Google’s New Camera App Takes a Stand Against the Scourge that is Vertical Video

The new “Google Camera” app has gotten a lot of attention for its fancy fake-bokeh Lens Blur feature and its 50MP high-res Photo Spheres, but there’s one feature that stands head and shoulders above the rest (okay, maybe we’re exaggerating) and has gotten somewhat overlooked.

You see, Google Camera is also doing its best to help us win the war against that most unforgivable of smartphone video sins: Vertical Video.


As the video above by YouTube user ET Galim demonstrates, if you try to shoot vertical video with the new app, a very obvious icon pops up to let you know that, in the words of Glove and Boots, “you’re not shooting that right dummy!” Cue standing ovation from the photography crowd.

(via Gizmodo and DIY Photography)

  • Christopher

    Ovation from the videography crowd is more appropriate – I’ve seen photographers shooting video the, “Wrong way,” many times.

  • Leif Sikorski

    It’s a least a little step. The only thing I don’t understand is why nobody has made a camera app so far that always records landscape videos? At least in most phones the sensors have enough resolution that they could record 1080p landscape videos in either phone orientation.

  • Jonathan Soucy
  • DLCade
  • Jbhaber

    This is not groundbreaking. There’s already a video camera app called Horizon that does this.

  • Stuart

    What exactly is the virtue of horizontal video? As technology generalizes the means of production it seems that those who wish to differentiate themselves from ‘amateurs’ cling to a series of arbitrary principles to defend their self-aggrandizement. Let people shoot the videos they want to the way they want to.

  • Edward De la Torre

    It’s not arbitrary as the videos might be eventually viewed on a standardized horizontal medium which is based on the way humans see. It’s not arbitrary.

  • Stuart

    Not sure that I agree. Its not like we’re talking about the new Star Wars films here. I imagine that a majority of vertical videos are viewed on iPhones, computers and Facebook. All three of these platforms have excellent support for vertical orientation playback.

  • mahirh

    Our eyes aren’t in a vertical order. It is typically found to be easier to focus on video that is horizontal than on a vertical one for this reason.

  • Omar Salgado

    “Let people shoot the videos they want to the way they want to.”

    But that is not the case: taking video in a vertical way starts from holding the phone in a vertical way because it was designed that way. So, someone else has already decided. And if you take into account that early phones had such orientation, it could be said that it is because the screen was above the keyboard, and that goes far back when cell phones were cell phones, not multimedia centres.

    As a viewer, I do not like to watch those videos. For me, it is okay that people record vertically if they are to keep them private, but they always share them for the public.

    A technical note is that portrait mode crops the sides, thus taking away much of the context. Vertical video is self-centred and for self-centred people.

  • Edward De la Torre

    The latter two do not since the vast majority of monitors are horizontally oriented. Really they only usually work phones and maybe tablets.

  • Truth Teller

    Self-centered people? Do you mean like you?

  • Justin King

    Yea, but this reasoning would suggest that people only liked to view horizontal photos as well. I’ve seen quite a few vertical photographs that didn’t strain my eyes one bit to look at them:)

  • Esprit

    Stuart, Stuart, Stuart. Just stop. This isn’t a matter of opinion, so it’s not a debate you’re going to win.

    The entire world is on a horizontal axis. It’s called gravity. That’s why just about every living animal that has more than one eye has its eyes oriented horizontally. We read from side to side. When you have guests over at your home, and you walk into the living room to check on them, do your eyes sweep up and down from the floor to the ceiling to see what’s going on? Or do they sweep from side to side to gather information? When you’re watching a soccer game, are your eyes flying up and down in discrete vertical bars? Or are you looking from side to side BECAUSE THAT’S HOW EVERYTHING WORKS ON THIS PLANET?

    It’s how vision works. FFS. Stop.

  • ah tong

    It’s like restricting sex position to missionary position only. It’s okay if you don’t like vertical video, as much as you dislike doggie, but disable it all together? Come on Google!

  • mahirh

    It’s more of a subtle inconvenience than a glaring distraction.

  • Omar Salgado

    I know you felt touched. No need to project yourself.

  • Luca

    LOL, best explanation ever :D

  • JudeJackson

    Self-centered is what people who would dare frame their subjects to fit the frame are. Instead of filming the dancer so they fill the screen of a 4-inch display they were meant to be viewed on, you should always be considerate to the crank who’s watching your video on a wide screen and absolutely hates seeing empty space on the sides.

    But let’s look at the facts of your comment: You suggest that smartphones are vertical because of some foolish conformity to tradition. Is that true? The Nokia 9000, one of the best selling early smartphones, was horizontally arranged. Until very recently, slide-out-phones were very popular for their tactile keyboards, and they operated horizontally. The iPhone is more directly a successor of the Nokia 9000 than the Qualcomm QCP-2700, so why did it adopt the latter’s vertical orientation? It’s impossible for it to be a foolish conformity to tradition, because the tradition didn’t exist.

    But you can consider that books have, for centuries, been arranged vertically. As is business paper. A better question to ask is, why is that true? Because it’s easier to read information that way. Reading a narrow page is always easier than reading a wide one. Smartphones adopted the portrait orientation for the same reason. They also support horizontal layouts, which especially are used to better support media that was designed with the historic landscape-oriented displays (more on that in another post), but for personal use, vertical layouts are usually ideal.

    Edit: I see you added a BS note about how vertical layouts “crop from the sides.” No, they don’t, it’s a different aspect ratio. No information is removed, it’s simply different information being displayed, and it’s the job of the photographer to put what is appropriate in frame.

  • JudeJackson

    So to address this whole hegemony of the horizontal video, I’ll establish a little historic context. But first, here’s where we are now: We’re in a world where everyone has a smart phone or a tablet. Those, natively, support vertical aspect ratios, and for good reason! It’s easier to read with a narrow width, video calls feel more natural in portrait mode, and so on. Some people are filming their subject so that they fit a vertical frame, and their videos look okay if you watch them on one. It’s not complicated. But everyone’s insisting, “but film has always been horizontal! Our vision is horizontal!” Okay, fair point, but why is that true?

    The fact is, film developed in a context where vertical formats were impractical and didn’t make sense. For more than half of film’s existence to-date, the film format was so clumsy and complicated to use that it was only designed to be exhibited to an audience. Not only were projectors too clunky to use for personal screenings, but the technological limitations of projectors meant that all film had to fit in one of a few select formats (there was a time when changing the film’s aspect ratio literally meant the theater had to use a different projector system). There are numerous reasons why wide formats were settled on, but the gist of it is: Wide formats are very good for exhibition on a large screen (or stage). The cultural assumptions surrounding motion picture led to television evolving along much the same course, and similar technology limitations cemented it in similar standards.

    But let’s address a popular point: What films use vertical aspect ratio? Very few, because of the historical reasons I already outlined. But, a more meaningful question is: What art (especially representational art) uses vertical orientation? Turns out: Almost all of it. Examples: Paintings, beer bottle labels, graphic novels, baseball cards, tarot cards, playing cards, tapestries, architecture, photography, book covers, signs, graffiti, clocks, iPad games, sidewalk art, guitars, tattoos, statues, jewelry, costume, masks, currency, oven mitts, billboards, flags, furniture, swords, and hundreds of other specific media and applications. The most analogous example to film is graphic novels, which for the better part of a century have, worldwide, been mostly oriented vertically. If you want to know how a story can be told in vertical orientation, read a comic book. I’ll recommend Habibi if you want somewhere to start.

    “Vertical is too narrow for our vision even on a smart phone” is, in a word, a lie. No it’s not. Look at the world around you and it’s full of narrow things that you can see just fine. This whole anti-vertical-video campaign is just a bunch of smug pricks acting like they’re so cool for hating vertical video, while stunting the development of art with their elitist dogma.

  • JudeJackson

    Okay so only half of the computing devices have natively vertical screens.

  • Gatot Jaka Timur

    we should make vertical monitor soon!!!

  • JudeJackson

    On any computer, it’s trivial to switch the monitor to operate vertically (though it does involve changing the settings, and figuring out how the hell to mount your display on its side). But more importantly, almost all smart phones and tablets support vertical layouts natively.

    I have seen vertical monitors in use, and they’re mainly used for displaying text, which is best viewed in a narrow format. It’s not common but it’s still done, because it’s very practical in the appropriate circumstances.

  • Stuart

    I find this position a bit bizarre. Does your perspective allow for other things in vertical orientations? Are still photos allowed to use this format but video is not? Have we been building skyscrapers in the wrong direction this whole time?

    Lets not mistake conventions and preferences for rules and facts. It is OK to prefer horizontal video, but it just seems paternalistic to assume that everybody else doesn’t know what they’re doing.

    Further, the world is in fact not on a horizontal axis, perception is a psychological convention we have constructed to interpret visual signal. There is certainly gravity, but it does not prevent our eyes from gazing up towards the stars or down into the deepest ocean. I’m not rejecting the idea that we might have a horizontal bias, but I am skeptical of its power to justify any argument about the “correct” orientation of images. Finally, there are plenty of vertically oriented writing and reading systems from Korea’s Hangul to ancient Phoenician.

    I know, Esprit, that you didn’t make all of these claims, but I’m writing a single threaded response here, so addressing other peoples points as well.

    * though explaining why you refuse to watch the vertVid your sister sent you of her kid on a swing being adorable on aesthetic grounds seems to miss the point a bit.

  • Stuart

    Well argued. We barbarians seem to have the facts and the history.

  • RonT

    Actually binocular (human and most other forward-eyed) vision works in two parallel, virtually-square fields with overlaid fields of vision.
    Effectively we create a stereo horizontal format as our visual systems ‘photomerge’ these two fields and scan the result for differentials that create for spatial cues of distance (depth). Organisms that use other visual systems (and there are many others) don’t necessarily work the same way at all.

    It’s not vision that makes us prefer horizontal formats, it’s the image creation system of video – in general it runs line by line from top to bottom, left to right (some slight variations in different formats) or in alternating lines of pixels.

    Visually we don’t actually scan images like that naturally, we focus on eyes, then other facial features (primarily the mouth), then scan in concentrated circular ‘loops’ outwards from these. In non-face images we scan edges then plane surfaces. And yes you probably do look up and down at least as much as you do side-to-side.

  • RonT

    There are already lots of vertical monitors, in fact most (though not all) horizontal monitors can be switched to vertical mode in the prefs.

  • RonT

    Actually it’s virtually only video that is ‘normally’ horizontal – most other visual forms are traditionally vertical (books – even ebooks, newspapers, magazines, etc) so I don’t think the visual system works horizontally argument is valid.
    The reason appears to be more sociological and technology-based than biological in origin.

  • Justin King

    The anti-vertical argument is completely closed minded. It should depend on the subject mater and how you plan to display it. Although I almost always shoot wide there are times where vertical is just better.

    Myself being a new dad, I couldn’t wait to shoot my little girl taking her first steps. When it finally happened it was a no-brainer to shoot vertical with my iPhone. If I had shot this horizontal I would’ve had to decide to either capture her expression with a close shot or step back and get her little feet shuffling along in the shot as well. Shooting vertical meant I could get in tight but not miss anything. And I was filling the frame with action, which any sports photog would tell you is a great thing to do. I wasn’t going for a cinematic experience here. But I guarantee there were plenty of tears in the eyes of my friends and family viewing it on Facebook later that day.

    The single most photographed subject in the world is people. I’m sure it’s probably the same for video. People are not horizontal they are vertical (well, most of the time they are vertical). Most novice users are shooting videos from their smartphones with the intention of putting them on some sort of social media site. Social media sites are visited more with mobile devices than they are with computers. To me, this makes vertical video a completely viable option.

  • Chris

    Sure. But our eyes are also not 4:3 – or the myriad other formats which don’t match the human field of view – despite their popularity over time. Does this discredit those formats?

  • 23542352

    idiots who don´t notice that shoudl nottake videos at all..

  • Leif Sikorski

    Thanks, I’ve totally missed that. Google and Apple should include this in their basic camera app.

  • MickO

    So why is a phone ever in a vertical position? Ever? Could it be that that’s not the only factor in how we process information? Could it be that some of this is enculturated? Could our brains be slightly more adaptable than you give them credit for? If you are saying there has never been vertically-oriented visual processing in history, you’d be wrong.

  • JudeJackson

    Books, paper, beer bottle labels, signs, buildings, people… Well, it’s unfair to simply assume that Esprit has a vertically-oriented figure, but most people are taller than they are wide. Whatever, it’s ignorant scientism.

  • JudeJackson

    Indeed. There’s this obsession with “field of view”, which actually has nothing to do with how people see; we don’t actually focus on a wide field, we can only focus on a single, small focal point, which is dimensionless. In cinematography, great care is put into composing pictures and montage so that the eye stays fixed on the focal point of an image. Typically, between cuts, the focal point either remains stationary, or is mirrored along the vertical axis (eg. A conversation, where the camera cuts between two faces on either side of the screen)

    By contrast, vertically-oriented compositions rely less on symmetry and balance, and lend themselves well to dynamic, organic designs. Compare, for example, the wide, solid structures of Historic Revivalism to the tall, elegant curves of Art Nouveau. This is Art 101 Chapter 1 material. The orientation of a composition is arbitrary and abstract; the boundaries of a composition necessarily aren’t the same as the boundaries of vision, but our minds are very good at focusing on that abstraction. Needless to say, field of view is irrelevant to composition (though there’s neat work in immersive art, if you want to go to MOMA someday).

  • JudeJackson

    Mind the copypasta, but the obsession with “field of view”, which actually has nothing to do with how people see; we don’t actually focus on a wide field, we can only focus on a single, small focal point, which is roughly dimensionless. In cinematography, great care is put into composing pictures and montage so that the eye stays fixed on the focal point of an image. Typically, between cuts, the focal point either remains stationary, or is mirrored along the vertical axis (eg. A conversation, where the camera cuts between two faces on either side of the screen)

    By contrast, vertically-oriented compositions rely less on symmetry and balance, and lend themselves well to dynamic, organic designs. Compare, for example, the wide, solid structures of Historic Revivalism to the tall, elegant curves of Art Nouveau. This is Art 101 Chapter 1 material. The orientation of a composition is abstract and arbitrary; the boundaries of a composition necessarily aren’t the same as the boundaries of vision, but our minds are very good at focusing on that abstraction. Needless to say, our field of view is mostly irrelevant, and much of the time, wide orientations work to our disadvantage, such as displaying text and information, where it’s easy to get lost.

  • dan110024

    Go and watch a vertical video on Youtube on your phone while holding it in a vertical position. The Youtube video will still be horizontal meaning the vertical video will be a tiny little square surrounded by black.

  • Omar Salgado

    You mention some horizontal cases in phones, but they are not the totality.

    I remember I had a Motorola with a square screen; that phone took 1.3 MB photos, which were horrible. Nevertheless, the layout remained the same: screen atop, keyboard below. Those were the beginnings.

    Now, what in Earth makes you think that if a book is easily read vertically, a video should too? The data layout in the smartphone is one thing, in video is entirely another. I don’t fight the argument that “vertical layouts are usually ideal”, but here we are talking about video, not words. In Occident, we read from left to right descending in lines. I know that images are also read the same, but images do not attach to those strict rules. Furthermore, as someone above said, video fits our natural way of view: horizontally. You can not change that.

    Aspect ratios interweave between them; they are not rigid truths. For instance, 4:3 equals 3:4. It is not only “the job of the photographer to put what is appropriate in frame”, but to frame accordingly and correctly if he is to “put what is appropriate in frame”. That’s why I said that portrait mode in video crops from the sides, but who is actually cropping is the videographer. Or… tell me, when you take a photo in vertical mode, do you rotate your camera to take advantage of most of the space the frame gives you? Oh, the rectangle is still the same (3:2), but now it is 2:3. Still same proportions, still same geometrical figure in which we frame, but you can do magic in post. I don’t see “different information”, because that does not transform your subject into something else. You crop, you remove.

  • JudeJackson

    So you literally can’t comprehend the idea that two photos that are different are different, even if the subject is the same? Fascinating, it’s like you’re a child who thinks his mother is inside the telephone because it has the same voice.

    Now for the people who don’t have the minds of children, what I employed is a device called synecdoche. That is, I used a once-popular Qualcomm phone to refer to vertically-oriented DTMF keypad mobile phones, and a once-popular Nokia phone to refer to the horizontally-oriented QWERTY keypad mobile phones. Early mobile phones tried a number of awkward experiments (N-Gage), but there were obvious trends. Of course, even your obscure exceptions ultimately support my point: There wasn’t a single standard that defined the design of mobile phones before the iPhone’s vertical design was settled on.

    Is text like pictures? Nope. But that’s beside the point. There are pragmatic reasons why personal media is often vertical, but there’s no physiological reason why it would need to be horizontal, because field of view has nothing to do with how we look at things. When we look at something, we see a focal point, which is dimensionless. Don’t soil the good name of rational thinking with your on-the-fly pseudoscientific drivel.

  • Omar Salgado

    The photos could be different, but not the subjects. If you speak of the context, then yes. But then again, I see you can not comprehend the way we see biologically and that you extrapolate examples that do not fit within each other.

    Good luck.

  • JudeJackson

    You’re still pushing that pseudoscience you made up? You sound like one of those creationist hicks or a climate change denier. You should be careful so you don’t spill your BS on children.

  • JudeJackson

    Speaking of being a child! “I’m rubber, you’re glue,” “I know you are but what am I?” and “you must be projecting,” I see you’re sticking to the playground classics!

  • JC

    This feature was already available on the Youtube Capture app way before Horizon

  • Omar Salgado

    Hey, go on with your live. Detach yourself from me.

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  • Toby Hawkins

    Nice. Now what I’d really like to see from Google is a device in their new handsets that gives a (at first) mild electric shock every time the orientation of a video is changed during a single recording. My facebook timeline seems to be full of videos where to watch them as intended, I’d have to rotate my monitor every 4 seconds.

  • Gatot Jaka Timur

    we should use vertical comment soon!!!


    Google didn’t disable it all together, they just decided to alert the user that they are potentially taking the video the wrong way. Sure, the vertical video will still encode and save vertically, just that you will have to deal with the slight watermark warning indicator.

    You have to give Google credit on this one, there are lots of people taking vertical video where the task at hand seems not right to be taken vertically, such as from taking a scenery at the amazons to taking a video of your father’s retirement party, these example of events would be served better taking the video horizontally as you will be capturing a wider view of the area and as much people as possible that are dancing, etc These people can auto correct themselves and realize the error they are (about to) commit since more than 90% of people take vertical videos accidentally because that’s how they hold the phone for pretty much everything not related to videos like phone callings, web surfing and even picture taking, so 90% of the masses haven’t made a mental note to rotate the phone before they shoot a video unless they are absolutely sure that a vertical video would be best for the task at hand.