At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: video production

We’re Living in a Vertical Video World

If you’ve been fighting back against the vertical video revolution, it’s time to jump into the pool. The water’s warm. Here’s how I found peace with this disruption.

I recently had an epiphany about the growing trend of vertical video disrupting the fundamentals of video production. My mini “ah ha” happened during a Zoom interview recording at work, when one person’s Zoom feed was accidentally locked in a vertical position. More on that story in a moment…

But regarding the general battle between horizontal and vertical video… It’s already over.

The smartphone has effectively killed horizontal video. We’re just living through the transition. Yes, it’s going to take some years, but it’s time to acknowledge the truth.

And that’s been really hard for me to do.

The First Time
Ten years ago, I was producing a corporate video shoot inside a multimedia brand center. My business client walked up to me ten minutes before the interview was scheduled to begin and asked if we could shoot the video vertically. She thought the background of our video shot would look more compelling if seen vertically.

I looked closely for any sign that this wasn’t actually a serious suggestion. The moment felt like those western movies right before the gunslingers do their shoot out. I squinted my eyes, tapped into my inner Clint Eastwood and waited for what felt like minutes before I responded.



It was a serious request.

Vertical Alignment is Coming
So, I explained that we couldn’t reset the shot in time, as our interviewee had already arrived. And I dodged the bullet.

But I remember feeling unsettled that the horizontal foundation of all video was so casually being challenged.

That was a decade ago. A lot has changed. The truth is my client was just slightly ahead of her time.

I have not forgotten this story, and it has been a reminder to me that creative winds and video boundaries are constantly evolving. That’s life. Everything changes.

Vertical TV Sets in your Home?
Today, vertical video is everywhere, primarily fueled by the social media apps on our smartphones. Vertical is natural. Vertical is comfortable in your hand. Vertical is accessible in every way, except on standard horizontal TV monitors.

But if you look around, there are plenty of vertical video monitors in public spaces.

It’s just a matter of time, until they show up in your home…

No More Rules
I know I’m fighting a losing battle whenever I try to correct someone who’s shooting a smartphone video vertically. Sure, I still work in a horizontal medium, though (here it comes) not exclusively.

Yes, today I am creating vertical video too. (There, I’ve come out and said it.)

And the transition to vertical video is only accelerating.

The iPhone has a Vertical Lock
So, back to my more recent story directing the remote interview via the Zoom feed. The interviewee was using her iPhone, which was fine. (The image quality was actually superior to the other three webcam Zoom shots in the conversation.) But for some unknown reason, the phone’s camera was locked in the vertical orientation. I asked her to turn her iPhone ninety degrees and then immediately back again. No dice.

I was stumped. I turned to the other crew members in our TV control room and asked for suggestions.

“Turn off the vertical lock!”

What? The iPhone has a vertical lock? (I had forgotten.)

I pulled out my iPhone and was quickly reschooled on this iOS feature.

That was indeed the solution for our remote interviewee, and her Zoom interview proceeded on horizontally.

Tap the Portrait Orientation Lock
After the interview, I looked again at my iPhone. I swiped down from the top right corner to access my Control Center screen.

It’s the “Portrait Orientation Lock” button. (The icon is a little lock surrounded by a circular arrow.)

If it’s activated, your iPhone screen and apps won’t rotate horizontally when you hold your iPhone horizontally.

Your phone’s screen is then effectively locked into a vertical orientation.


You might wonder why that feature is even there. Clearly, there’s a need to prevent horizontal anything!

And after doing some research, I am reminded that this frustrating feature is not that new. Apple has been satisfying the vertical preference for quite some time. In fact, I first discovered this way back in 2018.

A Vertical Matrix?
Yes, you and I are clearly living a vertical video world, though admittedly with any number of horizontal holdouts.

This feels a bit like my own Matrix story. You’re welcome to join if you feel similarly inclined. (There are plenty of pods to house all of us.)

But guess what? I wouldn’t place all bets on vertical video. Oh no. The truth is video can no longer be restricted to any dimension. It’s not horizontal, and it’s not vertical. Sometimes, it’s square (of course).

Maybe video will evolve into the circular. Perhaps oblong? Who knows… Trapezoidal?

The days of vertical video as the mainstream will surely be numbered.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Learn to Love Vertical Video
For now, I’m simply happy to say that I’ve successfully discarded my horizontal bias. I have made my peace with vertical video.

I am comfortable working on digital canvases that orient both vertically and horizontally.

Barrett has evolved.

Bending Reality in the Name of Authentic Video Storytelling

I’ve been on a year-long journey at work to replace the use of stock video b-roll with more authentic imagery of people in our video storytelling projects. And my team has been experimenting with a ‘radical’ idea that’s entirely counterintuitive.

But I’ve found it has its place as a strategy to consider and does a lot more that simply bend reality…

If you wouldn’t mind making the extra click, please read my story
here in this LinkedIn article I’ve published.


How to Record Better Field Audio When Shooting iPhone Videos

I admit it… I’ve created the Frankenstein iPhone. Why? I simply wanted to enhance its 4K video recording capability with cleaner audio in the field. Here’s how I did it…

Look, I know my iPhone XS Max isn’t a ‘real’ video camera (although it is). And you wouldn’t think it’s supposed to carry the weight of capturing conversation in the not-so-quiet outdoors. But why not?

With the right lighting conditions, an iPhone XS Max can capture beautiful 4K video. And its multiple onboard microphones do an effective job in many situations. Its only real limitation with field audio is handling windy conditions. And that’s the case with any video camera that doesn’t have an attached directional microphone with a windscreen.

So, why wouldn’t the solution be to simply attach a directional mic and windscreen to my iPhone?

And that’s exactly what I set out to do…

The Price for Better Audio in the Field
Audio production is an expensive business, and you can easily spend more on field audio equipment than the price of an iPhone.

So I gave myself a budget of $100 to see what was possible…

My final ‘creation’ was both hideous and glorious. I’ve truly created a Frankenstein iPhone. I probably should feel ashamed, but I don’t.
Consider yourself warned…

Rode VideoMicro
I zeroed in on the Rode VideoMicro compact on-camera microphone. Rode is well regarded in the audio industry, and this inexpensive cardioid condenser microphone that’s marketed to the DSLR market was a prime candidate for my little project.

Cold-Shoe Clamp
But of course, an iPhone isn’t a DSLR with a cold-shoe mount to easily attach a microphone. So you’ve got to somehow anchor a cold shoe mount to the iPhone…
The Shape Smartphone Aluminum Clamp is one solution.

Lightning Dongle
The VideoMicro uses a 3.5mm plug, which won’t plug directly into an iPhone’s Lightning port. So, the next step is to use an Apple Lightning to 3/5mm Headphone Jack Adapter.

TRS to TRRS Cable
And before you can use the VideoMicro with a smartphone, you also need the TRS to TRRS cable (Rode SC7 Cable). That’s instead of the TRS patch cable that comes in the box… which will not work with the iPhone.

Included Accessories
Perhaps most importantly, the VideoMicro comes with a furry windshield (sometimes called a “dead cat”) to handle the outdoors. It also has a nice little shock mount to suspend it in the cold shoe.

Final Price Tag
Altogether, my Frankenstein plan totaled $104.54. There’s nothing simple or elegant about it, but the Rode should immediately come to life when paired with an iPhone…


Rode Video Mic Me-L is the Runner-Up
I chose the VideoMicro over Rode’s Video Mic Me-L, which plugs directly into the lightning port of a smartphone. Yes, Rode’s design engineers have actually created the exact product I needed, but I didn’t bite…

The deal breaker was the snug fit required by the Video Mic Me-L that most iPhone cases would prevent. I just couldn’t handle the prospect of having to take my iPhone XS Max out of its cozy Pelican case every time to pop on a microphone.

And even though my VideoMicro is a more cumbersome (and expensive) solution with all of its necessary ‘adapters,’ the fact that it lets me keep my iPhone in its case is the more important feature.

Test Results

First off, my Rode VideoMicro works just fine with my iPhone XS Max. I saw some online chatter that it’s incompatible…

I also read an online comment that there’s a slight audio delay when using the Rode VideoMicro and an iPhone…

Many people may not notice the two-frame lag, but if you’re a video editor, it’s pretty obvious.
(I’m not surprised with all the necessary cable Macgyvering.)

But it’s not a deal breaker, as long as you intend to edit your video footage. All you have to do is separate (unlock) the audio track from the video and then slip the audio track forward a couple frames.

It’s a straightforward step when using standard editing software like Final Cut Pro X, though an admittedly unnecessary step if there wasn’t an audio lag to begin with.

The VideoMicro provides clean, crisp sound… though it is a bit thin compared to what the iPhone’s onboard microphones capture in otherwise perfect conditions. So, you might also want to add in a little bass while you’re working with it in your editing software.

Perfection Not Required?
At this point, you should be wondering why anyone would want to use this Rode and go through all of these extra steps.

Well, don’t forget why I Frankensteined my iPhone in the first place… It’s to capture more directional audio that’s not as affected by the windy outdoors.

And it does successfully deliver on that value proposition at a decent price point.

I also must admit that using my iPhone XS Max with the VideoMicro is a still completely imperfect audio upgrade solution, because it doesn’t provide one additional key feature…

You can’t monitor the audio as you’re recording it!
(Don’t forget that the iPhone’s lightning port is already occupied as the microphone input.)

So, if you want to be sure you’ve captured good sound, you need to review your video clips in the moment. And depending on how much time you have, that can be a real drag…

And let’s face it, as much as the VideoMicro can give you better field audio, it’s never going to do the same job of a more expensive shotgun microphone or a lavalier microphone.


Better iPhone Audio in the Field for $100
When the need presents itself, using the Rode VideoMicro is a clear step in the right direction.
(And if nothing else, the monster you’ve created that was once a sleek iPhone is sure to be a head turner.)

Recording audio has always been the forgotten cousin of video production… and often the Achilles’ heel of any video shoot.

If you’re serious about putting your smartphone to use recording people talking outdoors, you’ll eventually want to invest in some additional audio muscle, especially if you’re shooting in the field with noisy air flow.

For a hundred bucks, Rode’s VideoMicro along with a team of cables and small clamp is a solution that will help get the job done!

%d bloggers like this: