Working with cell phone video shot in portrait

frederick-wise wrote on 8/5/2014, 7:36 AM
I was just given a project that contains a whole bunch of HD video shots primarily in portrait mode from cell phones (as seems to be the case with most amateurs videographers who never seem to turn the phone 90 degrees to landscape).

I'm using Windows 8.1 and notice it somehow knows these videos are in portrait and rotates the thumbnails 90 degrees so that they look correct (vertical - not sideways). Also I notice when I load these "sideways" clips into VP13 they remain vertical but now 2 large black bars are added on either side of the image which are not in the thumbnail view. I don't want any black bars as I'm going to import these into Pro Show and make a little slideshow out of some of the clips.

PS I've tried loading the files into VP13 using project source settings and also tried rendering using project settings. When I render using "Match project video frame" it points me to "Blu-ray 1920x1080-60i, 25 Mbps video stream" but the resultant rendered clip won't play for some reason in Windows Media Player, nor Real Player, Quicktime, VLC, etc.. How do I get rid of the black bars and make all of this work smoothly? Thanx.


john_dennis wrote on 8/5/2014, 8:29 AM
Are you able to control the orientation of the playback device?

If you can't rotate the TV or computer screen to portrait, you'll have to put up with the black bars.
Chienworks wrote on 8/5/2014, 9:00 AM
You have a few things you can do with the black bars. Absolutely zero of the options are good, but some are less bad than others:

1) Leave the bars! Perfectly acceptable. You're showing the video as it was shot and being true to the original image. The fact that the physical shape of the playback screen doesn't match is not your fault!

2) Crop the video to fit the shape of the playback screen. In the case of 9:16 cropped to 16:9, you'll end up losing almost half the image vertically so you'll be cutting off a lot of the top, or bottom, or some of both. You'll also lose some resolution. Incidentally, this is most likely what is happening when you see the 'rotated' thumbnails. Keep in mind that when shooting this way the videographer tends to fill the frame top to bottom because it's available, so cropping can be dicey trying to keep a good image while losing the rest.

3) Fill in the background with something else. Use a solid or patterned color background, something that compliments the video.

4) Fill in the background with a stretched version of the video. This is often done on news shows when they show 4:3 or vertical footage, and often a softening effect is added.

5) Stretch the video horizontally to fit. Yeah, everyone will look like they lost a foot of height and gained 375 pounds, but hey, you got rid of the black bars so that's what matters, right?

6) Combinations of the above. Stretch a little so they don't look TOO fat, crop a little so you don't lose TOO much, add some background behind what's left.

I vote for #1 in all situations. I think all the other options just look worse. Sometimes #2 is acceptable as long as you can find enough to show within the cropped area, and you're aiming for lower resolution playback anyway.
frederick-wise wrote on 8/5/2014, 9:42 AM
Thanx for the input. I think I may run the videos through Pro Show first as it doesn't seem to add any black sidebars and then add them to my timeline in VP13 and edit to taste. Pro Show Gold is an amazing slide show program I recently came across and it automatically makes any orientation of source file look great. I simply add the video or photo, then rotate it as needed in the "Adjustment" section, then add a slide "style" and watch it do it's thing.
Kimberly wrote on 8/5/2014, 9:44 AM
Last year I compiled a DVD for a friend who shot a bunch of Christmas footage in portrait on her iPhone. I used Option No. 3 and filled the background with a gradient tint of Christmasy colors.

I thought it was terrible, shaky, out of focus, each clip was 20+ minutes, etc. She was delighted, even though she immediately realized the orientation should have been landscape for the best picture.

This was footage from Christmas in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia. My friend said the kids at her church were fascinated to see themselves on TV and watched the DVD over and over. That was my "aha" moment. It doesn't matter what I think. It matters what the viewers think.


frederick-wise wrote on 8/5/2014, 11:20 AM
I see on my laptop which is Windows 7, the thumbnails of the portrait cell-phone shots are sideways and playing them in various video players yields very mixed results. Here they are:

WMP - sideways, little sidebars added
QuickTime - vertical, no sidebars added
RealPlayer - vertical, sidebars added
VLC - sideways, little sidebars added

...a real nice mess! Maybe some programmer guru can come up with a little program to make VP13 work with portrait cellphone shots where the sidebars are not created. Oh well, I figured out a work-around. Thanx for all the input.
PeterWright wrote on 8/5/2014, 8:17 PM
Vegas DOES allow you to output a vertical "portrait" frame, but successful full screen playback means the monitor or screen it is played back on also has to be rotated 90 degrees. This facility was intended for exhibition type use.

Vegas is not responsible for 99.9% of playback screens being landscape - this situation arises because of the ignorance of the person shooting the video.
Tisso Shark wrote on 12/20/2014, 7:48 PM
Hi Guys,

This is all very interesting about the orientation of the cell phones, but I didn't reach that far. I'm trying to edit a video with the same kind of footage for friend. She has two exchange students who went to Germany and Spain, so we put together some clips to cheer them overseas. Every time I'm loading the files VP12 is locking. The videos are not loading, and when I try to drop the files on the timeline the files don't appear in the playback window. Did anyone encounter that problem with quicktime files? Any insights on how to solve that problem?

musicvid10 wrote on 12/20/2014, 8:09 PM
Just drape the sides. Plenty of free images or video backgrounds made for the purpose.