May 27, 2012

Tricking Youtube and iPods into playing vertical video

We’re making training videos for Clover. It’s a project I started over a year ago, and am just now getting back into in a serious way. They’re going to be one small part of training.

So what’s that rig? I had this idea that our videos should be vertical. That would be a good fit for our iPods, a good fit for our menu boards, and a good fit for our brand. I’ve been working hard for a long time to make sure that images we share have people in them. Not just stuff, but people. So that as you read about that crazy garlic mustard weed we’re using you’re also seeing somebody’s hands, or face. So what better way to bring people into the video than vertical (portrait) aspect ratio, right?

Turns out this is a really really hard thing to do. So I’ve been working harder than I should on this crazy little bit. But somehow I’m unwilling to give up. Even if it’s a little detail, it just feels like it matters. I’m posting info here, sort of technical, for those who might find themselves in the same boat. Maybe I can help you avoid the troubles I’ve been battling.

The first helpful post about this was about porn. Porn leading the way in technological innovation. It was a guy who filmed the first porn video on an iPhone, took it in portrait to emphasize the iPhone-ness about it, then went into post processing completely stuck.

Why? The video industry has been built for years around a limited set of distribution devices. You had the TV, and the movie screen. That’s it. And for video that really means just the TV screen. So everything, and I mean EVERYTHING related to video assumes an aspect ratio.

But why should that matter now that we have computers, iPhones, etc.? Right? Well I think it’s just one of those momentum things. It’s going to take forever to change.

In the meantime we have to work with what we have. I bought a new iMac to do the video editing ($1,600). I already had some monitor speakers that I use for Clover events (think pirate movie night), so I hooked those up for the editing. I’m using a camera we bought a year ago for documenting everything Clover, it’s a Canon Mark II and can take really beautiful videos. And I’m using a Zoom digital audio recorder. We’re thinking we need to upgrade the audio recording, maybe a boom mike?

On to the vertical stuff:


This was the easiest part. I’m shooting the videos with a Canon Mark II on a tripod. I just tip the camera sideways. I made a bit of a mistake with the first few, I typed sideways, but the wrong sideways. For the record you want the camera grip to be facing the ground.


Doesn’t deal with video that is vertical very easily. I could rotate the video, but then I would be getting black bars on the sides. So I decided the easiest thing was to edit the video sideways. But my neck was getting sore. So I bought this screen at Micro Center for $169, and a stand for the screen for $79. I rotated the screen into portrait and mounted it on the stand (you can see in the picture).

So this screen thinks it’s right side up, but it’s actually tipped sideways. So when I play my sideways video in Final Cut Pro to edit it shows up on my auxiliary screen perfectly upright. Awesome.


I’m just uploading sideways videos to YouTube and not worrying about that. I’ll explain in the next segment.


So I lock the iPod orientation to vertical (double click on the home button, scroll the screen to the right a couple of times, then click the button that looks like an arrow going in a circle).

Then I open Youtube and open my videos. They start to play on the YouTube app, and since I’ve locked the orientation the video that is really sideways on Youtube plays PERFECTLY on the iPod. It’s really cool.

So perfect? Not quite. But it’s a pretty easy workflow (which is what I’m learning video and photo people call the process it takes to get stuff put together). And it’s doing exactly what we need it to.


This is the part I haven’t figured out yet. I want to share these videos with all of you, and in the current incarnation they’re a bit akward. I’m thinking there may have to be 2 versions of each video. (1) for the iPods (sideways) and (2) for folks reading on computers (right side up). Working on this.

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