Mobile news design - Vertical video and vertical presentation for news stories

The new Twitter video feature is causing many broadcasters to groan over the vertical videos that amateurs will post to the Twittersphere from breaking news events.

Twitter's app update forces a vertical format when recording video and crops them to a square format.

Broadcast video is a horizontal experience and having users post vertical and square video always presents formatting problems for producers in the studio.

But for mobile users holding larger smartphones, vertical is the natural position.

I have been testing out the new (near-realtime) video reporting feature in the updated Twitter app and debating the merits of the new tool with colleagues at the BBC and RTE Ireland.

They are concerned with the rise of vertical video hurting the quality of breaking news video filed by amateurs.

Here are some examples of my test video field reports filed using the new Twitter app.

A Vertical design pattern for story teasers 
In the new Discover section of the SnapChat app media brands are presenting news updates in a vertical presentation.

What does that look like and is it it a bad thing or a good thing?

If you look closer at the media offerings, some are trying vertical video (Nat Geo and Vice) on their story cards.
That often looks really bad, mainly due to the nature of human eyesight. (Our eyes are spaced horizontally and horizontal orientation is the way we best process moving pictures.)

Thankfully the video segments are presented in horizontal format once you tap past the story card teaser.

Let's look again at those CNN story cards shown in the video animation above.

The card design is vertical, but the video is most typically not.

This may seem like a random design choice. I assure you it is not. This is a consistent design pattern and it is being applied brilliantly.

There is art direction, design, purpose and style. That does not happen by accident.

Aimee Schier, the executive Creative director at CNN Digital confirms this with me in a Tweet exchange with me.

The most effective mobile story cards in the Discover section borrow heavily from design concepts commonly seen in magazine page layout.

Many card designs feature animation. And humor. They are a joy and a creative sandbox that news designers are going to love working in. 

I am curious what kind of SDK or design guidance the SnapChat team provided their media partners with before the launch. 

Another pattern I see is that static vertical images can be used to great effect. 

Again, this borrows heavily from print design approaches that have worked for decades in posters, editorial and advertising design.

My takeaway is that when video (moving pictures) are used in a card design, great care has to be taken.

The best cards designs that incorporate video footage often present video in a square (or cropped into a custom-shaped framing graphic) that purposefully avoids running vertical video full bleed.

Let's look at examples of story cards from some of the other media houses that are making their debut on the new platform.

The media brands in the Discover pane of SnapChat are allowed to promote six stories each day. 

This Bleacher Report card features a still photo with an animated shoe. 

The video of the game winning shot is presented horizontally.

Same for the Superbowl ad video teaser.

Vice News cards feature vertically-cropped video with an overlay graphic that contains the headline and a navigation graphic (the white dots) to their six items.

People cards feature zooming still photos and animated headline graphic overlays.

 Some Cosmopolitan cards feature animation layers for their still photos to make them feel more like video.

The UK's Daily Mail cards feature still images that borrow from their tabloid style

Field test: Posting video clips using the new Twitter native video feature

Overnight I received an update to my Twitter app (USA iTunes store) that allows me to record, edit and post videos directly from inside the Twitter app.

Here are some of my early tests and notes from Berlin.

The first thing I discovered is that the device must be in vertical orientation. Oops! "Take Two"

Oh, and according to the pop-up tool tip you actually CAN delete individual clips which is very cool.

The second thing I noticed is that the app only records video while you hold down the video camera record button.

That's OK, because you can build and file a short video update (up to 30-seconds in length) from a series of clips. And you can switch between front and rear-facing camera to make a more compelling report.

I am using a Cullman selfie stick, an iPhone 6+, Shoulderpod S1 mount, Luxpadd22 face light and Rode Lav mic to try and get the best possible quality for the video capture.

I have to hold the device in vertical orientation and keep one finger held down on the button and this rig makes that a bit difficult  because pro video gear is designed to work best for horizontal filming.

I found that I had to use two hands, which is not a great user experience.

On the plus side, the video that you record and post using the Twitter app will be automatically saved to your camera roll. This is different from Vine.

The 30-second clip length is very useful for field reporting. More useful than Vine's six-second limit. More useful that Instagram's 15-second limit. Also Instagram is a Facebook product now and they don't allow instagram images to appear inline in Twitter feeds.

Just be aware of that 30-second limit. You have to keep one eye on the timecode display or your updates will be cut off . . .
Yep. Video selfies will soon be all the rage on Twitter.

BBC MOJO trainer Marc Blank-Settle notes that sometimes there are sound pops at the start of some clips.

I would suggest to the Twitter developers look at this issue and think about providing a five-frame audio cross-fade buffer to smooth over clip transitions.

A five-frame audio cross-fade is something that broadcasters do when cutting news packages together. That little bit of polish will really improve this app.

One more thing . . .
You can import video clips from your camera roll to share in the new Twitter app and they will retain the aspect ratio you used.

Let's see some Twitter video field reports from your neighborhood!

LONDON: Video and multimedia reporting with iPhone and iPad workshops

London workshops in February

Video reporting with iPhone and iPad

One-day course: Discover how to transform your smartphone into a pro video camera:
18 February 2015

Multimedia reporting with iPhone and iPad

One-day course: A masterclass in creating interactive visual media using mobile devices
17 February 2015

The best gear for reporters making mobile journalism video and multimedia with an iPhone & iPad

Check out all of the mobile video gear I use for iPhone & iPad video journalism. 

I have an extensive list of the best gear here.


New iPhone or iPod touch for making photos and videos?

I had a student ask me a great question today in the discussion forum of my online video course.

"New iPhone or iPod touch for making photos and videos?"

Great question!

I don't currently have a recent model of iPod to compare the camera and app compatibility with, but I can tell you if you enjoy using an iPod for filming and editing and don't need cell phone connectivity, then why not go for it?

An iPod touch will probably not have advanced camera features like Slo-mo (the 240frames per second mode) or Time-lapse found on the newer iPhone models.

The site does mention the iPod having Panorama mode, however, which is a fave of mine.

NOTE: I often use a First Gen iPad Mini for filming and editing.

For time lapses with this device, I use the free Hyperlapse by Instagram app.

Here is an example of what that humble iDevice is capable of:

I am sure that a modern iPod touch has more megapixels.

At this point in time, megapixels alone are not the measure for quality.

The ease of use, app compatibility, as well as access to advanced camera features often matter more.