind of product seem to be), and it does bother me how many otherwise perfectly good films contain gratuitous sex or violence that don't add anything to the plot. It's just bad movie making, which studios fall into in order to earn an "R" rating and perhaps increase their income. I am a professor of Engineering and have other programming projects that you may want to check out, such as PassLok, very easy to use encryption for email and texting, and SynthPass, a free password manager and synthesizer.
How can I help?
VideoSkip is a community effort, and there are many ways you can help:
Report bugs on the GitHub page, so we can improve VideoSkip.
Make translations of the interface to a language you know. The competing apps kill subtitles, which makes it hard to filter videos in non-English speaking countries.
Make skip files. We need editors who can specialize on edits for adults, teens, or children.
You can always pass the word. Remember, VideoSkip is free and community-driven.