Expect the world’s first vertical format, or portrait mode, film out sometime in 2021. Titled, V2. Escape From Hell, the feature is presumably about a population of people condemned to watch all movies in vertical format attempting to leave their heinous world for a better one.
Obviously, vertical format media is here to stay. The mass proliferation of smart phones and their various apps has assured that. It makes sense that the content would adapt the viewing ratio, and even more sense that companies would attempt to capitalize on this new format with content adapted to its screen size. What doesn’t make sense is that anyone would try to transplant this format into theaters with their large widescreen format.
In fact, recent years have seen screen sizes increase with the advent of IMAX and other, premium format screens like Regal’s RPX theaters. Bigger is better. The idea of cutting a cinematic aspect ratio down to a narrow vertical slit of film is ludicrous. Imagine cutting any experience down in a such a way. What if one’s first viewing of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper?
Or your first time viewing the grand canyon you were forced to cover one eye with one hand and the other partially with the other. Dramatic still, but the amount of information that’s being kept from you is infinitely more so.
Consider if we applied this same technique to iconic moments from existing films. Perhaps When Indiana Jones first ponders … what is he pondering? He’s definitely deep in thought about something, but we’ve no idea if it’s a golden idol. Or how about in Jaws when Quint is sliding off the back of the Orca into the ocean like it’s the best water park ever? Or maybe when Clint Eastwood is standing by himself in the middle of a graveyard for no good reason in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?
Mobile-friendly is just that because it’s for mobile, not for cinema. producer Timur Bekmambetov is directing this vertical format film on a budget of $10M in partnership with MTS Media, a branch of Russia’s biggest mobile phone operator. That part makes sense, but why they would put it in theaters makes none. This smells like a rotten marketing ploy, designed to get eyes on something that would otherwise get zero attention.
Cinematic aspect ratios actually have quite a complex history, but what’s aboslutely certain is that when the technology for home theater displays (televisions and computer monitors) moved beyond the clunky box technology of the 20th century, aspect ratios immediately got larger, and wider. We instinctively moved towards mimicking the aspect ratios and screen sizes found in theaters. Did you know that widescreen TVs can play vertical format content? They can, but you probably have no idea because people don’t ever use them to do this! Widescreen formats most closely mirror our own perception of reality and when reality isn’t dictated by the size of a minuscule handheld device, we go big to see more of what’s in front of our faces.
If these filmmakers had any brains whatsoever, they’d shoot the film in widescreen with proper framing of all shots and then edit it down for mobile format. But who’d want to read about that?