You can shoot digital camera video clips in portrait mode, but they’ll always be landscape when you come to watch them. Here’s how to get them to rotate to be the way you intended.
I wrote in my previous article about uploading digital camera clips to YouTube that it’s pretty easy to prepare video clips you’ve shot once you’ve got a couple of nifty bits of software. But one of the other headaches I’ve encountered in getting clips ready to put on YouTube is that footage I’ve shot in portrait mode (i.e. simply holding the camera vertically rather than horizontally) only plays back in landscape mode ie the moving image is always horizontal. This is obviously not ideal.
I can put up with it when simply looking at clips on my own PC, but if I want to upload a portrait clip to YouTube, then it’s no fun for viewers. I discovered that even after I’ve rotated a clip into Portrait mode, YouTube will simply stretch the clip over its default 450 pixel width setting, thus distorting the clip pretty badly. This happens even if you manually fiddle with the YouTube embedded HTML code and specify width and height parameters that make it portrait.
Still, it’s better than watching it with your neck at 90 degrees. It’s also possible to save your clip on the DivX video sharing site Stage6.com and specify its exact dimensions so that it displays as a proper portrait video.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – how to rotate the video in the first place? It seems like such a trivial problem, but it needs some clever software to solve it. That software is the open source Virtual Dub, which lets you mess around with clips in all manner of ways, including rotating them.
Here’s the step by step way of rotating your clips:
- Open the file
- Choose Edit > Select All
- Then go to Video > Filters
- Select Add
- From the list, choose Rotate
- Choose the option you want (Rotate left, right, 180) and select it
- The video should then display in two versions, one landscape, one portrait. The image might be distorted in the portrait version. It seems to work ok once you actually play the clip again
- You can preview the portrait version’s playback to check it’s OK by going to File > Preview Filtered
- Once you’re happy, save out the filtered portrait version as an AVI from File > Save as AVI
The thing is, now that you have set up the filter, when you open each new clip it will automatically convert that to vertical as well. Sweet. Hence, you can get through a batch of clips pretty quick.
- Open the clip
- Check it using File > Preview Filtered
- Save out the filtered portrait version as an AVI from File > Save as AVI
Once your clip is rotated, you can run it through Dr DivX and upload to YouTube as described in my previous article Uploading Digital Camera Clips To YouTube
Here’s one of the portrait clips I uploaded to YouTube – you can see the distortion:
And here’s the same clip on Stage6.com – looks much better but DivX is needed on the viewer’s computer. If the user doesn’t have DivX installed, they’ll see the first frame of the clip and be prompted to download the player.
There you have it. If you know any way of making the YouTube player show portrait clips without distorting them, do tell me!