If you recently tried to create a movie via Google Photos and got a portrait only result, even though all the videos you've added were shot horizontally, you're not alone. It looks like Photos is preventing people from creating horizontal movies. The app is instead always opting for a vertical layout with black bars at the top and the bottom.
The problem has been brought to our attention by a tipster, and sure enough, we could reproduce it and found tons of other people complaining on Twitter and Google's support forum. When people try to create a movie through Google's Movie creation tool by selecting multiple clips and tapping the plus symbol in the top bar and choosing Movie, they now always get a vertical video, even if the original clips are horizontal. If they throw horizontal images into the mix, they'll be zoomed in a bit intelligently, but some black bars still remain at the top and the bottom.
Left: Horizontal videos with black bars. Right: Cropped horizontal images.
If you hoped that this is a bug that will be resolved shortly, you might have to wait a little longer than you thought. Google Photos Product Lead David Lieb replied to one of the Twitter users who complained about the change, telling them that the Photos team doesn't plan on adding an option to manually change the aspect ratio for movie creations. He writes that they "chose portrait for now since the mix has shifted to more portrait video."
We plan to add an option I think. But chose portrait for now since the mix has shifted to more portrait video.
— David Lieb (@dflieb) July 5, 2020
So there you have it — it looks like the change is intentional. That's a bummer, since many people use Google Photos to show off their holiday pictures and videos to friends and families on their TVs, which will have everyone squinting when these horizontal videos show up in cropped vertical aspect ratios. Let's hope that Google reconsiders this decision. If we don't get a manual toggle, Photos should at least automatically opt for the most appropriate solution, like it used to.