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Video Technology

Vertically unchallenged: the rise of vertical video

By Martha Evans, Client services and business development manager

WING London


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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January 23, 2019 | 7 min read

Vertical is the future of content as we know it. There, we said it. We can feel advertising execs all over the country nodding in agreement while directors and cinematographers spit out their organic tea in disgust!

Vertical video.

Jean-charles Granjon’s film Impact screening at the Vertical Film Festival, Australia. Photograph by Adam Sébire.

The emergence of social platforms and smart phones have seen a huge change in how we consume content. Our ideas of celebrity and the nature of content is constantly evolving. Vertical video has traditionally been regarded less favourably by production professionals, but this perception is changing, and changing fast. So much so that we are on the cusp of a monumental ‘reshaping’.

While a visit to the cinema has become an occasional treat and TV a nightly routine for many, the new reality is that we are on our phones constantly. 60% of videos are currently being watched on phones and tablets and a staggering 94% of us interact with our phones (yep, you guessed it) vertically. Surely, it makes perfect sense for content to be filmed in the way it is now consumed on our devices, rather than having to make a vertical version as a second thought?

Vertical video has been on the up for a number of years but only recently has the industry really started to cater for it. The smartphone big hitters have made vertical-specific portrait modes and camera specs and Snapchat, as it happens, pioneered the vertical rise in the social space. Twitter followed and, of course, Instagram and Facebook took the leap in a big way with with their ‘Stories’ functions.

On top of this, a plethora of websites and apps have adapted but the biggest marker in the sand was when YouTube finally ‘gave in’ with their full-size vertical upload option and their subsequent vertical-only record and upload tools. This has been a huge catalyst for change and thousands of vertical videos are now uploaded daily. MediaBrix found a 90% higher completion rate for vertical videos compared to horizontal videos. They also found that less than 30% of users are turning their phones sideways to watch an ad and they only watch 14% of each ad!

UGC goes in hand with vertical and it’s at the height of its powers. We’ve all seen branded content, TVCs and even film trailers adapted for social (at 9:16 (portrait) or even 4:4 (square to soften the blow for the horizontal purists). Clearly more outlets are catering for the medium but are brands actually embracing it? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. ESPN has even created a vertically oriented version of their flagship show SportsCentre.

Steve Braband, ESPN’s director of digital video operations is a true believer: “If you follow best practices and spend time producing, specifically for each platform, you’ll be able to better position your content in fans’ newsfeeds”.

But what is it about vertical that is so appealing? Is it simply a convenient by-product of our phone-holding preferences? To base the future of how we film content on that idea is a truly depressing thought to many of us. The good news is that there are other, much more vital reasons as to why the world is going vertical.

Let's get intimate

The secret ingredient of the vertical beast is intimacy. Filming on our phones is by its very nature, intimate. With the rise of influencers and UGC, and our favourite traditional stars telling us what they eat for breakfast on social platforms, the more intimate they get, the better. And what are the vast majority filming on? Yep, their phones - hence the power of vertical.

Vertical also lends itself well to interactivity through augmented reality and ease of use for one-handed speed-likes, stickers and emoticons.

It’s not only the intimate nature of vertical video that works; after all, many full-blown vertical music videos are made specifically for social (Ariana, Camilla, and Selena? Holla!) although interestingly, they still on the whole have significantly decreased budgets. Many are simply adapted from the ‘hero-ed’ 16:9 versions too.

But what about vertical’s artistic merit? Is there one? It definitely looks that way. Its restrictive nature poses an interesting challenge for filmmakers with the viewer’s focus being honed in on the centre of the screen at all times. Perhaps the fewer pixels a filmmaker has can ensure one is more calculated in their approach to filmmaking?

Furthermore, what about the merits of portraiture? This is a seriously relevant point that the detractors of ‘Verticalism’ (yep we’ve coined the name for it!) ignore. From the dawn of our artistic consciousness as we know it, portraiture has always been there. Let’s look to more recent times. From Rembrandt’s iconic paintings to Stieglitz’s mind-blowing photography, portraiture has created some of the most stunning images that we ever seen.


So, where do we go from here?

We go vertical, that’s where. Well, in addition to horizontal. Wide screen and horizontal will not be going anywhere but neither will vertical and if we are to be heard and seen in the content world, we must absolutely embrace it. Nespresso are leading this embrace in a truly ground-breaking way.

Nicolas Duplaix, global sponsoring and events manager at Nespresso, tells us that in order to push innovation and re-cement their strong relationship with film, the company “wanted to celebrate this rapidly emerging medium and to help talented content creators reach a wider audience.”

Nespresso Talents , launched in 2016, is a global program of vertical films that bring together millennials’ passion for film (and Nespresso’s brand purpose) to inspire tasteful and meaningful living. The program delivers: “a new angle to an old format, challenging filmmakers to produce vertical film for mobile consumption”.

Here at Wing, we are all for adapting to the ever-evolving advertising landscape. As filmmakers, the idea of shooting vertical is uncomfortable for some and we must re-calibrate ourselves to think of it as an art form rather than a compromise.

Make no mistake, vertical has definitely arrived.

Martha Evans, Client services manager at Wing London.

Header image: Jean-charles Granjon’s film Impact screening at the Vertical Film Festival, Australia. Photograph by Adam Sébire.

Video Technology

Content by The Drum Network member:

WING London

Media Production Company of 2019, WING London, specialises in delivering attention seeking creative content.

We are attention seekers. It’s what we do.


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