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Horizontal VS Vertical Videos: Which One Is Losing The Race?

By: Olivia Petrac | September 18th, 2018

Just a few years ago, holding the camera vertically and recording vertical videos was considered unusual. The way viewers were consuming vertical videos, with its black bars on either side of the video and a narrow viewing angle, created a general assumption that these videos were not pleasant for the audience. However, video consumption trends are constantly changing, just like social media platforms and the whole digital world are as well. So, when is it convenient to record and upload a vertical video? When will your business benefit more if you record videos horizontally?

Before we start discussing the ups and downs of both ways of recording video, let’s see what are the main characteristics of vertical and horizontal videos.

Vertical videos

A vertically-oriented or portrait-mode video is the one that is taller than it is wide. It takes up the entire screen on the phone, focusing the user’s full attention on the video being played. Not to mention that smartphones were designed to be held vertically. Mobile owners hold their phones upright 94% of the time, and they want to consume content without having to rotate their phones 90 degrees.

Horizontal videos

The main reason for making horizontal videos is that our eyes are arranged horizontally, and we spend our lives on a horizontal plane. Consequently, movies and TV are horizontal as well. The horizontal format is far superior to vertical when showing most things in daily life. For instance, scenes that have more than one person involved, or ones that include dynamics and motion, can never be recorded vertically, or be as effective, as they would in a horizontal video.


One way doesn’t exclude the other. Vertical videos are in favor when talking about what social media users want, but when we start talking about movies and TV production, the audience will always demand horizontal videos.

Actually, only 13% of people will switch their device horizontally to watch a video. The social media platform which popularized vertical video and allowed people to tell their stories in full-screen vertical mode is Snapchat. According to that app, advertisers are seeing completion rates of their vertical video ads that are 9x higher than their horizontal video ads, meaning that users are more likely to stay engaged with a video that is vertical.

Traditionally, video content has been produced and optimized for the big screen, which is why most of the video we encounter is horizontally-oriented. However, horizontal video players are the standard and they don’t typically accommodate vertical video which is why the horizontal is still the norm.

On the other hand, trends in video consumption habits are showing that people are more and more embracing videos in vertical mode. Even many publishers (Daily Mail, The Washington Post, Mashable) are embracing it and now are shooting their videos vertically. If the future of video is mobile, can we expect that advertisers will move toward creating vertical videos? Or will the horizontal video with its many benefits overpower the vertical one?

It all starts and ends with a smartphone

Before smartphones, almost all video content was created horizontally because it was based on the way people watch – horizontal. When smartphones arrived, everything changed. The way people were holding their phones showed publishers, marketers, advertisers and others in the business world what type of content their target audience needs.

Don’t forget one important thing: People don’t like making an extra effort when consuming content! If your video plays in landscape and the quality of the video itself is not affected by the way you’re holding your phone, not many people are going to make an effort to turn their phone horizontally and tap to expand to full screen.

Zena Barakat, former New York Times video producer, spent a whole year researching vertical videos and discovered that many people didn’t reorient their phones to watch horizontal videos in full-screen mode. She said that even though marketers had other intentions for video consumption, viewers don’t care. If something is uncomfortable for them, they will lose their interest. Also, having to keep switching phones back and forth is something most mobile users highly dislike.

Videos for social media

The amount of time people are spending on social media is constantly increasing. 80% of social media use now occurs on mobile devices of which 61% are smartphones alone. This year, people are spending close to 3 hours and 20 minutes using the Internet on their smartphone. To compare, they’re spending just 40 minutes on their computer.

When thinking of creating videos for social media users, businesses have to always be aware of that information. Most content is being consumed by smartphones. So, how should your video be oriented? Horizontally or vertically?

Since February of 2017, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter have removed the black borders on their vertical videos. This update was the result of realizing people prefer to watch vertical over horizontal videos on social media. So, rather than looking upon vertical video as something with flaws,  social networks decided to update it so their users can enjoy it even more.

Not to mention that while watching live videos, people tend to hold their smartphones vertically to really engage with reactions and comments in the most natural way. For example, Facebook even decided to display a larger portion of each vertical video in the mobile News Feed. Since Facebook wants people to stay on the platform, they are willing to do whatever they need to in order to please them. Instagram had a similar sentiment for vertical videos.
In 2015, Snapchat reported that full-screen vertical video ad completion rates were 9x higher than those of horizontal video ads. Snapchat’s internal research showed that vertical video ads draw up to 2x higher visual attention vs. comparable platforms. They advised businesses to communicate their messages in a way users usually consume it – vertically.

There are only a few mobile apps that are designed for users to hold their phones horizontally. Indeed, most apps are designed with the assumption that the users will be using it while holding smartphones vertically. But, are businesses publishing videos in the right format to ensure their audience will consume it in a way they prefer?

Facebook video ads

As mentioned above, Snapchat already reported about vertical video ads having a higher completion rate when compared to horizontal video ads. Experts say that from a storytelling perspective, vertical videos are apparently more exciting for the viewers.

When talking about business communication, Facebook is another social media platform which has always been showing a large potential for marketers to connect, engage and convert their audience into customers.  To simplify, if businesses want to make the best of their social media budget, they should listen to what the social media platform is telling them about their target audience. Being aware of the vertical vs. horizontal debate, one company decided to create a study on how people react to these two different video formats.  They ran a test campaign with a $200 budget which was split into two sections.

The campaign showed that vertical video managed to reach 58% more people than horizontal video (163,871 people – vertical,  103,397 people – horizontal). The cost per 1,000 impressions for horizontal videos was $0.85 while for vertical ones it was $0.52. In other words, horizontal video ads are more expensive and get less exposure at the same time. Comparing post reactions showed that vertical videos got 28.5% more reactions than horizontal ones. Even the shares were higher for vertical videos by 39%.

When searching for a reason why are vertical videos are so much more popular, we don’t need to think about it too much. The world is going mobile! Computers and laptops are no longer devices people go to for content consumption. At the same time, smartphones are becoming more powerful and affordable.  Undoubtedly, how people hold their phones and interact with mobile apps and content determines how businesses will shape these apps and content.

Video for communication

Visual elements are crucial in communication, and the way we see things is always horizontal due to the placement of our eyes on our heads. As mentioned above, that’s how television content was created from its beginning. TV program is tailored horizontally and, consequently, TV commercials were created horizontally, too. Even TVs have horizontal screens.
After television, when the Internet was becoming more and more popular, marketers recognized its potential in building relationships with their target audience. With just a simple email message, the company could reach to their potential customers, inform them about their product or service, and encourage them to act.

Fast forward to 2018; companies have already implemented video into their email communication. They’ve noticed that plain-text emails lack one important thing – personalization. With videos in emails, it is possible to create better, significant and more informative relationships with your potential and existing customers, clients, partners, employees, etc. According to Forbes, adding a video to marketing emails can boost click-through rates by 200-300% which is a great starting point in building these relationships.

Video platforms

Many platforms allow you to send video emails. For example, Covideo has many options to implement video into your email communication. Having beneficial features such as recording and sending videos through your desktop recorder, web-based recorder, Chrome extension, Outlook Add-In, or even mobile app gives you the ability to reach and engage your audience.

“In the electronics world, the term “aspect ratio” refers to the shape of your screen. Nowadays, a high-definition television picture has a 16:9 aspect ratio, a rectangle with those proportions. Years ago, the standard TV picture had a 4:3 aspect ratio, not quite square but squarish.” 

When recording videos for such platforms, you should keep in mind that your viewers get the best-quality videos which include recording horizontal instead of vertical videos. Your desktop is horizontal, your emails are horizontal, so your video should be horizontal, too. Don’t bother your email recipients with inadequate formats and ratio. You will lose their interest! However, if your video content and its characteristics are adjusted for your audience, you will easily raise their interest in your company and the products and services you offer.

Make sure that your focus, whether it’s you or the product, is in the center of the video. A platform like Covideo even allows you to add templates and exit links next to the video to give the recipients more information about your business. You can have a personalized template designed specifically for your business or add links to your website, blog, contact information or anything else you want.

If you’re not sure whether to record a horizontal or vertical video, the good thing about these templates is that they will adjust to your video and will not affect its quality in a negative way. On the contrary, the person who receives your video message will get to enjoy more than just a video itself. All the other visual elements are here to provide your target audience with more information about you and your business. Why not use it then?
This is an example of a horizontal video taken with Covideo:

This is an example of a vertical announcement video taken with Covideo:


    1. Composition and focus. When you’re recording a horizontal video, think about what your viewer will see in the video. If you’re recording yourself, stay in the center of the video. If you’re recording your product or something else, place it so the viewer will know what he or she should focus on while watching. When you’re recording and watching the video before sending, always remember to check what’s in the background.


    1. Watch where you look. Recording a video horizontally can sometimes seem less natural than recording it vertically, especially if you’re recording yourself. Looking into the camera instead of the middle part of your phone will decrease the awkwardness level you might be feeling. Getting your target audience to feel comfortable with you is a very important step in establishing a meaningful relationship with them.


  1. Be careful with the zoom. While recording a video, you’ll probably want to highlight something and make it stand out from everything else that’s in the video. If you’re thinking about zooming into the object, try to zoom objects that are near you, so you don’t ruin the quality of the entire video. Rather than zooming in, use the mobility your smartphone has to move closer to the object.

Here is how it looks when your recipient sees the email with a horizontal video:

This is what it looks like when your recipient sees the email with a vertical video:

Videos recorded with mobile apps

When recording videos with a mobile app, you should remember that mobile users hold their phones vertically. With this in mind, videos recorded with a mobile app should be vertical. To please your target audience, you have to understand their needs and wishes. Mobile users don’t want to flip their phone from vertical to horizontal just to watch a video. That’s why all social media platforms have switched to vertical videos to ensure their users get the best experience.

When recording a video with a mobile app, look into your camera the same way you would look at a person who is standing in front of you. Hold the phone at eye level and try to be still. If you’re recording something else, such as a product or your workplace, try to keep your phone at the level of the object. Don’t record from above or below. This way you can highlight the best product features or workplace elements.


  1. Look at the camera. Your mobile camera is your audience. Look directly into the camera and hold your phone at eye level. The first few seconds of the video are crucial if you wish to get to your target audience. If you’re not recording yourself but rather a product or another person, think about the connection people have from eye-contact and try to incorporate it into the video.
  2. Be personal. Recording a vertical video adds a touch of personalization to it, especially with a front-facing camera. Don’t forget, personalization is the key to getting your customer’s attention. Also, if you introduce yourself or say hello to the recipient, you’re increasing the chances of that person replying to your video message and eventually buying your product or paying for your service.
  3. Hold the phone still. Quality is essential for a visual medium such as video. Even if the content of your message is good, the technical quality will deeply affect the viewer’s attitude towards what he/she is watching. How you’re communicating is equally important to what you’re communicating. If you want your target audience to buy from you, you have to provide them with quality in everything.

Think before recording

Recording a video vertically is different from recording a video horizontally. For instance, when recording vertically you have to follow the point of interest and keep the subject centered while thinking about what’s in the top and the lower third portion of the screen. If you’re recording with front-facing camera, you’re probably recording yourself. That means you will have to decide how much of yourself you wish to include in the video. Is it going to be just a headshot or medium shot or maybe full shot?

When recording horizontally, you’re focusing on the opposite. You want to include more objects in the video. Maybe you work as a salesperson in a dealership and you want to show your offer to a potential buyer. If you want to show him that the choice is pretty wide, you will record a horizontal video that will emphasize the number of vehicles available. Also, recording just one vehicle can easily be done with a horizontal video where you can walk around it or sit it in and show off the interior and change from the front to the rear camera.

Recording shots

There are four main types of recording shots – head shot, medium shot, full shot and long shot. Even though all of them can be used when you’re delivering a message to your target audience, sometimes your choice of the right shot can help you achieve your goals faster, easier and more efficiently.

  1. Head shot

The head shot is when you record a person’s head and his or her shoulders. This type of shot provides a closer view of a character and that’s why it’s perfect for sending an introduction or lead response videos. By sending a head shot video, your viewers will feel like they know you because you’ll create the illusion of being physically close to them. Consequently, the information you shared in the video will be easier to remember and it will encourage them to make a move.  

  1. Medium shot

A medium shot is when you record a person from the waist up. It’s usually used to provide new visual information or to show a closer view of the action. You can record these types of videos when you’re trying to educate your audience (e.g. complicated terms in mortgage and insurance), having a person announcing an event, introducing your team or a specific department or interviewing someone. It is great for recording videos for special occasions such as birthdays or holidays.

  1. Full shot

A full shot is when you record a person from head to toe or completely record an object. It’s used either to establish something or to provide deeper insight. For instance, creating videos which will portray your company culture are best to record using the full shot. In the lifestyle industry, full shot videos are used to show the viewers a person’s sense of style or workout results. In the corporate world, these videos are best when you wish your viewers to see what’s happening behind your walls.

  1. Long shot

Longs shot is when you record a full shot, but show the person at a greater distance. It’s usually used when you want to show an object, but be personal when showing it. A real estate agent will record long shot videos when they’re recording property walkaround or a salesperson in a dealership when he or she is recording a vehicle walkaround. By recording such videos, the recipients of your video message will feel more connected to you and what you’re presenting.

Recording in the future

In 2018, we can definitely say that we watch more video on our mobile gadgets than we do on TVs and computers. If we add that the usage of mobile phones is constantly increasing, then we can predict that mobile devices will determine how users prefer their video content – horizontally or vertically. While some still believe that horizontal videos are popular with mobile users, many studies have shown what we already know: people are lazy. Not to give a negative connotation to that, but people want to be spoiled with the technology they paid good money for and there is nothing wrong with that.

Watching a horizontal video on your phone will make you move from One-Hand Land to Two-Hand Land. So, what does the future of video look like?  
Social media also supports vertical videos. Snapchat, the first social media platform which embraced videos recorded in a vertical way, has 178 million fans who are passionate about their vertical Snapchat videos. Facebook has also presented vertical videos in the scrolling feed without having to tap to expand them. Instagram and Twitter have updated their apps to improve user experience regarding vertical videos. The trend has gone so far that there is now a vertical-video film festival called Vertical Cinema in which the movie screen is hung vertically.

However, we cannot fail to mention that our TVs and computer screens are still horizontal. Movies will continue to be filmed in a horizontal way because they will never look even close to right on vertical screens. Sure there are some of those that are similar to Vertical Cinema, but the majority of the film industry is still determined to stay with horizontal recording.

This debate fails to find its winner which is a good thing. Having two options is always better than having just one. Horizontal videos don’t have to exclude vertical videos and vice versa. Businesses and individuals can decide, depending on the situation and their goals, whether they should record horizontal or vertical videos. There are no negative consequences if we accept both formats. There are only negative consequences if we create low-quality videos without thinking about what our target audience wants to see. Be sure to think about them from the first phase of planning your video!


Covideo provides video email software that helps businesses and individuals communicate more effectively, build relationships faster and reinforce their brands with easy-to-make personalized videos.

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