Vertical Video on the Small Screen? Not a Crime

In 2012, Vincent Bova and Damien Eckhardt-Jacobi, two puppeteers who host a YouTube series called Glove and Boots, created a public service announcement to warn viewers about what they considered a modern scourge: People keep shooting videos while holding their phones vertically.

For much of cinematic history, moving pictures have been wider than they are tall — movie screens, televisions and personal computers are all horizontal. The puppets argue that when you hold your phone vertically to shoot a video, creating an image that is taller than it is wide, you are spitting in the eye of that history. Mario, a cherry-red puppet with a ferocious fuzzy beard, regards the result — a vertically shot video on a wide screen — as garbage or worse. His pal, a brown groundhog named Fafa, is just a bit more forgiving: “It’s not crack or nothing, but it’s still really bad.”

Mario and Fafa may sound histrionic, but they are actually some of the more measured online critics of vertical videos. Holding your phone “the wrong way” to shoot a video provokes surprisingly apoplectic reactions. Professional videographers tend to regard vertical videos as the mark of an amateur, and they react to these clips with the same sense of wounded outrage that snooty writers reserve for people who confuse its and it’s, or who type two spaces after a period when everyone knows there should only be one. The Glove and Boots P.S.A. has been viewed nearly 7 million times, and it is just one of several websites and YouTube clips that aim to stem the rise of videos shot in portrait mode, the technical name for vertical cinema.

But perhaps there’s a deeper reason that Mario, Fafa and many professional videographers become so enraged: They worry they are on the wrong side of history. The future of video, it turns out, just may be vertical.

According to several app makers and media companies, many of the world’s video consumers don’t seem to think vertical videos are wrong — in fact, a lot of us prefer them. There is a simple explanation for the dawning preference. According to the venture capitalist Mary Meeker, we now collectively spend about 30 percent of our screen time with devices that are best held vertically, like smartphones and tablets. That time spent is growing quickly, and on tall screens, vertical videos simply look and work better than those shot “correctly.”

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