Horizon Keeps iPhone Video Shooting on the Level
Jan 23, 2014 5:00 AM PT
Horizon by Evil Window Dog is an iOS app available in the iTunes App Store for US$0.99.
Even if you've never been guilty of sharing one of those annoying vertical videos, you may have run into a situation where you've been filming and moving around at the same time -- and because you were scrambling over a rock or playfully wrestling while recording, your fun little video perspective spun vertical on you.
Or, if you're like me, you might have taken a vertical photo -- then realized that you had a video-ready moment to capture and started recording video, only to realize that you started recording in upright mode.
The problem is, once you start, you're stuck -- even if you turn your iPhone horizontal, you'll still be recording a vertically oriented shot. Stopping to fix your orientation error means you might miss capturing the moment altogether.
None of this exactly intuitive, since most every video anyone ever sees is in the form of a horizontal rectangle.
Horizon, on the other hand, is a new video recording app that is intuitive: No matter how you hold your iPhone, with Horizon, you'll always shoot horizontal video. In fact, even if you fall down or wave your arm in an arc, you'll still be shooting horizontal video, right side up.
This is undeniably cool.
How It Works
Horizon works its Ninja balance skills by using the iPhone's built-in gyroscope, keeping your video parallel to the ground. To get the light of the world onto the camera's sensor at the right size for all horizontal video output, there's some cropping and scaling that's going on digitally behind the scenes.
What you see on your screen as you record, though, is a horizontal square that can scale in size to reflect your current orientation. What's this mean?
Effectively, if you shoot video in an upright mode, you'll see a cropped availability of subject matter when you compare it to a standard horizontal mode. This means you have to pay close attention to how you frame your shot when holding the iPhone vertically -- or, for example, you might find yourself videoing someone's torso and not a smiling face.
Fortunately, if you're in the Rotate & Scale mode, you can move from vertical to horizontal and record a broader canvas. The effect of moving from vertical to horizontal in this mode is almost like zooming out on the fly.
There is one major trade off with the Horizon app -- you gain feline flexibility but lose video quality. While the output, even when cropped, is good enough for most every social situation, there is a noticeable shake or hiccup as you move your iPhone around. This bit of messiness is better than a vertical recording, of course, but not as good as a standard horizontal recording.
In fact, in the promotional YouTube video for Horizon, if you look closely, you'll notice this little hitch as the orientation shifts.
Nevertheless, the app itself is gorgeous, intuitive and fast. You can choose to save all videos to the app itself -- or directly to your Camera Roll.
Depending on your iPhone model, you can record in full HD or drop the resolution down. If you like squares, you can record 1:1; or you can use the default 16:9 orientation, or even record at 4:3.
There are eight filters you can record with if you so desire -- and you can use geotagging, too. For videographers who are smarter than your average bear, Horizon includes an AF/AE lock.
All-in-all, Horizon is an excellent first stab at a seemingly obvious problem. If the gyroscope-based corrections did not result in any hitch on my iPhone 5, Horizon would become my go-to recording app.
As it stands now, I'll pay attention and test it out with future iPhones, hoping that either the processors will get more powerfully smooth -- or a software update smooths the playback to seeming perfection.