If you use Snapchat or IGTV, you’re probably familiar with vertical videos. You probably haven’t considered them being in their own category before, though. If not, just grab your phone and have a look at this mesmerizing video of waves beating against a pier.
Example of a vertical video of Greta Thunberg encouraging us to save the planet, as seen on IGTV.
Vertical videos are intended to be viewed in portrait mode—the image is taller than it is wider. The aspect ratio of most smartphones is 9:16 (although we can also find 9:18, 9:21, etc.). This format contradicts all past and current film-shooting strategies, where horizontal is king. Nowadays, the aspect ratio for TV sets is usually 16:9.
Still, the vertical format makes sense at least for social media and ads for smartphones. If you are scrolling down your timeline, you don’t want to turn your phone and watch a horizontal video, and then go back to the vertical position. It’s just not user-friendly.
Apart from Snapchat or IGTV, vertical videos can also be found on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Spotify has also started to create vertical music videos for its platform for users to watch while listening to music.
Example of a vertical video on Spotify
Even Netflix has joined the vertical video club, and now the preview mode on their smartphone app includes this format.
When analyzing Instagram Feeds, they found that vertical videos increased engagement compared to square videos:
In their co-authored report, Buffer found that vertical video resulted in a six percent increase of three-second video views and a 187 percent increase of 50 percent total watch time views, while Animoto found similar results—vertical video resulted in a 13 percent increase of three-second video views and a 157 percent increase of 50 percent total watch time views.
Also, they advise businesses and brands to create more video content for mobile phones, which account for a great share of digital usage (65% in Q2 2018). Vertical videos are a great way to reach potential buyers. They are the most engaging format for that purpose, according to this study.
Of course, we can. They are being subtitled already in social media and Netflix preview mode, for example. But are the same subtitling rules that we use for horizontal videos still valid for vertical ones?
Example of Netflix preview mode with subtitles from the film Tall Girl.
Let’s take Netflix subtitle guidelines as a starting point:
According to the BBC, the number of characters should not exceed 37 per line, with a maximum of two lines for TV. Even if that restriction might be somehow outdated for TV sets (for example, Netflix guidelines suggest subtitles have lines of up to 42 characters), it may work for vertical videos since the space is more limited. In some examples from Netflix preview mode that use vertical videos, subtitles with a length of 33 characters have been used without a proven negative impact on readability.
Considering the lack of standards and after having a look at how media companies are implementing subtitles in this new format, we recommend the following guidelines for subtitling vertical videos:
Something you should consider is carrying out tests with subtitling users to define the safe area for subtitles in vertical videos and, then, the font size and the characters per line that can be used for subtitles to be comfortably readable.
Example of Netflix preview mode with subtitles from the series Cable Girls.
If you need more convincing, let’s go over why subtitling vertical videos on social media should be seriously considered:
Moreover, a recent study showed that subtitled videos on Facebook had an average reach 16 percent higher than videos without subtitles.
Now that you are convinced that you need to subtitle your vertical videos, the question is how. A couple of dedicated cloud-based solutions to add subtitles to vertical videos can be found online:
Also, apps such as Cliptomatic that use speech recognition are also a popular means to add subtitles for social media platforms, such as Instagram Stories.
This article was researched and written by Belén Agulló García. If you wish to find out more about this topic, please reach out to Belén at [email protected].
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