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29 April, 2015

Mobile news video has a vertical problem and it's not for the reasons you might think.

PEW says that mobile devices drive the majority of traffic to the stories that media companies produce.  It is time to start understanding about some of the ways that the mobile video experience is changing journalism.

This post examines the classic video/film interview.


How is vertical video changing the the interview style of journalists?

The concept of providing "look space" for interview subjects is a framing technique that has been used for decades by broadcasters and documentary interviewers. 

In TV news and documentary films the subject is filmed with their eyes fixed on the reporter asking questions. There are framed either to the right or the left, depending on which side the reporter stands.

The rule is simple: The interview subject never looks in the camera lens when speaking. The subject is filmed are always looking into the eyes of the petitioner who is standing either camera left or camera right trying to keep eye contact with the subject.

This framing has become standardized and is often seen in TV news packages. The only person who ever speaks directly to the camera are the anchor, or the field reporter.

 
Here is what it looks like when the subject is looking into the camera. You won't see this on broadcast news. Only the reporter is allowed to be shown speaking to the lens.
This reinforces the control they have over the story subject, and establishes their authority as, well, authoritative.


Vertical framing makes it difficult to achieve the same look space. The window is crowded. It is difficult even to simply keep the subject in the frame. Centering them in the frame is the natural instinct. But,  when they are centered it shifts the power. 

This simple shift of eye attention disrupts the visual authority patterns we have become familiar with and the conventions of TV and cinema language we have grown accustomed to.