Why portrait mode sucks

Discussion of portrait-oriented video–and the widespread hatred for it–has peaked in the wake of Apple’s clever new ad for iMovie, which shows a sullen teen spending all of a family Christmas buried in his iPhone. The twist ending (spoilers!) is that he’s been making a family movie. But it cheats a little: though the movie is widescreen, the young videographer is only shown using the phone upright, lest the viewer be tipped-off to his noble purpose.

But why do (most of us, at least) generally prefer landscape-oriented moving images? This has been the debate on Twitter today. On the assumption that it’s because of binocular vision on a horizontal plane, I found this interesting paper from NASA detailing its study of human fields of vision.

The above image seems to be the paper’s tl;dr moment. A roughly rectangular crop of the field yields a roughly 16:10 aspect ratio — a common modern widescreen format.

This might explain why landscape-oriented moving images prevailed, but the hatred for portrait video surely also has plenty to do with the fact that video technology is so attuned to landscape production. Shoot portrait, and the chances are you’ll have huge black bars either side of a tiny image, crushed into a widescreen video player. Below, a high-quality, portrait-oriented video, appropriately embedded.

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