Did you see the article in The New York Times about vertical videos, Vertical Video on the Small Screen? Not a Crime by Farhad Manjoo? Give it read. I’ll wait.
Oh, there is so much to dislike about this article. Such as the media experts quoted seem to all work for tech companies that are helping sites develop platforms for vertical video. That’s an impartial group for sure.
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.
This is an artistic trend, is it? Has Mr. Manjoo, looked at the vertical videos that pollute YouTube? Artistic? No, that’s not the word that comes to mind.
In her research, Ms. Barakat found that many people didn’t reorient their phones to watch horizontal videos in full-screen mode. “As a person who makes videos, I was like, ‘You’re not seeing it the way we intended it!’” Ms. Barakat said. “And they were like, ‘We don’t care!’ They found it so uncomfortable to hold the phone the other way, and they didn’t want to keep switching their phones back and forth.’”
They didn’t want to switch their phones back and forth? I think that’s called impatience and yes, laziness, not an adherence to manifesto by the artistic vanguard.
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.
Because holding a book was so very difficult and awkward. Lord, how did we manage? Mr. Manjoo sites two examples where the subject shot are compositionally more suited to vertical video.
If you peruse some of YouTube’s vertical videos on your phone — say, a video of an inflatable Minion rolling down a street in Dublin, or of a man with a spinal cord injury taking a few halting steps after being fitted with a mechanical exoskeleton — the argument that vertical videos are unsuited for showcasing most events falls apart. In these videos, the vertical cropping suits the subject. By focusing on the most important action and leaving out any extraneous detail, vertical video creates an intensity that might have been lacking if the clips were shot horizontally.
Does the vertical video of a man with a spinal cord injury taking a few halting steps after being fitted with mechanical exoskeleton create an intensity or crop out some other important elements, like, I don’t know, say, the people who outfitted the man with exoskeleton who might be shown taking pride in witness their amazing work? It's called a two-shot because it's efficient and links people, not separates them the way a one-shot does.
And that’s really my problem with vertical videos. Its “radical aesthetic reconsideration on art and media …” does not cause “… a lot of heartache for old-timers [like me]…” What causes me heartache is that what we’re seeing is a further glorification of the self at the expense of the self in an environment and the self interacting with other people, with a community, something larger than the self. In these videos the self is displayed more prominently than the nature that surrounds it, and that’s delusional, because get over your self, you’re not that important. Even if we humans become extinct because they made the planet uninhabitable, nature will go on without us. Read The World Without Us by Alan Weisman for a little perspective, Mr. Manjoo.
It’s called portrait because “a portrait” was something the elite commissioned. You know, like this…
Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of King Louis XIV in his coronation robes
And this is called “landscape” because it can show humankind’s relationship to the land, that is, the world, like in this...
Landscape of the Four Seasons, about 1424. Yi Su-mun
But I suppose I am being an old-timer, because, you know, I think there’s something more important than one person in a composition, because I think images shot portrait are a reflection of the self-ishness and narcissism that is consuming, well, everything! If Mr. Manjoo had written that, I wouldn’t be so pissed off. I might even accept his argument that it is cutting edge.
Nah, I wouldn’t. Give me horizontal or give me death!