While recently riding the A train to midtown Manhattan, a drunk homeless gentleman occasionally sipping from a near-empty bottle of gin was, er, "entertaining" the shoulder-to-shoulder riders in the crowded car with a somewhat stilted serenade of something resembling a song.
Two bemused passengers decided to video record the, er, performance, with their smartphones and tablets. (Note: the video above is NOT the one I witnessed, but merely an example.)
I was fascinated -- not by the unfortunate yowling soul and not why the passengers felt compelled to digitally capture this pathetic man's misery, but by the way these amateur archivists were holding their smartphones and tablets to video record the sad tableau.
You see, if you hold your smartphone or tablet vertically to shoot video, you are going to end up with a vertical video. A tall, thin video. Appropriate maybe to record a LeBron James dunk, a rocket launch or a nasty Anthony Weiner selfie, but not much else.
Tall video is an act against nature. We have two eyes -- to see wide (and to make sure a predator isn't sneaking up on us). Shooting a tall video is like experiencing life while wearing an eye patch and blinders on either side of our one remaining good eye, as bizarely as that might look.
But I kind of understand this portrait positioning propensity. It's a leftover from the Flip Video craze a few years back. Flip video recorders, and most of their pre-iPhone copycat ilk, were held vertically, yet still captured widescreen videos. As Flip owners graduated to a smartphone, they retained Flip's hold-tall shooting style, ignoring the tall smartphone result.
You'd think that after the first tall video you viewed, you'd get the message and turn your phone sideways, to so-called landscape-mode, to capture future footage. After all, everywhere you go, movies are widescreen. Do you ever see tall movies? Can you imagine the uproar at your local multiplex if Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was projected on a screen shaped like the Washington Monument?
Of course not. So why would you hold your smartphone vertically to shoot widescreen video? Do you think the phone will magically turn that tall image on your smartphone display sideways? Smartphones may be smart -- but they're not THAT smart.
But they could be.
Apple or Google to the rescue?
Apple's updated iOS 8 is due with the iPhone 6 in about a month. It'd be great if the geniuses in Cupertino, along with Android engineers, made the video capture mode widescreen as the default, regardless of how one holds the phone, with the widescreen video simply displayed across the top of the tall display. If either Apple or Google actually think someone wants to shoot a tall video, just make "Tall" an option.
Now that I think about it, we don't have to wait for Google. Since the Android operating system is eminently futz-able, any of the leading Android phone makers -- Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, et al -- could easily institute widescreen video as the default video recording setting regardless of the position in which the phone is held. If one maker did it, perhaps the others would follow.
But until Apple, Google or a major Android phone maker correct this video recording orientation issue, please follow these simple rules for shooting video with your smartphone:
Rule #1: Hold your smartphone or tablet horizontally.
Rule #2: See Rule #1.
And if you spy other vertical videographers, gently suggest they rotate their smartphone or tablet 90 degrees. They may look initially annoyed at your interference, but will eventually (and literally) see the widescreen benefits.