With Social Video Sizing, Serve Your Viewers What They’re Hungry For
I hear people ask about switching both a YouTube and the Instagram feed on the same device. In other words, one operator will switch one show and it will be sent to both YouTube and Instagram, or TikTok, etc.
Having produced combination shows, I can say with experience that this is a compromise at best. A disaster, at worst. Moreover, it is only looking at it from a production point of view. This is similar to making hamburgers, but then when someone wants something else, serving them hamburgers with a different plate presentation. Unfortunately, that is not what the customer is hungry for.
Two different issues here compound the problem.
Problem one is that the production for horizontal video has a widescreen mindset—items to the left and right, a picture-in-picture with someone in a side corner, people placed side by side across the screen, lower-third graphics in the left and right corners, or sports timers and such in the upper side corners.
Vertical video is very different. If you have two people talking, it's much more acceptable to stack those talking heads one over the other. Graphics may appear in the corners, but not only do they end up being more centered, but you also have to account for all the other overlays present in the Instagram, TikTok, etc. viewing window. Program graphics under interface graphics don't work. A multi-multi-view may have one person centered over or under two other people side by side.
It's a whole different mindset to design for vertical than it is for horizontal. Taking a center slice from a horizontal program may work sometimes. But if you have a two-shot, then your center slice has nothing but empty air and maybe a shoulder on the left and someone else's shoulder on the right. It can very easily become a disaster.
Problem two is that the horizontal viewer expects things to look a certain way. Horizontal video typically presents a clean interface with nothing covering the video content. Even on news stations with multiple layers of text content, the video window is squeezed down and left alone. Sports graphics are out of the way, or even faded off the screen completely to not obscure the action.
Vertical video very often has text overlays, captions, as well as the app interface overlaying the content. Often there's dynamic text smack-dab in the middle of the frame. As such, vertical video often needs to be framed further back to include more of the person away from that overlay content because there's no margin left or right. It's nearly impossible to extract that from the typical horizontal framing, which is filling the frame to compensate for a LOT of empty horizontal real estate left and right.
Vertical video is a legitimate format for capture and delivery. Over 70% of video is viewed on mobile devices—phones, tablets, etc. Vertical video is 100% equal to horizontal video because the devices can be held either way. Vertical video has been such a force that industry giants like YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom have all put in the massive amount of engineering to add vertical video to their platforms. It's not wrong. And it's not going away.
Even though you can rotate your phone to watch a horizontal video and fill the screen, and the same with vertical video, that doesn't mean they are—or even should be—the same experience. They should not.
The customer wanting to watch your stream on Insta does not want a horizontal video shoehorned into a vertical frame. The customer watching the horizontal version doesn't want the vertical slice with the same thing blurred out behind it to fill the frame. Each of those customers is hungry for that particular experience. It's your job to give your customers what they are hungry for.
Today, we are seeing a similar conglomeration of features and abilities in today's production hardware, enabling one person to "do it all!" This begs the question: Should you do it all?
While the All-In-One live production and streaming tools grow and mature, let's make sure we keep backup solutions in mind to ensure a successful production—even if it still means a table full of gear.
I had the opportunity to try and learn to surf earlier this year. I'm very glad that I took the lessons because I soon found out how hard surfing really is. While trying, failing, getting hurt, watching, and learning, I saw some parallels between my lessons on the water and the streaming business—which isn't quite as easy as it looks either.
There's a lot more imperfect gear on the market than ever before—gear we can't count on from gig to gig. Gear that can't deliver reliable video. Features that work and then don't. Devices that connect and then don't. We've lost core reliability. Bulletproof needs to be a feature.
FAST programming needs space for the commercials. Unless you intentionally craft that space into your show, it just slices into your content randomly, ruining the mood of narrative content and frustrating viewers just as the show was getting to the "good part." Watching YouTube content on a Roku device is like this now. The random "pop" to commercials in the middle of a scene is very annoying.
The production and communication tools we use are ever-more tied to the cloud, and to take advantage of it is to open a door of possibility and additional capability. Where do you want to go today?
The pendulum has swung back away from streaming for a brief period, but COVID opened millions of eyes to the power, capability, and convenience of streaming—for the providers and the attendees. It also helped a lot of people realize that it's not as easy as it looks. I see the end result moving that pendulum toward more streaming—and more kinds of streaming—in the near future