Many people ignored vertical videos and even hated them in their infancy. Many people perceived vertical videos as ridiculous and mistakenly created by uninformed and amateur people. They thought vertical videos were ridiculous ones created as a mistake by uninformed, amateur people. If only they knew that we mostly hold our phone upright, even when watching a horizontal video! We bear pillar boxes and only 13% of us flip their devices.
Bento Box produced this popular video on the Glove and Boots video blog in 2012. The puppets in the video make arguments about how dangerous and wrong vertical videos are, calling it in Vertical Video Syndrome (VVS).
A part from the video transcript:
“This video didn’t have to look this way.
It could’ve been prevented.
Say no to vertical videos.
Vertical videos happen when you hold your camera the wrong way. Your video will end up looking like crap.
Motion pictures have always been horizontal. Televisions are horizontal. Computer screens are horizontal. People’s eyes are horizontal. We aren’t built to watch vertical videos.
If this problem left unchecked, YouTube will begin showing 4 videos at once, just to save bandwidth. George Lucas would re-release Star Wars again, The Skinny Edition…”
This video (Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap) uploaded in 2009 to YouTube is one of the oldest and the most popular (with almost 30M views) music videos in vertical considering the song was produced in 2005.
Clockwork Orchestra uploaded the music video of Mummer in 2011, another example of an early vertical video.
Starting with an opening “↑ This Side Up”, Infinitetrails produced “SUNNY SIDE UP!” video in 2011.
In the description of this vertical video says:
“The Future is now! Well at least people told us so in the nineties. We were promised jetpacks, Cities floating in the ocean and with the evolving of ipads & tablets to be liberated from any kind of fixed video format… Since we can’t deliver the rocket backpack we at least bring you the first ever mountainbike tallscreen video. So grab your Tablets, Ipads and Iphones liberate yourself and turn them upside down… Really sorry for the „regular“ monitor users, you can either be true rebells and turn it 90 degrees or get a cup o’ tea and enjoy it in a smaller version 😉 Now enjoy the video or even better go out & ride!…”
BBC uploaded this documentary (Refugee Crisis: A Snapchat documentary – BBC News) produced by Ravin Sampat in 2015 with a note in the description “This documentary was filmed for use on Snapchat app and therefore has been optimised for use on smartphone devices”.
Iris Worldwide Ad Agency in the US produced the Portraits (Jeep Superbowl commercial) in 2016. It had a different aspect ratio (7.7:9) than most vertical videos (9:16) not to mention horizontal ones (16:9) and it aired on TV and it collected many praises plus the Super Clio prize for the best ad.
“Girl” written and directed by Megan K. Fox was featured in the 2nd Vertical Film Festival in 2016.
Yes, Vertical Film Festival exists.
Vertical Film Festival
As the world’s first international competition for vertical videos, The Vertical Film Festival was founded in 2014. Free from any theme or genre restriction, short films in 9:16 ratio aspect were shown on tall-screen in front of an audience.
Adam Sébire explains that the first festival took place at St Hilda’s Church not only because it is beautiful but also because vertical screens trace its origins from tall stained-glass windows of churches.
How did we come to the point of standardization of orientation or aspect ratio? You can observe that paintings from old ages are in various shapes and sizes. However, motion art demanded a standardization. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences determined a standard in 1932: Academy Ratio (1.375:1). There was only one filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, who argued against this standardization by calling for cinema to stay flexible. He lost the argument.
What about the 2010s?
According to the Kleiner Perkins 2015 Internet Trends Report, people watched vertical video ads such as Snapchat’s in their entirety 9X more than horizontal video ads. This is not a surprise when we look at the increase in time spent on mobile from 2010 to 2015 and 2015 to 2019.
Blending these two statistics, do we really watch videos horizontally?
Snapchat took the lead in vertical video format. 9:16 has always been the format for Snapchat users since the app’s launch in 2011. In its first days, users could only upload images, but in 2012 Snapchat started to support video format. In 2013, Snapchat followed up with “stories”, again with a 9:16 aspect ratio. And with the introduction of Snapchat Discover, a page accessible from the home screen and comprises short ads from different publishers.
“I see vertical video as the future of mobile video. We have seen 15 to 25 percent higher click-to-play on vertical video.” Salah Zalantimo, in 2017 as the head of product and tech at Forbes (now CEO of Voice)
Even Netflix is Vertical
In 2015, Meerkat app was released as a live video streaming app, videos were in vertical format. Although after 1.5 year (in 2016) later, it was shut down (and came back as Houseparty), it affected the vertical video adaptation.
Periscope was founded in 2014. The idea came up when Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein were travelling in Istanbul during protests in 2013. He wanted to see what was happening there, so he turned to Twitter. While he could read about the protests, he couldn’t see them. Periscope was born as a live streaming app with vertical and horizontal videos where users can send hearts to the broadcasters.
First in 2015 for Android and then in 2017 for all, YouTube updated its app to become compatible with vertical videos and in full screen videos started to look more like Snapchat videos. YouTube also has a stories section.
Netflix started to use Snapchat like short videos on its app in 2018. Netflix uses the story-like users to show previews of the shows.
In such an environment, brands should adapt to telling their stories vertically. The trend in vertical storytelling is story format. Although users aren’t devoting their attention to one story while other stories are awaiting, having stories is a wonderful choice if you want to brighten up some channels in your app. Also, story formats are suitable for CTA placements and serve as an interactive platform which creates a dialogue.
Video viewing on mobile is increasing. Although this doesn’t mean that we will stop using large screens televisions or shut down movie theaters, it is important to adapt to the not-so-new-now format. To drive better engagement and higher conversions by bringing more value to the users, as product managers you should spare real estate in your app for vertical videos. Until there is another technological improvement and adaptation is spread, vertical videos seem to be staying with us.
Check how you can use vertical videos in your apps with the possible application of story format.