Horizon For iOS Ensures Your Videos Are Always Recorded Horizontally


I’m going to start this post off with a bit of a controversial statement: Apple, Google, and Microsoft should join hands against… portrait/vertical video! It’s a bigger usability problem than you think. Vertical video is fine for consumption on modern, widescreen mobile devices, but it is a literal ‘pain in the neck’ on desktops, and laptops. Since it is highly inconvenient to adjust your  monitor’s orientation, you have no other option but to crane your neck in awkward angles for prolonged periods of time to watch those baby videos Uncle Grant sends every other week.

I am yet to find anyone who consciously prefers vertical video over horizontal as a design decision. The average user can’t be trusted with such a decision, because portrait video only inconveniences others, as the video gets shared around. Humans prefer horizontal widescreen video because that is how our eyes are designed to look at things. Cinema evolved from 4:3 video to 16:9, 2.21:1, and the like over the past 3-4 decades for this very reason!

Despite everything being in favor of horizontal videos, I don’t see smartphone manufacturers removing vertical video support from their mobile OSes. The team at ‘Evil Window Dog’ sensed opportunity here, and so have come up with a neat app called Horizon. The app will ensure your video remains widescreen-horizontal at all times, by cleverly cropping non-essential parts.

horizon ios always take horizonal video

Left: Rotate & Scale. Right: Just rotate.

Horizon comes with two recording modes – ‘Rotate & scale’, and ‘Just rotate’. The former dynamically scales the cropped area video as you change device orientation, resulting in wider but slightly jittery videos. The latter statically selects a crop-size, which dramatically reduces viewing angles but produces more stable video.

horizon ios always take horizonal video 3

iPhone 5 and beyond support up to 1080p, while 4S and older only get up to 720p.

In any case, you get to avoid portrait videos. Selecting between the two is a matter of preference.

You can also combine a ‘disabled’ mode with 720p HD res if you, like me, find Apple restricting the stock Camera app to 1080p Full HD videos inconvenient due to low storage space. You can, of course, select VGA resolution, too!

horizon ios always take horizonal video 2

Besides this, Horizon also supports filters, different aspect ratios, adjustable video qualities, and Autofocus + Auto Exposure lock.

Even though I ensure my videos are always recorded horizontally, I still see Horizon as an excellent, dedicated video recording app that is worth your attention – if you dislike the over simplicity of the stock Camera app.

Horizon is available for $0.99 on the App Store.

Install Horizon from App Store

Be sure to let us know what you think of Horizon by leaving a comment in the comments section below.

  • FROM THE ARTICLE: I’m going to start this post off with a bit of a controversial statement: Apple, Google, and Microsoft should join hands against… portrait/vertical video! It’s a bigger usability problem than you think. Vertical video is fine for consumption on modern, widescreen mobile devices, but it is a literal ‘pain in the neck’ on desktops, and laptops. Since it is highly inconvenient to adjust your monitor’s orientation, you have no other option but to crane your neck in awkward angles for prolonged periods of time to watch those baby videos Uncle Grant sends every other week.

    MY RESPONSE: There’s nothing controversial about it… at least for those who actually know anything about video: who’ve ever worked at a TV station, for example; or who’ve ever made professional videos… that sort of thing. Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Awaise, for having the courage to write it… to just sort of blurt it out as you did. Bravo! Thank you!

    And, though your point about how it impacts desktop and laptop users isn’t really even the half of it. That’s just ONE of the problems with portrait-orientation (vertical) video. People who really understand video know that THERE CAN BE NO SUCH THING AS VERTICAL/PORTRAIT-ORIENTATION VIDEO… EVER! NO MATTER WHAT!

    FROM THE ARTICLE: I am yet…

    MY RESPONSE: Actually, the English idiom is “I have yet,” not “I am yet”… but, nevertheless, I’m still with ya’… carry on…

    FROM THE ARTICLE: …to find anyone who consciously prefers vertical video over horizontal as a design decision. The average user can’t be trusted with such a decision, because portrait video only inconveniences others, as the video gets shared around. Humans prefer horizontal widescreen video because that is how our eyes are designed to look at things. Cinema evolved from 4:3 video to 16:9, 2.21:1, and the like over the past 3-4 decades for this very reason!

    MY RESPONSE: Yes! Yes! Yes! (Seriously, tears are welling-up). Quick! Someone make Awais Imran supreme world ruler of all things video! I could not more strongly agree! Why do so many (especially iOS) users just not GET this? It makes me want to SCREAM!

    Most TV stations, and most of the “iNews” or “iReporter” type sites and services which invite just anyone to become, in effect, a video news gatherer for a TV station or TV news network, will summarily reject portrait-orientation (vertical) videos; and so the videographer’s time is wasted, and his/her hopes of getting his/her video on television, are summarily dashed just because s/he thought vertical versus horizontal orientation it didn’t matter. IT DOES! And, interestingly, it seems that mostly only iOS (Mac and iPhone and iPad) users don’t get that…

    …which, if you know anything about typically-right-brained, creative, close-is-good-enough users of Apple products, that’s not surprising. Precision, when it comes to the operation of their computers and similar devices, is something they tend not to care about; yet they can care very much about precision when using said devices to make music or edit a photo or video; it’s just that their focus is on that application task, and not on the device and what they need to do to make the device properly support whatever else they’re doing. Apple product users have always been like that. They’re completely oblivious to the hardware and other practical issues that typical information technology (IT) people care about; but they’re absolutely as detail-oriented as they need to be once they’re inside of an app running on said devices. That’s part of the whole right-brained and creative thing; they think it only matters once the app’s open; and that before that, the computer is no different from a television or stereo that’s turned off. In other words, for them, the computer (and sometimes even the IOS operating system) can be just ignored because even if the Mac or iPhone or iPad is on, it’s as if it’s off to them until they’re actually in an app and using it for something. It’s very weird were iOS users draw their lines…

    …hence at least part of the reason why Windows and Linux users, who tend to be more left-brained and more about the device as WELL as its apps, hate them (and why iOS users tend to hate us right back, actually). We’re about the precision of the entire package, from the instant the device is turned-on; where iOS users just aren’t…

    …hence the reason they think it’s okay to turn a phone or tablet into vertical orientation with video. With photos, it’s fine. But not with video. Never has been. Never will be. There are standards when it comes to video which are inviolable; and since iOS users tend not to be free thinking and not very much about standards, in life (at least until their violation of them bites ’em square on the butt, after which they’ve learned the hard way), they just turn their phones however they want to, willy nilly, when doing video…


    Of course, part of the problem is that when you turn an iOS device into portrait orentation during video recording, it’ll actually record in that now-wrong orientation… which, for the rest of the world, is on its side: turned 90-degrees to the right, which is, again, just plain wrong.

    However, on some Android phones, yes, it’ll display the being-recorded video when the phone’s turned to portrait orientation, but if you’ll notice, it’ll still maintain the aspect ratio (the horizontal width versus vertical height, measured in pixels) so that the width of the video displays, when the phone’s turned to portrait orientation, across the width of the phone’s screen, but smaller and with black space above and below the image; and so when it does that, it’s actually continuing to record the video in horizontal (landscape) mode, even though the phone’s now turned to vertical (portrait) orientation.

    Of course, it takes a sophisticated camera sensor and complementary phone hardware (accelerometer, gyrosopic, rotational and/or orientation) sensors, which is(are) “talking” to the video camera’s circuitry and software, to make that happen; and not every Android phone has that sort of sophistication. Therefore, there are even some Android users (though far less, for some reason, than iOS users) who make the stupid, stupid, stupid (I’m sorry, there’s just no other word for it) vertical/portrait-orientation video mistake.


    And, yes, I meant to “yell” that (hence the all-caps).

    For phones which do not have the sophistication to always keep the video widescreen (in horizontal/landscape orientation) even if it’s stupidly — again, that’s the right word — turned to vertical/portrait orientation during recording, this (sadly only iOS) “Horizon” app can definitely help; it’s at least a good start.

    Here’s the problem, though: what it does is, in effect, just zoom-in — and only digitally, not optically, to boot — on a comparatively small part of the being-recorded image; and the problem with digital zooming (as opposed to optical zooming wherein it’s a glass lens that’s doing all the magnification, old analog style) is that the little pixels which make-up the image get zoomed-in on, too, and magnified; and so the entire image, once zoomed-in on, becomes more course and less crisp and sharp.

    To understand better what I’m talking about, just view any photo in any Windows or Mac (not Android or iPhone, though you can see it there, too; but for now, for my example, here, just do it on a Windows or Mac) photo viewer; and then, in said viewer, zoom-in on only a part of it of the photo. You’ll begin to notice, as you get in closer and closer, that you can begin to see the courseness of the pixels, themselves, and the whole image become less crisp and sharp.

    That’s what any form of digital (as opposed to optical) zooming does. Only optical zooming, using the glass of an actual zoom lens) will keep the pixels the same size throughout the focal length of the zoom. And most phones — and certainly not iPhones — have optical zoom lenses. That said, both Nokia and Samsung are now making phones with physical opitcal zoom lenses which will zoom however many times optically, and then any zoom beyond that builds upon the maximum optical zoom, but does further zooming only digitally. Most small point-and-shoot digital cameras do things that way: they have a let’s say 5x optical zoom (during which you can actually see the zoom lens expand or contract on the front of the camera), and then once the 5x optical zoom is hit, it might be capable of achieving the equivalent of another 5x digital zooming, for a net total, when the camera’s advertised, of 10x zoom (but only 5x of which is actually optical, which they tend to only tell you in said advertising’s small print).

    And by the way, it’s not called “x” as in “5x zooming”; rather, it’s called “times” as in “5 times zooming”, even though it’s written with the “x” as in “5x zoom” or “5x zooming.” When you say, aloud, what it says on a camera’s box, or in its user manual, or on its website, the text string “5x zoom” (or whatever is the number instead of 5, depending on the camera) it is pronounced, aloud, “5 times zoom.” Never say the “x” literally, when you’re talking about a camera’s zoom. I’ve been a photographer for literally 44 years — some of them professionally, even working for the Associated Press (AP) — so trust me on this. It’s “times” not “x” when you pronounce it.

    Okay, so, then, now that the reader understands all that, let’s look at what happens when you turn an iPhone 5, for example, from proper horizontal (landscape) to improper vertical (portrait) orientation during video recording, using this “Horizon” app…

    Forgetting about the “Horizon” app, for a just a moment, an iPhone 5 ships from the factory being capable of recording 1080p video…

    SEE | http://bit.ly/1jjY7Xs (iPhone 5 specs | Apple website)

    …which means that when it’s recording video in proper landscape (horizontal) orientation, the resulting image is 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels tall; or, written in the most common shortanded way: 1920×1080… always width first, then an “x”, then height.

    That’s what “1080p” means: 1920×1080, not 1080×1920. That’s 1,920 pixels wide (horizontally), and 1,080 pixels tall (vertically); and never, ever the other way around. A “1080p” video can never, ever be 1,080 pixels across (horizontally) and 1,920 pixels down (vertically). Never, ever. That’s the standard; and it’s always expressed as width (the horizontal number of pixels) first, then an “x”, then height (the vertical number of pixels), second. Always. No exceptions. So the 1080p video standard is ONLY 1920×1080, and that’s the end of it.

    Other video standards may have different numbers in those two places on either side of the “x”, but — and this is critical — the one on the left side of the “x” will always be larger than the one on the right side of the “X”. All — and I mean *ALL* — television or movie or any other video screens are always, always, always wider than they are tall. Always. And so any video standard must be expressed as…

    larger-number x smaller-number (with no spaces anywhere in there)

    …no matter what. In this particular case, because our example is an iPhone 5, we’re talking about 1920×1080, which is callled the “1080p” video standard.

    Even the size of the old TV your parents had (or that you had, if you’re old enough) was expressed as a wider-than-tall ratio: 4/3 (prounouced “four thirds”). That means four units wide by three units tall… whatever are the units. Remember that that ratio was from analog TV days, and so because the number of little color picture tube dots (pixels) could vary from TV to TV, depending on the screen’s physical size, no one ever talked about the number of pixels across by the number of pixels down, as we do with digital both still and video images.

    Todays numbers are things like 640×480, or 1280×720 — all referring to the number of pixels across by the number of pixels down. With old analog TV, though, it was expressed as a ratio: 4/3… four units across by three units down. Technically, 800 pixels across by 600 pixels down — an old computer monitor size standard — meets the 4/3 ratio standard. So, too, does the next-higher old monitor standard of 1024×768 also meet the 4/3 ratio standard.

    Even since we’ve gone digital, some height-by-width screen standards are still expressed as ratios so that the actual number of pixels of which the screen’s capable won’t really matter to the discussion. That’s what the 16:9 and 16:10 ratio standards are all about: 16 units across (horizontal width) by either 9 or 10 units of vertical height.

    And notice that no matter how it’s expressed, it’s always the higher of the two numbers to the left of the “x” and the lower of the two numbers to the right of the “x”; which, since it’s always expressed as width first, then an “x”, and then height, always, always, always means that the video image is wider than it is tall. Always. And so turning any video (not a still photo, mind you, but only video) camera into the vertical (portrait) orientation is against every video rule and standard on the planet. It’s just not done. Please, everyone, try to fully grasp this!

    So, yes, you creative and right-brained iOS users who eschew standards just sort of generally, in life: at least SOME standards reallly matter… please read and learn!

    SEE | http://bit.ly/1jjZjKi (the 1080p standard | Wikipedia)

    And so when an iPhone, absent the “Horizon” app, is turned wrongly vertically (into portrait orientation), the size of the video becomes, in effect, 1080×1920, which is backwards; contrary to standard; improperly taller-than-wide instead of the normative (and proper) wider-than-tall. There is, in the world of video, no such thing as a “1080×1920” video. Period. There is only ever 1920×1080. Ever! Period, yet again.

    Or, more accurately, if not 1920×1080, then whatever other width-by-height numbers which comply with the internationally-accepted width-by-height ratio standards for HD (wide-screen) video. We just happen, in this example, to be talking about 1920×1080, which is fast becoming the universally-accepted standard for American TV sets (the previous, and still-used standard being “720p”, which means 1,208 pixels across (horizontally) by 720 pixels down (vertically); expressed as 1280×720.

    SEE | http://bit.ly/1iXUyXo (the 720p standard | Wikipedia)
    SEE | http://bit.ly/1iXUua4 (the HD TV standard | Wikipedia)

    Remember that digital video and TV cannot be separated in any of this; that because it’s video, television standards both apply and rule, even if the video will never be displayed on a TV set; and there is no such thing as a TV set that’s turned on its side so that its screen is taller-than-wide. TVs are always, always, always wider-than-tall; and so there simply is no such thing as turning a video camera into vertical (portrait) orientation while recording video. It’s just not done! Ever! No matter what! iOS users GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEADS!

    Oh, sure, you can turn a still photo into any orientation you want, and so it’s okay to have a 1080×1920 still photo. But it is *NEVER* okay to have a 1080×1920 video. Only a 1920×1080 (which is true 1080p) video is acceptable. No exceptions. When it comes to video, you free-thinking, contrarians out there don’t get to make-up your own rules. SOME STANDARDS, again, MATTER!

    So, then, are you iOS users out there finally beginning to see what is the problem? (I doubt it; hence the reason I’m over-explaining it; in the hope that they’ll finally get it… yes, I’m talking to you, Patti!)

    Okay, so, then, anyway…

    …what this “Horizon” app does is, simply, select a screen-wide piece of the video when the phone’s turned improperly into vertical (portrait) orientation during recording, and size it so that its number of pixels across (horizontally) is still wider than its number of pixels down (vertically)… just exactly like things are when the phone’s turned properly into horizontal (landscape) orientation. And that’s good…

    …except for, stop and think about it, when it’s doing that, even if it selects from the entire width of what is, by then (because it’s in vertical (portrait) orientation), the screen, the maximum number of horizontal pixels of the resulting “Horizon” video image is not the desired 1080p standard of 1,920 pixels but, rather, the all-that’s-available 1,080 pixels.

    And so, again, stop and think about it, that’s the equivalent of zooming-in from 1,920 pixels to only 1,080 pixels, or 43.75%, which is a digital zoom of almost half! And so harken back to what I wrote earlier herein about digital zooming: a digital zoom from 1,980 pixels to 1,080 pixels is going to make each pixel in the resulting digitally-zoomed image 43.5% larger!

    Fortunately, we’re talking about so *MANY* pixels, in any case, that it’ll probably still look pretty okay… definitely less sharp and crisp, but still not completely awful. If the light on the recorded video image’s subject was bright enough so that the lens was stopped-down (giving the entire image greater depth-of-field/focus), it might even look to the untrained eye like there’s no difference. But, trust me, it’ll not be, digitally-zoomed by a whopping nearly half, as sharp and crisp as if it had been recorded as really-and-truly 1920×1080 by holding the iPhone horizontally (in landscape mode) during recording.

    So, yes, the resulting digitally-zoomed video “Horizon” app image, while conforming to the proper 16:9 ratio necessary for it to meet the “HD” television standard, is nevertheless smaller in overall pixel size. It’s no longer the 1080p standard of 1,920 pixels wide, but, instead, now only 1,080 pixels wide (43.75% more narrow); which means that it’s also no longer 1,080 pixels tall. Instead it’s 43.75% shorter, or only 606.42 pixels. Since we can’t actually have a partial pixel, it would be rounded to 1080×606, which is not only not an international television standard, but that partial pixel loss in heigh means that it technically no longer meets the 16:9 HD ratio! Yes, it’s close…

    …but STANDARDS ARE STANDARDS! A notion seemingly lost on many iOS users, especially those who think it’s okay to turn a video camera (which is what an iPhone is when it’s recording a video) into the absolutely incorrect vertical (portrait) orientation.


    And, yes, I meant to yell that, too.

    Hope that helps. Given that it’s iOS users largely reading this, though, I won’t hold my breath.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.