Facebook Experiments with Vertical Video Filmmaking

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Believing that they have stumbled across the next great wave of content creation, Facebook has begun experimenting with the mobile-centric format of vertical video. Have they lost their minds, or are they on to something?

“We feel that the opportunity to kind of push the creative boundaries of vertical video is just really open and at its nascent stage, and we’re just really excited about where the creative industry will be able to push this in the time it has.” – Melissa Oppenheim, Lead at Facebook Creative Shop Design and Launch, interview with CampaignUS.

Enlisting the aid of fifteen of their high profile content creators around the world, the social media giant conducted a series of test to see how shooting vertical video affects audience engagement. Each content creator produced a 15 second vertical video designed to tap the unexplored potential of a mobile device’s vertical aspect ratio.

According to the results, audience engagement proved quite surprising. Facebook says that viewers were more apt to remain engaged, turning up the volume and watching longer. They got all that from a 15 second video? Or is more a case of “ooo! something new” for filmmakers always looking to push the envelope?

“It actually adds a little bit more excitement because less videos have been made in vertical space, and so there’s less history, there’s less to compare yourself to,” said content creator Pablo Rochat. “If Scorsese made a movie last week in vertical, I would probably be thinking about that a lot this week.”

The trends for online streaming and content creation indicate that up to 97% of video streaming is done using a mobile device. That’s HUGE. To that end, more content creators have been shooting shorter films that are designed to attract this mobile centric audience.  The content creators who participated in the experiment liked the challenge because it forced them to rethink image composition. “It keeps you selective about the things you put in the vertical space,” Rochat added.

Is this the future of streaming video? Facebook seems to think so. Image credit – Glove and Boots, YouTube

But the filmmaker also found that the aesthetics of certain subjects were actually enhanced by the vertical frame. This prompted many of the creators to expand into several other techniques including split screen, animation, and cropping the image to take advantage of the taller format. Facebook says that the opportunities for creating a vertical video are largely untapped, and it’s something that the social media giant can leverage for not only attracting brands and advertisers, but also audiences and the content creators that wish to reach them. “As a creative who cares about the audience and wants people to see their work, if you were to follow people’s attention, especially nowadays, it’s usually in the vertical space,” Rochat said. “if there was like a triangle phone that everyone was using, I’d be creating triangle videos.”

If this problem is left unchecked, YouTube will start streaming four videos at once, just to save on bandwidth. – Glove and Boots, joking about Vertical Video Syndrome

YouTube may also be getting on the vertical video bandwagon, having recently updated their mobile apps to properly display vertical video content. The world has gone mad. OK, sure, more people are watching video on their mobile devices. But SO WHAT? You know you can hold a phone horizontally, right? And while vertical video may be the flavor of the month for content creation and online streaming, I don’t think we’re going to see the local megaplex “turn tall” any time soon.

I may sound old and elitist, but Glove and Boots said it best in 2012 … your video will end up looking like crap.

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About James DeRuvo 172 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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