Quibi show creators explain what it's like shooting for its dual-angle smartphone tech: 'Once you got into the real world it just becomes more difficult'

Quibi Turnstyle CES Rob Post

  • Quibi has touted its Turnstyle technology, which changes the video orientation when users rotate their smartphones, as a prime tool for creators and advertisers to reimagine storytelling for mobile.
  • Business Insider spoke with people working on Quibi shows about what it was like to shoot for the technology on set.
  • Many of the people were excited by the technology’s prospects for storytelling, but found that their initial plans fell through when they started filming and had to account for two orientations at once, as well as all the other elements that go into a production.
  • Some people also found that it took more time than they had expected to create two bespoke versions of each video.
  • If you have a tip about Quibi, contact the author at arodriguez@businessinsider.com, or message her on Signal at 347-770-5933.
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Quibi has touted its Turnstyle technology, which changes the video orientation when users rotate their smartphones, as a gamechanger for storytelling on smartphones.

The startup first showed off the technology at CES in January, using a short film created by Zach Wechter to showcase how the same story could be told two different ways. In portrait mode, we could see what was happening on the protagonist’s phone as a stranger rings her Nest doorbell. In landscape, the action unfolded like a traditional TV thriller. The Turnstyle technology stitches the two versions of the video together with a single audio file to make it possible.

Business Insider spoke during May and June with five people who have worked on shows commissioned by Quibi about what it was like to film two separate versions on set.

Quibi is currently facing a patent lawsuit over the tech, which the company “meritless” in a statement to Business Insider. But no matter the outcome of the suit, as of now, Quibi’s videos use two bespoke cuts.

The people Business Insider spoke with were excited by the technology’s prospects for storytelling, but also found that their initial plans for using it fell through when they started filming and had to simultaneously account for two crops, as well as the cameras, talent, weather, and all the other elements that go into a production.

“There were a lot of cool creative ideas we spoke about in preparation,” one person who worked on one of Quibi’s productions said. “Once you got into the real world, it just becomes more difficult. Things went out window.”

In any production, a lot of planning goes into crafting the perfect shot. Directors, cinematographers, and producers on Quibi shows have to plan for two shots at once: 16:9 and 9:16 aspect ratios.

That can be especially challenging with scenes where multiple cameras are shooting simultaneously, multiple people need to be captured at once, or a lot of action is unfolding. 

Two people from different productions said they had planned to shoot the same scenes two to three times to cover both orientations, but found that wasn’t easily done. Things like daylight and weather got in the way. This was before the pandemic paused much filmmaking globally.

In the end, the people said they tried capture as many angles as possible while shooting. The talent was directed to draw out moments, in some cases. And the crew tried to get as much footage as possible so the two versions could be worked out it out in the editing room.

“It was kind of crazy shooting it,” another person said. “There was so many moving pieces.”

Of course, the people said it’s not unusual for plans to go awry in any production. Complications like weather are more manageable when shooting in studios. And it might get easier to shoot for Turnstyle over time, as more people create shows for Quibi and learn from the productions before them.

But two people working on the Daily Essential news and lifestyle programming also found that they needed to budget more time than expected to get two versions of the same video, because the graphics and other elements need to be fully customized and Quibi has specific ideas about how the content should look.

One producer estimated it took four times as long to make two versions of the same video, compared with one.

“A lot more goes into it than just creating a separate angle or format,” one of the people said. “There’s a whole decision-making process on the graphics and styling.”

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