Vertical Video on the Small Screen? Not a Crime

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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I know I’m late but after publishing links to several horizontal live-streaming mobile video applications — NomadCast, Witness and stre.am  — I thought I should share this look at the vertical video debate:

“According to several app makers and media companies, many of the world’s video consumers don’t seem to think vertical videos are wrong — in fact, a lot of us prefer them.” –NYTimes.com

Vertical Video on the Small Screen? Not a Crime

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Keeping up with streaming app updates

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

Above: The latest update from stre.am now makes it possible to title your broadcast.

In a recent post, I confessed my love for stre.am but complained that it had one serious shortcoming: Since broadcasters could not title their streams inside the app, related tweets and Facebook posts offered only generic messages at launch and were thus insufficient for catching possible viewers who might be searching by topical keywords — as I do with Tweetdeck.

Well, those days are gone, thanks to a new upgrade (iOS, Android) which I tried for the first time while watching some wet weather sweep over Philadelphia last night.

I chatted with another member of the stre.am team inside that broadcast and learned that they also plan to enable commenting in the web view soon, which would be another important advantage over competitors.

I also learned that it was no accident that stre.am viewers remain anonymous until they comment. That had always been the case but I just hadn’t noticed — with so many differences to consider among the latest apps.

But I think I prefer the Periscope model on that point, where viewers are announced with an onscreen text message when they begin viewing each stream. I can also understand the counter-argument.

Meerkat

Meanwhile, I agree with Mashable’s assessment that the latest Meerkat update adds improvements but “still has much to fix.”

A brutal review inside the iTunes store begins: “I loved meerkat…until this last update,” calls the opening view “horrible” and concludes: “This is a zero star update, but they made me choose 1, so I did. But I’m being generous.”

Check my last post for a look at the latest Periscope upgrades.

In an upcoming post, I will also go over the ANGL app, which looks great at a glance but left me puzzled on first use.

What’s your favorite app for streaming video?

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Want to stream you life horizontally? There’s an app for that!

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

Above and below: Roller skaters check out opening night at the RiverRink in Philadelphia. I grabbed these moments from my stre.am broadcast.

I like vertical videos and I am not alone. “Vertical videos are here to stay,” according to engadget.com. And digiday.com says: “It’s time to take vertical video seriously.”

There’s even a new app called Verdid, which journalism.co.uk says is setting out to become the “YouTube of vertical videos.”

And as I said in one of my earlier posts, watching Periscope streams on my big screen at home left me wishing that I had my TV mounted vertically.

3But of course I do not. Cable and satellite signals and just about everything else come in horizontally. And more than a century of Hollywood movies would have to be drastically cropped or downsized for viewing on vertical screens.

And there are lots of reasons to continue producing horizontal videos. Verticals still look ridiculously compromised on YouTube and on broadcast TV.

Citizen journalists using vertical video might find themselves starting with one strike against them if they want to make sales to news organizations, and will certainly be at a disadvantage if another producer has the same content in horizontal format.

Fortunately, we have stre.am, or #streamwithadot, which promises to help you “Share you world.”

streamI glanced at the app while gathering information for my first post on this site last month, but with much of the news coverage focused on competition between Periscope and Meerkat, I kind of forgot about the third option until one of their staffers reached out to me on Twitter last week.

That’s when I finally tried sending a test stream with the app, and guess what? It’s horizontal!

So, when I went down to the Delaware River to check out Philadelphia’s new roller rink last weekend — and found decidedly horizontal visuals — I decided to give stre.am a try in the field.

And I loved it for lots of reasons:

• First of all, the app saved a clean horizontal copy of my stream to my iPhone’s Camera Roll. I’m a journalist and producing horizontals just makes more sense for me.

• And stre.am enables easy Twitter AND Facebook sharing at launch.

• Tapping an aperture icon while streaming captures clean still photos to your camera roll, although there seemed to be a brief delay in the process. (I can do the same on Periscope by clicking my iPhone’s home and power buttons simultaneously, but that will also capture the hearts and comments. And sometimes I inadvertently put the phone to sleep if I get those keystrokes out of sync.)

• Finally, you can also post text comments while streaming, which can be helpful if you want to communicate while covering an event such as the solemn Ride of Silence, which left me whispering while Periscoping last week.

There’s one big problem but there’s a solution in the works and some pretty cool alternatives in place already.

• Unfortunately, you can’t yet title your stre.am stream before broadcasting; so, your tweet and Facebook shares will leave your friends and followers wondering. However, two stre.am staffers have promised me that will change in an upcoming version.

UPDATE: Stre.am CTO Jeremy Martin tells me they: “just submitted a new build with titles to the App Store today!”

Meanwhile, you can share more deliberately once your stream is underway:

• While you’re live, the top left menu displays your stream’s duration, likes and the number of current viewers. But if you tap the tiny icon in the top left corner, it opens a vertical menu with more options.

• There, you can turn on the flashlight or switch to your front camera but you can also craft and send a more precise tweet or Facebook post while maintaining the stream. You can also send a text or an email.

Some other observations:

• Viewer count compared favorably with my engagement on Periscope, but almost nobody commented. This could be due to any number of reasons but I am suspecting it may result from the fact that viewers need to tap a bubble icon before they see the comments.

• You can “Like” a stream by clicking a thumbs-up icon. It’s a lot more subtle than pouring your hearts out on Periscope but time will tell what users prefer.

• Instead of streaming, you can also opt to record a video clip for your “reel,” which will be attached to your profile for 24 hours. I haven’t figured out the point of this process but I will give it a try soon.

Tweeted streams seem rare; so, I have not been able to establish whether live web viewing is possible.

Update: Another stre.am staffer messaged me to confirm that live web viewing is possible.

Of course you can also rotate your device horizontally while streaming on Periscope, but the comments and hearts will display sideways.

Stre.am reminds you that your “Portrait Orientation Lock” must be off when using their app horizontally. Otherwise, it warns that you will be creating a “sideways experience” for your viewers and implores you: “Don’t be that person.”

Finally, since none of the new streaming mobile video apps presently enable embedding, I have been experimenting with capturing streams from my screen and redistributing them via Ustream, which produces an embed code but also sends out video in a horizontal box like we get when using YouTube. Stre.am solves that problem too.

Have you tried stre.am? What do you think?

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