Facebook has seen the future of online video, and it is vertical

The social media giant enlisted 15 influencers to make short films that push the bounds of the medium.

Facebook has seen the future of online video, and it is vertical

The idea of flipping your phone to view content on social media is quickly becoming a thing of the past. More and more creators are looking to meet users where they are—holding their phones vertically.

Tests conducted by Facebook over the last year found that people engage more actively with vertical content; in particular, that they keep watching longer, and are more likely to turn the sound on. With this in mind, Facebook asked 15 influencers from around the world to each make a short film exploring the possibilities of vertical, challenging them to think imaginatively about its potential.

"Our screens are oriented vertically, and so that is one medium that’s really able to take full advantage of that screen real estate on your phone," Melissa Oppenheim, Lead at Facebook Creative Shop Design and Launch, told Campaign US. That, and the fact that its relative newness makes it especially ripe for exploration. "We feel that the opportunity to kind of push the creative boundaries on vertical video is just really open and at its nascent stage, and we’re just really excited about where the creative industry will be able to push this in the time it has." 

Pablo Rochat, one of the creatives tapped by Facebook to produce a 15-second film, told Campaign US that the as-yet unexplored potential of vertical is one of its primary draws.

"It actually adds a little bit more excitement because less videos have been made in vertical space, and so there’s less history, there’s less to compare yourself to," he said. "If Scorsese made a movie last week in vertical, I would probably be thinking about that a lot this week."

In addition to its novelty, vertical also has some distinct aesthetic advantages. The artists were quick to discover that certain circumstances, like people standing up or things falling from the sky, were actually enhanced when done upright. The restrictions also required them to be more rigorous in how they frame their work, which is by all accounts a good thing: "It keeps you selective about the things you put in the vertical space," Rochat said.

Facebook picked the 15 influencers from across the globe, taking care to select them from an array of backgrounds and styles. The result was 15 very different films, with each artist bringing something entirely new to the table. Oppenheim said she and her team were impressed by the different production techniques that the videos employed, including split screens, 2D and 3D animations and images cropped in certain ways to emphasize different aspects of the content.

But each creator, regardless of style, made sure to integrate the vertical composition right off the bat. "It’s less about kind of retrofitting an existing story or asset for the medium, but more about thinking about a new way that they could take advantage of the verticality of the screen," Oppenheim said. 

She added that Facebook intends its project to reach not just brands and advertisers, but anyone who wants to land their message in the most powerful way possible. As for artists like Rochat, opportunities for creating vertical videos are proliferating, and he’s more than happy to jump aboard. For him, the goal is to make content wherever people’s attention happens to be focused.

"As a creative who cares about the audience and wants people to see their work, if you were to follow people’s attention, especially nowadays, it’s usually in the vertical space," he said. But, "if there was like a triangle phone that everyone was using, I’d be creating triangle videos."