Vertical video

The shift also shows off the way that opinions of tech elites can be rendered moot by mainstream preferences. So, whether you are shooting a home video or something for work, you can safely ignore the puppets. To shoot vertically isn’t to be exposed as a tech ignoramus or a lazy philistine who cares little for the creative process. Rather it is to be on the vanguard of a novel and potentially far-reaching artistic trend.
The arguments against vertical video all seek to find something inviolable about images that play out horizontally before our eyes. “We live in a horizontal world, and most action happens from left to right,” said Mr. Bova, one of the men behind the puppet P.S.A. He added that “vertical videos feel claustrophobic,” because often they feature one or two people occupying the full frame, and not much of the landscape to show what lies beyond. Finally, Mr. Bova said, “our eyes are horizontal,” by which he meant the human field of vision is wider than it is tall, so it is only natural that our videos match that shape.
There is a simple rejoinder to his argument: Our eyes may be horizontal, but our hands are best suited to holding objects vertically, which is why phones, tablets and, in the predigital age, our books and other documents were usually oriented in portrait mode. Watching horizontal video on a phone’s vertical screen is a minor annoyance. With a horizontal video, you have to awkwardly flip your phone sideways so the entire image fills the screen, or you can keep your phone vertical and tolerate the huge black bars displayed above and below the picture.

So writes Farhad Manjoo in the NYTimes. Let's throw this in the category of contrarian pieces that are actually just wrong.

Just like professional photographers will turn their camera vertically from time to time, the lens orientation should match the subject. I would not want to watch a mumblecore movie in a Panavision 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio, but for Lawrence of Arabia, the Super Panavision 2.20 to 1 widescreen aspect ratio was crucial to the feeling of the feeling of people against the open expanse of the desert (and it amplifies Lawrence as a great man to see him wield his force of personality against such a broad canvas).

Sure, sometimes shooting vertically on your phone allows you to get closer to your subject, like the baby's first steps mentioned in the piece. However, for most subjects, horizontal is better. Human field of vision is horizontal, and it feels claustrophobic to watch vertical video for long period of time, it's like looking through the vertical slats in a fence.

For a Snap or a Vine, sure, I don't really care that much, neither do most people. Most of those are shot spontaneously, without much regard for the background, and it actually feels more unnatural or artificial if the video is horizontal since you know people usually hold their phones vertically. The vertical orientation suits the casual, disposable nature of those videos and subjects. The rise in vertical video reflects the rise of those networks and the rise of the mobile phone, but it doesn't signal some fundamental change in the difference between the suitability of horizontal versus vertical video.

Yesterday I watched this remarkable eyewitness video of the explosion in Tianjin China. It's stunning, but I couldn't help thinking two things watching it. One: stop filming and get to safety! Two: I wish it was shot horizontally.