For many discerning content creators the vertical vs landscape video conversation is still raging.
Some are happy to digest content as it’s delivered. Others are vocal in their frustrations. When faced with the trend to shoot video in an upright format, some foreheads are slapped. Angry mumblings mumbled.
I hesitate to use any video capture app that does not favour landscape over portrait. In my opinion it’s not seeing the bigger (or wider) picture.
Although I may be only one of a few who still care.
Shooting in portrait can sometimes be a restrictive format. Those new to capturing video on their mobile devices just lift and shoot. The ergonomics make it easy for the device to be held vertically. Yet people appear to forget they have articulated wrists. Handy for both filming and viewing.
In the past I’ve taken photos for both money and fun. As a result, when it comes to shooting video I automatically hold my phone in landscape mode. (The long way, horizontal. As apposed to upright/vertical/portrait.)
We’re designed to view the world in landscape. If I want to shoot a photo that emulates what our eyes see, I reach for a 50mm lens.
A trained image-maker may consider composition and the final destination of the media. It’s also much easier to capture movement in a landscape frame over a vertical slot.
A blogger may be considering a multitude of destinations for their content. I see now that others might not. Today it’s about the disposable moment. The fleeting interaction.
It’s also possible the casual sharer is driven by badly designed apps and platforms desperate for content. All looking for multimedia to fill tall thin timelines on small devices. Upright video fits these spaces well. Especially within endless scrolling.
But at what cost?
I’d love to make the comparison to the TV in the corner of the room. How that format was the natural progression from cinema and perfect for visual storytelling. But behaviours are changing. In my house we got rid of the TV in the living room. Replaced by books and records. Elsewhere we have mobile screens and a rarely used HD projector.
If we were all streaming our media from devices to walls and ‘dumb screens’, upright video may have been be slower to take off. If you have sent an portrait video via AirPlay to your TV you’ll know what I mean. The annoying thick black bars and cheek to cheek interviews.
But currently our most watched screens are the ones in our pockets and we like to hold them a certain way.
Perhaps Vine and Periscope are partly to blame for this. Not wanting to point the finger solely at Twitter. Or any business model demanding our eyes and content. Anything that stymies that flow gets in the way of our undivided continuous attention and interaction.
News orgs have a lot to answer for in this arena. Jon Steinberg of The Daily Mail’s North American Operations is quoted in the NYT as saying…
We’re working to get to 100 percent of our videos vertical. We find the engagement much higher. Users are more satisfied, and there’s a higher completion rate on them.
I’m picturing video archives filling with vertically shot stories. The behaviour attached to the disposable moment is now shaping the future of the documentary.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) are already experimenting with shooting vertical documentaries. Their take is a little more thought out, ensuring the final story is responsive across all screens.
As Kim Jansson explains, the limitations were obvious.
Tall buildings, trees, signs and cairns (there are a lot of them in the mountains surrounding Otta) looked really great vertically. Correctly placed in the image composition, it could create a nice depth in the image.
Meanwhile: Sometimes it hurt our photographers heart to film in height. Especially on the mountains in beautiful Gudbrandsdalen, it was hard to deliberately not capture the beautiful landscape in, yes, landscape-mode.
It was extra challenging when people moved. When you are close and film in height, it does not take much for the motive to disappear out of the frame. Think of a little kid playing or a car turning.
Sounds like an art in itself. Just favour tall things over wide and tell people to stand still. Makes it hard for me to shake the thought of landscape video being ‘proper video’ and vertical as a low resolution insta-video-gram.
Perhaps now our phones can shoot 4k video we can have the best of both worlds. Shoot first in landscape for prosperity and future devices. Then crop out a portrait video for those trapped in tired advertising models.
Now let us consider the near future. The next generation of screens will be wrapped around our eyes, projected into goggles. Maybe even embedded in contact lenses. Our eyes are side by side. Virtual and augmented realities are unlikely to be in portrait.
I’m sure there will be other formats. Immersive video is opening up all kinds of possibilities. Maybe you will prefer square video on your watch. Triangular video on your shoes.
Vertical videos may ‘look and feel right’ on our devices. But for how long?
For the time being it just feels right that 99% of my videos are shot in landscape. Maybe future devices will demand a resurgence in landscape over portrait.
Ultimately we should use our tools to tell the story and not to shape it.
I’m @Documentally on Twitter.
Some of my workshops focus on video production.
I did this experiment last year during on leg of the Petzl Roctrip.
It was great fun to change the habit and get everyone in portrait video mode !!!
Thanks for the comment. I watched all of the film. A great experiment. I turned my laptop on the side and was into it till about the three quarter mark. Then I felt it was hard to concentrate. It was hard not to think about the form and I pined for a wider perspective on a few of the shots. Wondering if I could even focus/follow/sit through something longer.
Jeff Bundy (@Bundini) says
Happy New Year 2016 Christian! And holy cow! Minimentally has gotten so big!! And what a pure honest response: “It just looks better.” Sometimes (maybe even most times) a straightforward answer nails it. Thanks for all the good times. And… let the good times roll on in 2016!
Same to you Jeff! All the best. Hope we get to meet IRL some day.
Paul Gailey Alburquerque says
The newish but nifty Cardboard Camera Google app is explicitly designed for horizontal and VR Cardboard viewing yet prompts capture naturally only by portrait scanning the room as it records audio while you rotate on the spot.
That makes sense as it’s hoovering up more pixels. Same goes to shooting landscape images on an iPhone. The phone is held upright. But of course the image is widescreen and some. 🙂
Richard Wielder says
If you watch your vertical phone videos on your phone, portrait mode works just fine. They even look OK if you play them on a tablet. It’s only when you watch them on a computer screen or TV where the aspect ratio orientation is wider than it is tall that vertical videos seem strange. I don’t like seeing vertical videos on broadcast TV with 2/3 of the screen filled with blurred versions of the video used to fill the whole frame, but there is nothing wrong with viewing them on the phone your recorded them on. So it’s not always stupid. In fact, sometimes it’s preferable. Would be nice if phone makers could design a device that made the choice more ergonomically equivilant. How hard would it be? Would it tale more than putting a record button in the middle of one of the long sides of the device? Probably 99% of the things we do on our phones we do in a verticle orientation. Shooting horizontally feels less intuitive.
I would say that it’s only less intuitive to those that used social apps first. From My experience professional or even just experienced media makers tend to feel better capturing video in landscape. After ‘broadcast screens’ will come Immersive video and I doubt any of this will matter. I currently hold my 360 camera upright and it captures everything. No need to worry about orientation. But when it comes to be viewing archive footage in an immersive field of view i’ll be looking at landscape footage.