Shooting 4K to Create Vertical Videos for Social Media

Female hand holding smart phone and taking photo of sunset

Vertical Video is here to stay.  It still makes me cringe a bit when I see people filming portrait. Since my early video journalism classes back in Brazil, shooting landscape ratio was a set rule that has always felt natural. However, nowadays the reality is that, sooner or later, a client will ask you to shoot and edit high-quality videos for their Social Media pages. And Social Media channels are mainly accessed through smartphones and tablets, which means posting portrait videos will be essential to engage and build a strong audience. 

Shooting vertical is easy when you just want to post some footage of your weekend fun, but requires a change of perspective when the goal is to produce, shoot and edit professional videos instead. In that case, it’s important to produce a video that has a vertical aspect ratio in mind from the beginning of the process. But what happens when your production is meant to screen across different platforms and needs to fit vertical aspect ratio requirements? In this case, shooting 4K is gives you a lot of flexibility in post.

Most social video is posted at HD resolution, so why 4K? Cropping horizontal video to fit vertical screen usually leads to very pixelated and low-quality footage. When your frames need to be taller than they are wide, your standard 16:9 frame will need to be dramatically resized to fit the 9:16 smartphone screen and your regular HD resolution won’t allow for the image to stay sharp and clean. Shooting 4K will give you extra pixels to work with and make it easy to reposition the frame in post as you wish.

In addition to having more room for reframing, if your original footage has a quadrupled resolution then you can zoom in cleanly since you have a much better source video to work with. This is a huge advantage because Vertical Video is all about showing detail so you can make a deeper connection with your audience. 4K will give you the flexibility to efficiently adjust to vertical and square formats, and still preserve the option to watch a broader image of your subject on our beloved 16:9 standard film and television format.

Of course, you can always just upload a horizontal video on Instagram or Snachap, but don’t expect your audience to take the time to turn their phones around just to watch your video. Chances are they will keep holding their phone with one hand and careless watch your footage in a small window across the screen. It’s obvious that adjusting to 9:16 aspect ratio requires a change of perspective and demands us to rethink the way we produce, shoot and edit video. But isn’t it what film school is always trying to teach us?

Formats are changing, vertical streaming is a very strong distribution method, and mobile filmmaking is growing every day. It’s up to us, video makers, to reflect on the changes and find a balance between adjusting to our audiences and not losing image quality. I don’t believe vertical video will ever replace landscape aspect ratios, but I do think it is a solid format for short internet videos so let’s take advantage of it and get ready for the next challenge.

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