One of my favorite features offered by the Hulu video website is the ability to darken the screen around the video. Too often when I’m watching a video, I’ll find myself distracted by other elements on the page, something that’s very common when viewing YouTube videos. Whether it’s a comment or a related video, I want to be able to focus on the video and nothing but the video. I could switch to fullscreen mode, but that’s not always a good choice if my connection is a little flaky or if the video’s resolution is too small to look good in fullscreen mode. So I was thrilled to see a new extension for Google Chrome, called Turn Off The Lights, that does just what I want.
Turn Off The Lights, as should be evident based on what I’ve already written, is a simple extension that offers the ability to darken the window around a playing video. By default, Turn Off The Lights is incredibly simple to use. Once installed you’ll see a gray light bulb icon appear in the URL bar whenever you visit a website with Flash elements. Now, this isn’t always perfect, as the icon appears on ESPN.com, for instance, even when no video is present. It does this because the main graphic on ESPN.com is actually created using Flash. Click the icon, and everything but the Flash video (or element), is darkened to a dark gray. This makes it simple to concentrate fully on the video you want to watch.
And that’s what it does by default. Where Turn Off The Lights really shines (so to speak), is how customizable it is. Go to the options page and you can tweak most of the settings. You can choose exactly what percent opacity is used, for a slightly dim look all the way to pure black. You can also choose the color used to obscure the rest of the page, which means you can use anything from black (the default), to light gray, to pink or blue or green, if you want. Along with this is the option to display the dimness level bar, which will appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and allows you to set the dimness level on each page you use Turn Off The Lights.
There are a few other options, such as the eye protection setting, which automatically dims every page you visit, and some for specific websites such as YouTube, which will allow the playlist portion of the screen to remain visible (along with the video being watched), even while the rest of the screen is dimmed. Similar settings exist for other elements, such as the info bar, share buttons, suggested videos, video title, the YouTube channel currently being watched, and more. Finally, you can turn on the shortcut key, which allows you to trigger Turn Off The Lights by typing Ctrl+L, while a second time “turns up the lights,” so to speak.
I’m not sure I’ll use Turn Off The Lights every time I watch something on YouTube, but it’s handy to have around. Short video clips don’t necessarily need it, but for longer videos or even movies, it’s really nice. It works well, has a great set of options, and is easy to use. It’s a feature that would great if added to practically any video website, but until that happens, I’m glad I can get the features with the extension.