— "Vertical video on mobile will be a hit, because people hate to rotate their smartphones every time they want to watch a video at its full size."

— "But, with few exceptions, serious videos are filmed in landscape mode. How can we fit these in portrait mode?"

— "It will work! We will convince everyone using our mobile platform that, if they want to acquire maximum visibility and reach more audience, they will have to upload vertical videos."

— "What if they won't?"

— "We will crop their landscape videos, we will manually edit them to keep focus on the subject, we will shot new videos if we'll have to! It will work!"

— "OK."

That's a more or less accurate discussion started by one of my colleagues and, I must admit, I have some mixed feelings about the 'vertical video on mobile' feature. Indeed, people won't have to rotate their phones after they'll hit the 'play button' but, would it be possible to crop ANY portrait video from a landscape one without loosing the focus on the main subject in the video?

Already found some articles regarding this topic but I'm not very convinced by their arguments. Here's one: http://digiday.com/platforms/time-take-vertical-video-seriously/.

Any thoughts, arguments or contraarguments about this?

  • 1
    this has 'sorta' already been figured out by mobile video sharing apps by adapting square video formats. – DA01 Oct 20 '16 at 17:11
  • HTML5 was given similar "enthusiasms" and "rationalisations". – Confused Oct 20 '16 at 18:44
  • Testing with an audience (potential) users is better than an argument that is not really going to solve the problem. And since the solution is to be used in a specific context (rather than a general application), you are definitely better off trying to test it. – Michael Lai Oct 20 '16 at 22:06
  • The problem with those arguments is that they ignore reality, human vision is binocular and has a wide field of view, so we derive another degree of information on landscape, mainly depth. On the other hand, vertical video forces us to focus ( since we don't have to process depth at first) and scan the image vertically, so they are better for analyzing an object rather than a scene.

  • Things that surround us are bound to be designed in a horizontal fashion because that's how we interact with the world, stacking controls and things in a vertical way, and/or below the waist only works for a very narrow region in front of us and some special cases, and as a result most ( but not all) action happens in landscape, people mostly don't interact in a stacked way unless they are building a human pyramid.

  • One third argument is that of information, at the same resolution and for the reasons mentioned above, there is a good chance that you will loose vital information when shooting in portrait.

Here's an example:enter image description here

On landscape, you can see the vastness of the supermarket, and his interest in some bottles.

On portrait, you miss this information, but now you perhaps start paying attention at his suit,the lemon in his basket and the boxes of cereal behind, if that is your goal great, but what if there was another person opposite from him, portrait would have missed it.

So I believe they both have uses, but if I had to chose one it would be landscape, not portrait.

  • I think you swapped portrait and landscape in your explanation, but you make a good point. – Nate Green Oct 20 '16 at 12:56
  • @NateGreen, Oops, edited to the correct terms, thanks. – Keno Oct 20 '16 at 17:02

I think there's a really solid argument for producing vertical video for certain mobile platforms where it makes sense to do so. Ads in snapchat, etc... as mentioned in the article.

However, it's absolutely not possible to crop any landscape video to make it work effectively in a vertical orientation. You just lose, or at the very least are at high risk for losing too much of the frame, a lot of which will be essential to the video being effectively received.

The idea that any video can just be cropped pretty much makes a mockery of professional video production. One of the first rules is to make effective use of the frame, and shooting horizontally, every single thing in that frame is supposed to be there and adds something to the overall experience. Cutting out all the parts that don't happen to be the primary focus of the frame totally sacrifices the effectiveness of the whole of the video.

That's not to say that it's not a good idea to pitch creators the possible benefits of producing vertical content, or producing content where it's shot in mind for both formats (which is also certainly possible). Simply that "We'll just crop it" is not on any level something that should be done to video that's not produced with that in mind.

  • I'd add that, if you're looking to explore vertical video, what might be a worthwhile starting point is understanding what normally gets filmed vertically, and build some use-cases off that. – Sam Oct 19 '16 at 21:26
  • Not to mention, cropping a horizontal HD-quality video would seriously reduce the resolution and perceived quality of the video, especially on today's high-resolution screens. (A 1080p video is 1920x1080; cropping it vertically would give you a 1080x608 or something...even less resolution than a standard 720p video) – Nate Green Oct 20 '16 at 12:57
  • Good point, although it will probably be 608x1080 (cropping, not scaling). – Adrian Puescu Oct 20 '16 at 14:39
  • However, there are some risks that the video might have some blurriness issues, because 608x1080 doesn't respect standard aspect ratios. A proper 9:16 size would be 576x1024. So even more cropping. – Adrian Puescu Oct 20 '16 at 14:46
  • while I don't disagree, the reality is that has been done for a long time...nearly every hollywood film from the 70s-2000s was arbitrarily cropped for video. There is precedent, as much as we may hate it. :) – DA01 Oct 20 '16 at 17:12

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