Gunfight at the V.V. Corral: the shootout over vertical video

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David Neal (@walruswinks) is a producer and director who has been working in vertical video for years. In a special guest post he tells the story of the ongoing battle over the format, how video makers identified good practice, journalists overcame their dislike of vertical — and how in 2016 advertisers are now coming on board.

Since the dawn of the smartphone equipped with a video camera, and even before, people have been posting vertical video on the internet (see here for a retrospective look).

Initially the format was met with almost universal scorn: in 2012, Bento Box, creators of the Glove and Boots video blog, produced the opening salvo (shown below) in what has become a multimedia struggle over the future, or lack thereof, of vertical video, and from there the gunfight expanded.

Hence the title of this post. You may scoff at it, but there is actually (simulated) gunfire in the piece “Turn Your Phone 90 Degrees” at the 50 second mark, as well as lots of gratuitous violence in the animated video “Flip it Parody“, to say nothing of the explosion at 1:10 in “Vertical Framing Video Essay.” Many anti-vertical video trolls are even more hostile: this is something people feel very strongly about.

So here is that conversation around vertical video, using the very videos that have been created on both sides of the argument, alongside links to written pieces and even a podcast. There’s also a YouTube playlist of all the YouTube videos at the end.

Vertical Video Syndrome (2012)

  • Produced by: Bento Box
  • Published June 5, 2012
  • Length: 2 minutes 58 seconds.

Distributed on the Glove and Boots video blog, VVS (Vertical Video Syndrome), as it is often called, makes a number of specious arguments (“TV and movies are horizontal”, “Our eyes are horizontal” etc.) and ad-hominem attacks (“Your video will suck”, “George Lucas will re-make Star Wars AGAIN”, etc.).

While it is cute and well produced, its tone is vulgar (there are even “cleaned-up” versions, more “suitable for children”). However, it has framed the discussion of vertical video, and is often cited on social media especially on Twitter.

Watch Vertical Video Syndrome on YouTube.

Vertical Cinema Manifesto (2013)

  • Directed by: Maddy Glenn & Miriam Ross, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Published January 17, 2013
  • Length: 3 minutes 41 seconds.

A direct response to VVS, the Vertical Cinema Manifesto was conceived by Dr. Miriam Ross as a student project for Maddy Glenn. To quote Miriam from her blog post:

“The only way to respond to such absurdities (and for many more follow #verticalvideo on Twitter) was with further absurdities: the vertical cinema manifesto.”

Watch Vertical Cinema Manifesto on YouTube.

Turn Your Phone! (“No Scrubs” parody) (2013)

  • Produced by: Chescaleigh
  • Published June 26, 2013
  • Length: 3 minutes 7 seconds.

For some reason, the second wave of anti-vertical video propaganda focused on song. This is the first of four videos produced in 2013 and 2014 that were musical.

Watch Turn Your Phone! (“No Scrubs” parody) on YouTube.

Turn Your Phone! (Vertical Video PSA) (Song A Day #1647) (2013)

  • Produced by: Jonathan Mann
  • Published July 9, 2013
  • Length: 2 minutes 5 seconds.

Posted just a couple of weeks after the first musical anti-vertical video.

Watch Turn Your Phone! on YouTube.

Vertical Video Syndrome: iPhone s (2013)

  • Produced by: Nils Westgårdh, Emil Schönström and Herman Vieweg, Academy of Art University
  • Published October 1, 2013
  • Length: 9 minutes 59 seconds.

This “art school” production is another playful attack on vertical video — with an unusual “solution.”

Watch Vertical Video Syndrome: iPhones from Roger Muller on Vimeo.

Waiting for Morgan Screening Room (2014)

  • Produced by: Vertical Cinema Productions
  • Published April 20, 2014
  • Length: 7 minutes 29 seconds.

After producing three vertically framed shorts, Dr. Ross and her collaborators in New Zealand were frustrated with the (lack of) response.

So they manifested that frustration in this piece. One of my personal favourites (since I also share that frustration.)

Watch Waiting for Morgan on YouTube.

Turn Your Phone 90 Degrees (If you don’t I’ll break your Knees) (2014)

  • Produced by: IFHT
  • Published April 29, 2014
  • Length: 2 minutes 5 seconds.

This is the video with gunfire at the 50 second mark and the inspiration for the title of this post. Although there is a lot of hostile talk out there, luckily the harshest thing I have encountered in social media is blocking.

Watch Turn Your Phone 90 Degrees on YouTube.

Vertical Framing Video Essay (2014)

  • Directed by: Miriam Ross
  • Published June 29, 2014
  • Length: 18 minutes 51 seconds.

Along with the companion article in Refractory, this is probably the best defence of the vertical video.

Published in late June 2014, it was largely ignored until December of that year when it was listed as one of the top five video essays of the year by Kevin Lee, a major influencer in that space.

Based on that recommendation the video was given a “Staff Pick” by Vimeo and picked up 60 thousand views in the ensuing weeks. To quote Kevin:

“I consider these five video essays to be standouts for how they changed my way of seeing, my attitudes and values towards the moving image.

“Perhaps none did this more than Miriam Ross’ fascinating defense of vertical framing, which totally changed my perspective on this format.”

The timing of this also coincided with the discussion of vertical framing in the journalism community in early 2015. I will return to that after discussing the rest of the videos of 2014.

Flip it Parody: Spin your phone right round and avoid vertical video syndrome (2014)

  • Produced by: Taiwanese Animators
  • Published August 8, 2014
  • Length: 3 minutes 10 seconds.

Plenty of gratuitous violence in this well executed 3D animation, and the last of the musical anti-vertical videos.

Watch Flip it Parody on YouTube.

Save civilization: Stop vertical video (2014)

  • Produced by: FOX 17 WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Published September 12, 2014
  • Length: 2 minutes 27 seconds.

Like many, if not all, television video professionals, Robb Westaby has a strong aversion to vertical video. The newsroom often receives video footage of events that the station crew has not filmed. However, in the age of the smartphone, much of it comes in vertical format, which is problematic for them to use.

Robb vents his frustration here, with help of his video editing staff. This piece is a favourite of mine for how playfully they address the topic.

A year later he created a second anti-vertical piece.

Original article:

Using Discover (2015)

  • Produced by: Snapchat
  • January 27, 2015
  • Length: 42 seconds.

Forty-two seconds that changed the world. This video has less than a quarter million views – however, the introduction of the Snapchat Discover channel is probably the most profound event in the course of vertical video to date.

Snapchat strongly encouraged vertically framed content from the professional providers on the Discover channel, which included Buzzfeed, CNN, Yahoo News, Cosmopolitan, and several others.

Concurrently with the introduction of Discover, the journalism community held a discussion of vertical framing that was heavily influenced by Snapchat, as we will see/hear in the next piece.

Watch Using Discover on YouTube.

Why vertical video is becoming harder to ignore (2015)

  • Produced by:
  • Published April 2015
  • Length: 11 minute 36 seconds.

Early in 2015 numerous journalism blogs and articles discussed the topic of vertical video. In a podcast hosted by Catalina Albeanu of in April 2015 a number of journalism figures discussed the prevalence of vertical videos that were becoming a part of the aesthetic of online journalism, especially on mobile devices.

This represented a radical turnaround from former outright rejection of the format by this community and marked some steps towards (grudging) acceptance.

Filmmakers, Embrace Vertical! (2015)

  • Directed by: Zena Barakat, John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University
  • Published May 15, 2015
  • Length: 1 minute 2 seconds

This piece is the first vertical video in the collection! Zena Barakat, formerly a New York Times video editor and currently at the forward thinking firm IDEO, makes a passionate case for the use of the vertical frame. She is also featured in the journalism podcast above.

Watch Filmmakers, Embrace Vertical! on YouTube.

Vertical Video on the Small Screen? Not a Crime (2015)

  • Byline: Farhad Manjoo, New York Times
  • Published August 12, 2015
  • Length: 1,400 words.

In August 2015, Farhad Manjoo, a tech reporter for the NYTimes, discussed vertical video. Nobody in the arts, movie, etc. NYT staff has anything to say?

Vertical video is the future (2015)

  • Produced by: Joe Avella, Business Insider
  • Published August 14, 2015
  • Length: 2 minutes 43 seconds.

Jo Avella, video producer for Business Insider, jumped on the vertical video bandwagon with this video and article in August 2015, alongside this BI article.

Obviously unaware of the history of vertical videos outside of the amateur realm, he focuses on the popularity of apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat.

Watch Vertical video is the future on YouTube.

Westaby Web Moment: Why are we still using vertical video? (2015)

  • Produced by: FOX 17 WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Published October 2, 2015
  • Length: 2 minutes 47 seconds

In October 2015 Robb Westaby reprised his attack on vertical video from a year before. He does show some awareness of the larger discussion of vertical video, including Farhad Manjoo’s article and the First Vertical Film festival. But mostly he points out amateur work.

Watch Why are we still using vertical video? on YouTube.

Made For Mobile (2015)

  • Produced by: Snapchat
  • Published December 2, 2015
  • Length: 2 minutes 17 seconds

Produced late in 2015, the senior members of the video production team at Snapchat: Nick Bell, Rylee Jean Epsen, and Ryan Marzolph, discuss some of the philosophy and techniques that they use to produce vertical video for Snapchat.

Note that they do not use the Snapchat app to produce their video, allowing them as well as Snapchat’s Discover partners to produce better quality video than the average Snapchat user can.

Watch Made For Mobile on YouTube.

Landscapia | Vertical Video Syndrome Pharmaceutical Commercial (2016)

  • Produced by: Timeline Video
  • Published February 22, 2016
  • Length: 1 minute 35 seconds

Produced in early 2016, the most recent salvo of the anti-vertical video contingent is modeled after a pharmaceutical commercial.

Watch Landscapia on YouTube.

2016: now it’s advertising’s turn

In early 2016 the bulk of the discussion of vertical video occurring is in the marketing and advertising communities. For example, in Media Post by Jason Harris: “How Gen Z Made Me Stop Worrying And Learn To Love Vertical Video” and in Adweek by Marty Swant: “Snapchat Led the Way With Vertical Video. Will Virool Make It the New Standard?”

It is pretty clear that there is about to be an onslaught of vertical video advertising, especially on Snapchat.

The most recent announcement by Snapchat at the Cannes Lions advertising industry conference made that perfectly clear as Adweek reported this week: “Snapchat Launches a Colossal Expansion of Its Advertising, Ushering in a New Era for the App”.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll take a chill pill (Landscapia?), watch some vertical video ads on Snapchat, and hope for the best.

Vertical video: a YouTube playlist

Here are 13 of those videos above compiled into a single playlist:

Copyright © 2016 Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC


16 thoughts on “Gunfight at the V.V. Corral: the shootout over vertical video

  1. Pingback: Periscope vs Facebook Live: a comparison – Albert Freeman

  2. Pingback: Advertiser: Don’t Crop that Video | rabbitwinks

  3. rabbitwinks Post author

    “Is there vertical video? Of course there’s vertical video. It’s 2016!” – Peter Kafka, Senior Editor Recode (July 14, 2016 in this article discussing the Vevo app update: ) On July 14, Vevo, the music video arm of Sony and Universal (with additional funding by Alphabet/Google) announced an app update that includes the ability to watch any of their music videos in vertical format on mobile devices. I have described the update, which I think is groundbreaking, here:

  4. rabbitwinks Post author

    In late August, Facebook announced that they would start putting vertical videos in their news feeds on mobile devices in a vertical rectangle rather than a square as they had heretofore. Unfortunately, they chose a 2×3 aspect ratio rectangle rather than 9×16. Most vertical videos are in 9×16 with a small number in 3×4. None are 2×3. So, they will still always either crop or pillorbox vertical videos. Way to go Facebook!

  5. Pingback: Someone asked me about 2016 and 2017. This is what I said | Online Journalism Blog

  6. Randall Tinfow

    I like vertical. But I don’t work with any DPs or operators who do! My peers, most of who are 55+, don’t have years of practice framing and blocking for vertical. The process is awkward and uncomfortable.

    Secondly, I haven’t seen a great setup for mounting a camera with a level horizon quickly and efficiently for vertical shooting. I’ve been working with Dutch heads since 1989, but that is much different than shooting masters vertically.


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