Friends don't let friends take vertical videos
June 5, 2012 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Vertical Video Syndrome : Why do people shoot videos in a vertical orientation? What is wrong with them? What fresh horrors will the rise of vertical video inflict upon our world?
posted by desjardins (95 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Youtube should have an easter egg where it rotates the entire website 90° whenever it detects that you're watching one of those.
posted by theodolite at 3:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm not surprised this is a phenomenon: it reminds me of the bit on Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry comments about "The customer is always right.." where he says "..when actually the customer is usually a moron and an asshole."

Well, many people running around with iPhones and dSLRs are actually horrible photographers/videographers and this is the proof. Why WOULD a huge swath of the general population know enough to turn their phone sideways when shooting a video or taking a photograph? I wouldn't expect them to.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:28 PM on June 5, 2012


"Youtube should have an easter egg where it rotates the entire website 90° whenever it detects that you're watching one of those."

So that the resulting image would be sideways?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2012


Just got called out on this. But in my defense, I would argue that it was a shot of a single hot air balloon suddenly rising off the ground. Purely vertical image.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2012


I do this all the time on my iPhone before I realize what I'm doing and correct myself, which has resulted in some oddly framed videos. I'm not sure why. I guess mostly out of habit of holding the phone vertically?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2012


Ok. I promise to never turn my cell phone the wrong way again.
posted by cairnoflore at 3:31 PM on June 5, 2012


Otters are awesome.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:32 PM on June 5, 2012


I'm going to just sit here and mainline the rest of this channel now.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 3:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are the same people who fasten twist ties counter-clockwise, install the toilet paper with the end under, and say "Legos".
They say they could care less, but I don't think so.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:33 PM on June 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


A couple years ago I was involved in a heated argument about implementing portrait video recording on a smartphone. Others said it was a horrible idea, that we should always force the user to landscape mode, but I said no, maybe they want to record someone dancing in a club or something. Eventually I got my way, but it never occured to me that they would simply record in whatever mode they were accustomed to holding the device in.

Oops. My bad.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:34 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Because it's actually kind of a pain to hold the thing horizontally, I would have thought.
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on June 5, 2012


I don't understand why people are upset at the existence of these videos, and not upset at youtube et al for apparently being unable to cope with a very common model. Do you guys freak out about landscape photos as well?
posted by jacalata at 3:43 PM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Why WOULD a huge swath of the general population know enough to turn their phone sideways when shooting a video or taking a photograph?

Because they have seen how shitty it looks when other people do it? Or is there a huge swath that views those videos and thinks "wow, these are awesome"?
posted by desjardins at 3:52 PM on June 5, 2012


Why WOULD a huge swath of the general population know enough to turn their phone sideways when shooting a video or taking a photograph?

Because there's almost no chance that this is the first time they've ever taken a picture or video with their phone, so they certainly have seen the results and should damned well know better. That's why.

I don't understand why people are upset at the existence of these videos, and not upset at youtube et al for apparently being unable to cope with a very common model.

Because it truncates the image and makes it so that you miss whatever the person was trying to document, since it won't fit in the narrow image.
posted by The World Famous at 3:54 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So everyone is freaked out about portrait (vertical) videos, because they've been watching landscape (horizontal) videos for so long. Those same people don't notice or care when photos are taken in portrait orientation, because they've been looking at pictures in both orientations for so long. The only reason we got used to landscape for video is because televisions use landscape, and so monitors use landscape, and so that's the "norm". However, with current technology blurring the line between still and video cameras, and with playback on fluid-orientation devices (like tablets and phones) becoming more common, this transition away from a single "proper" orientation is inevitable and, frankly, no big deal. Except to people who can't embrace change, of course.
posted by davejay at 3:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


By the way, I consider youtube's treatment of these videos to be buggy, not the orientation itself to be buggy. YouTube should allow users to select an orientation on upload (if it cannot be autodetected) and display it accordingly; anything less is being obstinate.
posted by davejay at 3:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


upset at youtube et al for apparently being unable to cope with a very common model

Not sure what you mean. The video is being shown as shot. Monitors and TVs are not in portrait orientation typically, so portrait-shot videos will never look good. If you're watching the video with the player in fullscreen or close to screen size, which is common (given how common small screens are), there is going to be a lot of wasted space.

Video has standardized on certain aspect ratios (4:3, 16:9) and using a non-standard one is going to create issues for devices meant to display the standard way.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suddenly find myself wondering if people got upset when films with sound started coming out, specifically because so many existing projectors wouldn't play back the sound, and so a lot of the film's nuances (expressed through sound rather than through a title card) would be lost.
posted by davejay at 3:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(given how common small screens are)

Actually, most of those small screens are designed to be used primarily in portrait mode.

So, I ask, what is the bigger scourge.. People who always fullscreen windows on 1600x1200 displays (and bigger), or people who make portrait mode videos?
posted by Chuckles at 3:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So everyone is freaked out about portrait (vertical) videos, because they've been watching landscape (horizontal) videos for so long.

No. They don't like portrait videos because the aspect ratio of their TVs and monitors forces those videos to be made very small and have giant black bars on the sides.

Those same people don't notice or care when photos are taken in portrait orientation, because they've been looking at pictures in both orientations for so long.

If photos are taken in portrait orientation with that widescreen (tallscreen) aspect ratio, you bet we notice and complain. It's ridiculous.

By the way, I consider youtube's treatment of these videos to be buggy, not the orientation itself to be buggy. YouTube should allow users to select an orientation on upload (if it cannot be autodetected) and display it accordingly; anything less is being obstinate.

Dude, it's not going to fit on your monitor's wide screen anyway. It's going to have the bars no matter what. That Youtube doesn't chop the bars off and give you more ads on the sides or something is a feature, not a bug.

this transition away from a single "proper" orientation is inevitable and, frankly, no big deal.

Until TVs and computer monitors are on automatic rotating axes, it's stupid to shoot video in portrait format that will certainly be viewed on a landscape-oriented screen.
posted by The World Famous at 4:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Actually, most of those small screens are designed to be used primarily in portrait mode.

I'm talking about computers. Laptops and netbooks, not devices.

And most people watch video on their phones/tablets in landscape mode, but of course thats mostly because most video is landscape :)
posted by wildcrdj at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2012


Until TVs and computer monitors are on automatic rotating axes, it's stupid to shoot video in portrait format that will certainly be viewed on a landscape-oriented screen.

Exactly, most video is still watched on monitors or TVs, not phones or tablets.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2012


Until TVs and computer monitors are on automatic rotating axes, it's stupid to shoot video in portrait format that will certainly be viewed on a landscape-oriented screen.

I think it is this portion of your argument that is in play, here...not only because of the rise in tablet/phone use (which have no fixed orientation), but also because it is not unusual for people to view YouTube videos in normal (as opposed to full-screen) mode, which is just a little 1:1 pixel ratio cutout in a much larger screen. If you're watching that way, there is no reason whatsoever why YouTube et al cannot display portrait orientation as portrait orientation with the 1:1 pixel ratio, and still have it fully visible on the user's screen.
posted by davejay at 4:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sadly, I suspect that a lot of people are like some relatives of mine who I will not name more specifically than that who were completely unaware that their iPhones were capable of being turned sideways until I showed them.
posted by The World Famous at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2012


People shoot portrait video with their phones/ipads because the videos look just fine when played back on the phone/ipad.

Instead of throwing up black bars, YouTube should resize the video player. On my display, at least, I could rotate the player thing 90 degrees and it would still fit in a maximized browser window.

Of course, if you watch YouTube videos full-screen there's no good way around those black bars. Maybe they should add a stretch mode. People seem to love stretched SD on their TVs, so maybe it would catch on.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:08 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, if you're saying "most people watch video...in landscape mode", therefore all videos should be shot in landscape mode", you're ignoring the strong possibility that the people shooting the video -- ie the ones who care about the video the most -- play back their videos on non-fixed orientation devices (like the ones they captured it on) and so what most people do isn't really relevant to them -- so why expect them to care?
posted by davejay at 4:08 PM on June 5, 2012


sorry about the trailing quote there, the quote ends at "...mode"
posted by davejay at 4:09 PM on June 5, 2012


Oh, one last thing: as much as I shouldn't -- seeing as how I'm a broadcast television guy going back decades -- I have found that shooting video on my iPad and phone of my children, I often start out in landscape out of habit, but occasionally turn to portrait because it allows me to capture things in video that I'd turn it to portrait to capture in stills (like getting them both head-to-toe in costume.)
posted by davejay at 4:11 PM on June 5, 2012


so why expect them to care?

Because then they email us the videos so we can see our cute new nephew or whatever and we open it and have this ridiculous, skinny video where you can see the ceiling tiles and the floor just fine, but the horizontal field of vision is about 8-inches across.
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on June 5, 2012


The support cost is reasonably high (multiple player aspect ratios introduces support overhead, transcoding videos to various aspect ratios introduces additional storage overhead and reduces cache efficiency). So I do think that more direct support might happen sometime, but I'd say this is currently still an edge case.

And of course this only applies to web video sites, you can play back your own video on your own device however you want (well, however your device supports it :) ). But hosting platforms have a lot of tradeoffs to consider.

I do think that the aspect ratio of phones/etc just looks bad in portrait even with the display/video rotated "properly", but thats an aesthetic choice I suppose.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2012


"Sadly, I suspect that a lot of people are like some relatives of mine who I will not name more specifically than that who were completely unaware that their iPhones were capable of being turned sideways until I showed them."

Unless they somehow turned the accelerometer-driven auto-orientation off without intending to, I don't know how anyone could fail to notice, sooner or later, that their iPhone is capable of being sideways. It does it on its own, unless you're careful to avoid it.

"If photos are taken in portrait orientation with that widescreen (tallscreen) aspect ratio, you bet we notice and complain. It's ridiculous."

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Many or most portrait photos are taken in portrait mode, hence the name. Human bodies are more vertical than horizontal and often that leads to a photo that's better tall than wide. Any sort of a landscape is usually better wide, thus its name.

Video/film because of how people move through spaces and how we necessarily watch and film people moving through spaces, is more naturally wide than tall and that's why first motion pictures and then television made the transition to a landscape format, even when the subject is mostly people's faces. A square aspect ratio can work, and did for many years with television, but pretty much never does a tall aspect ratio work for moving images.

But for still photographs of, especially, portraits of people? Sure.

Making fun of turning an SLR sideways (vertical) is weird considering that professional photographers use grips to make this easier to do and operate the camera.

Finally, if what you meant was producing a photograph that is a portrait aspect ratio framed in a landscape frame with black bars, such as with YouTube videos and similar, I don't even know how that could ever happen without forcing it in software somehow. It's not at all like video where fitting varying sized images to a set aspect ratio and resolution has been a long-standing problem and often results in one mismatch or another.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do people shoot videos in a vertical orientation?

Wouldn't the more compelling question be: With shooting, editing, and exhibiting videos being easier than ever before, why the hell is landscape orientation (and rectangle-shaped, and one frame instead of multiple, for that matter) still the default? Oh, right, because the picture on the tee-vee is in rectangular landscape.

Seriously, I understand that people shoot portrait when compositional concerns might call for landscape, but I'd guess that it's the other way around just as often. It just seems weird and not terribly good use of amazing technology to condemn something like this. Kind of like getting an iPad and saying, "But there's no floppy drive!"
posted by Rykey at 4:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"...but I'd guess that it's the other way around just as often."

I really don't think that's true for moving images in general, though, for the reasons I mentioned in my previous comment.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2012


I'm not sure what you're saying here.

I think the point was most portrait photos are 4:3, not 16:9 or 16:10. Skinny tall portraits look weird.

Really, the adoption of 16:10/16:9 display formats for phones and such makes this issue harder, as rotating 4:3 images looks much better.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a good point.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:24 PM on June 5, 2012


Here's the thing it looks fine on the screen as you're filming. And on top of that, it looks fine when you play back the video too, or else you can just twist the phone so it shows you how want it to show.

So as long as you're just filming and viewing on the device itself, it's completely fine.

Actually, my digital camera has a acceleration sensor (or whatever) and automatically flips to portrait mode if you hold the camera sideways and take a picture. But it doesn't do anything if you're recording video.

It would be easy to set a bit to indicate that a video is in portrait mode, and then adjust accordingly.
I don't understand why people are upset at the existence of these videos, and not upset at youtube et al for apparently being unable to cope with a very common model. Do you guys freak out about landscape photos as well?
Yeah, that's a good point. Watching a 9:16 video full screen wouldn't be that bad, and youtube doesn't show video filling the screen anyway. It would be easy to simply frame a 9:16 video with the content that normally goes below it beside it.

Instead, they show a 16:9 video frame, and then have huge black bars on the side. It's kind of ridiculous.
Because there's almost no chance that this is the first time they've ever taken a picture or video with their phone, so they certainly have seen the results and should damned well know better. That's why.


Yeah, but it looks fine on the camera and when they play it back, it still looks fine because they just rotate the phone so the orientation is correct

So they would only "see the results" if they actually upload it to their computer and watch it there. Which they probably don't.
Not sure what you mean. The video is being shown as shot. Monitors and TVs are not in portrait orientation typically, so portrait-shot videos will never look good. If you're watching the video with the player in fullscreen or close to screen size, which is common (given how common small screens are), there is going to be a lot of wasted space.
Not if you're viewing on a phone or tablet, you just rotate the device. If you're viewing on a large monitor you have plenty of space. A 9:16 video on my current desktop monitor would be larger then the same video on an iPad turned sideways.
Dude, it's not going to fit on your monitor's wide screen anyway. It's going to have the bars no matter what. That Youtube doesn't chop the bars off and give you more ads on the sides or something is a feature, not a bug.
I don't usually watch you tube videos full screen. I usually watch them in the default size. So if they're adding black bars to that it's completely ridiculous. They should have a 'tall embed' option that fills the vertical space of the window, rather then having a small embed frame and then only using half of that space.
Exactly, most video is still watched on monitors or TVs, not phones or tablets.
Right, but how often is it actually full-screen? Like I said, for me at least it's usually just in a small embed window anyway, which could easily be made taller for 'tallscreen' videos.
posted by delmoi at 4:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


As he is with many things in life, Brian Eno was onto vertical TV long before most other people, and he did it very well. (fuzzily, vertically and slightly NSFW)
posted by bunglin jones at 4:27 PM on June 5, 2012


"Because then they email us the videos so we can see our cute new nephew or whatever and we open it and have this ridiculous, skinny video where you can see the ceiling tiles and the floor just fine, but the horizontal field of vision is about 8-inches across."

That's hilarious
posted by Highest_Of_Fives at 4:27 PM on June 5, 2012


um, on reflection, my above link is actually NSFW
posted by bunglin jones at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2012


I pity all you people who apparently don't have monitors that easily rotate.
posted by straight at 4:30 PM on June 5, 2012


Right, but how often is it actually full-screen? Like I said, for me at least it's usually just in a small embed window anyway, which could easily be made taller for 'tallscreen' videos.

BTW -- with embedded videos you can do this already.

Example embed code:

<iframe width="480" height="720" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TmgtiwzkZjc?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen >

That shows a portrait rotated embed with no black bars/etc.

It's just the YouTube watch page that doesn't have this, which I think is more of a design/support issue there.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2012


(and my comments about transcoding/storage should be ignored, my brain checked out on me there. This is purely a UI/player issue)
posted by wildcrdj at 4:32 PM on June 5, 2012


I really don't think that's true for moving images in general, though, for the reasons I mentioned in my previous comment.

Whereas I'd argue that we're conditioned to think it's not true because of the way moving images have historically been presented (and the technological and economic factors underlying and perpetuating that presentation), not for some objective aesthetic reason. As others have pointed out, single dancing figures and hot air balloons ascending are pretty good candidates for vertical framing, especially if you're exploiting the "boundary" or "space" created by the black frame for an aesthetic purpose (to show them confined, make the whole scene look narrow, etc.) Not to say most YouTubers are that artistic in their intent... just saying it seems odd to dismiss it out of hand, when today's technology would seem to foster, not restrain, moving away from the landscape paradigm.
posted by Rykey at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I shoot a lot of stuff in portrait mode. There is more work invoked in constructing the scene but it is worth it. When you want a really tight shot on the face portrait mode rocks. Consider all the great works of art that were constructed in that vertical frame.
posted by humanfont at 4:38 PM on June 5, 2012


I do this sometimes, and its always an accident. I spend 95% of the time holding my phone in a vertical orientation, and sometimes I just forget to change it when I start to shoot video. After all, taking photos in portrait mode is totally fine, so I have no strong habit to always switch to landscape mode. I actually wish that the camera app would give me a warning when I go into video mode, if I'm holding it vertically.
posted by Joh at 4:40 PM on June 5, 2012


"So as long as you're just filming and viewing on the device itself, it's completely fine."

Not really, because of what Highest_Of_Fives quoted (and which I mentioned already):

"Because then they email us the videos so we can see our cute new nephew or whatever and we open it and have this ridiculous, skinny video where you can see the ceiling tiles and the floor just fine, but the horizontal field of vision is about 8-inches across."

Moving images of most scenes just don't usually look right when vertical for the same reason as that most rooms are much wider than they are tall. Most motion occurs horizontally, most spatial relationships among people are horizontal and not vertical (though there are exciting exceptions to that rule).

I'm surprised that the iPhone and other video-capable smarphones and other decides, especially with accelerometers, don't set an orientation flag as a matter of course. That's dumb. Or perhaps they do, and many things ignore it, as is often still the case with digital still images.

The "wrongness" that you're concerned with &madsh; the black bars — is certainly very objectionable. But it's not the full extent of why it's generally bad to make such vertical videos and, it's the one that can be technologically eliminated. The inherent mismatch of most scenes in moving images and verticality is inherent.

"Whereas I'd argue that we're conditioned to think it's not true because of the way moving images have historically been presented (and the technological and economic factors underlying and perpetuating that presentation), not for some objective aesthetic reason. As others have pointed out, single dancing figures and hot air balloons ascending are pretty good candidates for vertical framing, especially if you're exploiting the "boundary" or 'space'"

I didn't say it was always true, just true for most motion images involving people interaction and spaces they typically move within.

It's not conditioning and historical accident because aspect ratios have changed quite a bit through the years and neither film nor television was always in a wide aspect ratio. You mentioned television which I thought was odd because 4:3 is much closer to being square than is 16:9 and I'd bet that most people would tell you, when asked and unable to consult an actual screen, that an older, non-widescreen 4:3 television image is square, not wide.

There's a whole history and a sort of combined science and aesthetics of aspect ration in the motion picture industry that is excruciatingly relevant here. We use the aspect ratios we use for most good reasons relating to aesthetics and not arbitrary, contingent things like path dependency or economics, though those things play a big role in all the edge cases.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:40 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich:but pretty much never does a tall aspect ratio work for moving images.

Exception: Shmups.

weapons-grade pandemonium : and say "Legos".

I will cut you.
posted by Godwin Interjection at 4:45 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will cut you.

With Legos.
posted by The World Famous at 4:50 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We use the aspect ratios we use for most good reasons relating to aesthetics and not arbitrary, contingent things like path dependency or economics, though those things play a big role in all the edge cases.

You don't agree that it's much cheaper and easier to make frames of whatever shape and size you want today than pre-video? And that lots of aesthetic developments in film didn't correspond to technological and economic changes? And that what seems to "work" didn't kind of calibrate with those developments?

Really, I don't mean to seem argumentative. You make good points, I'm just having fun with the discussion. Stuff is fascinating.
posted by Rykey at 4:53 PM on June 5, 2012


It's because those videos are taken with an inexpensive digital camera, and taking pictures in "vertical" orientation is often the best way to frame your shot - if not, the easier way to do so. Your camera actually rotates the LCD when you're shooting pictures, so I suggest that it's a UI problem. People who operate a handheld video camera generally aren't shooting it with a point-and-shoot, which is very easy to turn or hold vertically, and in many cases, just simpler to do.
posted by Chuffy at 4:56 PM on June 5, 2012


Most motion occurs horizontally, most spatial relationships among people are horizontal and not vertical

The human field of view is oriented horizontally, for that matter. I suspect that movies are formatted the way they are because they approximate the aspect ratio of human vision: if you're trying to create an immersive experience, you'd probably want to match your images to the sensory capabilities of your audience.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Consider all the great works of art that were constructed in that vertical frame.

Other than the individual frames of Byzantine triptychs, I'm having a hard time thinking of any well-known "great works of art" that are constructed in the very tall, skinny vertical frame of an iPhone video.
posted by The World Famous at 5:02 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the grumping and even some of the interesting visual-orientation arguments are moot as soon as someone makes a portrait video that is incredible and inspiring and also happens to make use of that particular orientation in a way that landscape video w/couldn't.

The relevant argument is against crappy videography, which is rampant.
posted by carsonb at 5:04 PM on June 5, 2012


rampant... in any orientation. Anyway, funny video.
posted by carsonb at 5:07 PM on June 5, 2012


When I've been to Fashion week, all the monitors are rotated 90 degrees, as well as the cameras. Looked great with six foot tall models.
posted by Marky at 5:08 PM on June 5, 2012


The vertical videos mostly bother me when I try to watch them on my phone and due to some quirk of the video and/or YouTube, the video appears sideways in the frame, so I have 1/3 of the screen black, 1/3 of the screen sideways-oriented video, and 1/3 of the screen black, and when I rotate my phone, it autorotates to STAY FUCKING SIDEWAYS AND TINY.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:09 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought it was the Flip camera's fault.
posted by gjc at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2012


I don't get the outrage here. Portrait-mode video isn't the first thing to introduce ungainly black bars. For example, if you're watching widescreen films (2.39:1) on a traditional computer display (4:3), then 45% of your display area is taken up by black bars.
posted by Hither at 5:26 PM on June 5, 2012


Hipster rage is so cute.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:41 PM on June 5, 2012


I don't get the outrage here. Portrait-mode video isn't the first thing to introduce ungainly black bars.

Yes, the existence of one annoying thing certainly makes it unreasonable to be annoyed by other, similar annoying things.
posted by The World Famous at 5:46 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


They say they could care less, but I don't think so.

That was deliberate, wasn't it?
posted by sourwookie at 5:47 PM on June 5, 2012


I like hearing all these opinions; it's very important we get the color of this bikeshed correct.
posted by edheil at 6:13 PM on June 5, 2012


Why don't people compromise and film everything at a 45° angle? Films like Battlefield Earth demonstrate how this technique can be artistically successful.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Apparently the Tate Modern thinks portrait orientation for film is good enough for the Turbine Hall. Tacita Dean's work, "FILM" was shown there until March 2012.
posted by michswiss at 6:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe cellphone cameras should just take a completely square image.
posted by hellphish at 6:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everybody knows you gotta hold the phone "gangsta style".
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:39 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought it was the Flip camera's fault.

Nope, it's orientated the other way. You could argue that cellphones should be too, but if you have a nice big display area on the back it seems a waste not to use it.
posted by Artw at 6:58 PM on June 5, 2012


I just asked a question about this on reddit...it's far more comfy to hold the phone vertically. I was looking for an app that would allow me to take landscape photo and video while holding my iphone vertically, but apparently the physical sensor is locked in place. There are a few apps out there that will flip your video to horizontal, but it crops the sides to a square.

Next year sometime, when my contract with my iphone has expired, I'm probably going to look for an Android phone that can lock a horizontal shot while holding it vertically. the iPhone can't, a pretty glaring omission on Apple's part.
posted by zardoz at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2012


Huh. I was really excited when I started seeing the vertical videos appearing. There are just some things that look better that way--like juggling! I guess I've only seen them on FB where they actually show up vertically.
posted by looli at 7:22 PM on June 5, 2012


This thread reminds me I have a funny video on my phone that I took when my girlfriend and I went to the beach recently. I had been filming her walking along the surf with a nice properly framed widescreen shot for a while when she asked me to let her film me for a bit. So I handed over my phone, and she flipped it vertical and continued filming me. Still widescreen of course, but the accelerometer on my phone locked the aspect ratio in horizontal mode when I pressed record, so the rest of the video is turned 90 degrees.
posted by emelenjr at 7:28 PM on June 5, 2012


I know vertical videos were sort of the subject of the post, but I just want to say thank you for Glove and Boots. YEAH!!!
posted by nosila at 7:45 PM on June 5, 2012


orientated

legos
posted by mendel at 7:46 PM on June 5, 2012


Shut it, yank.
posted by Artw at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2012


Actually I thought the otter video was better vertical, since it cut out the rows of people pressed up against the glass who would have been an annoying distraction.

Anyhow I'm biased. My wife caught our kid's first steps on video, vertical, and I'm no longer able to muster any sincere disdain for the practice.

As to the "peoples' eyes are horizontal" thing, so how come windows are usually taller than they are wide? Not snarky just curious.
posted by maniabug at 7:53 PM on June 5, 2012


I noticed recently that Facebook rotates these things 90 degrees before embedding in their feed.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2012


how come windows are usually taller than they are wide

This is actually an interesting question. My first thought is that maybe it was to compromise the structural integrity of the building as little as possible.

But our eyes do definitely have a field of vision that's more wide than tall - I can barely discern something that's straight to the left of me when looking right forward, but I can't look very far up.
posted by ymgve at 8:12 PM on June 5, 2012


"Mummy, why do old people still think the PC is the center of personal media?"

"Try not to stare, dear."
posted by NortonDC at 8:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm a little surprised at folk's reactions, not to badly composed vertical video, but to the general principle of letter-boxing. Mefites always struck me as the kind of folks who would prefer to watch a letter-boxed movie on a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, and to make fun of the people who complained about the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.

I mean, of course, a "you can see the ceiling and the floor tiles, but not the arms of the person being filmed" badly-composed video is bad, and we can all agree on that. But disliking even a well-composed and well-framed portrait video because it has black bars? That just seemed, until this thread, to be the exact inverse of what a Mefite would think.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, the existence of one annoying thing certainly makes it unreasonable to be annoyed by other, similar annoying things.

Yes, its annoying when directors and other content producers make artistic decisions that go against your subjective preferences. But thats just how artistic works are. You can certainly try to override or suppress these decisions, for example by watching a pan-and-scan version of a film, or turning the color saturation control on your display to zero, but to me that kind of defeats the point of investing yourself in an artistic product.

If you just want something to rant about, choose something like the low bitrate video is often distributed at, or the corruptness of the MPAA ratings system.
posted by Hither at 10:34 PM on June 5, 2012


No. They don't like portrait videos because the aspect ratio of their TVs and monitors forces those videos to be made very small and have giant black bars on the sides.

People hated watching movies full frame for the same reason. They were wrong then too :-)
Ok ok, it's fine to prefer pan-and-scan (bleugh) to widescreen, personal preference and all that, but it's not the feature film that is at fault just because it's unwatchable on a shitty TV.

If someone shoots portrait thinking they're framing in landscape, criticize away...
posted by -harlequin- at 11:08 PM on June 5, 2012


Next year sometime, when my contract with my iphone has expired, I'm probably going to look for an Android phone that can lock a horizontal shot while holding it vertically. the iPhone can't, a pretty glaring omission on Apple's part.

It's not an iPhone/Android thing, it's an image sensor thing. The sensor shape is (more or less) based on film size, which is horizontal. If a camera existed that could shoot horizontal while vertical, it would be wasting part of the sensor area one way or the other.

...And no manufacturer is going to do that in a world where people go nuts over the slightest increase of megapixels.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyhow I'm biased. My wife caught our kid's first steps on video, vertical, and I'm no longer able to muster any sincere disdain for the practice.

A human stands vertical and walks for the first time. There are all sorts of great reasons to film that in portrait.

Then as the child's gaze - now towering above the ground - sweeps across the land, surveying from this high vantage all the new territory and mischief to be explored, far and wide... ok that shot is probably better in landscape :-)

Mefi 2020: "Can you kids STOP with all this switching back and forth between portrait and landscape mid-video! And you there shooting in a disc - quit being a wise-ass!" :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:16 PM on June 5, 2012


16x9 does not look good vertical. But 4x3 would be fine. After all, people do stand vertically.
posted by DarkForest at 5:33 AM on June 6, 2012


This is only a problem because of all the twits insisting everything be 16:9. I like high-resolution monitors for coding. I had a 1600x1200 monitor on my desk, and my laptop is 1400x1050.

Then everyone decided that everything should be a TV. This had 2 consequences. First, the high bar is now set at 1080 scan lines. Good luck finding anything higher than that at a reasonable price. Second, everyone insists everything be "widescreen" (read: shortscreen). So because of the aforementioned bar-setting, they just chop pixels off the top to make it "wider".

If I have to deal with scrounging and paying more, or dealing with a short short workspace, you can deal with the consequences when people take their phones (which of course have to record in "widescreen" "HD" by default) decide to simply rotate them. Not so fun now, is it?
posted by vsync at 5:36 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surely youtube could detect vertical videos. How about if they served a different page layout with a vertical video box for those videos?
posted by DarkForest at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Mummy, why do old people still think the PC is the center of personal media?"

"Try not to stare, dear."


Goddammit, its only been 5 years.
posted by DarkForest at 5:54 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that the iPhone and other video-capable smarphones and other decides, especially with accelerometers, don't set an orientation flag as a matter of course. That's dumb. Or perhaps they do, and many things ignore it, as is often still the case with digital still images.

They do—when the orientation flag is ignored or set incorrectly, the video comes out sideways, not pillarboxed. And as others have said, any pillarboxing on YouTube is purely an implementation detail. There's nothing inherently preventing a portrait video from being displayed on the page without black bars.
posted by designbot at 7:54 AM on June 6, 2012


I think what's getting glossed over in this discussion is the fact that, in general, the type of videos people are shooting on an iPhone and traditional cinema are not even close to the same thing. Wider-than-tall rectangular aspect ratios, e.g. 16:9 or even 2.76:1, work well for immersive storytelling because it better fills up the human visual field than a square or portrait aspect ratio. (Especially if you're watching the results in a movie theater, which is where widescreen formats were originally developed.)

But really, it's a very small minority of people who are doing that sort of immersive, cinematic storytelling with their iPhones. The stuff that most people are recording with their cellphones might generously be called 'documentary' in nature, and I'd be willing to bet that most of it consists, in general, of watching a person do something.

And for that, a portrait aspect ratio actually makes a lot of sense. Just like with a still camera, having a taller-than-wide area lets you fill more of it with the subject, and waste fewer pixels on background. It's unsurprising that people would choose to do this, even if the design of cellphones didn't actively encourage it via control placement.

Cellphone videos (and home movies in general) are not Ben Hur. There's no reason why someone taking a video of their kids ought to be locked into the same visual conventions as professional cinema, if they don't work well in that particular use case.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:29 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm about 65% persuaded by your argument, but I also think that in a lot of cases we don't need and don't really like a lot of the vertical information when you photograph/film/video a person. Most of the time, we don't really care what goes on below chest height. That's why even portrait photos aren't really tall/skinny. So there's a limit on the "people are mostly vertical argument".

And while I feel pretty certain that with regard to non-amateur moving pictures the impetus for widescreen has everything to do with how people interact and the spaces the interact within (and the outdoors landscape), I do think that the shape of the human visual field also comes into play to some (smaller) degree. Personally, tall/skinny video makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. It doesn't matter to me whether it's a professional or amateur video. The relative lack of a horizontal field of view feels very cramped to me.

At any rate, I personally never argued that vertical video was always "bad" and I certainly agree that there are aesthetic reasons to use that aspect ratio. I think they're relatively rare, but I do agree they exist. And a good artist should fully use all the tools he/she has available, of course. I agree that artists shouldn't be constrained by convention in this regard.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:07 AM on June 6, 2012


Maybe cellphone cameras should just take a completely square image.

The Lytro camera takes square images. It's a still camera, not video, but it's really sort of neat - it reminds me of shooting with my grandfather's old Rollei. There is something vaguely freeing about having fewer creative choices.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:36 AM on June 6, 2012


But really, it's a very small minority of people who are doing that sort of immersive, cinematic storytelling with their iPhones. The stuff that most people are recording with their cellphones might generously be called 'documentary' in nature, and I'd be willing to bet that most of it consists, in general, of watching a person do something.


True enough. Which makes the outrage about it all the more puzzling.
posted by Rykey at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


True enough. Which makes the outrage about it all the more puzzling.

Why wouldn't you want to watch that sort of thing with a bigger picture, rather than having it shrunken to fit the short vertical space of a monitor?
posted by The World Famous at 10:41 AM on June 7, 2012


I guess I would. I guess I just wouldn't let it bother me too much.
posted by Rykey at 12:34 PM on June 7, 2012


Here on the internet, we sometimes complain about things more than we really care about them.
posted by The World Famous at 12:36 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What makes the arguments against portrait-mode video surprising to me is that they hardly apply to low-res video, and isn't that what we're talking here? I know I don't bother shooting more than 720x480 on my phone. For low-res portrait video like that, I'm sure your screen has enough pixels vertically to show the whole video. What more do you want?

The only interesting case I see is if for some reason you want to put this video on your small TV, and then watch it from far across the room, so portrait orientation just doesn't look big enough. Are you really doing that?

The case against portrait orientation for still photography is much stronger! The image has so much more resolution, that squashing a portrait image into full-screen height on a widescreen laptop really is painful, in the loss of what the photographer was doing. A landscape image at full-screen width is significantly less painful.
posted by away for regrooving at 10:34 PM on June 7, 2012


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