07 May 2019

Are we really ready for a vertical TV?

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Now if it had a touchscreen that could be useful for presentations... Now if it had a touchscreen that could be useful for presentations... Samsung

Samsung’s latest set, the Sero, has a pivot that means you can flip the 43-inch QLED TV through 90 degrees and watch smartphone videos in their native formats? Useful device or abomination?

As TV manufacturers search for something — anything — to differentiate their sets, Samsung has hit on the novel idea of a 43-inch quantum dot (presumably 4K) that can be rotated through 90 degrees to a vertical position. Launching at the end of the month in Korea for in the region of $1600, it has provided the sort of merry pitchforking that serves well to distract us from the usual doom and gloom of climate change, global politics, disease epidemics, trolls, haters, and the like.

War, death, famine, plague, and vertical video? It sounds a bit harsh but this TV has angered a lot of people. Much of the blame for its existence seems to be firmly placed on the shoulders of millennials; a generation that is rapidly being blamed for everything wrong with the world, even though it has been the boomers that have actually been in charge of everything for a while now. Millennials though, the argument goes, are morally bankrupt enough to want to watch Insta Stories in their native vertical.

The campaign against this creeping verticalisation has been vocal and musical (see below) but nevertheless, there is more of this sort of thing going on. NLEs looking to target social media oriented users let them output in all sorts of formats, including vertical, and news organisations throughout the world have had to learn to deal with vertical video as it comes in if they want to feature user generated content. Recent music videos from the likes of Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Nicki Minaj have all come in vertical cut-downs, while anyone wanting to boost engagement on Facebook has found that vertical video is very much the way forward.

We suspect that while people are happy to watch vertical material on their phones, spending $1600 to watch it on a 43-inch screen is another matter entirely. For the moment it’s a moot point unless you live in South Korea, as Samsung has no plans for a worldwide release of the Sero, but weirder things have happened. And its very existence possibly edges us closer to the point where a client walks into your life and asked for at least a vertical version of the project you’re working on that they can run on social media…

Andy Stout

Andy has spent over two decades writing about all aspects of the broadcast and film industries for a variety of high-profile industry publications on both sides of the Atlantic. During that time the industry has moved from 4:3 SD to 16:9 SD to HD and now on to 4K HDR. He's getting kind of curious to see where it goes next.

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