A few weeks ago I published a video about a new start-up bank in London called Mondo. This was the first video that I made in the 2x1 format idea that I had a while ago. The bigger concept behind this format is the ability to easily make a vertical video for mobile devices. So I thought I might take a second and write a bit about this trend and showcase some examples of great vertical videos.
If you had to flee your country, what’s the one piece of technology you would take with you? This excellent piece from the BBC uses the mobile phone as a gateway to tell a refugee's story.
New York Times
A good while ago the New York Times published a story and video about the process behind “Where are Ü know”. The core video is a standard 16:9 piece but they made 2 other formats and a special player that delivers the appropriate format based on the user’s device. You can check out their interactive player here [Link].
2x1 / 1x2 video concept
To be honest, the response was mixed. Some viewers really liked the idea, others not so much. Generally I think the concept is really nice for videos that need some overlaying graphics or B-roll shots anyway. I could really see this as a useful way for quick news pieces. The original videos wasn’t filmed with vertical usage in mind but the square format makes it easy to re-order the boxes and make a vertical version:
It's 2016. Everyone heard of Snapchat. And even though many people don't like vertical video, Snapchat is full with such clips. Only very few people and some brands that didn't get the memo use Snapchat in horizontal. Especially with Snapchat vertical is useful, as that's the primary way that people take Selfies, so it feels natural to use the app that way.
So far natively uploaded Vertical Content was reserved to a curated collection of publishers that made the Snapchat Discover stories. With the recent Snapchat Moments update everyone can import and post video clip from their camera roll to the public story.
Sam Sheffer is a 26 year-old creative guy living in New York. At the moment he works for the Mashable Discover Story and previously worked at The Verge. This vlog above is a great example of a different format for a new platform. He used the Youtube video and imported it into the new Snapchat app which split it up in 10sec pieces and posted it to his story for 24h.
me vs vertical video pic.twitter.com/78yyLX6gRq— Larry Wright (@refocusedmedia) July 13, 2016
Obviously there are more platforms and examples with great Vertical Content such as Periscope and the insanely fast growing music video app musical.ly with an extraordinarily young audience.
The Bottom Line
Let's all tilt our cameras and shoot vertical videos from now on, right? No.
Every new trend in media is only useful and interesting for viewers if the content matches the experimental format. A feature film in portrait? Meh. A traditional TV show in vertical? Meh.
Oldschool media outlets have the manner to look at new trends and then copy one small part of it without considering that there's actually a bigger picture for the viewer (think about all those subtitled videos that they stole from AJ+).
So what now? Here's a 6 step guide to success with Vertical Videos:
1. Have a story to tell
The best vertical concept is useless if you don't have any interesting stories to tell with that format. Have a vision, have an idea, write a rough concept page about it.
2. Consider shooting mode
Think about the way you initially shoot your footage. If the next steps end in a decision to do Vertical Content consider shooting it vertically from the beginning. But maybe the footage will be used somewhere else as well, so think about 4K footage which brings enough resolution for both outputs.
3. Analyze primary audience and talk to it
Is the primary audience for your video content 40+ and will watch your video on a desktop computer or is it younger, tech-savy and watches it on a smartphone?
If necessary invite a group of people to watch your video pilots and ask them about their opinion. They might be annoyed or happy about stuff that you don't notice.
4. Detect primary platforms and networks
Where are your viewers? If your user base is mostly on Youtube, then Vertical Content might be hard to spread as those apps are widely used on 16:9 or 16:10 screens (TV, laptops, iPhone in horizontal). The Youtube Analytics pages are a really powerful tool to dive into existing data sets about device usage and demographics from your previous viewers.
Facebook's algorithm is currently known to prefer videos over standard posts. Use that to your advantage and create compelling content. But be aware that there's still a high amount of desktop users that don't want vertical stuff. Twitter on the other side seems like a rather good platform with a high mobile usage and good full screen video integration into the apps. Just like Youtube both Twitter and Facebook offer publishers insights into the video watch time.
For Snapchat it is quite obvious that vertical is the only option that makes sense.
5. Train the production crew and experiment
You might not be working on this video alone or might even want to use Vertical Videos for news pieces. Experiment with existing content or stuff that might even not be published at all. Get things right and everyone involved trained before you need it in a real-world scenario and fail.
6. Be original.
Don't just follow a trend to follow the trend. Every brand, every story, every message is unique and shouldn't be forced to fit into a certain format. We've seen that a lot with livestreaming, where every brand used Periscope because someone said it is cool.
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