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Different categories of video and advertising have embraced the vertical format since 2013. If you can adapt to work with the format, vertical video may be a way to expand your activity as filmmaker in new directions.
In 2012 social media was making fun of those shooting films in the vertical format, but that same year a festival was promoting the idea that the format could be used for a new vision of the world. Founded in 1994, the Sonic Acts Festival, a thematic festival that in each edition explores a chosen theme by means of an international conference, a wide range of concerts and performances, exhibitions and screenings, launched in 2012 its Vertical Cinema project.
Transformed into a globally touring programme, the Vertical Cinema project is a 90-minute programme made solely for projection on a monumental vertical screen that was upended, for the very first time, on Saturday, 12 October 2013, in Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche at the Kontraste Festival.
The place chosen for the Kontraste Festival was the perfect venue for the exhibit of Vertical Cinema. The vertical architecture with high narrow windows of the church invites visitors to, as the organizers say, “heavenly contemplation”. Vertical Cinema is, one can read at the project’s website “a series of ten newly commissioned large-scale, site-specific works by internationally renowned experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists, which will be presented on 35 mm celluloid and projected vertically with a custom-built projector in vertical cinemascope.”
The aim of the project is to ‘abandon’ traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. The organizers say that “It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.”
With vertical films and videos flourishing, the first competitions for vertical film & video appear. One example is the 1st Vertical Film Festival, held in 2014 in Katoomba, Australia. The 1st edition was projected on a large tall-screen in St Hilda’s Church, Katoomba in Australia’s Blue Mountains on 17 October 2014. Interestingly enough, the first venue for the festival was again a church, as if suggesting that those spaces are the ideal sanctuary for the vertical format. In fact, it is more for practical reasons, as a regular theater does not seem to offer the conditions for the experience.
The festival returned for a second edition on 21 May 2016. It comprised an out-of-competition section called TALL SHORTS (featuring a curated collection of extraordinary vertical cinema from around the world) plus a vertical video competition for works three minutes and under, ⇧ THIS WAY UP ⇧.
As the world’s first international competition for vertical video, according to the organizers, “the Festival encourages filmmakers to create and submit works that make the best use of the vertical format, on any subject matter. Films can be created on any apparatus that delivers HD quality, from smartphone up!”
Social media and the Web have helped to disseminate multiple initiatives encouraging filmmakers to explore the vertical format. “Googling” the term one finds groups, channels, websites even channels on the popular video platforms YouTube and Vimeo that aggregate content dedicated to the theme. One source of information to check if you want to explore further is the website “Vertical Video: A Retrospective – The first 10 years (2007-2016)”, by David Neal. The author has directed vertical videos and decided to compile information about films, festivals and filmmakers, along with the videos, when possible. On David Neal’s retrospective you’ll find notes about the use of the vertical format in areas as diverse as journalism or music. The amount of information makes this website an important source of information about the subject.
On my previous article about Vertical Video I mentioned that thanks to apps like Meerkat, Periscope, FiftyThree or Snapchat the 9:16 format has grown in use since 2015. So much, in fact, that in June 2015 Snapchat, The Daily Mail and WPP formed an ad agency called Truffle Pig, focused on creating content for vertical screens. Why? Because according to data from Snapchat published in 2015 by the Daily Mail, vertical video ads have up to nine times more completed views than horizontal video ads. If the numbers are correct, it is easy to understand why Facebook’s vertical video ads went live September 2016. And why Instagram also went vertical. Everybody wants a piece of the pie!
The numbers from advertising agency Vibrant Media give some more ground to the claims about the success of the format. The company introduced February 2017 a vertical video ad format to North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. It joins Vibrant’s pre-roll, In-Line and Lightbox ads as part of its video portfolio.
Founder and executive chairman of Vibrant Media, Craig Gooding, said recently that, “In 2016, 43 per cent of our media agency buyers and planners bought vertical video ads. However, for 2017, 97 per cent of all our media agency buyers and planners expect more budget to be committed to vertical video. Vibrant Vertical will fulfill their pressing need to give brands and consumers a non-disruptive full-screen video experience. In line with the viewability focus of all Vibrant Video ads, consumers will only play Vibrant Vertical ads when they vertically scroll 70 per cent of the format onto their mobile screens. We can also guarantee engaged viewers as brands will only pay when a consumer actively chooses to watch their videos.”
This means there is new ground to explore by filmmakers. One potential outlet are stock agencies. A quick search on iStockPhoto (Getty Images) or Pond 5 confirms that vertical video is available to buy or license. Clients can search using different options, from frame rate to resolution, theme, clip diuration and, obviosuly, price. One curiosity: the videos presented on both sites visited appear on landscape format, suggesting that the stock agencies have yet to adapt their sites to show vertical videos as they were shot.
There is one exception in those websites I visited: the stock agency Verly. The vertical videos on the website are shown… vertically. Verly is the world’s first marketplace dedicated to vertical video. The founders of the company say that “the clips in our vertical video marketplace are part of a rich, carefully curated collection of content suited for professional development. The videos available for license through the vertical video marketplace have been submitted by our video authors and have passed our approval process for excellence.”
Why vertically? asks Verly. Well, because, “we hold our phones vertically 94% of the time”, because “vertical viewing has increased 600% over the last 5 years” and “mobile users don’t rotate their phones”, even when told to do so. This means that there is a public, a market and there are clients for vertical video. Verly is looking for new authors
Someone has to provide the videos that stock agencies crave for, so it’s a market opening for those able to turn their cameras on the side and start rolling.