Tips: Rotating Video Files in OSX

UPDATE 01/22/2015: Hey guys, over the last year or so I’ve had comments (below) on this post where people have had issues with rotating their videos and saving them afterwards. There are many video formats out there that can easily play on a Mac, but may not play nicely with QuickTime. In my case, my video file was already QuickTime compatible (.mp4), so opening, modifying, and saving the file was easily achieved. If you are using any other format, QuickTime will try to either convert before it opens it, or simply not open it at all. If it converts, there is always a chance of file corruption (though I’ve personally never run into that).

Lastly, this isn’t a QuickTime support site. I will vouch for the steps below, as they work perfectly for me even today. But if they don’t work for you, there isn’t a whole lot I can do to make that situation better for you. You’d be better off hitting up Apple’s support forums.

Now, on to the original post!

Hey guys just wanted to post this quick tutorial because, quite frankly, after years of using Mac’s OSX, I still find simple, yet powerful ways to handle those odd technological problems I sometimes run into.

The Problem:

I was at a really wonderful Mardi Gras Celebration in downtown Durham this week and while I was there, I shot some video of the celebration. Well, there was so much going there that I absent-mindedly botched the orientation of the video, shooting initially in portrait and then 2 seconds later, rotating my iPhone into landscape mode.

The iPhone (or iOS I suppose) is somewhat dumb in this regard in that it holds onto the initial orientation of the what you were shooting and does not shift to accommodate a change like going from portrait to landscape on the fly.

So 98% of my video ended up looking like this:

Bad video orientation

In the past when I ran into this dilemma, I often stopped recording, quickly deleted the bad video, used the preferred orientation and then started recording again, not missing a beat.

But not this time.

And while I figured there must be some way to rotate the video after the fact (like countless image editors allow you to do), I was a little surprised to find there weren’t many obvious and easy ways out there. Eventually I found the answer in Apple’s own QuickTime app. Like a lot of helpful things when you are looking for them, the option was hiding in plain site.

Here are the steps:

Step One:

First open your video file in QuickTime. You can either fire up QuickTime first, go to “File” and then down to “Open File”. Or you could right-click the file itself, choose “Open With” and then choose QuickTime.

Step Two:

Once the video is open click “Edit” and you’ll then find the rotate and flip options straight below

Step One

Step Three:

Once you’ve locked the orientation you want, you then have to export your video with the new changes you’ve added. You’ll find the “Export” option under the “File” menu in QuickTime.

Step Two

Choose the file settings you want to export as and click “Ok”, to kick off the export.

When the export operation is complete, you’ll find your new file where ever you chose to save it with the correct orientation!

Correct Orientation Achieved!

This whole fix took me less than 5 minutes to complete, but depending on the length of the video, it could take much longer (or shorter, again, it varies).

Hopefully this helps someone out there who got into a similar jam. Or, at the very least, it’ll add another hit for Google to serve up. I was kinda giddy when I found it myself!

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Thaddeus Hunt

Writer, Dreamer, Web Designer, Gardner, Neo-Hippie, Horror Movie Junkie, Hiker, Traveler. This acct is not a reflection of anything (ie: my employer) except me.

40 thoughts on “Tips: Rotating Video Files in OSX”

  1. What if you have the Neadrathol version of ye olde qviktime that came with Leopard? It doesn’t save anything. Is iMovie the simplest way to do it? While I’ve done it in iMovie, it isn’t a simple action in that program, and the fan screams.

    1. Yeah, that’s why I did the quick tutorial focusing on the basic functionality of Quicktime that’s at least 2 years old now. The version of quicktime prior to that? I am assuming has the same functionality. But iMovie… I rarely use it because of exactly what you just described: it’s just too processor intensive.

      1. No such controls in the Edit menu of my version 7.6.4. Not even in the grayed-out pro version commands. And there’s nothing in either preference panel related to rotation. Right now I’m using an iPhone app that rotates movies by just changing a flag value.

        1. As the video by tiny-e shows…

          The QT7 thing is buried, but it’s there:

          Open video in QT7. Go to Window drop-down menu > Show Movie Properties. Then a properties window opens. Select the Video Track. Select the Visual Settings button. Select desired Flip/Rotate option, and check the box marked High Quality. Close the properties window, and Save.

          1. The Show Movie Properties menu choice is grayed out because I haven’t upgraded to the PRO version.

    1. No. In actuality .mov may be higher quality, though MP4 is more universally accepted. MP4 is typically compressed more than .mov to conserve space, which can offer less quality unless you tweak the compression.

  2. Found your explanation to be very easy to implement, however, upon export, the export process seems to take ages to complete. My 3minute or so video started out to be 4 minutes on the export. The, increased to 14m, 36m, 1h, eventually it went on to days. I discovered it the next day still trying to export and ultimately cancelled the process. I don’t know what the problem is but it did not work. Video taken on iPhone 5 and using latest Mavericks OS-X (10.9.3) and QT v10.3. Importing into Adobe Lightroom does not help as rotation function does not exist there. Will see if iMovie can do something with it.

  3. I followed the instructions, but when the video rotates it goes completely black, no video anymore just the sound plays. What am I doing wrong?

  4. Using this tip, I was able to salvage a video I took while wade fishing. There’s no way I could have re-shot it. Thanks!

  5. The problem is that if you rotate the other way because you have a landscape video that needs to be portrait, this method will reduce the resolution. Say I have a 1920×1080 video that I rotate clockwise 90 degrees. I’d like to export a 1080×1920 video as the result. But when you go to export (at least in QT on Yosemite), you only get the option to export as “HD 1920×1080”, so then it squeezes your 1920 height into a 1080 container. You end up with a 608×1080 video because 1080x(1080/1920)=608. Not your fault, your tutorial was helpful, it’s the software.

    1. Thanks Ian! What you say totally makes sense too. My situation was of course the opposite. That’s why I specifically wrote it from scope of that use case. But it is a very valid point that the same situation with the opposite aspect ratio (filmed in landscape when you meant for it to be in portrait), will cause compression or all around resolution issues during the final export.

      In that particular case, I don’t see another way around that. Maybe dynamic cropping? But even so, that’d still cause issues with the final export. Computers have gotten so great in last decade at guessing what we want. But in this case? They still have a ways to go.

      Thanks again for chiming in!



  6. Dear Sir
    Your explanation was spot on and easy to follow. Just finished correcting some family videos. Thanks for your guidance. All the best….Peter

  7. It might be helpful for some to simply play the file using VLC (OSx version is available).
    Under the “Window” menu there is “Video Effects” where you can rotate the video to any angle WHILE it’s playing (In the “Geomerty” tab).
    No need to re-save the file, no changes to original file, no loss of quality.

    1. Very true! This doesn’t fix the problem permanently, nor is it an available option on mobile (I don’t think, I do know the app exists), but it is a temporary alternative on our computers. Thanks for mentioning this!

      1. On mobile you can simply rotate the device in your hand, and if the screen-rotation is locked – problem solved :-)

    2. While VLC is available for mac, the option of rotating ANY angle isn’t. Only increments of 90. It fixes this problem, but not my issue…i’m trying to avoid downloading an additional app or unidentified plug-in.

  8. For anyone with this problem:

    I solved it by converting/exporting the video in .mov format and then rotating it. My video was .mp4 format and after rotation I had the same black video problem, however if you convert it to .mov format before rotating it works.

  9. thad, I didn’t see this reply area before trying another contact method on the other page so if this question is repetitive, I apologize. anyways I also had made a mistake by shooting some video in portrait instead of landscape and have a bunch of video from Italy that uploaded sideways into my pc. the first thing I read was to rotate in movie maker but it added the black bars and makes the video look really bad. I then heard about quicktime and downloaded the free version to my pc, to my surprise it actually played my video in the correct orientation automatically, no black bars and the video looks perfect! my question is, if I were to purchase the pro version of quicktime, will I be able to edit and save my videos to ultimately burn to a dvd that then can be played on a computer or tv? or will the video always have to be viewed on quicktime? my main objective is to edit and make a dvd. thank you very much

  10. I have been able to rotate however when I go to “export” I have to select 1080p, 720p, 480p, iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch & Apple TV, or iTunes only. What do I do here?

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