Buena Vista, Colorado
March 7, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC
The authors would like to thank everyone who helped make this work possible, including:
The School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.
Bernard Blackburn, James Davenport, and Cathy McCullagh.
All the participants in the Vertical Media Workshop:
Kevin Cook, Michael Daubs, Michele Fontana, Jaesung Hwang, Michelle Kan, Richard Keys, Pearl Liefting, Tai Mackenzie, Zac Metin, Quan Nguyen, Tomohiko Nogi, Betsy Quero, Katie Rochow, Jennifer Smith, and Roger Ward.
And extra special thanks to our co-conspirators and presenters:
Maddy Glen, Alfio Leotta, Matt McGregor, and Thomasin Sleigh.
Films and TV have almost always been shown on horizontal screens, i.e. a screen with an aspect ratio (Horizontal/Vertical) greater than 1.0. Recently, with the advent of smartphones and tablet computers which have screens that can rotate, we are able to film and view videos with an aspect ratio that is fractional (H/V less than 1.0). These videos are called by several names including: portrait oriented, tall screen, narrow screen, or perhaps most commonly: vertical video; to differentiate them from traditional horizontal, landscape or wide-screen formats. Apple and other phone manufacturers, whether intentionally or not, have encouraged this format, as it is the default camera set up when the phone is held vertically, as a phone is often held. Numerous videos, most commonly from amateur users, have been posted on YouTube and other video forums in a vertical format, at times gaining over a million views.
In June 2012, Bento Box Entertainment produced a satirical video on the “Glove and Boots” blog entitled Vertical Video Syndrome - A PSA (VVS). This humorous piece poked fun at videos that are produced in a vertical format (primarily on smartphones) and, by extension, at those who make them. The video “went viral” on YouTube with nearly 4 million views as of December 2013. It has generated many many similarly themed videos and comments, often vociferous (see e.g. this one, by Richard Arnt, especially the comments). It also encouraged a satirical rebuttal, the Vertical Cinema Manifesto by author of this text, Miriam Ross, Lecturer in Film at Victoria University of Wellington and her colleague Maddy Glenn.
A number of blogs picked up the debate. Dave Neal, producer and director of Alicewinks, a portrait oriented feature length animated video, as well as author of this text, and Miriam Ross, began commenting on the blogs and eventually corresponding with each other. From different quadrants of the globe, as coincidence would have it, they ended up in the same place at the same time in Wellington New Zealand in early November 2013 and decided to conduct a one-day workshop about vertical framing called Vertical Media. This ebook is a record of that workshop and some of the thinking that preceded it.
At an early stage in its history, film making was standardized into horizontal rectangular frames. Thomas Edison pioneered this format, using 35mm film with a 1.33 aspect ratio. When sound was first added in the late 1920s as a separate track on the film strip, the images were reduced to an almost square aspect ratio of 0.8 to accommodate the soundtrack, however studios quickly modified the film to return to the 1.33 aspect ratio. Films have been produced and displayed in a dizzying number of formats, almost all of which have had horizontal frames. Some early television screens were round or square, but television transmission quickly standardized into the 4x3 (1.33) aspect ratio that is known as part of the description of Standard Definition (SD).
However, this ratio did not apply to all screens. Early conceptual ideas about “personal computing” such as Vanevar Bush's memex had vertical screens, mimicking the common orientation of print on paper. One of the earliest “personal computers,” the Xerox Alto (see image at right), which was developed in 1973—years before IBM PC and a decade before the Macintosh, had a vertical screen. Many early dedicated “word processing” machines had vertical displays. However, mainly because of the ready availability of Cathode Ray Tube screens designed for television and circuitry for horizontal display, personal computers have mostly (but not universally) had the screen positioned horizontally.
Even with the dominance of horizontal screens, some prominent film-makers have expressed interest in vertical formats. Serge Eisenstein proposed “The Vertical Montage” and spoke passionately about a square screen that could incorporate both horizontal and vertical framing. Paolo Gioli experimented with vertical in the 1970s. British director Mike Leigh has been quoted as saying “I’m fascinated by the idea of a vertical frame.”
In most cases, filmmakers were constrained by exhibition platforms that maintained a horizontal configuration. However, the digital era of film-making technologies has offered new possibilities for how film-making might change.
An early (2007) parody by Todd Bradley about the hype surrounding the debut of High Definition (HD) video called “High Definition Tall Screen,” contained footage that was shot “sideways,” Completed before the advent of iPhones and Tablets, the video offers an ironic commentary on what may happen if filmmakers decide to film vertically rather than horizontally. This video is fun to watch on a tablet or phone as you can rotate the device back and forth into the correct orientation for the image as the film proceeds (be sure to use rotation lock!)
With the iPhone and iPad as well as Android phones and tablets and others, screen display software has been designed such that the view automatically rotates upright as the user holds the device either horizontally or vertically. Thus, for the first time in screen history, multiple and easily changeable viewing possibilities are offered in one device. In turn this means that, while the possibilities for shooting video vertically have always been available, there are now greater options for viewing them.
A small number of Vimeo groups and channels have been created to post vertical videos. They include: Portrait Orientation, Tallscreen, TallScreen Video, and Narrow screen. To date, these groups have limited membership and uploading/viewing. However, a few serious producers have begun to appear, including: Christoph A. Geisler, producer of “Curry Power,” a vertical short subject, Gregory Gutenko (Doctor Video), whose “a rail poem” (5 min.) was exhibited at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in 2012, as well as Tacia Dean, whose “Film” (produced on 35 mm film no less) was exhibited at the Tate Modern in London 11 October 2011 – 11 March 2012.
In February 2013, Aram Bartholl and CuratingYouTube.net (Robert Sakrowski) presented a selection of vertical videos from YouTube at PlatoonBerlin. This blog link has some snapshots from the exhibition. The video from this exhibition was later put on DVD and displayed in New York at the Museum of the Moving Image from March 19, 2013-May 7, 2013.
More recently, ten large-scale, site-specific works by experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists, were presented on 35 mm celluloid projected vertically with a custom-modified projector in vertical CinemaScope for a 90-minute programme at Kontraste Dark As Light Festival in October 2013 and then later screened on 24 January 2014 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. This latter screening was reviewed by Laya Maheshwari in Filmmaker Magazine.
As many of the cases above show, vertical film-making is now moving outside the confines of strictly amateur YouTube practice and into more sophisticated use. The authors also include themselves in those serious about vertical framing. Miriam Ross, producer of Vertical Cinema Manifesto, has produced other vertical video shorts, including Heaven and Eddie's Adventure. Dave Neal produced Alicewinks, arguably the first feature length vertical video. Both plan to continue working with vertical framing. Heaven, Eddie's Adventure and Alicewinks will be discussed in the Present section below.
As noted above, the video Vertical Video Syndrome: a PSA leveled a number of “straw-man” arguments against using video framed in a portrait orientation. In addition, other similar YouTube up-loads, such as: “Turn Your Phone (No Scrubs Parody)” and “Turn Your Phone (Vertical Video PSA)” have had similar messages. In this section we break down and interrogate some of their arguments against Vertical Video.
Most people hold their phones (and tablets perhaps to a lesser extent) in portrait orientation much if not most of the time. At the workshop, when Miriam asked people to hold up their phone, they were all held vertically. Others have done similar experiments and find, if not an overwhelming preference for vertical at least some amount of vertical use. Thus, it is probably incorrect to say that holding the phone vertically is “wrong” even when using it for video recording. When played on another phone or tablet, the vertical video will fill the screen (mostly) just as it did when it was recorded. It will only “pillar-box” (display large black bands left and right) when displayed on a device that cannot rotate into a vertical position, and even then, if the actual framing is correctly specified the black bands need not appear. In most cases, the black bands are an anachronism based on the belief of developers that the frame will be a “standard” horizontal one. Black bands need not be displayed in most cases, especially when not in “full screen” mode. You will note that in the following all the videos should be properly framed. But for that we are also dependant upon the implementation of the device you are viewing this on.
As mentioned, it is now far easier to turn videos from one axis to another. Every tablet and smart phone produced today (running into the billions) has software that will turn video so that it displays “right side up” when the device is rotated. There is no reason that televisions (using similar technology) could not be placed on brackets that would allow them to be rotated in a similar way and many computer monitors have been designed to rotate into either portrait or landscape mode. The flexibility built into digital projectors and new light weight screens also means that it is possible for larger exhibition spaces to support screens that are taller than they are wide.
Here are Aram Bartholl and CuratingYouTube.net (Robert Sakrowski) on how to turn the screen on your computer in order to display the vertical video from their DVD:
Used under Creative Commons license by-nc-sa 3.0 Aram Bartholl 2013. This video has been cut in length but not otherwise modified.
The very earliest Edison films were square, although he quickly set the 1.33 standard that has remained prominent to this day (the iPad has a 1.33 aspect ratio, for example.) Televisions have been square and round in addition to 1.33 and 1.67 (HD). Computers have had vertical screens, especially the earliest Personal Computers, those dedicated to word processing and those used for page creation (magazine and book production).
A newly emerging use of vertical screens is in public spaces, such as airports, train stations, and building atriums. Most commonly used as advertising displays; videos, animations, and multimedia are employed to present content such as products, menus, and announcements.
Our field of view is not rectangular, nor is it framed in any way. Our vision focuses, but still includes peripheral elements both horizontal and vertical. We can view framed objects comfortably as long as we can focus on them, be they horizontally or vertically framed. If the frame is too large, we may have trouble with the edges, including feelings of dizzyness and nausea. This is true whether the frame is horizontal or vertical.
YouTube has been at the forefront of multiple viewing options and most vertical videos from YouTube will display at full size and resolution when viewed on a tablet or phone. “Pillar-boxed” vertical video is displayed on horizontally oriented screens when the frame dimensions are unspecified, however vertical videos are rarely window-boxed, that is both letter-boxed (vertical bands top and bottom) and pillar-boxed simultaneously, although it can happen. Our tablet demonstrations have shown that aspect ratio isn’t really an issue when using tablets or phones with correctly specified vertical video.
Interestingly, the first computer display of videos done in the 1980s and 1990s was often described as “postage stamp video,” even though they were universally horizontal. This was due to the limitations of computer hardware and software at the time, such that the processing could only keep up with very small images at a frame rate fast enough to produce the illusion of motion (24 frames per second or more.) With today’s computer technology, especially the graphics processors containing multiple processing elements, video can be displayed at very high resolution (so called 4K and beyond) and very high frame rates (60 or more frames per second). In this context there is no need for “postage stamp videos” in either a horizontal or vertical configuration.
While it is true that movie theatre screens have almost always been horizontal, there has never been a standardized movie theatre set up. The so-called Standard Definition (1.33) has been used a lot, as have High Definition (1.67) and numerous other formats. The film “Ben Hur” among others was filmed in a process known as MGM Camera 65, on 70 mm film with an aspect ratio of 2.76. This film displays extremely letter-boxed on most if not all known (horizontal) computer displays, HDTVs, etc. Because of varying aspect ratios, all movie theatres are equipped with the ability to display a range of formats and standardization is less the norm than commonly thought.
It is also worth remembering that theatrical sites do not always have horizontal stage spaces. Opera houses such as this one in Prague and other vertical theatres (Frederick Kiesler’s The Film Guild Cinema, New York) already exist. Many live theater venues, especially older ones, are suitable for vertical screens because the spaces were designed upwards (balcony seating etc.) to allow as many people as possible to be as close to the stage as feasible.
The authors have addressed this issue in different ways. For the world premiere of the feature length Alicewinks video in August 2012, we displayed the video sideways on a computer and then rotated the projector connected to it. The video was displayed on a blank wall at The Roadhouse in Buena Vista, Colorado, an old highway department garage with a high ceiling.
To screen Heaven, and for the workshop, a portable screen was set vertically and the black bars on either side of the projected image were framed off-screen and thus not visible to audiences. Instead it appeared that the image took up the full screen space.
Media industries are looking for product differentiation as much as convergence. The headlong rush of the film industry into 3D film display is a good example. Within this context, it is not unimaginable that once a major filmmaker produces a vertical movie, the format could become popular, without competing with or trying to replace landscape oriented films.
In December of 2012, Miriam worked with Maddy Glenn on a Summer Scholarship project at Victoria University of Wellington. The project aimed to create a response to Vertical Video Syndrome: a PSA. As part of their project, they created their own video called Vertical Cinema Manifesto (VCM), that was completed in January of 2013 and uploaded to YouTube. As of December 2013 it has had around 1,000 views. These blog posts have a description of the process.
Shooting was done vertically on Miriam’s phone, using a “duct tape and wooden skewers” rig (see image left) to support a tripod mount. Combining interviews, a range of still imagery, and voice over, the video attacks the arguments of VVS by inference and by questioning the reasons behind the strict format of ‘classical’ cinema and the hierarchy of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ film-making forms.
Retaining the parody elements of VVS, VCM purposefully introduced extreme statements not meant to be taken too seriously, but instead used their hyperbole to refocus the debate on the absurdity of any claims that there are right or wrong ways to film. The video focuses on the exploitation of the horizontal frame from a feminist perspective and, in doing so, was edited in the style of a direct video ‘manifesto.’
Breaking down the codes and conventions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to watching cinema in a humorous way, VCM uses the female anatomy as a metaphor for cinematography. It attempts to question the effect that the vertical format has on the way the viewer experiences the video by continuing with a montage of clips of individuals holding and rotating phones and tablets.
Whereas the Vertical Cinema Manifesto was a hybrid video that would be displayed horizontally, Maddy and Miriam wanted to “put our money where our mouth is” and create a full vertical piece. This piece, called Heaven was produced in early 2013 and uploaded to YouTube in October 2013.
The shooting was done vertically on Miriam’s phone, with the same rig as was used on VCM. It was produced on a shoestring budget (less than NZ$100,) with the help of colleagues at Victoria University of Wellington.
Part of the challenge was the mental process necessary to change from story-boarding and visualizing in horizontal to vertical. The opening scene of an airplane landing shows one of the strengths of vertical framing: the ability to focus on an image moving vertically. Panning in the vertical dimension is something that is uncommon with horizontally framed film but works effectively on tall structures such as urban high-rise buildings.
Incorporating the specifications of the HTC phone, the piece was shot at a 23 frames per second output. This situates it in a space distinct from cinema that is commonly shot at 24 frames per second and HDTV that commonly utilizes 30 frames per second. In this way, Heaven demonstrates its place as part of a new wave of film-making taking place on portable devices such as the smart phone.
Following the successful completion of Heaven, Miriam worked with different low budget technology in order to complete her next piece. Along with colleague Alfio Leotta, who acted in Heaven, she produced the short video Eddie’s Adventure using a DSLR camera.
DSLR cameras do not normally produce native vertical video when turned on their side the way phones do. Once completed, the video displays horizontally when inputted into editing software, and so each shot has to be rotated 90 degrees in software (in this case, Final Cut X) in order to be edited in a vertical format. This is a fairly easy task, which can take place any time in the post-production process.
This video was designed expressly for YouTube consumption and incorporates many elements commonly found in YouTube videos. In addition to the vertical frame, it includes a cat as the star, cheap time machine effects, shots that (intentionally) incorporate a shaky camera and low budget costumes and setting. It is also just one minute long, a feature designed for the short attention span of distracted viewing that often operates on YouTube.
On February 18, 2013, Aram Bartholl (www.datenform.de) and www.curatingyoutube.net (Robert Sakrowski) presented “Vertical Cinema” a one night screening in Berlin of the best vertical YouTube clips. This is a link to a facebook page describing the event. They then put the clips on a DVD that was made available at the Museum of Moving Image in New York from March 19 – May 7, 2013. That event is documented in this blog.
Christoph A. Geiseler has produced a 10 minute long short subject called Curry Power that was delivered in vertical format. Filmed in India, he describes it as: “a musical collage that features tigers, camel polo, holy men, dancers and live music...” It can be viewed at this site.
Above is a short sample of the Alicewinks video which was developed in portrait orientation.
Alicewinks is a multimedia production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which includes a feature length portrait oriented video. The video was produced and directed by David Neal, the author of this section. This section is somewhat long because it describes a number of the pitfalls that may be encountered when trying to use vertical media, especially video, in the current commercial environment.
We started working on “Alicewinks” (although we didn’t start calling it that until much later!) in October of 2011. In the beginning there were just two participants, Dave and William McQueen, with Dave working on the video and William the audio. Fairly soon, Katie Pohlman joined, originally as the voice of Alice and a little later as a partner. Their company, Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC, was formed in January 2012, initially with two and later three partners plus a non-voting investor couple (Mark & Deanna Beckett).
Here we tell about the overall production of this piece primarily the difficulties making it available in the market.
The goal was to have the video ready in time for the “first” 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures, which was the day when the story was initially told on the boat trip: July 4, 1862. The animation team working from March through June consisted of Dave, Brittney Owens and Melissa Guldbrand (now Melissa Dodd.) The animation was complete by the end of June, then Dave and Brittney spent the two weeks from July 6-20 putting a final polish on the scenes.
Once the video was finished, the sound track was shipped off to Jay Frigoletto to do the surround sound, and we started the ordeals of making the product available.
William somehow found a reference to “distrify.com” a group from Scotland that makes indie movies available for purchase. They had a “limited-time” offer that made the first film free, so we had nothing to lose. Distrify is somewhat focused on streaming rentals since a lot of movie producers do not like to sell their movies just rent them. We have a different model, we want our viewers to own the video, so that it can be seen over and over, as many kids like to do with the images they enjoy. As a side-effect, Distrify has their own way of encoding the video to optimize streaming We, however, had spent a good deal of time optimizing our video compression, more for overall size rather than transmission bandwidth, and wished to have it delivered as is. This was possible in Distrify’s way of operating, so we do not support streaming rental, but only “download to own.” The preview “trailer,” however, is optimized for streaming using distrify.com’s compression and proprietary viewer.
Another decision we made, based on the advice of Peter Gerrard of Distrify, was to rotate the video into native portrait orientation (720Hx1280V). Before this, the video was in straight 720P, i.e. 1280Hx720V, and the user’s tablet needed to be locked from rotating in landscape mode and then turned into portrait to view the video. It worked, but it was a bit confusing. Actually rotating the video to 720Hx1280V, while making it not work on Windows Media Player, made the rotation lock unnecessary, and it worked with many, probably most, video players.
By early August, the video was available on distrify.com and we had a Facebook page available. We hoped ready for orders to come pouring in—but they didn’t. We got a few sales, mostly from Katie’s in-laws, but nothing ‘went viral’ for us. Even when we put trailers up on YouTube and Vimeo, there was still a mere trickle of hits. We were learning that the myth of the viral video was just that.
At the same time, we worked on getting the product onto iTunes and Amazon.com. These turned out to be much harder than expected. Apple’s iTunes movie store will only work directly with producers who own numerous titles, so with our one title, we needed to go through an aggregator. Working with Amazon was different. They work with indies through a mechanism called “Create space.” The way you get your video to them is to send it on a DVD through the mail! The major drawback to this is that DVDs only support SD format and our video was HD, 720P and portrait. For those reasons, the “create space” mechanism did not work for us.
We had a contact, in the product management of the Amazon Kindle product line, so we tried to get a contact for the video through him. He suggested that we turn the product into an “app” as the process to get an independent app published was much more developed than the HD video route, especially with our unusual orientation. We fought this idea at first, because we wanted our video to be in .mp4 (actually we prefer .mkv) format to be played by the best video player that the users can find but eventually we chose the app route.
Meanwhile, Jay got back to us with the surround mix, and we shipped the hard drive with the video to Premiere Digital Services (PDS), the aggregator, in Apple ProRes format 1080Hx1920V, plus 8 audio tracks in pcm (a file too big for .wav format!) It languished on the shelves at PDS for a month or so, until we tickled the President, Erik Anderson, to find out what was happening. He got the process moving, but soon we found out that the 9Hx16V aspect ratio was unacceptable to iTunes. They had no way to target the product to the iPad market, and the video was deemed inappropriate for general distribution because of the extreme “pillar-box” effect when shown horizontally. We asked Erik to make a special pitch to Apple, and he did, but to no avail. The iTunes movie store would not have it. Chase Wren of PDS had earlier suggested the iOs “app” route to us, similar to the Amazon employee's suggestion. So, we reluctantly started down the iOs app route as well.
Our first app was on the Android platform. The complete video is 164 minutes long, and the .mp4 file is almost 2 GB, so we decided to break the apps into smaller pieces, so that they could be downloaded in a reasonable time. Luckily, Lewis Carroll had done the major work for us, dividing the story into 12 chapters with logical beginnings and endings. All we had to do was cut the video, paste on the introduction and credits clips, and we had 12 packages of between 13 and 18 minutes of video each. These are about 180MB and will download in around half hour on a low-end DSL link.
It turned out that the app creation process was simple and straightforward. Both platforms have a video player package in code that is fairly easy to use. The biggest stumbling block is learning about the tools, languages and packaging. However, we had the 12 Android apps up on the Amazon app store in a matter of a few weeks.
iTunes turned out to be a different story. First, the objective-C programming language is quite cryptic and not easy to master without a complete understanding of the syntax. Dave was forced over Thanksgiving week to read the whole book on it. Once that was overcome, the built-in video of iOs was ready and waiting and we sent in the first of the 12 apps to the iTunes app store. Then came the next “catch.” App guideline 2.21 states: “apps that are simply a movie should be sent to the iTunes movie store...” We called this “catch 2.21” because the iTunes movie store had already rejected the content as not suitable as a movie. In their feedback, the iTunes app staff suggested that content should have native iOs gestures and controls to differentiate it from being “simply a movie” so in the days before Christmas Dave updated the app with iOs gestures, also adding the subtitle track which contains the unabridged text of the original book. It was submitted just after the New Year, and it was still struck down by catch 2.21. Dave appealed this decision to the “App Review Board” but to no avail. They quickly affirmed that our product was “simply a movie.”
Once the iOs version with subtitle support was complete, Dave wanted to put the subtitles into the Android version. Unfortunately, as with iOs, subtitle support is not native in the built-in java video class (VideoView). Luckily, the code to do the subtitling is not that hard, and Dave had just done it in Objective-C. However, it turned out that the VideoView class version that runs on the Amazon Kindle Fire has some bugs. The “view” that holds the video kept jumping on top of the subtitle and controls view. You may be aware that Amazon “forked” the Android system to create the OS for the Kindle Fire, so that it uses a fairly early version of the Android software. The Android software has evolved fairly quickly, with the current major release (“Jelly Bean”) finally slowing the development down. Dave did everything he could think of to try to get the video into the background, but nothing seemed to work, so, he decided that he needed to go to a “lower level” of the software. At the next lowest level (the MediaPlayer class) you have to do a bit more coding for the basics, but it’s still pretty high level. You don’t have to control the codec directly for example. But even at that level, he still couldn’t get it to work. The audio would play but not the video. However, when he did a search and found that Amazon had put out some sample code using MediaPlayer dated in September, he downloaded that and patched in new controls and subtitles (significantly cleaning up the implementation also) and from that point on everything worked fine on the Kindle Fire as well as on the later Android platforms. He was able to upload the 12 chapter apps of “AlicewinksLite,” which is what we call any partial implementation of Alicewinks, (Version 1.2) to Amazon in early February, 2013.
The next challenge was the Google Play Store. They limit apps to 50MB, with the additional possibility of adding 2 external files. To do this, you must also integrate code to download the files. Their code is a bit cumbersome, probably because of all the different communications technologies and Android versions. Dave had to increase SDK version to 15 to minimize the errors and warnings in the code. However, he was able to get a Google Play version of the complete 164 minute Alicewinks published with about a week of work. This version has the original mp4 and srt files stored in the Android/obb/com.alicewinks.alicewinks directory as main.121.com.alicewinks.alicewinks.obb and patch.121.com.alicewinks.alicewinks.obb respectively. These can be moved by an enterprising individual to their Movies directory and renamed to alicewinks.mp4 and alicewinks.srt and can then be played by any movie/video player. The Alicewinks app will also play them if found there by those names and will not re-download them to the obb directory. Google store may try to re-download if the user uninstalls the Alicewinks app and then re-installs it or upgrades if the app is later upgraded.
Having the app rejected by Apple, Dave set to work to add functions to it to make it more attractive to them. He had envisioned a “deluxe edition” for the 2015 150th anniversary of publication, but not being on iTunes at all forced him into working toward this version earlier than planned. First, he needed to rework all the original scans so that they were appropriate for a still version, including some trimming and re-scanning and even (in the case of Peter Newell’s illustrations) scanning some images for the first time. Then, he needed to produce a list of the captions and their associated time-code in the video, so that one could navigate through the pictures and link into the video. This took a couple of weeks or more. He designed the interaction so that the illustrations were in a kind of two dimensional matrix, where they were in story order right-to-left, but when swiping up-and-down you stayed within the same artist’s drawings. This made for a very efficient navigation, especially with the use of sliders. At the end of March, he submitted a new app to the iTunes app store, with the complete video and all 193 images with the two dimensional navigation. After a week or so, this too came back rejected, this time because it was “just a book.” By that time he had added a side-by-side comparison screen where there were two image viewers so that you could compare two images. He submitted this as the next release, but it it was rejected within hours.
Reluctantly Dave looked into the iBook Author tool, a WYSIWYG book formatting program. He had looked at it perfunctorily back in January, but this time he looked a bit deeper. Although it was not exactly what he wanted in an “eBook,” it seemed like it could be sufficient, so he began a crash WYSIWYG session of a bit over a week. Using the images and the serialized chapters, rather than the full video, and extracting the text from the subtitles, along with some markup he had done for the app, he was able to put together a complete iBook, with the images both hyper-linked from full page plates, and also inserted in-line as thumbnails with the text. He reformatted the mouse’s tail, using decreasing font sizes and typographic “leading” (spacing) as Carroll had originally had done. The poems were formatted properly and furthermore he used a calligraphy-style (Zapfino) font for the “directions” to Alice’s right foot. Furthermore, he added some additional “arrow widgets” to jump around the content, staying in text or image or video context, while the pagination (an anachronism based on Gutenberg and earlier technology) kept the chapter content together.
An iBook was ready and was sent in on April 19 and it was accepted in late April.
The Alicewinks iBook has been awarded a Kirkus Star review by Kirkus Reviews “for books of exceptional merit” and was listed in two categories of their "Best eBooks of 2013.” It was also a finalist for a Digital Book Award at Digital Book World 2014.
On November 4, 2013 the authors conducted a workshop at Victoria University of Wellington centered around vertical framing. We discussed the information in the previous sections as an introduction. This was followed by three activities. The participants broke into four groups with three of the groups working around campus, filming with vertical framing, and the fourth staying with Dave to work on post-production of a hybrid film animation that he had previously put together for the workshop. After approximately one hour, the groups reassembled at the editing facilities and pooled all the footage so that each group could create a one minute video. The remainder of this section includes the videos that were produced.
This was the video produced by the group including Dave. The other members were Kevin Cook, Pearl Liefting, and Zac Metin. The group noticed all of the stairways that had been filmed (among other features) and Dave suggested that patching them together with the song "Stairway to Heaven" for the soundtrack seemed like a good idea. Being an American, Dave assumed that this would fall under the "fair use" principal of copyright law, but he was unaware that New Zealand law does not have such a notion. So, we also produced it with a separate “Creative Commons" licensed soundtrack. The version here has no soundtrack. You can get the effect we wanted by listening to your own legally acquired copy of “Stairway to Heaven” while watching this piece. It is available on iTunes, for example.
‘Follow Me’ was edited by Maddy Glen and Alfio Leotta. Both Maddy and Alfio had extensive experience with the vertical format as they collaborated with Miriam Ross in a number of projects including Heaven, Eddie' Adventures and the Rialto 48 hours competition.
In this piece, a comedic feminist take on Alice in Wonderland, the authors used material shot by both Alfio and other participants to the workshop. The visual material is linked together by a dialog recorded by Maddy and Alfio in post-production. In ‘Follow me’ the authors capitalize on the potential of the vertical frame by playing with the contrast between vertical and horizontal spaces (staircases, corridors and windows). By doing so they attempt to emphasize the disorienting and surreal nature of Alice’s world.
Alice Bucket Fountain
This is the piece produced by Dave and a group consisting of Michael Daubs, Betsy Quero and Jennifer Smith while the other groups were filming vertically. The project was to take the film of the Wellington landmark Bucket Fountain on the Cuba St. mall that Dave filmed prior to the workshop and mix it in Adobe After Effects with the crying Alice from Alicewinks. The group had to modify the “Particle Playground” effect parameters to make Alice's tears bigger and directed correctly to point at the fountain, and to apply several effects to the film strip to “Cartoonize” it and adjust the color balance to more closely match Alice. Due to some technicalities, such as each render taking 3 hours on Dave’s travel laptop, this piece was actually produced after the workshop, but includes the design work done there.
Naysayers aside, the vertical frame is beginning to have some traction. As mentioned above, a screening of YouTube vertical videos was performed in Berlin in early 2013. As far as we know, the first vertical screening at a Film Festival was the 90-minute CinemaScope programme presented on 24 January 2014 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam discussed above. Dave's productions are available in pure video form, in addition to Android apps and video imbedded in an iBook, and he will submit his work to a film festival when verticals start being shown. Miriam has and will continue producing vertical video and will be submitting to film festivals. Gregory Gutenko has expressed interest in getting his tall screen format videos into festivals as well. Look for vertical video showings at a film festival near you in the not too distant future.
New products known to be in development at this time by the authors include:
Rabbitwinks - the sequel to Alicewinks which follows the White Rabbit instead of Alice through the Adventures in Wonderland is being developed by Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC, Dave's company. The process of this production is being documented on the blog rabbitwinks.wordpress.com.
Tornado Touches Down is a short film concept Dave is working on about a TV news-room and the machinations they go through with a vertical video of a tornado. The idea includes having the exact same film produced in both horizontal and vertical frames using green-screen live action and multi-layered images.
The authors would enjoy hearing about any vertical media projects that are being produced or contemplated. You can contact Dave at email@example.com