Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 3, 2019

We Will Control the Horizontal …

In 1961, a science fiction TV series titled “The Outer Limits” debuted in the U.S.

The program was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the groundbreaking “The Twilight Zone,” including an atmospheric graphics-and-music introduction (which you can see on YouTube: click here). It begins:

Male Voice-Over: somewhat ominous, nascent with implied threat, under graphics [“GFX”]:

[GFX: White electronic oscilloscope waves on black]

“There is nothing wrong with your television set.”

[GFX: Single white dot glows on black screen]

“Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

We are controlling transmission.

We will control the horizontal.”

[GFX: dot expands to horizontal white line on black screen].

“We will control the vertical.”

[GFX: dot expands to vertical white line on black screen]…

In 1961, controlling horizontal and vertical meant a variety of things in technical terms, because the state of broadcast technology was primitive. Simply getting a picture into a cathode ray tube in living rooms could be problematic.

Television pictures were horizontal: wider than they were tall. If you still own a TV set, that’s the case today.

However, there are some tens or hundreds of millions of people walking around with devices perfectly capable of recording vertical-format video. They’re called “phones.”

As a result, despite several generations of orientation to the fact that video and films are shown in horizontal format, the airwaves, the Internet, your email, social media and everywhere else is replete with video shot in vertical format, which looks — to use a technical term — doinky when shown on a TV screen that’s 1.77 times wider than it is tall.

Has everyone forgotten that?

No. Please don’t leave a comment. I get it. A majority of people access their electronic worlds on those hand-held vertical screens now.

I don’t. I have a horizontal television and the computer on my desk has a horizontal monitor screen.

Often, it doesn’t matter so much what format the video’s in. But, is it so difficult for someone to look at the scene they’re recording — like a group picture or perhaps a wide landscape — and simply turn the device so the screen format matches the shape of the scene?

Tall building? Yep, that’s vertical. One or two people posed in front of a statue? Maybe vertical. Your cousin’s too-cute-for-words kids running across the yard? No.

Turn your phone sideways. If for no other reason, do it so I won’t have to keep harping on it. And do not expect me to go to the theater to see a movie shot in vertical orientation. I’ll stay home and read the book (which is probably better than the movie).

SW_Testbild_auf_Philips_TD1410U 680

© Brad Nixon 2019. “The Outer Limits” introduction is almost certainly copyrighted material, quoted here as editorial “fair use,” and should not be used for commercial purposes. 1952 television set with test pattern by Eckhard Etzold – Self-photographed, Public Domain, Retrieved December 2, 2019.


  1. One of my favorite shows back then!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, hilarious. “Old People.” Thanks. I think.


  3. I’m with you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you can see the comment from Mark, immediately prior to yours, take a look. Well, one doesn’t have to jump off the cliff just because all the young people are doing it.


    • Likewise!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Superb and right on. Assisting a client with this issue and video recording on a app from cell phones. Stealing Marks link. Funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved that show! The time of Black and white TV shows. And I’m also old enough to remember the TV test patterns!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I make no comment on test patterns.


      • Not even the Indian Head?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I merely meant to imply that I’m denying any knowledge of them …. which, of course, is entirely untrue.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I turned my phone sideways, but the only difference I noticed was that the numbers were harder to read. Of course, I’m toting around a Kyocera flip phone, so there’s that.

    Liked by 1 person

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