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.