2119: Video Orientation

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Video Orientation
CIRCULAR VIDEO - PROS: Solves aspect ratio problem. CONS: Never trust anyone who talks to you from inside a circle.
Title text: CIRCULAR VIDEO - PROS: Solves aspect ratio problem. CONS: Never trust anyone who talks to you from inside a circle.


This comic compares selected pros and cons of 3 video "orientations" (also known as angling), one of which is entirely made-up. This comic could have been inspired by articles published by Mashable, and Scientific American, which comment on how videos are now filmed vertically through smartphones.

Randall's observations on horizontal vs vertical indicate that he has resigned himself to the acceptance of vertical videos. However, he does love a good compromise, so he suggests "Diagonal Orientation" as a third option to equally dissatisfy both types of user. The issue with this is that diagonal angling fails to fully capture the benefits of either horizontal or vertical angling.

This is another comic claiming that an obviously bad idea keeps being done by accident "so we might as well just accept it", following on from 2116: .NORM Normal File Format a week prior.

Horizontal orientation


  • Good for people not used to phones, and has been used for over a century for capturing video.
  • Easier to control the composition of the image, especially wide shots.
  • Main distribution format for most video types.


  • Not the best at capturing a human's entire body, without also capturing much of their surroundings.
  • Potentially uncomfortable for the one making the recording to maintain over a long period of time, as most phones were designed for vertical holding.

Vertical orientation


  • Supposedly the norm for most users capturing video on their smartphone (thus we should accept it as such).
  • Made for mobile devices by design. This means you can quickly post to multiple channels with a single video with no need for complicated editing or tweaking.


  • Not ideal for capturing the background, as our world is mostly a "horizontal plane".
  • Limits techniques you can use, for example it restricts the way you can compose shots, scan the landscape, and present different scenes.

Diagonal orientation


  • Not a standard format of video, thus "bold". It's "dynamic" since it can capture significant portions of both human and landscape.
  • Equally annoying to all viewers.
  • Flawless, as in perfect in every way.[dubious]


  • None.

The diagonal orientation is similar to the "oblique angle" or "Dutch angle" in cinema, and is often used to portray psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed. Note that while "Dutch angle" is filmed diagonally, it is projected in the classic Horizontal orientation.

Circular video


  • Solves the aspect ratio problem, as it will always be 1:1.


  • The title text quip about non-trustworthy opinions from someone inside a circle could be a nonsense statement, or refer to various things, such as having a demon trapped inside a summoning circle; being spoken to by members of a select or secretive circle of people; HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey; Loki in The Avengers, who is the god of trickery and is held at one point in a circular cell; an advertising trope where a talking head in a circle is superimposed over images of the product being advertised, usually this is the case in low budget productions for "as seen on TV" products.


[The image shows three columns by three rows with the following headers:]
Video Orientation
[First row:]
[A wide picture with a text above:]
[Pros are:]
  • Looks normal to old people
  • Format used by a century of cinema
[Cons are:]
  • Humans are taller than are wide
  • I'm not turning my phone sideways
[Second row:]
[A tall picture with a text above:]
[Pros are:]
  • How most normal people shoot and watch video now so we may as well accept it
[Cons are:]
  • Human world is mostly a horizontal plane
[Third row:]
[A picture rotated by 45 degrees with a text above:]
[Pros are:]
  • Bold and dynamic
  • Equally annoying to all viewers
  • Good compromise
[Cons are:]
  • None

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[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2co1zio.png[/IMG] More readable:I think this could be done with text too. 13:41, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Obligatory prior art in this commentary space: Glove and Boots: Vertical Video Syndrome (apparently they decamped from Youtube to Vimeo last month, the original c. 2013 video was Bt9zSfinwFA). JohnHawkinson (talk) 14:21, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

The title text seems to be a reference to AL, the A.I in 2001 : A Space Odyssey which cause a few problems to the crew and mainly communicate through a round lens. 14:27, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Or 2002 movie The Ring 14:32, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
I presumed it was a reference to summoning circles. 15:28, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
My first thought was a reference to Matt Parker of standupmaths and his spherical camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgyI8aPctaI 18:17, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
I think the same... Isn't it some Terry Pratchett quote? or may be from other fantasy? -- 18:32, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
It was HAL, not AL in Space Odyssey. Move the letters forward one, and it's IBM. Deliberate Easter egg. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I thought it was something that wasn't planned by the author? But yeah, still makes for an interesting Easter egg. Herobrine (talk) 13:09, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
You are correct. Clarke has always insisted that the letter-shift from IBM was coincidence and that he would've picked a different name had they known at the time. HAL has always stood for "Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer". (source). Shamino (talk) 13:37, 6 March 2019 (UTC)
Nonsense. The title text is clearly stating that Randall sees Family Circus [1] as his nemesis. JamesCurran (talk) 21:59, 11 March 2019 (UTC)

A circular screen is great for that retro-look, like a 1950's Zenith Porthole TV. I seem to remember seeing circular screens on some really old sci-fi shows as well. As well as one use of a triangular screen. Shamino (talk) 14:37, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

I thought the circular format was a reference to SnapChat's camera glasses and people's mistrust of "surveillance glasses". I am probably wrong. RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 18:57, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Fails in the obvious- Horizontal is better because you can send the video in to the TV news for your 15 seconds of fame without looking like a douche who doesn't know how to rotate their phone. And why isn't there a setting for "always landscape" anyway?Seebert (talk) 14:48, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

I have to agree... the fact that most non-mobile screens are oriented horizontally being left out was kind of a big miss. A vertical video looks like crap on a TV or Computer Monitor (Ironically unless it's an old 3:4 one, where the difference is a lot more minor.) -Graptor 15:34, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
I assume that inside your phone camera there's a "retina" chip in the same dimensions as your screen, so if your phone is upright (portrait) then the picture is portrait shape too. But, sure, they could make the camera rotate inside the phone... that would work for switching between selfie / other people modes, too. But no, then your selfies would be upside down... or... can I get back to you?  :-) Robert Carnegie [email protected] 11:14, 7 March 2019 (UTC)
No, usually the sensor of the camera(s) doesn't match the screen resolution. For instance, in my previous smartphone (the current one has 3 cameras so it might be more complicated) the camera has a sensor with a 4:3 aspect ratio (this is usual format for small sensors) and ~13 MegaPixels (4160 * 3120). When I selected the 16:9 ratio the image was cropped to ~10 MP (4096 * 2304). The manufacturer could have made the camera software to have an option to take landscape images while holding the phone vertically by cropping to 3120 * 2340 (4:3 format) or 3120 * 1755 (16:9). This would not be enough for 4K video, but it would be plenty for Full-HD (which is only 1920 * 1080). Rps (talk) 17:58, 27 February 2024 (UTC)

Ironically, when I first read the comic on my phone (portrait), I did not realise there was a third "CONS" column. ColinHogben (talk) 15:20, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

that never would have happened with a circular screen ~ ocæon 01:44, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

Not that good of an explanation, even if I wrote some of it. Actually, especially since I wrote some of it. Netherin5 (talk) 16:54, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Thanks 90.10 Netherin5 (talk) 17:08, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

I have never had problems holding my smartphone in landscape, or my camera in portrait. I just can't understand the use of portrait to film anything but one for two people's faces just because you hold the device that way to make a phone call (on the v rare occasion they do). Hey but I was born in the 50's RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 18:57, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

I don't think the 50x150 view comment is right. I'd suggest removing it or backing it up with a source. 23:14, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

I feel like there's an awesome joke to be made about Battlefield Earth here... Glassvein (talk) 02:44, 5 March 2019 (UTC)


may the pro con table be replicated and expanded upon? the realworld aplications of horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and circular screens would be comparable the same way. ocæon 01:54, 5 March 2019 (UTC) -- Ocæon (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

so my first contibution and i screwed up formatting, heh, i have no clues to fixing that.. anyway angular filming with cameras goes well beyond dutchy, nobody else remember early handheld rap music videos? and circular screens also gave a pro which is not yet noted at all please don't make me add it! ocæon 18:34, 5 March 2019 (UTC) -- Ocæon (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
You did start your first line with a space which formats the text as a quote. And please sign your comments with at least ~~~~ or use the sign button at the top of the editor. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:52, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

"I'm not turning my phone sideways" -- seems like someone never plays any games on his phone. Heck, even docs and sheets are better in horizontal orientation than vertical orientation. As for the "don't trust anyone speaking from inside a circle," it made me think of (1) the little peepholes on doorways to see who's out there and (2) The Oval Office. While that's not technically a circle, it's somewhat related... 08:28, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

"The title text quip about circular video would be a reference to having a demon trapped inside a summoning circle" Oh really? You know this how? Google certainly didn't show anything like that; indeed, there was a lot about "circle of trust" and I don't trust this comment. I'd say [citation needed] or change it to "circle of trust". ( DON'T CENSOR ME, MAN! ;^) 11:00, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

Circle of trust seems to be a clothing brand? I do not see any relevance on that. Nevertheless I think the demon thing should, if at all, be one of few alternative explanations. It might just be a nonsense statement, or could be related to a fisheye objective, binoculars, or to the looking holes in appartment doors. --Lupo (talk) 11:07, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

wow this circle is sure disliked alot considering randall says it solves the aspect ratio problem. if it's a trust issue then what happens in the case that two people hold a conversation via circular televideophones? ocæon 22:14, 6 March 2019 (UTC) -- Ocæon (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Maybe Randal and someone he knows have those Alexa video things that are circular and people talk out of... RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 22:32, 6 March 2019 (UTC)

Randalls favorite video orientation[edit]

What makes people think he likes the horizontal orientation more? Looking at the comic it seems to me he likes the vertical orientation more. -- 10:05, 6 March 2019 (UTC)

the pro for vertical suggests it has reached a tipping point for widespread social acceptance, but whether it's pro status is an assertion or a path of least resistance remains unclear. it leaves us free to project on the issue. ocæon 22:28, 6 March 2019 (UTC) -- Ocæon (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Pro/Contra Vertical Video[edit]

The explanation so far seems to suggest that he thinks vertical video is obviously bad, and even compares it to the "Norm" type file comic. "claiming that an obviously bad idea keeps being done by accident 'so we might as well just accept it'". However, I think this is not true at all, and the comic aligns much more to the comics which talked about common misconceptions (Frankenstein) or commonly used bad grammar ("could care less"). On many of these comics, he seems to have the opinion that the people who insist on the "correct" way should stop insisting and just accept the change. I think this one relates much more to those, and he is pro vertical video [which I'm not, so this is not an interpretation based on personal preference], instead of relating to the "Norm" comic where he obviously is just joking. The point of the comic is "stop fighting it". And nowhere in the comic he claims that horizontal video is obviously better, like the explanation says so far. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Another con with circular video is that it can get distorted because of Mercator Projection.