The dawn of a New Year must mean new learnings, new orientations and new perspectives. For 2018, for everyone in advertising, the single most important message is: Think Vertical. Frame Vertical. Shoot Vertical.
Why would you want to do that?
Facebook garners 8 billion video views per day and has started supporting native 2:3 video format
Snapchat gets 10 billion video views per day and has started supporting native 2:3 video format
Periscope live broadcasts are measured in years watched – with 110 years worth of video watched per day, mainly in the vertical format
Instagram has 300 million daily active users and gave vertical video the indefinite shotgun
Vertical Video Syndrome is here. And it is here to stay. The next time you are at a cricket match or a concert, look around you. 9 out of 10 youngsters will be holding their mobile phone vertically, and shooting video. The reason is that when they post their video on social media, they will get higher engagement.
The takeaway, first, though from the statistics above is that there’s a ton of people watching videos in the upright position. So many, in fact, that marketers have no choice but to include the vertical format into their production book and spend money promoting it on social channels. Advertising with the vertical format will be the norm in the very near future. The sooner you start, and the more often you do it, the better it will be for you.
Come to think of it, the evolution of ‘vertical’ as the dominant format of the future is logical. When you use social media apps – let’s take Facebook for instance – you scroll vertically through the news feed. When a video is presented and you choose to watch, you tap the video to isolate playback from the rest of your news feed. If the video is presented in landscape orientation, you either watch a small version of it or rotate your phone to see it in detail. This rotation is an unnecessary step in the user experience. Also a good way to up the chances of dropping your phone! Now, go through this same experience but keep the video in portrait orientation and you’ve removed an arguably large step from the process. You’re being presented the content in its native format and this allows for more real estate coverage in the content. Not to mention avoiding the phone drop ;)
Till the advent of cinema most visual art didn't conform to any one orientation or aspect ratio. Though vertical framing was predominant in Asian screens and scrolls and in Europe prior to the late 1400s interest in depicting landscapes, paintings essentially came in all shapes and sizes. Some paintings escaped the frame altogether in the form of frescoes.
Battles were fought over screen geometry as cinema developed in the early 1900s. Faced with multitudinous formats, Hollywood engineers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences met in 1930, determined to set a new standard. Academy Ratio (1.375:1) was established in 1932 and endured until cinema’s battles with television pushed film formats wider again in the pursuit of crowd-pleasing, field-of-view-filling immersiveness.
In today’s digital era, camera standards remain; yet there are fewer limitations on what can be delivered. Chasing ever-higher definition, the televisual medium has settled on 16:9, devised as an average of pre-existing screen ratios.
As screen devices become more and more ubiquitous in our lives they also become more portable, even flippable. Device ergonomics and human physiology encourage us to hold mobile screens in a predominantly vertical orientation. Many such devices have tiny gyroscopes to flag which way up their user is creating and viewing content. Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube et al. look at these flags to allow vertical videos to be embedded the right way up; only their display (without annoying black bars or ‘pillar-boxing') remains a sticking point. The era of Eisenstein’s flexible screens is well and truly upon us; it just hasn’t been converted into a business model … yet. So vertical filmmaking, 9:16, is likely here for the long run — until holography perhaps eliminates the frame altogether!
True vertical 9:16 creators shun dogma by composing their shots with the vertical frame in mind. To do so they have to overcome the problems of apparatus designed for capturing, editing and screening horizontal images. But in surmounting these challenges they’ve become cinema’s latest pioneers. Ultimately the filmmaker's choice of whether to make a horizontal, vertical, circular or square film should purely be determined by the subject matter. Cinema is arguably at its most powerful not when attempting widescreen immersivity but when it's offering alternative visions of our world — and vertical video can, sometimes, do just that.
More than a hundred years ago, cinema arrived in a panaromic, horizontal format almost the same as the ordinary world-view of a human being. Fifty years later, television followed also in the horizontal format. Then twenty-five years later, the PC arrived. Again, horizontal in format. The laptop came ten years later. The horizontal format stayed. The mobile phone arrived. It was vertical in grip but in the early years, the screen was horizontal. Then came the iPhone. And changed it all. For the first time, a major device of daily use started to be used vertically. Today all smart phones have vertical screens. Only vertical screens.
Since more and more of the smart phone is used for data driven purposes, and data feeds largely allow vertical scrolls, the vertical video is a format whose time has come.
For me, come 2018, social media and mobile phones have spun professional video creators on a total 180. Well, technically 90 degrees. Brands and their custodians need to make the same 90 degrees adjustment in thinking and in orientation. The vertical perspective is a reality and marketers who do not recognise this new angle, will suffer. The bigger challenge is for content creators and art directors. They need to see the world 90 degrees differently.
(Sandeep Goyal has been in advertising for nearly 35 years. And in the mobile domain for just short of 25 years. He can recognize trends almost as fast as they take shape. Vertical Video is one of them.)