Stories, Storytelling, Video, Content Marketing, Marketing

Vertical Video is Here to Stay (Get over it)


Are you a vertical video hater? You're not alone. In fact, I did a quick Google search, which returned these top "Vertical Video" results:

  1. Vertical Videos are a Sin

  2. Say No To Vertical Videos

  3. Vertical Video Syndrome

  4. Vertical Video Fix

But why the pushback from content creators when it comes to accepting the vertical video format? I've seen more vitriolic rants online over this issue than the government shutdown and Kevin Spacey’s speeding ticket combined. If you're averse to shooting and watching vertical video, here are some reasons why you should reconsider:

  1. Like a lot of viewers, I cringe when I see that loathsome mismatch of a vertical video displayed on a horizontal screen, as decried in the Glove and Boots PSA, which has been viewed over 6 million times on YouTube. They're right: that ugly strip of video swimming in a sea of negative space is really ugly. But studies show that for the first time ever, mobile device web traffic surpassed traditional desktop web traffic in 2014, making the old horizontal desktop screen standard less relevant with each passing day. If the display no longer has to be horizontal, why should the source video be?

  2. Look around you: display screens the world over are increasingly being oriented vertically. Airports, convention centers and retail stores. We are a society that thrives on text for our information, and text is easier to read on a vertical display, when the eye isn't forced to scan across the wide expanse of a horizontal screen.

  3. In the age of mobile device video creation, ergonomics rule, and it's easier to record video on most devices when you hold them upright. Shooting horizontal video usually takes both hands. Another bonus: holding a device vertically almost guarantees you won't accidentally get your fingers in front of the lens. While it's not as easy to shoot vertically with most DSLRs or professional video cameras, the results from your extra effort will be worth it.

  4. Vertical video can capture the eye and the imagination because, in the history of moving-picture capture and display, the vertical concept is still fairly new. And that leaves room for innovation. Check out this video by Dan Toth, which, while not strictly vertical, uses vertical source material to spark a lot of new ideas.

  5. People are tall and thin—they’re portrait-mode subjects, and vertical video makes a lot of sense for capturing them head-to-toe. There are also many products that have traditionally best displayed in a tall-and-thin aspect ratio. Bringing this sensibility to a vertical video format just makes sense.


6. Vertical video aesthetics are being raised to new levels, as evidenced by the first-ever vertical film festival, featured at this year's SXSW.

7. Finally, I have found that shooting and viewing video vertically opens up a whole world of visual possibilities by allowing you to see your subjects in new and exciting ways.

It's time to let go of the old horizontal desktop/TV standard and embrace the future of digital media in whatever orientation makes the most sense. What are your experiences with vertical video?

About the author: Marc Wellin is an award-winning digital content producer and the founder of Mothlight, a video production company that specializes in telling stories for agencies and their clients.  Follow Marc on Twitter @filmbilly and Facebook.

3 Life Lessons I Learned From Kid's Movies

Spending two consecutive weekends of a glorious summer sequestered away in a dark room as a jury member for the Chicago International Children's Film Festival might seem like torture to some, but it was life-changing for me.

The CICFF is the largest festival of films for children in North America, and each year, it showcases films from over 40 countries, and is also one of the only Academy Award qualifying children's film festivals in the world. The festival, which runs in Chicago this November, is a bastion of culturally-diverse, non-violent, value-affirming films for children of all ages through adulthood, and its mission is to teach media literacy to kids through cinema. It's not always an easy task.

Dive, CICFF 2014 Winner for Best Film By An Emerging Director, Delphine le Courtois, director. Produced by: Hippocampe Productions

Making a compelling film that captures children’s imagination is a difficult challenge for the (mostly) independent filmmakers who compete at this festival. Even after they've bankrolled and created their film, they need to stand out in today's constant stream of media--everything from kid-oriented apps, websites and social media,to TV and Hollywood movies--competing for the attention of children. I'm a big fan of this festival because of the spotlight it shines on intelligent filmmakers and the stories they tell. This year, these stories of children, shot in every part of the world, taught me 3 huge life lessons.

1. People are more alike than they are different. Many of this year's films dealt with loss: Japanese brothers visit their mom's gravesite; An Indonesian boy who lives on the streets searches the faces of women passing by to find his lost mother; A Swedish girl is shunned by an older sister with a new boyfriend. The sense of universality in these stories is strong, yet sometimes hard for adults to grasp. We often focus too much on the things that make others different from us. These films bring the people and customs of other cultures to life in a way that reveals not how we are different, but how we all share some very basic human feelings, faults and aspirations.

Anatole's Little Saucepan , 2014 Best of Fest Award. Eric Moutchaud, director (France, 2014) 

Anatole's Little Saucepan, 2014 Best of Fest Award. Eric Moutchaud, director (France, 2014) 

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about big issues. Mental illness, war crimes, extreme poverty, class division, incarceration of a parent, divorce, sexual abuse--These are just some of the challenging themes the filmmakers observed through the eyes of children in this year's festival. When we face these sensitive and often tragic realities with honesty, we open a dialog that can foster understanding, justice and healing.

The Singing Pond,  2014 Teacher’s Choice Prize. Yashodhara Liyanaarachchi, director (Sri Lanka, 2014) 

The Singing Pond, 2014 Teacher’s Choice Prize. Yashodhara Liyanaarachchi, director (Sri Lanka, 2014) 

3. A good story is universal. As a father of four children, I saw myself and my kids as I watched stories from Romania, Israel, Palestine, New York, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Ireland, Pakistan, and many other countries this year. For a lot of these films, the subtitles weren't even necessary, because the visual language is so strong. That's the power of great cinema: to make a statement about the nature of living on earth in a single shot that can spark the imagination of people in any country, in any time period. Watching great films can be a transcendent experience.

After our jury packed up the pencils and notepads and headed our separate ways, I stepped out into the sunlight of a warm August day with a keen sense of gratitude for the lessons I learned. More importantly, I was excited to be part a festival showcasing honest, heartfelt films that explore what it means to grapple with life in these difficult, brilliant times.

About the author: Marc Wellin is an award-winning digital content producer and the founder of Mothlight, a digital video production company that specializes in telling stories for agencies and their clients. Follow Marc on Twitter @filmbilly and Facebook.