Tracking in vertical / portrait video

Hey all

So I was thinking with the new IGTV(Instagram TV) format out... Portrait mode video will be in demand.

How do you 'track' in portrait mode though?

By default, even if you set a project to portrait mode and import a video it comes in landscape mode flipped on its side. I know you can rotate the video 90 degree to portrait format ... But how do you track?  Or do any effects since it seems to flip pack to landscape when it's in the layer view. 


  • I'm guessing you haven't tried this yet. I did a test, and tracking rotated material works just fine.

    I made a portrait comp, and added a landscape video. Rotated the video 90 degrees. Added a tracker, and tracked the element I wanted. Applied that track to a point layer. When I went back to the viewer, the tracked point followed my video element precisely.

    Long story short: it appears that HitFilm takes video layer rotation into account when tracking.

  • Hi Jsbarrett, 

    Thank you for replying. Here's the thing

    - if you start with imported portrait video from say, your phone .. It comes into Hitfilm flopped on its side (landscape)

    - you can create a comp of portrait dimensions  and place this video and rotate it 90 and it looks fine in the 'viewer' panel

    -the moment you add a tracker it goes to the layer view and shows the clip again in landscape mode (as it comes in originally even though it's a portrait format recording)

    - although you can technically track.. Your actually tilting your head sideways to set the tracker ... Not the most intuitive or best way to work with an interface.

    From what I've read what you did, you started with a landscape video clip anyways, so in the layer view when setting the tracker all if fine.  (this is what I understand from reading your post)


  • You're correct, I didn't have to do any head tilting when setting up the tracker, but I probably wouldn't have done it even if my original were shot in portrait. You don't have to work with your head tilted the entire time you're setting up the track.  You might not have to work that way at all. Just find the detail in your video that you want to track and move the markers onto it.  For example, if tracking to a fingertip, it should be fairly easy to find that fingertip without any head tilting even if the video is in landscape orientation.

    If the orientation switching really bothers you that much, consider converting your video into a true portrait orientation.  Import that into HitFilm simply to do the tracking you want. Once you're done tracking and have applied the track to a point, replace the true-portrait copy with your original video rotated 90 degrees.  That way you can track in portrait mode, but still use your original for the final export to maintain higher quality.

  • edited July 2018

    I know you're trying to help, Jsbarrett, but it really is un-intuitive to work Top-to-bottom (if the video is flopped) rather than working left-to-right when your trying to fine tune a tracking shot. Simple tracking is fine, it gets messy when you're trying to fine tune missed points along the way in a panning shot.

    >>If the orientation switching really bothers you that much, consider converting your video into a true portrait orientation...

    What do you mean by True portrait?  The original video *is* true portrait mode as shot. Do you mean pillar box it?

    It's not just tracking. most other effects too become unintutitive to use in portrait mode, simply because the "Layer view" does not adapt to the main comp settings (portrait format)

    Hmmm.. overall I think for now, it will have to be after effects. Hit film otherwise, is soooo intutive and user-friendly it makes an ideal (and advanced) software for today's rapid video production needs.




  • I get that the original was shot in portrait, but HitFilm obviously doesn't recognize that.  By "true portrait" I mean a version that HitFilm will properly recognize in portrait orientation.  To make that, you can do a number of things, the easiest being dropping your video into a portrait comp, rotating it 90 degrees, then exporting that comp.  If your original video is named "video.mp4," name the export something like "video_converted.mp4" so you can easily tell the difference.  That converted version is that what I would call "true portrait" because HitFilm will leave its rotation alone when you import it.

    " the "Layer view" does not adapt to the main comp settings (portrait format)"

    The Layer view does exactly what its name implies: it lets you work on the layer in its native, untransformed state. If HitFilm sees that layer's native, untransformed state as being landscape, then that's how it shows it to you for tracking or anything else.

    That's why I recommended doing the conversion process, so that you've got a version of your video that HitFilm natively sees as portrait. You won't need to rotate it, and the Layer view will leave it alone as well. However, because it's a conversion from your original, there will be a loss in quality. That's why I recommended doing the bulk of your work with this converted "true portrait" version as a reference only. If you need to apply effects directly to the footage, add your original video (rotated) on a layer above the reference version and do it on that. Once you're done with the comp, hide the reference version.

  • OK! Now I get what you mean.

    I'm going to try that. I didn't think Hitfilm would re-import it in correct orientation.

    Thank you, Jsbarrett. 

  • You're welcome. :)

    From what I understand, it's simply a matter of HitFilm not reading a bit of metadata information that some mobile devices add to tell the operating system what the orientation of a video should be.  In other words, the "native" orientation of most phone-recorded portrait videos is actually landscape, but the added metadata tells the OS (mobile or desktop) to ignore that and display it in portrait orientation. By converting the video using the process described above, you're creating a video with a true, native portrait orientation.

    Which leads me to the question: why don't phones actually record portrait videos at a portrait orientation, and instead use this data cheat that trips up some software?

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    "... why don't phones actually record portrait videos at a portrait orientation, and instead use this data cheat that trips up some software?"

    @jsbarrett because portrait video is a blasphemous crime against the video gods. 

    No, seriously, portrait video IS relatively new - it's a smartphone thing - and the existing format standards already existed. Since the phone has an orientation sensor, adding the Metadata tag was the easiest way to deal with the issue, but let's note that other than phones and tablets nothing displays Vertical Video in a "native" mode. YouTube didn't get around to having a "True" vertical player on iOS till December 2017 and on Android until March 2018. It doesn't help that IGTV decided to use a stupid, non-standard resolution on top of being vertical.

    In short, vertical video has more or less always been treated as a "hack."

    Presumably a future standard will have a "true" portrait spec, but it still depends on an orientation sensor tripping which format to record and, even then, there will be times when the phone is gonna "miss" the correct orientation. 

  • @Triem23 "because portrait video is a blasphemous crime against the video gods."

    "other than phones and tablets nothing displays Vertical Video in a "native" mode."

    The Mac OS displays iPhone-recorded vertical videos vertically, both in quick file previews and in QuickTime Player. Not sure if it's as cooperative with vertical videos from other mobile platforms.

  • Thanks again Jsbarrett and Triem for the added insights!

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @jsbarrett to be pedantic that just means Apple product is good at reading the rotation Metadata, but the base spec is still landscape with a rotation flag. Actually hvec might have a "native" portrait mode, but the h.264 spec is all landscape. 

    268922, hope you get your IGTV video exported and uploaded! :) 

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