Why vertical videos make a difference in your content

Focal point on vertical video on smartphone and woman in background

An astonishing 57% of the world’s video views come from mobile devices. And with that rise in mobile video viewing comes a corresponding increase in vertically viewed videos online. After all, videos are easier to watch when you don’t have to turn your phone.

Though smartphone users had been shooting vertical videos since the devices had the capability, the real revolution began when Snapchat launched in 2011 with a video format designed around the iPhone. Today, almost every major social media platform is designed around shooting vertically. So if you want your videos to generate as much engagement as possible, it might be time to hop on the vertical video bandwagon.

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Why are vertical videos so popular?

We spend more time on our phones than ever before, meaning advertisers and content creators now prioritize mobile content. If you’re not yet sold on the vertical format, here are a few of the reasons why vertical video has skyrocketed in popularity:

  1. We hold our phones vertically. An overwhelming majority of smartphone users naturally hold their mobile devices in portrait mode. It’s easier and more comfortable. In fact, a 2017 study found that 72% of millennials never rotate their phones horizontally when watching videos, even if that means landscape videos appear tiny on their screens.
  2. Social media platforms are optimized for vertical video. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Stories all recommend businesses produce vertical video ads so that their content takes up the entire phone screen, and that sets a certain standard for the rest of the content on these platforms.
  3. The vertical format feels more genuine. Horizontal video can feel overproduced when viewed on your mobile device, which most users use to shoot quick, spur-of-the-moment content. Imagine scrolling through the amateur vertical videos your friends make when suddenly a cinematic horizontal ad pops up. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Vertical video, on the other hand, gives your content a more DIY aesthetic, which feels more authentic.
  4. You’re more likely to finish vertical videos. Getting video views is one thing; holding a viewer’s attention through an entire video is another story. Research shows that vertical videos have a significantly higher completion rate than horizontal videos, and Snapchat told advertisers that users were nine times as likely to watch through entire vertical video ads as they were to complete horizontal ones.

How to create the perfect vertical video

All you need to produce an amazing vertical video is a smartphone and a bit of creative know-how. Here are tips to help your next vertical video take the internet by storm:

  1. Use the right vertical aspect ratio. Different social media platforms prefer different aspect ratios — that is, the proportional relationship between a video’s width and height, usually shown as two numbers separated by a colon. Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, and TikTok recommend using a 9:16 aspect ratio. (For vertical videos intended for Facebook and Instagram’s regular feeds, go with a 4:5 aspect ratio instead.) If you didn’t initially shoot your footage in the correct aspect ratio, don’t worry, you can use video editing software like Descript to crop the video to the right size.
  2. Know your platform’s time constraints. To help your vertical videos get the most eyeballs, look up both the maximum video length and recommended video length for the major social media platforms. For instance, even though TikTok bumped its maximum video length to 10 minutes, fast-paced TikToks of 15 seconds or less still tend to perform best. If you want your videos to run across multiple social platforms, create content you can edit to fit various lengths.
  3. Use extra features to engage your audience. Take advantage of extra bells and whistles that help draw eyeballs to your videos. It’s common for people to use mobile devices with the sound turned off, so captions are one of the most crucial extra features to incorporate. (It also makes your content more accessible.) These are incredibly easy to add in Descript. Beyond captions, look for ways platforms let your viewers interact with your content, like adding quizzes or polls.
  4. Piggyback off viral trends. Social media is a dynamic landscape where new trends are constantly popping up. Nobody could’ve predicted singing sea shanties would be one of the most popular TikTok trends of 2021, but if you ignored it you might have missed out on a heap of potential views. Stay in the loop on the latest viral video formats, challenges, and memes, and use these trends as inspiration.
  5. Find the right editing tool. You may need editing software to switch your video from horizontal to vertical view. Descript has several useful features that make this simple to do. You can also try using a built-in editing app like Apple’s iMovie.

How to change horizontal videos to vertical with Descript

To make your horizontal video vertical so that it fills the entire screen of your mobile video player, you’ll need to crop out portions of your original frame. This means you’ll be zooming in on a specific area of your video, so make sure you’re working with a high-resolution file to avoid pixelation. Follow these five steps to learn how to make a horizontal video vertical with Descript:

  1. Import your video. Open Descript and create a new project by clicking File > New Project. Next, drag and drop the video file into Descript or click the Choose a file… button to import your video into the software.
  2. Change its orientation to portrait. Click the video preview window to reveal a Video Settings button in the top right corner of the preview window. Select Video Settings > Orientation > Portrait (9:16). This converts your video to a vertical format, but you’ll still notice large black bars above and below your frame.
  3. Crop and zoom. To get rid of the black bars so your video occupies the entire vertical screen, you need to crop and zoom. Click the Show Clip Inspector button along the right side of the preview window to open the Clip Inspector panel. Under the Layout, look for the W (Width) and H (Height) text boxes, each set to default values of 100%. To avoid the video stretching or shrinking your video to odd proportions, make sure to toggle on the “Link” icon between the “W” and “H” boxes. To zoom in on your video,  bump up these values until the black bars disappear and your video fills the screen.
  4. Reframe. By default, Descript zooms in on the center of your video. You can change this by adjusting the X and Y values directly above the Width and Height boxes you just worked with. You can even add movement to your zoom selection by clicking the Add Cue button — the lightning bolt icon just above the Layout section — and selecting Zoom and Pan from the list of options. You can then set two keyframes — i.e. when the zooming begins and ends — in Descript’s Timeline panel, and alter each keyframe’s video position and zoom percentage.
  5. Save your work. To export your edited video to your computer, click the Share button at the top right corner, select the Export tab, then the Video icon, and click the Export button.

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