Silly videos, serious business

We have a simple, easy-to-remember rule in the Earnheardt home for capturing video on our mobile devices. We call it the AFV Rule, named for the long-running ABC show, “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

When recording our exploding watermelons or obnoxious cats, we hold our recording devices horizontally, not vertically, to capture the best shots. We want those trampoline goofs and hilarious Wiffle ball bat swings to look spectacular and in proper format for future AFV submissions.

I’m kidding, of course. We’ve never submitted anything to AFV.

At least, not yet.

But that last part, “proper format,” is something we take seriously when capturing silly moments.

You’ve probably witnessed the problem with vertical videos on YouTube and other streaming services, and on TV shows such as AFV. Washed-out-gray or pixelated bars that border the space to the left and right of the video on our rectangular, 16:9 frames on mobile devices, computer screens and TVs.

Maybe it’s my inner Spielberg speaking, but I think it looks bad. So do my wife and kids. I’ve appropriately conditioned our future movie directors to capture and edit their masterpieces in horizontal mode.

“How hard is it flip your dang phone?” is a common rhetorical question my kids use when they see vertical videos.

Well, they did, until last week, when we started watching videos on IGTV, Instagram’s new long-form video platform.

IGTV is a bit different from Instagram’s short videos and Facebook’s episodic-like push into video content.

First, IGTV has its own stand-alone app, but we’re also able to watch videos directly in the Instagram app (for the record, Instagram is currently the only app we allow our tween daughters to use, but that’s a discussion for a future column).

Second, IGTV is different from other video sharing services like Facebook in one very important way, and here’s where our AFV rule was suspended. IGTV is built for how we actually use our mobile devices – full screen vertical.

“I’m shook,” was my oldest daughter’s reply.

Instagram’s been in the video business for a while, but those clips were limited to one minute. IGTV videos can be up to an hour long.

“We’ve made it simple, too. Just like turning on the TV, IGTV starts playing as soon as you open the app,” said Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder and CEO. “You don’t have to search to start watching content from people you already follow on Instagram and others you might like based on your interests. You can swipe up to discover more.”

Think of swiping as switching TV channels, or watching from your DVR, with content in sections entitled “For You,” “Following,” “Popular” and “Continue Watching.”

The Earnheardt’s AFV Rule may have to be amended, but that’s okay. When we have more options for capturing and sharing videos on different platforms, even in vertical mode, the sky’s the limit.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.