The hallmark of a completely novice video recorder is when they record a video in the portrait orientation — probably with their smartphone or something. Smartphones are really the only type of screen which you hold and use in a vertical fashion; virtually everything else is viewed in a horizontal, landscape orientation. I’m pretty sure that people have written about this and mocked or complained about it in the past, and will probably continue to do so in the future.
So, surely, there’s no reason to ever record anything in portrait format, is there? What would you use it for?
I didn’t have any intention of challenging this notion at all, really — The amount of letterboxing required to view a vertical video is pretty ridiculous. Ultimately, my use of it came about from specific practical concerns, when I wanted to try something on the PAX floor.
The ‘Let’s Play’ has been a thing, for a while. It’s a bunch of (mostly) unedited footage, with some kind of commentary overlaid on top. Sometimes they record their hands; not only can that be a spectacle of skill or something, but it also lets the viewer see exactly what’s being done to create the performance in-game. At some point or other, I had the thought of doing a ‘Let’s Play’ with some game footage that would more-or-less be impossible to obtain, in a normal ‘Let’s Play’ setup… something direct from the floor of an expo. For that, I needed a chest-mounted camera. I think it was a pretty cool idea: You get a preview of an unreleased game, and if you record your hands, it lets the viewer see how the game currently works.
Easy enough, right? Preliminary tests didn’t work out so well, however — since I couldn’t monitor the viewfinder, the camera was often out of alignment with the screen. There’s a very limited field of view I had to keep to capture the monitor, with the horizontal FOV being larger than the vertical. Generally, it was pretty easy to get the thing pointed towards the monitor’s direction; I just had to remember to face my body forward. However, I had no idea how high the monitors would be placed at the booths, and I knew that the monitors often varied in height.
The solution? Just switch to vertical video, and crop it in post!
It wasn’t perfect, of course — first-time field tests never are — but it was a pretty interesting experiment. The most consistent problem came about when my camera kept consistently leaning to the right; all I really had to do was face forward to get 80% of the monitor in the shot, but I never quite worked the rest out. Oh well. See the first Youtube video here.