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Did Apple Just Go In On Desktop Vertical Video? "That $1000 Monitor Stand..."

Admittedly I’ve been roaring lol’ing too at some of the memes about Apple’s $1000 monitor stand for their new $4,999 Pro Display XDR. What I don’t do, is get all bent out of shape and play the fanboi wars -which may speak to why I’m actually interested in this widely criticized and meme’d out new Apple Pro Display XDR, and that “$1000 monitor stand.”

Here’s why: I think Apple just introduced vertical video/portrait-mode to the desktop. In simple terms, we may end up using even desktops the way we hold our phones. Call me crazy (it’s not the first time ;)).

Vertical video still seems to be controversial. If controversial is too strong a descriptor, then sure, vertical video is still kinda outright confusing. We’ve all been wielding smartphones since 2007, to the point where it’s like “roads…” we can’t imagine life before “roads.” We all live on our phones, mainly Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. Snapchat, IGTV, and Instagram’s “IG Stories” are the pre-eminent vertical video platforms. It’s also where most time and content is shared. In 2015, Evan Spiegel of Snap Inc. gently urged everyone to really embrace vertical video: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=video&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiavcHCw9XiAhWOnFkKHXgRCGIQtwIIKDAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessinsider.com%2Fevan-spiegel-snapchat-record-video-portrait-vertical-2015-6&usg=AOvVaw3VrtzhNn0zVBTZRRsROCJF. That was 4 years ago.

Rewind a bit further, and “using your phone in portrait mode” for video was considered a mistake, and you’d often get flamed for “holding your phone wrong” while using it to record video and memes abound outing this also. The thing is, in a mobile world, vertical video makes a TON of sense even by 2015 standards, and most certainly in mid-2019, even more so. Vertical video is growing up though. Of course Instagram launched IGTV in June of 2018 as well, with a launch spectacle meant to rival the 1983 launch of MTV. MTV people!! And headsup - most people don’t know that Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter, and even Facebook fully support vertical video also, natively, with zero tinkering required. It’s taking more time than maybe Snapchat and IG may prefer, and many have panned IGTV as DOA, but no doubt it’s happening.

Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll see plenty of cool things happening in the vertical video space - the obvious Snapchat and IG/IGTV but also vertical video film festivals like Slim Cinema (www.slimcinema.co), vertical video-only production studios, Nescafe was just one of many brands holding vertical video film contests, and here in NYC I notice subway and retail LED screens in vertical, I think deliberately made to mimic the screens of our phones. Articles about “how your brand is missing out if not embracing vertical video” abound as well.

The crazy thing is, as I peruse social media I still see almost entirely old-fashioned “horizontal video.” The “postage sized stamp” video in the middle of the screen swamped by huge blank space and black bars. I’ve had long conversations with industry folk, and I’m a little surprised that many haven’t really considered making vertical video from the get-go, while a few still holdout with thoughts more in line with “it’s wrong,” and even one producer saying “ I see where you’re coming from, but I have 2 eyes next to each other, and not two eyes on top of each other…”. I giggle, but the rebuttal is that of course we may have a more horizontal edge in our vision, but we have to remember that sometimes (read OFTEN) behavior dictates design, not only does design dictate behavior. We’re watching just about everything on our phones, so it’s time to start thinking about creating content truly with that in mind. If you’re making a film, a “pure cinema” experience, or even a Netflix or Youtube doc, then sure, make a 16:9, or 17:9 “horizontal” (“normal”) masterpiece. If you’re making short editorial fashion videos for jewelry, fashion, even kitchen product reviews, chicken shop videos, and you’re only going to put them on social…. I’m not really sure why you’re not going vertical. It looks bad.

I get it to a degree - I think people tend to think it’s a tall order to change the way videos are made, edited and viewed. Most video editing software has no templates for it. Remember that until the mid-to-late 2000s, most TV/video was just about square ( 4:3 aspect ratio) before 16:9 “horizontal” became common. So thinking that horizontal is super legacy and “baked in” is a little misguided. It’s really already fully vertical right now.

So, as often happens, Apple or another big player lays down a standard that seems a little crazy, gets people arguing, laughing, and of course firing up the meme machine - think yanking the floppy disc, 99c songs, Steve Balmer outright dissing the iPhone as a flop. Fast forward a bit later for said feature to be adopted and fully embraced with a little time and a little fuss (sometimes a bit more fuss, but in the big picture not so much…). It doesn’t really matter if that XDR display and stand is price-gouging, an impractical “Ferrari” of monitor stands, etc. A reasonably priced one will come soon enough.

What really happened here is that Apple just became another player making vertical “real.” The biggest hardware company just made a dent in helping our desktop viewing experience to mimic the phone, the thing we’re spending our most time on - so with that, “Think Vertical.”