Vertical vs Horizontal Books

Horizontal and Vertical Video

Most of us have experienced horizontal video, it's the type of video we see when we watch television. You'll notice the picture is wider than it is tall:

Our phones, on the other hand, often take vertical video, which is taller than it is wide:

When you put a vertical video on a horizontal screen, you can only use its middle portion. The sides end up black or blurred:

Fortunately, Heirloom has both video books with vertical screens, and with horizontal screens! In fact, we're the only company in the world to offer video books with vertical screens.

If your videos are mostly horizontal, we will automatically use a horizontal book:

If most of your video is vertical, we will automatically use a vertical book:

How We Choose

Our system automatically will choose the orientation of your book based on this algorithm:

  • If more than 70% of your book's playback is spent on either vertical or horizontal video, we use that orientation.
  • Otherwise, we choose the orientation of the first clip.

This formula is based on our experience of what brings the most immersive experience. If you would like to customize the orientation of your book, just contact us before submitting your order.

Mixed Books

Not every book is all-vertical or all-horizontal. If your book contains some videos or photos of other orientations, those clips will not be able to use the full screen. By default we use a 'blurring' effect to fill in the remainder of the screen. We find that this makes the video feel more immersive than if we just leave that area black.

You can see how your video will be produced using our Preview feature, as you build your book. If you would prefer to have an all-black background, just contact us before submitting your order.

Automatic Cropping

Our system knows that videos often come with black bars at the top/bottom or left/right. This commonly happens when well-intentioned systems try to output horizontal video, not realizing we love vertical video too! Our automated tools will identify that the sides of the video are fully black, and will automatically crop it out. If, however, the video contains elements like text which 'break out' of the letterboxed area, this cropping won't happen and you will end up with a video which doesn't use the full screen area it otherwise could.

Pre-Letterboxed Videos

Occasionally customers will combine clips and photos of different sizes together and submit them as one big video file to Heirloom. When this is done often other tools will have letterboxed the video in different ways, often producing a video that doesn't properly fit onto our screens in either horizontal or vertical orientation. Because the clips are already joined into a single file, it's often impossible for our automated systems to apply the correct orientation to each segment.

In these situations we can end up with double letterboxing, or letterboxing on both the top/bottom and left/right of the screen. Often the only solution to this is to manually cut the video into its original clips, and properly crop each one, uploading them to Heirloom separately. Should you notice these issues in your preview or book, please contact us for more help making things perfect.


The ratio of a video's width to height is commonly expressed as two numbers with a colon in between them. For example, 16:9 means there are 16 pixels of width for every 9 pixels of height. A video that is 854x480 or 1920x1080 would both be 16:9, as that is the ratio between the two numbers in both example. We recommend you try to keep your videos to a ratio of 16:9 or 9:16, any other width:height ratios can't possibly fill our screens. Fortunately this is also the default for most video editing tools and for most phones. We also strongly recommend that you upload each clip separately, do not combine them using tools like iMovie, as it may make our automatic orientation finding and cropping impossible.

As always, please reach out to us with any questions, we love to help!

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