The case for Vertical Videos

In The Suppression of Vertical Videos, James Watt makes the case for Vertical Videos and argue that YouTube should be blamed instead of people shooting Vertical Videos.

If you were already angry about not getting as many pixels in the video above, you should be absolutely furious right now. There’s no reason that the YouTube “expand out” feature couldn’t properly size a vertical video.

I totally agree with his vision of things and I really dislike when people get harassed online by videos bigots because they shoot a Vertical Video. Every time someone will point to that video:

But, beside the humor and the funny characters, what are the real arguments against Vertical Videos in this video:

  • Vertical Videos are bad
  • They don’t display correctly in YouTube
  • They don’t display correctly on TV
  • People’s eyes are horizontal
  • We always did like that
  • George Lucas is an asshole

I will just let you weigh those arguments outside of the context of the video.

I will also add that there is currently more than one aspect ratio used in the industry (4:3, 16:9, 3:2, iMAX, Widescreen, CinemaScope, etc.) and I am sure every time a new format appeared, there were trove of bigots to argue this new format was bad.

Like me, say yes to Vertical Videos (do we really have to use capital letters here?) and vent your frustration in the comments if you’ve been bullied by your online “friends” turned video specialists.

15 thoughts on “The case for Vertical Videos

  1. David Neal

    note that there is a large amount of prejudice against vertical vids. i have produced a feature length animated video (164 min.) that is 9×16 aspect ratio (720P rotated 90 degrees). it was rejected for inclusion on iTunes movie store simply because of the aspect ratio. it was designed for tablets, as the imagery originated in books and is meant to be seen at arm’s length i.e. not on a big screen. even though apple arguably “invented” this format by having the iPhone produce it, they do not support the distribution of it. i think this will change as more and more people (and esp. if someone “credible”) use the vertical format, but for now, it’s arrows in the behind for anyone with a vertical to peddle.

      1. David Neal

        it was just accepted in iBook format for iPad on the iBookstore ! last week. it is also available for android devices on Amazon app store and Google play, and as a “pure video” (mp4 – 720×1280) on there are also trailers and demos on YouTube and Vimeo. search for “alicewinks”

        1. Larry Horton, DOM

          Thank you Claude and David for making the case for vertical videos. The whole thing reminds me of an art teacher I had as a kid — a tyrant without a creative cell in her body. Those were grim years for a young artist.

          Vertical, or square, or whatever shape is appropriate for a video will one day be accepted. My confidence in making that assertion is the digital book. If this becomes the favored form factor for books, technology will have to fill the demand for video of any shape. Why would still images be accessible in any size or shape, but not video? Because we “always watched horizontal movies”? I think not.

          David, my use for unconventionally oriented videos is also the iBook realm — and, as I’m sure you know, it’s a challenge. I have filled the frame’s empty areas with a background of the page background, and that’s relatively acceptable.

          What’s got me stumped at the moment is how to keep the media widget from insisting on being on top. In iBooks Author, we can put text or other elements on top of the video, but when it’s exported to iPad, the video always comes out on top.

          Do you have any workarounds for this? Is there a resource you could recommend for outwitting iBooks Author?

          It appears you’ve come up with a great and appealing application for quite a few iBooks — they’re very attractive. Best wishes in your endeavor.

          Once again, thanks, to both of you!

  2. Common sense

    > I will also add that there is currently more than one aspect ratio used in the industry (4:3, 16:9, 3:2, iMAX, Widescreen, CinemaScope, etc.) and I am sure every time a new format appeared, there were trove of bigots to argue this new format was bad.

    Not a single vertical layout mentioned.

    Vertical video is bad for the sake that it will be projected on primarily horizontal devices. On the phone itself, it is fine and other handheld devices but these devices do not necessarily favor one orientation over the other. Videos should have the aspect ratio of the intended display device.

    It’s like shoving a rectangular peg into a circle hole. Yeah, it might be possible to solve the puzzle that way, but really, you should be using the round peg in the round hole.

    1. Claude Vedovini Post author

      > Vertical video is bad for the sake that it will be projected on primarily horizontal devices

      Do you always watch Youtube or Facebook videos in fullscreen? Because I don’t, and I bet most people don’t.

  3. David Neal

    >Videos should have the aspect ratio of the intended display device.

    so, we should never watch a SD video on our HDTV. or never watch a movie on our SD TV. or never watch … on our not… computer screen. very silly opinion, i would say. now, in my iBook and android apps, the screen is locked into portrait orientation. the video is 720Hx1280V (HD aspect ratio 9×16), so it does pillorbox slightly on the 3×4 (SD aspect ratio) iPad, and even the android devices are not always quite 9×16 (they often have a little extra space on the 9 side). so, getting a video to exactly match all screens is really impossible, vertical or horizontal.

    1. brian m

      >so, we should never watch a SD video on our HDTV.

      Yes, in the sense that this often results in “stretch-o-vision” by people who are either afraid or pillarboxing (“why isn’t it filling the whole screen!?? make the black bars go away!!”) or who don’t want to pay the few extra bucks for an HD cable box. And it’s really a drag to go to sports bar with your friends only to find out they’ve turned your basketball game into a “basket ellipsoid” game.

      I certainly respect the intentional use of vertical video for artistic expression, though. It’s unfortunate that this is becoming the new automatic indicator of amateur video, like the camcorder timestamp used to be.

  4. David Neal

    i agree with brian in that i cannot think of a good reason for displaying video in anything but it’s natural dimensions. be that 4×3 or 16×9 or 9×16 or 1.85:1 or 2.39:1 or whatever. (black bars showing is not a good reason to distort. black bars just mean that the device you are watching doesn’t match the dimensions of the video being played.) also, i think that the phone/tablet engineers should make the camera shoot 16×9 no matter what the orientation of the device, since that is mostly what people want. an option could support 9×16, but very few people would use it. also, TVs should not display stretched videos except with deeply hidden menus, with “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO SEE THIS DISTORTED PICTURE????” and double or triple confirmation. people could still do it if they wanted to, but who would?

  5. Claude Vedovini Post author

    > that is mostly what people want.

    I don’t agree, people have a practical sense of what they are doing. Vertical videos are not shoot because people don’t know any better or ignore that they don’t want to do that. Tilting the device is not really a hard thing to do for anyone. They do it because the format fits what they are shooting.

    And again, if YouTube was doing its job right, there won’t be a problem…

  6. Michael Crumpton

    In a couple of years the majority of video will be viewed on portable devices, which can be rotated to whatever orientation is needed. The idea that we should confine ourselves to a landscape format because it is traditional, or that some devices can’t display VV without extreme letterboxing makes no more sense than only viewing static images on screens because the printed page can only show still images.

  7. Lonne

    Visited the inside of Gaudies Familia Sagrada cathedral in Barcalona Spain. Some of that interior demands a vertical format, occasionally the subject should rule the format.

  8. Toerstad

    I can see this is a fairly old post, but…

    @Lonne – You are right, but the subject should ALWAYS rule the format. When communicating the subject rules supreme! One should use the medium, style, format, etc. that best communicate ones vision/subject – be it wide-video, tall-video, portrait or landscape photography, an article, a novel, a cartoon, a poem, a sculpture , a painting, a public reading, a dance or a theatre performance.

    And by the way – wide formats are quite new. Go find a paper, a notebook, a novel, a newspaper or A SCROLL to look at. Which way is it rotated?

    “If all you have is a hammer – everything looks like a nail” – Why should we limit ourselves to only use hammers when there are so many other cool tools available?

  9. Frederic De Wulf

    I have shot professional films and videos since 1984.

    Multi-format videos in non-standard aspect ratios are now a fact of life with the internet. Millions of vertical videos are geeing filmed more and more with phones. Apple is smart in support them at playback on their devices.

    Trying to stop people from shooting vertical is a non starter. Instead, sites like YouTube, Vimeo etc should provide for playing them back without letterboxes just like flickr and other photos site do with images.

    They are very useful for a variety of uses including security cameras to get better coverage for halls and such and just like in photography are great for videoing people. In retail stores for fashion they are used very effectively by Burberry and other smart retailers.

    We created a nutrition game for iPad / iPhone (Smash Your Food) that smashes foods in the vertical format and it a thing of beauty. Sure we had to do some interesting coding to make it happen but it won us an Award at the White House. And kids love it.

    Sure we’ll always have to deal with TVs horizontal formats, but this is less and less the way videos are consumed.

    Wake up people, progress is always on the move. Don’t be stuck in time.


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