EVER SINCE HUMANS WERE ABLE TO SHOOT VIDEO USING A CELL PHONE WE HAVE HAD A SERIOUS SITUATION KNOWN AS VERTICAL VIDEO.
Movies started out almost square (4:3 aspect) and over the years became wider and wider with the intent of competing with advent of home theater systems. Eventually television display industry decided 16:9 widescreen aspect was a good standard although many movies still display a wider “cinematic” experience.
Enter digital video built into all our cell phones. How convenient. A video camera in your pocket. The professional shooter won’t even bother doing anything worthwhile using these and spends the extra money on a dedicated rig costing over $1k. The average human? Well, many of them tend to hold the phone in the most natural way while capturing police brutality, CATastrophes and their wasted buddies resulting in a portrait view of the scene. That might be well and good for still photography but video?
Let me explain the problem with vertical video. All modern TV displays are 16:9 widescreen so taking a portrait video and scaling it to fit that space (which happens automatically) leaves lots of black space on the sides. Remember watching VHS movies on your old 4:3 picture tube? Unless the package said “Formatted to fit your screen”, it would display letterboxed meaning there are black mattes on top and bottom of the screen. Many people got mad because they are paying $25 for this cassette tape and the active picture was squeezed down smaller than the size of their screen. Ok, then this is the opposite. To display the portrait video we need to also squeeze it down and this time fill in the sides with black. You end up feeling like there should be much more to see.
Google tried to fix this problem with their camera app. It would display text asking you to turn your device sideways. YouTube released a video shooting and sharing app on iOS called Capture that would only start shooting video in landscape. I tested it out and thought it was pretty good. The app never took off and is still only available for iOS (https://itunes.apple.com/app/youtube-capture/id576941441). Speaking with one of the developers, I got the feeling this is as far as that project will go. It’s a shame because I thought it was good for shooting quick clips and editing them together right away. Maybe Auto-Awesome killed it since it removes the need to edit yourself. Now there is news that Google has removed the prompt to rotate the phone and YouTube is releasing a new feature that displays portrait videos fullscreen (edge to edge) for the first time on your device. So it looks like the amateurs have won this round. Just don’t expect me to sit and watch any of your portrait videos. It will still look small and cramped on your TV. But then who really watches their home made videos anyway?
Well, what do you know. Just after posting this about the topic of YouTube letting it’s Capture app fade away, there is more exciting news. They are building it right into the YouTube mobile app.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki gave a keynote address at VidCon, the annual online video conference in Southern California July 23rd. There she said “We’re focused on three top priorities: mobile, mobile and mobile!” Adding “More than half of our views come from mobile devices” and “mobile revenue is growing 100% year-on-year.”
The app is said to have video editing and filter tools with more features coming later this year. The vertical video spectacle was also mentioned by Wojcicki. How it started with SnapChat support and now YouTube is jumping on board almost like this is a cool feature. I guess we need to pick our battles carefully.