Advertiser: Don’t Crop that Video

Vertical Video is currently a hot topic in the marketing/advertising world. Last year at this time, it was the world of Journalism that was starting to struggle with Vertical Video use e.g. Due in great part to the tremendous success of the Snapchat app and mobile viewing in general, the modern use of vertically framed moving imagery has accelerated from very humble (and humiliation inducing) beginnings. As someone who has followed the trends of vertical since 2011 and the producer/director of the first animated feature length vertical: Alicewinks (2012), I will not bore you with the history of vertical video (although I could). Instead, I want to point out a trend that I believe will bite you if you follow the crowd, namely cropping horizontal footage.

Recently I received an email from Adam Sébire, co-director of the Vertical Film Festival, an event which had its second incarnation in the Blue Mountains of Australia on May 21. He said:

I trust your survey makes the important distinction between films & videos shot with vertical apparatus and those that are centre-cropped from something originally framed horizontally. The latter give vertical video a bad name I think — they’re rarely framed well, there’s an uneasy sense that we’re not getting the whole picture, and the resulting image rarely makes the most of the format’s potential. “Fauvertical” I call it, and it’s usually fairly easy to spot!

I must say that I agree with Adam. I too can usually spot a crop. Although there are many, the most egregious example that comes to mind is the recent Mr. Burberry campaign. The original footage for a three minute video, directed by Steve McQueen, was shot on real 70mm film (not digital). This wide footage was then cropped to create a derivative 9:16 three minute video for Snapchat Discover. The vertical video was the one that I encountered first. It made no sense at all, the man and woman seemed to appear randomly, as they were both in the original piece but one or the other had to be cropped out in the vertical one.  Burberry spent a ton of money to buy a three minute spot on Snapchat, only to waste it on an incomprehensible work.

Perhaps the key attribute of vertical videos is authenticity. Miriam Ross makes this point in her 2014 video essay and Refractory article The producer Aziz Musa, makes the authenticity point, in the same breath as he describes how he created a staged event (“construction worker” song/dance in a train station) as reported by Kyle Campbell It was also discussed by the Journalism community last year as they too struggled with how to use vertical framing. For advertisers, the lack of authenticity will be devastating. If your ad is considered a fake, it will reflect on the product and your reputation.  If you are going to use vertical framing, make true vertical videos, don’t crop horizontal footage.

David Neal is president of Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC creators of Alicewinks, the first feature length animated vertical video. With Miriam Ross, he produces an annual roundup of the trends in vertical framing. He recently posted this guest post on the Onlinejournalism blog. He tweets as @walruswinks