How to rotate iPhone video on a Mac

I ran into what is apparently a not uncommon problem with iPhone video: you start to take a video while phone still thinks it’s in portrait orientation (long axis of the phone vertical) and then the rest of the video is stuck that way, even if you took 99% of it in landscape mode (the way God intended). You thus have a video that the Mac always wants to display sideways. If that didn’t make any sense, the bottom line is I had a video I needed to rotate 90 degrees, and maybe you do, too. While there were plenty of solutions available on the PC, tons of Googling turned up virtually nothing for the Mac, short of finding an old copy of iMovie from five years ago.

Fortunately, I lucked in to a great solution, which doesn’t even require transcoding (with the attendant loss in quality that would result). By the way, this worked for me in getting a video from portrait to landscape, and I suspect it may only work in that situation. (That said, this should be the only valid situation in which this problem occurs, as nobody in their right mind should ever shoot a video in portrait mode, and if you do, I’m certainly not going to be complicit in aiding and abetting that crime against humanity.)

The solution requires a copy of the very nice all-purpose video player, VLC.

  1. Open the video in VLC
  2. It should actually open up in landscape orientation, regardless of the erronious orientation data in the movie file from the iPhone.
  3. Select “Streaming/Exporting Wizard” from the File menu.
  4. Select “Transcode/Save to file” and click next.
  5. Use “Existing Playlist” and select the file you just opened below, click next.
  6. Leave everything untouched (i.e. both check boxes blank) on the transcode screen and click next.
  7. Choose MPEG4, click next.
  8. Click the button to tell VLC where to put the output file, then click next.
  9. Click finish.

This should be all it takes. The process will be fairly quick, since there’s no transcoding, but its not instantaneous as it does have to move a lot of bits into a new file.

6 responses to “How to rotate iPhone video on a Mac”

  1. Thanks ive been looking for a solution like this for a long time, and this actually works great! Never understood why its not possible to shoot in landscape mode/portrait mode only, but this sure is a great find!

  2. Thanks for the solution. I often find myself with this problem, so I guess VLC all the way 🙂 It does seem like a little hassle – better hold the phone the right way 😛

  3. I recently downloaded a video file from my asus tablet through Android file transfer to my mac. It came out great. Then converted the file through burn and burnt the file to dvd. Came out sideways. Tried your instructions easily until the last step and found the Mp4 dot greyed out. Any thoughts on how to fix this.

    Thanking You
    Allan Wehlow

    • Hmm. I’m afraid I’m at a loss. Are any of the other options for file format available? There are probably multiple options that will work fine on the Mac.

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