16:9 is Dead! The Future of Video is Vertical Mobile for Home & Business

3D? HD?… Blue Ray? Fuhgedaboutit.

Video format wars are becoming more irrelevant with every passing year. If you look at still photography, for example, and ask yourself “What are folks looking for?” you’ll quickly see the answer has little to do with format and everything to do with finding the most practical camera. Everyone wants a great quality photo, but that’s not what they “need.” R.I.P. cameraAll they need is to recognize the images taken (while drinking in a dark bar or at a birthday party) and, generally speaking, every couple hundred dollar camera out there shoots a descent photo. The most practical camera out there is the thinnest one with the largest view finder – that’s the camera that can be thrown in the pocket of any outfit and, more importantly for many, it has a viewfinder that’s large enough to show everyone at that party how they look in the photo I just took. So how does that relate to video? As technologies go, video matured far faster than still photography. I remember my how cheap my first couple of point and shoot film cameras were, and they were horrible, but “good enough.” I could make out the “what” and the “who” in most photos. Along came digital photography and shortly after, an affordable video camera that also met my “good enough” criteria. Fast forward to today and you’ll find that “good enough” video camera in my phone.

The Consumer to Home Entertainment Disconnect

I’ve long predicted the demise of today’s family room as an entertainment center, but I’ll move past that to a different observation – the demise of the home movie played on a home entertainment center. Clearly, no one is playing home movies on their TV anymore and why would they? By the time your family and friends have arrived at your home for a get together they’ve already seen your home movies, from baby’s first steps to your last fuzzy memory karaoke night, on Facebook.

Video Playback is Broken

Watch the parents at the next birthday party you go to or stand in the crowd at a kids soccer game and take video with your smart phone – better yet, watch the parents in the crowd taking videos. Notice anything strange? Probably not, because everyone is shooting images and videos of the field and their kids in the most natural way possible. That is, they have their video cameras (in this case their phones) held high in the air at whatever angle suits them best. Some have two hands holding their phones in the air and others have their phones vertical. But they’re all taking photos and video vertically and horizontally. Now consider this, if you’re shooting a video vertically, up and down, where can you play it back while retaining the quality of the vertical video? That’s right, only on your phone. On any other media you will be forced to fit the video you shot vertically into a horizontal box, leaving black bars on the sides and totally degrading your video.

The Solution: a Video Format Tweak

mobile phones taking video at anglesSo what does all this mean? First of all, it means an adjustment is needed on the player side. Every mobile player I know of plays horizontally with a large play bar across the video. Sure on most phones the bar gets hidden when not in use, but that’s not the point. The next logical evolution to this play window is “vertical-izing” playback. When a phone is held vertical the functions need to be at the bottom! That’s right, just like any other application! Second, we need to adjust embedding to match the way folks use their mobile cameras. Right now, if you go shoot video for your business or blog and embed it, you get a player that is horizontal in nature. YouTube & Vimeo? Horizontal. Video as a format is horizontal, but in practice that is no longer true and this horizontal thinking is what needs to change.

What the Evolution of Video Sharing Means for Business

Without a doubt, there’s room for vertical players and not just in mobile, though that’s probably where we’ll see them first, but on websites and in the “living room.” As a father constantly shooting video of my son from my android phone, I see the value in a vertical player on social networking sites and as a New Media Marketer who sees the opportunity in creating video content for business, I apply that same thinking to business sites. Let’s look at gaming for a minute, if you walk into an arcade you see games of all shapes and sizes. Pinball machines tend to be deep and thin, where many of the new racing games actually surround the player with screens creating an ultra-panoramic experience. Why limit the videos you can present your viewer to wide screen low profile playback? If you’re selling recliners or waterfall art, for example, wouldn’t a tall skinnier video player benefit you?

vertical video playback on iphoneThink Outside the Video Box

Now let’s think about that same example in the mobile space – if your product is tall and thin, like a recliner or waterfall, a wide video space will not benefit you. Furthermore, if you’re creating a how to video on playing the flute, although you would clearly benefit from a tall video over a low wide one, are you gutsy enough to shoot sideways videos? Face is, if your video is being viewed on a mobile device the orientation will not matter and your audience will better appreciate and enjoy the video shot vertically. …or will you do what everyone else does and shoot it wide, presenting your viewers with a short image of your product surrounded by black bars?

If you know of a mobile player that has moved the play button & functions to the bottom of the player for “vertical play” let me know in the comments. What do you think the future holds for video playback? Will integrated video & animation into HTML5 render this conversation moot?

Thanks for stopping by!

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Richard A. Bouchez | Social Media Specialist | New Media Production Richard Bouchez is a certified Inbound Marketing professional specializing in Social Media Marketing & New Media content development. Richard’s web, audio & video work has been honored with Emmy, Promax & CBA awards.


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4 thoughts on “16:9 is Dead! The Future of Video is Vertical Mobile for Home & Business

  1. Just a quick note to say that I would have to disagree with you assertion that 16:9 format is dead. There’s no evidence that would support that.

    As someone that works in the technology industry, I see it thriving just as I see 16:10 format growing and picking up steam. Just go to any computer store and find out what the displays format are.

    I would agreed that mobile phone has it’s place however it’s not a one size fits all.

    Bottom line, it’s the same old adage that we heard thirty years ago. Remember when people said that no one was going to go to the movies because of the advent of VHS. We all know what happen with that. Movie ticket sales actually soared.

    So, don’t get rid of your LCD/Plasma, Blu-ray DVD player, computer yet, you might find out that there’s still a need for it.

  2. thank you very much for weighing in! I appreciate it and, while I do agree that there are still plenty of uses for 16:9, I see the end of the locked down horizontal format. Video is on the verge of evolving from wide screen to whatever shape best suits the message – like framing in still photography – and it looks to me like there’s a major opportunity for a new technology solution that can make that happen. Regarding your TV… sure it’ll be a little while yet, but that family room concept isn’t far from being replaced by a home theater space.

  3. Nice headline but your argument is based on non-existent data. Smartphone penetration is smaller than you think. The number of people recording video with their phones is tiny.

    Even if people aren’t watching videos as much on their TV, laptops are 16:9 now too. Where’s your data to support “everyone has seen the videos on Facebook already.” Maybe in your world of “dark bars” that is the case, but I think you’re on the fringe of society there.

  4. Ferodynamics – that’s true smart phone penetration is low and, as you point out, I do lack data. The bulk of my argument is based on personal observation “in the wild”, however, smartphones are predicted to grow by 50% just this year http://bit.ly/ecLZ50 and, even more importantly, I think that once the flood gates open and folks get the freedom to shoot vertically or horizontally (just you can in still photography) they’ll go crazy:-)

    I greatly appreciate the conversation! Thanks!

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