David Neal & Miriam Ross
Buena Vista, Colorado
February 7, 2016
Copyright © 2016 Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC
Stills from (clockwise from top left): "Impact" (Bluearth Production), "Manhattan on Electric Skateboard" (Sam Sheffer, Mashable), "Zehn Jahre" (Dagobert), and "Venice Electric Light Parade" (Matt Danzico, BBC).
This is our third year of following the trends in vertically framed moving imagery. The first two can be found here (March 2014) and here (February 2015). This year has been the busiest yet for Vertical Video. Prompted primarily by the Snapchat app, which has a native vertical format, a number of news and advertising producers were prodded and/or forced into accepting and using the vertical format. While a few "artistic" producers also experimented with vertical framing (especially in fashion filming and music video), the bulk of vertical "footage" continues to be produced by amatuers. This is encouraged by Snapchat in particular, through their "Live Story" concept, where footage from users is mixed together with Snapchat's own camera work to produce a story around a physical location (New York, London, Paris, etc.) and/or an event (Coachella, Burning Man, etc.) These concepts and others are discussed in more detail below.
Mary Meeker in her 20th annual Internet Trends report pointed out the dramatic expansion of vertically oriented viewing on mobile devices, from 5% of use in 2010 to 29% in 2015.
In January 2015, Snapchat introduced the "Discover news magazine" featuring vertically framed imagery designed for mobile devices, with 12 content providers including CNN, Yahoo News, and National Geographic. In Fusion Kevin Roose discusses vertical video in Snapchat Discover:
Matt McFarland in the Washington Post discusses use of vertical video in the Snapchat and Mindie smartphone apps.
Zena Barakat, former NY Times video producer, as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford noticed the vertical agenda. She also produced her video for the "JSK Festival of News Innovation" program in vertical. Here is her first vertical video story.
Jeremy Littau included livestreaming in vertical (required by periscope app, see below) in his journalism ciriculum at Lehigh University. Also Bethany Swain of the Journalism Department at the University of Maryland assigned a Snapchat based vertical video project to her students.
Here is a podcast from April, where several of the above journalists and others discuss vertical framing. Hosted by Catalina Albeanu of Journalism.co.uk.
In August Mashable.com produced their first vertical video story about the creator of the Cronut. This is notable for including a web rather than mobile-app only distribution.
Here is a short piece by Matt Danzico of the BBC called the Venice Electric Light Parade, produced in November.
Gino Canella, a PhD candidate in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado, produced the first of a potential series of videos about the use of Vertical Video by news professionals in October 2015.
From the New York Times in December comes this article on sound in architecture, featuring twelve 20 second vertical videos (3:4 0.75 aspect ratio) with simulated 3D (headphones) sound. Video by Jon Kasbe, audio by Evan Grothjan. Additional production by Yuliya Parshina-Kottas and Ben Laffin.
Snapchat Live Stories are compilations of curated and edited snaps produced from user submissions by Snapchat editors. These are focused around places and/or events (LA, NYC, Cochella, Women's World Cup, Bastille Day, etc.) It is the most popular of the Snapchat attempts at transcending its original messaging app. Individuals and brands can produce their own stories as well.
One early brand based "story" was called "SnapperHeros" sponsored by AT&T, produced by Billy Parks, with partners including Corridor Digital and Fullscreen. It featured a group of prominant Vine, YouTube and Snapchat users in a 12 episode storyline. The production made use of low-tech equipment such as iPhones and has a "homemade" feel, enhanced by some cinematic special effects. There are several "behind the scenes" (horizontal) videos as well, produced by Corridor Digital.
As discussed in the above section on News, Snapchat Discover was introduced in January 2015. It is a vertically oriented content format, designed for use on mobile devices. In the beginning, many of the content providers used mostly horizontal video segments. However, over time many migrated to vertical cuts of horizontal shots and finally to native vertical framing. The Comedy Central channel, with its focus on short cuts from standup routines, has been particularly effective in the transition to vertical frames, probably due to the nature of their material (a lone comedian standing on a stage.) Tastemade, a food channel that was a later addition to Discover, created a special vertically oriented studio to produce footage for Discover, as reported in USA Today by Jefferson Graham.
Advertisers in Snapchat Discover are encouraged by Snapchat to produce video vertically.
In December, Sydney M. Wolff posted this summary of vertical video usage by Snapchat Discover publishers on the Wibbitz site blog.
The Mashable Channel was added to Snapchat in August 2015. Much of its video is repurposed (reframed) from its website. However, there is some vertical animation that is unique to the channel. In November Joel Plosz and Justin Cassano, two of the animators at Mashable, posted some of their work to Vimeo. Plosz's work is here and Cassano's here. The animation is simple 2D with very basic imagery and minimalist backgrounds. However, it is effective and matches the overall unpolished look of Snapchat.
Here is a very cool video of a tour of Manhattan aboard a Metroboard electric skateboard produced for the Mashable Channel by Sam Sheffer in late December. Sam used a hand held DSLR and helmet mounted GoPro to create the footage (mostly while also riding the skateboard!) This was posted to the Mashable web site in addition to Snapchat Discover.
The "Snap Channel" is the section of the Discover platform that featured Snapchat's original content.
Early "series" in the Snap Channel included "Pillow Talk" and "Literally Can't Even." Both started at or soon after the introduction of Snapchat Discover and ran a "first season" of approximately 9 "episodes" of 3-6 minutes each. All were produced in vertical orientation, with long sequences in split-screen formats (two or three horizontal video clips stacked vertically.)
Another regular feature of the Snap Channel was called "Under the Ghost" and featured musical groups in concert on Venice Beach on a stage featuring the Snapchat "Ghost" Logo.
In May, the musician "Goldroom" (Josh Legg) took over the Snap Channel for a week, with 4 vertical music videos that were combined into a 17 minute "short film" at the end of the week. The Goldroom piece was also mixed as a horizontal video and is available on YouTube. Most, if not all, of these pieces were directed by Rylee Jean Ebsen of Snapchat.
In July, Eden XO premiered her music video "The Weekend" on the Snap Channel, directed by Noel Maitland. Once again, like the Goldroom video, it was a crop of the horizontal video that was later uploaded to Vevo.
Snapchat discontinued the Snap channel in September 2015 promising "something new and fresh" instead, as reported in International Business Times by Kerry Flynn.
In December, Snapchat produced a few music videos that it published on its Discover platform, without the Snap Channel designation. These were similar to the "Under the Ghost" pieces from the Snap Channel. They were mixes covering particular music genres. Matthew Strauss documents the phenomena in this article on Inverse. This production was sponsored by Spotify, the streaming music service.
In December, Snapchat released "Made for Mobile" a 2+ minute YouTube (widescreen) video describing some of their techniques, such as cropping a 4K video to HD vertical, using L-brackets to mount standard video cameras for vertical, and split-screening (a "crutch" technique used to make up for the inability to properly frame a vertical image). This video features Snapchat's key original content producers: Nick Bell, Rylee Ebsen and Ryan Marzolph.
Snapchat debued V3 (vertical video views) and the Truffle Pig studio joint venture at Cannes Lion marketing conference in June. The goal of these programs is to promote vertical video in marketing and advertising, both on Snapchat and other mobile platforms.
Launched in March 2015, Meerkat is a video streaming social app for iOS and twitter. It seems to have a preference for vertical video.
Launched in quick response to Meerkat, Periscope is Twitter's response for live video streaming. Like Meerkat, it has a preference for vertical video but does not letterbox horizontal video.
Released for private beta in late May and general availability in late July, the Vervid app (initially iOS only) "aspires to become the youtube of vertical video."
Launched in Beta sometime around mid-year was VRT, a web based server of vertical video using HTML 5. This product does not require/support an app for video play, but rather plays video inside a browser. It works well on the browsers i have tried, including Android Chrome, Windows Chrome, etc.
It was widely reported in late July that YouTube released an update to its Android app so that vertical videos play correctly in full screen on Android devices. The update was annonunced by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at the VidCon event in Anaheim, CA. It was quickly followed by an iOS upgrade, where vertical video support was called out in the release notes. Actually, YouTube has pretty much always supported vertical videos. Perhaps the biggest confusion here is that somewhere along the line, for whatever reason, on YouTube vertical videos are sometimes, somehow either explicitly or perhaps accidentally, converted into horizontal ones. This can be seen, for example, in this video, which was featured in Miriam's video essay. This film was clearly taken on a phone in vertical orientation, however, the version that is currently on YouTube is NOT vertically formatted. If you check the technical specs, it is formatted 854x480 (~= 16:9 aspect ratio), a horizontal format, with the black bar pillor-boxing baked in. This video and many others similarly reformatted no longer display properly on a vertical screen (phone or tablet).
Can someone tell me why this has 2M+ views?
Impersonations by Jamie Costa, nothing exemplary in the vertical framing (although well done) but fun with 2M views in first month.
Buck has the hiccups had over 15M views in 2015.
With over 9 million views, this is one of the most popular YouTube vertical videos.
Joel Cross, a mostly unknown musician from Denton, TX, made a big splash with this vertical video of his live cover of Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
Facebook recently started supporting uploaded videos, including vertical ones.
Forget about Disney Princesses, here is Her Royal Highness Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands. c. 1M views the first day.
Proving once again that the airline safety talk can be the funniest thing in the universe, this one has 9 million views, with an additional 3+M on YouTube copies. The YouTube copies of this video have all been removed, presumably for copyright reasons.
Over six million views for a six year-old boy singing and dancing to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."
This video was posted in October 2014, we missed it last year. It purports to show three construction workers at St. Pancreas Train station London in an impromptu concert/dance (872K views as of August 2015). It is reported here (near bottom of article) by Kyle Campbell to have been a staged production with actors, not workers. The producer, Aziz Musa, is quoted as follows:
This confirms Miriam's prediction that professional videographers would attempt to co-opt the "authenticity" of vertical video as an amatuer practice.
This music video is a simulation of a text message exchange on a phone. Producer : Daniel Abraham (DTO Films) A clip by : Maxime Lamontagne Motion Design : Daravong Thongsavath Set coordinator : Camille Genêt. This video has 250K views on Vimeo, a fairly high number for that platform.
Shot with Red Dragon 6K camera, this music video, directed by Sebastian Tomczak with cinematography by Amin Oussar, stars Jager Dagobert and the model Sarina. Although clearly downrezed from the 6K (6000x3000) on YouTube, the cinematography and lighting show through.
Composed by Taran Gray, Directed by Richard Allen, you can watch on Vevo. (Note that at the time of this writing, Vevo was still using Flash (!) and may not show full screen portrait on a mobile browser.) It may also be available on Vervid.
From the album Inside the Sun. Video directed by Byron Dauncey. This vertical video was filmed at a thoroughbred racehorse farm and a polo field in West Bank, Kelowna, Canada. Special thanks to Rosanne, Larry, the Bennett family and David Trevail.
This music video has over 600K views on YouTube. From the description:
Very close to 1:1 aspect ratio, Rihanna's FourFiveSeconds video features Kanye West and Paul McCartney. Directed by Inez and Vinoodh. 220M views and counting (as of June 2015).
Kendrick Lamar's King Kunta a 1:1 video, over 5M views in the first week.
Fashion has always been an area where portrait imagery has been heavily used in still photography. Recently, video usage in the fashion world has increased. See this article for example. Fashion Filmaker Ruth Hogben did a vertical film for the Gareth Pugh show at London's Fashion Week, for example.
Another fashion film, produced for the Innfâll fashion house by Miguel Diaz Pont, is called Vertical Love and had a reasonable visibility of 90K plus views (as well as a "Staff Pick" designation) on Vimeo.
And here is a little article by Elisa Benson about Cosmopolitan Magazine's coverage of New York Fashion Week.
By Canadian filmmaker Marie-Hélène Panisset, this film can be previewed on Vimeo here.
The Vertical Cinema project, shown in Europe since 2013, made its US Premier in March at the SXSW festival and here. Glasgow Short Film Festival 2015 opens on Wednesday 11 March in spectacular style with a sold out screening of Vertical Cinema in the Briggait in Glasgow.
Tom Brook of BBC's Talking Movies reported on Vertical Cinema based on the SXSW screening.
In July, Vertical Cinema made its debut in Australia at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
In conjunction with the Adelaide (AU) Film Festival scheduled for Oct. 15-25, the 2nd 9:16 Festival 9:16 – A SHOWCASE OF VERTICAL CINEMA was opened for submissions in May. (You will remember from last year that the 9:16 festival was commissioned works only.) Here is the call for submissions.
In December, the films were uploaded to YouTube, however they are not in native 9:16 format. As such, they will be both pillorboxed and letterboxed in fullscreen on mobile and tablet devices. However here they are.
The lineup for 9:16 was announced on October 12. The films (with links to trailers or full video where available) are:
Boks produced by: Nikolai Hamel, directed by: Mathias Askeland.
160815 (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Matt Abbiss.
Purgot produced and directed by: Matt Richards.
Chapter 4: Ophelia (from Todas Las Estrellas Están Muertas discussed last year) produced and directed by: Gonzalo Moiguer and Rodrigo Melendez.
One Day (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Tara O'conal.
Close Ups (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Allison Chhorn (commissioned for this festival).
I've Fallen In Love (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Alfonso Coronel.
Glass House (discussed last year) produced and directed by: Zoe Beloff.
Code Breaker (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Emma Northey, Stephen Roedel (commissioned for this festival).
Trespass (no video found yet) produced and directed by: John Hughes (commissioned for this festival).
Three Strikes (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Bill Mousoulis, Vicky Mousoulis (commissioned for this festival).
On with the Game (no video found yet) produced and directed by: Simon Cerere.
Earth, Sea and Sky (no video found yet) produced by: Katrina Lucas, directed by: Dyan Coleman.
"Impact," this short film was shot in 4K at 1000 FPS for slow motion effect. Team work led by the Director and Phantom / Underwater operator Jean-Charles Granjon. Lionel Franc, world champion cliff diver diving head first is the "Hero" of this film! Line producer: Bluearth production - Vertical film. Post Production : La planète rouge.
Posters for Hollywood movies have always been in vertical format. Now that poster spaces often have video displays, Hollywood has joined the vertical game. Here is a poster for the latest Terminator movie that was published in March 2015.
As we noted last year, the proliferation of vertically oriented screens in public spaces has forced the advertising industry into the use of vertical video. This use has accellerated this year especially with a focus on mobile devices. As noted above, Snapchat has encouraged this usage with its creation of the Truffle Pig agency and "3V" program. Other agencies as well as ad platforms such as Celtra have also started to make vertical a priority.
Here is a pdf formatted white paper from July 2015 by Stephen Whiteside of Warc Trends on the use of Vertical Video for marketing/advertising.
As author Miriam pointed out last year in her video essay, Ricky Gervais spans the horizontal/vertical divide in his work. This article shows how he blurs the boundary between his "informal" facebook video and advertising.
Verly, a marketplace for vertical video clips for use in advertising, etc. went online in September 2015.
In a podcast produced in August (@4:00-10:45), Douglas Welch proposes that Vertical Video is a fluke of phone technology and will go away when phone devices revert to a landscape orientation, which he expects is imminent.
Robb Westaby, a TV personality at FOX 17 WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich., produced another smackdown of Vertical Video in October: Westaby Web Moment: Why are we still using vertical video?
In August 2015 Vertical Video got a wikipedia entry.