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Forums Business & Career Building Vertical Video: Just say No!

  • Vertical Video: Just say No!

  • Ned Miller

    November 26, 2016 at 4:15 am

    ADMIN NOTE: This thread began in Creative COW’s Business & Marketing forum, but since this topic also cuts across shooting, editing, and distribution, we thought it’d be fun to open the discussion up to some other forums like this one. Apologies if this seems too far off the usual goings-on here, but we encourage you to take a look at the conversation already underway, and add your expertise!

    Please feel free to address any administrative issues to me directly in the Letters to the COW Team forum, but otherwise, enjoy! Regards, Tim Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, Creative COW

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Bt9zSfinwFA

    But…the BBC just went that way:

    https://www.newsshooter.com/2016/11/25/bbc-news-app-launches-vertical-video-is-the-joke-on-us/

    Oh well, I can always hold my professional cameras sideways.

    Ned Miller
    Chicago Videographer
    http://www.nedmiller.com

  • Todd Terry

    November 26, 2016 at 6:29 am

    [Ned Miller] “Oh well, I can always hold my professional cameras sideways.”

    Pushing 20 years ago a friend who is a professional photographer borrowed one of my video cameras to shoot some behind the scenes footage of a play one of his kids was in… I remember loaning him my then-brand-new Canon XL1, one of my “B” cameras at the time. It was so foolproof I knew that even a novice shooter couldn’t screw things up, so it would be a cakewalk for a professional still photographer.

    He came back with the footage, and about every third or forth shot was sideways. He’d shoot a scene or two, and then turn the camera sideways for a “portrait” format shot or two. He was used to doing this constantly with his still cameras when shooting weddings and such, it didn’t occur to him that he couldn’t do that with a video camera. Duhhhhhhh.

    We cast lot of actors, and while most of the auditions submitted by talent agencies are shot correctly with more proper cameras, almost all of those submitted directly by actors themselves are recorded with cell phones (which I’m totally fine with). But… probably a good half of them come in vertical, despite my repeated and explicit instructions to “Position your phone horizontally… the same as a TV screen!” They don’t seem to get it.

    T2

    __________________________________
    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
    fantasticplastic.com

  • Tim Wilson

    November 26, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    [Todd Terry] “my repeated and explicit instructions to “Position your phone horizontally… the same as a TV screen!” They don’t seem to get it.”

    I disagree with this one million percent. Not the part about you preferring it. That’s your prerogative. But it’s not only not a problem, but using video the way the BBC app is working, HORIZONTAL is the problem. The most dominant platforms for watching video are Facebook and Instagram — and for the BBC, the target is the app — and VERTICAL IS BETTER. It fills the screen, it’s easier to see, and it tells more of the story.

    Now yeah, if it’s going to TV, that’s a little different, but only a little. Vertical is now the native tongue of phone video, so nobody in the neighborhood of 30 or below cares. On the contrary, they EXPECT it.

    Of course, I’m twice that age, and I not only have no problem with — I expect it too. And despite having shot professionally since the 70s, I vastly favor vertical video now.

    One place (or two places) I recently the saw the value of it was seeing Paul McCartney’s IMAG in concert, both in an arena and at Desert Trip.. The fact is that nobody gives a spit about looking at anything but Paul. (His band has been together for 15 years, btw, his longest-standing band ever, and boy howdy, do they play like it. RAZOR sharp….but I don’t need ’em on the IMAG.)

    The IMAG being vertical meant that we got in close on Paul’s face AND his bass. Horizontal would have been twice as far away, with two thirds of the screen filled with stuff I actively didn’t want to see.

    This was also true for all 6 artists at Desert Trip, where bands used vertical or square value to MASSIVE advantage. Yeah, they had 250 horizontal feet to work with, but it worked best for graphics. McCartney is actually one of the most graphics-heavy artists on the road today, so there was definitely some of that. Roger Waters vastly moreso. At one point, there was a 250-foot long closeup on the neck of a guitar (during “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts I-V” for those of you keeping score at home), but otherwise, he used the screen as a combination of square and/or vertical sections.

    Some illustrations (which you can click to enlarge):

    The Rolling Stones

    The aforementioned McCartney, nice shot with vertical IMAG and the man if I say so myself

    The Who, combining vertical Roger and Pete with square Union Jack animations

    fwiw, I got a lot of very nice shots of all the bands, including some awesome zoom shots (a story for another day, but I will be sharing them eventually in a story about Fujinon lenses shooting the show, and piping it around with Blackmagic doo-dads) but I find myself cropping them vertically for my own enjoyment, or at most square, in almost every case. Turns out I’m kind of a 4:3 guy after all! It really is one of the things I love about Instagram too. Yeah, it’ll do horizontal in the latest updates, but I hate it. I’ll still with squares, and where I can, go fullscreen vertical.

    Admittedly, yes, IMAG is a special case, but Facebook and Instagram are not. Nor is sharing video with friends mobile-to-mobile, or mobile apps. Vertical is the solution, horizontal is the problem. This will become more and more true over time, even on TV.

    You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to get used to it. But if you’re as desperately trying to preserve your hair as I am, I do recommend that you embrace the new world everywhere you can. LOL

  • Ned Miller

    November 26, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Hey Tim,

    Did you know that at Dave Chapelle’s come back tour shows everyone has to give up their phone on their way in? The artists are getting PO’s looking out and seeing everyone looking at their phones:

    https://www.slashgear.com/alicia-keys-latest-artist-to-enforce-no-cell-phone-policy-at-concerts-20444936/

    At Thanksgiving at my sister’s house she ask about seven of us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder for a group photo. She brings her phone up and naturally she is holding it vertical. It is the way it fits in one’s hand, especially a smaller female hand. We in the biz, of course we know better.

    Now on the evening news you will see video shot by the public, often of some crime or disaster happening, and they’re 90% vertical. Perhaps that’s why the BBC went that way? You’ll notice that both sides of the 16×9 frame on your TV they will have a “continuation” of the video, out-of-focus, half tone opacity, as an abstract. So do this test: Next time you’re watching the news or America’s Funniest Home Videos (still my favorite show) and when a vertical video appears, once it is over ask the person sitting next to you who is NOT IN THE BIZ if they noticed anything about the sides of the frame. I do this to my wife, etc. all the time- They will NOT notice it. The public will naturally shoot vertical UNLESS for some reason they are holding their phone with two hands, then they might turn it on its side. Look for that. This is what I mean in case I’m not clear:

    Long ago when 16×9 betacams first came out I resisted, after all, I had a fully paid off 4×3 betacam which had a crank on the side to print out money. A mega mall near me asked if I could shoot 16×9 and naturally I said yes, I figured I’d rent. Next they asked if there was a way I could “lay” the camera on its side so I could fill the frame, head-to-toe, of fashion models, one at a time. So I looked into it and unbelievably there was a heavy duty tripod head to rent that would lay a full size ENG or 35mm on its side. Of course the balance would be off and we had to sandbag the legs down, and it was awfully weird, but the mall wanted to mount 16×9 monitors VERTICALLY around the mall, sort of a precursor to what we now call digital signage, and they knew a standing humanoid fit great in a vertical 16×9 like cars do in its horizontal.

    I don’t know how this will affect us, I think it’s more an issue for the editors.

    Ned Miller
    Chicago Videographer
    http://www.nedmiller.com

  • Tom Sefton

    November 27, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    https://vimeo.com/147742438/description

    60-70% of the work we do involves creating video for non standard horizontal screens. We didn’t do this – wish we had because it’s brilliant, but nothing understands a mobile audience better than custom created content for a portrait display.

    Co-owner at Pollen Studio
    http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk

  • Tim Wilson

    November 27, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    [Ned Miller] “Did you know that at Dave Chapelle’s come back tour shows everyone has to give up their phone on their way in? The artists are getting PO’s looking out and seeing everyone looking at their phones:”

    I’m all for it! LOL Except that I do love fan video of concerts, and have shot some pretty good stuff over the years….but in fact, I try to be sensitive about which orientation the video calls for.

    I mentioned seeing McCartney twice…well in fact, through a series of circumstances so bizarre that it deserves its own story…which I’m writing…I saw him 3 times in 2 weeks. In addition to an arena and a festival-style event, I saw him at a bar with 300 people!!! I was right at the rail, close enough to touch him…which I did a couple of times when we slapped palms. A life highlight for me, for sure.

    I had in fact seen him in the arena the week before, and I was CRAZY close, so the ONLY way I was going to get his whole body in the frame was vertical. I’ve embedded it here, but you really need to take it full screen if you’re on your desktop to see what I mean. No music in this clip. I just wanted to show his ENTRANCE into this tiny, tiny space to provide context.

    btw, do note that the rest of the horizontal frame is filled with a scaled, shaded version of the video. Your observation that nobody notices this on TV, Ned, or if they do, they don’t care, is reflective of the extent that people recognize vertical orientation as “a” fully legit native tongue for video.

    You might say that younger audiences are bilingual that way.

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    I did grab “A Hard Day’s Night” horizontal, though…but even when he was halfway back on the stage, I didn’t get his full body. Here’s a photo from another song that’ll give you an idea, cropped 4:3, but not zoomed. All I cropped out was empty stage on either side….well, okay, half of the drummer and keyboard player, but I was too close to ever get them all the way in the frame….an awesome problem to have mind you, but there ya go.

    To get back to your point about Dave Chappelle’s no phones policy, Ned, Paul McCartney is plenty used to performing with cameras in his face….but I was 6 feet away, and it felt rude…so after I got his entrance and the second song in his set (which was “AHDN”), I just put my phone in my pocket. The tradeoff was that he and I made a LOT of eye contact, which I wouldn’t trade for the world of course.

    I’ve always imagined that my compromise as an artist might be, “I love fan videos of shows, too…but do me a favor. I’m going to turn up the house lights, and ask you to put away your phones, so that we can just look at each other. Can you do that for me, for one song? Please?”

    I have no idea if it would work, but I do understand Dave’s impulse, especially for standup, when you’re ONLY looking into the audience.

    [Ned Miller] “the mall wanted to mount 16×9 monitors VERTICALLY around the mall, sort of a precursor to what we now call digital signage, and they knew a standing humanoid fit great in a vertical 16×9 like cars do in its horizontal.”

    Right. And if you walk any length through an airport of any size today, you might pass hundreds of vertical 16×9 monitors, filling the same space in the ecosystem that a poster does.

    And indeed, to this day, no matter how widescreen a movie, a vertical poster is what does the trick.

    Your example of video of cars as better in horizontal is a perfect one, though, as is the large-group selfie….although in fact, the native language of selfies is probably vertical now, right? Anyway, roadside billboards work better horizontally because you’re traversing them on that plane at enough speed that vertical boards aren’t in focus for enough time.

    I’m also a massive fan of widescreen. I was subscribing to Widescreen Digest 20 years ago, and installing home theater systems — including more than a few with 2 screens in one enclosure, so that you could watch 4:3 TV on one screen and widescreen laser disks (ahem) on the other. 16:9? Fooey. I mean WIIIIIIIIIIDE screen laser disks. 16:9 was a compromise, and not an ideal one, imo. Not wide enough.

    That said, you can see the difference in a heartbeat in a proper IMAX theater. A widescreen picture looks….I won’t say wrong, but I will say “incomplete”. The idea of “letterbox” is exactly the OPPOSITE of “full screen”. You’re not seeing the big picture AT ALL. You’re seeing a slice of it, through a narrow window.

    Even as much as I believe that we so quickly adapted to widescreen images is because, as humans, our primary orientation is horizontal — we evolved to see threats coming from the same plane as ours, not from above — but our horizontal orientation to MOVEMENT is still NOTHING like a letterbox PICTURE. It’s MUCH more like 4:3.

    So as long as we PRIMARILY hold devices vertically, the PRIMARY orientation for device video will be, and SHOULD be, VERTICAL.

    [Ned Miller] “I think it’s more an issue for the editors.”

    I think also for producers. One thing it’s reinforcing to me is that one size does not fit all. It’s rare that a desktop version of a website is identical for desktop and mobile. Why should video be any different? But the question is, how do you account for it?

    For a movie or TV show, no need. People EXPECT to turn their phones sideways. In fact, when I’m on YouTube and turn my phone horizontally, the clip automatically fills the screen. This is a Google-verse assumption (or does iOS do this too?), and it’s the right one. When i turn my phone horizontally, I DO want the video filling my screen as the default behavior (with one click to go out of full screen if that’s what I want).

    But more often than not, it annoys me when a page goes horizontal, so I actually have my screen locked to vertical, and only unlock it when watching horizontal video….which turns out to be less and less with each passing day.

    What it will increasingly mean for pros, I think, is an awareness like the BBC’s, that if you want your stuff to be seen to its best advantage on devices, shoot it vertical, no questions asked. Square at MOST.

    Indeed, as an experiment, even if you download the Instagram app for this one experiment, load up your favorite horizontal video, and play with the crop tools. I think you’ll be amazed at how often a center cut not only looks good, but looks BETTER on the phone.

    So I think what we really need is a “VERTICAL SAFE” marker in pro viewfinders. LOL

    Speaking of which….

    [Tom Sefton] “We didn’t do this – wish we had because it’s brilliant, but nothing understands a mobile audience better than custom created content for a portrait display.”

    Haha! AWESOME example. I do think that vertical FILMMAKING will remain pretty rare, this is a FANTASTIC example of how powerful full-screen video is, and on devices, that means vertical.

    The thing is, I’m not sure that this story “translated” to vertical would be any better. I think it’s meant to be told vertically. No WONDER the name of the movie is Impact.

    For that matter, how much video really needs to be 16:9? Is a center crop of, say, The X-Files or Twin Peaks better because it’s now “widescreen” rather than pillared? It’s a push for X-Files for me, but Twin Peaks is weakened….

    ….not that most people will notice, any more than that they notice the convention of scaling and blurring a version of a vertical video to fill a horizontal screen.

    And you know what? I first saw Lawrence of Arabia full screen on a 4:3 TV, and I swear it’s a better movie. Landscape, desert, horizon, Omar Sharif riding in from the distance, whatever — the POWER of that movie is Peter O’Toole’s EYES, and they’re bigger in 4:3. In fact, I found this promo still, which is actually the way I saw the movie, both 4:3 AND black and white. Wanna tell me this image ain’t cinematic enough for ya?

    Anywayyyyy….since you brought up your own work, Tom, can you tell us a little more about it?

  • Tom Sefton

    November 28, 2016 at 1:40 am

    Soon Tim….Soon.

    Need to get some pesky NDAs out of the way first, but the whole project had 4 different delivery formats : 4096×1080, 3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080 and 1080 x 1920. All content was shot using the same camera, and screens used mostly the same footage – hence your point of cropping and reframing being really great..

    It also used some awesome old anamorphic lenses and we got to film a load of explosions, fires, high pressure water hoses and much more, at night, at 6K. Great fun.

    First, sleep. My 4 week old daughter is taking all my attention!

    Co-owner at Pollen Studio
    http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk

  • Tim Wilson

    November 28, 2016 at 2:53 am

    [Tom Sefton] “the whole project had 4 different delivery formats : 4096×1080, 3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080 and 1080 x 1920. All content was shot using the same camera, and screens used mostly the same footage – hence your point of cropping and reframing being really great..”

    Wow, I was right about something? Somebody write this down! I know I’m going to need to come back to this one day to prove it. LOL

    More important of course, MAZEL TOV! Enjoy your new daughter!

    Still, I’m curious. Was this aspect ratio-stravaganza new to you? Have you previously only done traditionally-oriented video?

  • Tom Sefton

    November 28, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Wow, I was right about something? Somebody write this down! I know I’m going to need to come back to this one day to prove it. LOL

    https://youtu.be/gwfH9oAiPH0

    Co-owner at Pollen Studio
    http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk

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  • Tom Sefton

    November 28, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Also – thanks! Note the time difference between posts and them being 1 and then 540 in the morning….

    For the museum world, portrait and non standard resolutions for delivery are very very common. Anything from large scale projection mapping to the talking portraits that were made famous by Harry Potter – we’ve been doing them all for years. It’s certainly been made a LOT easier by the arrival of large resolution digital cameras…!

    Co-owner at Pollen Studio
    http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk

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