So, you've decided to amp up your video content production online - but have you thought about how it'll look to others? The aspect ratio of your video content might seem like a minor thing, but it's definitely worth considering if you want to get the most out of each of your social channels. Phones are kept in portrait mode 98% of the time - So if someone’s using their phone to scroll through their social media channels, you can pretty much guarantee they won’t be turning their device to get the most out of your delicious branded content. It’s important to make sure you’re utilising each platform’s available space to its maximum potential to ensure your video grabs as much attention as it can, from within a users newsfeed. So here’s a handy little guide to aspect ratio on social media, and how ditching those letterbox videos might help your video campaign pop.
Simply put, the 1:1 ratio video (Square) is a great all-rounder, and probably the most effective ratio for boosting a video’s reach. Gaining 275% more views on average than other sizes, and playing natively in the feeds of pretty much every platform, it’s a sure-fire way to get a video message across to your audience.
82% of people find it annoying or off-putting to watch videos with a ‘black bar’ where the video hasn’t been properly optimised to display in their chosen orientation, so filling the square ratio with content is important. If you’re filming content directly for social media then this isn’t quite as much a problem, because you should be filming things with the square frame in mind - i.e framing subjects in the centre etc. Reformatting existing content can be where some people slip up. Pretty much all video content will universally have been shot in a wider ratio, which looks great for professional watching, but what if you want to take existing video and get it out on social platforms? Nowadays its easy enough to just re-upload a video to Facebook or Instagram, and have it play in its native widescreen ratio. But reformatting to a square ratio is incredibly beneficial. It’s not as simple as just cropping the content to a 1:1 ratio (although if you’ve filmed existing footage with this in mind it can be). The better video content will have subjects framed well consistently, which might mean cutting up an existing video shot by shot and reframing each shot on the X axis to keep things framed well.
Although the square ratio is universally recommended, there is still a place for the more traditional, wider frame of a 16:9 video. Up until recently, platforms like Instagram would only allow square content on a users feed, to keep the scrolling news feed running consistently for all users. But nowadays, you can actually post wider footage, without the fear of a platform cropping the frame natively. Depending on the footage you have or are hoping to create, you’ll know what will or won’t look better in this wider format - but generally this works well for video content which makes full use of the frame. Think panoramic shots, landscape shots, or maybe just shots with a lot of movement in them, where cutting it down to a square would lose too much of the action.
There is also a popular trick to get the best out of both ratios. There’s a reason platforms like Instagram opted for a square-only feed for so long, and thats because uniformity just looks a little more pleasing from a UI standpoint in-app. With that in mind, one handy trick for those not willing to crop any of their handy video work is to place the full widescreen frame into a white square box. The end result will be a square video where the black bars above and below the footage have been replaced with white ones. It might not seem like a huge difference, but the white space above and below the image looks much smarter when scrolling down a feed. You’ll see a lot of photographers and videographers opting for this format when showing off their work.
If the square ratio is pretty much a universal go-to for video content, and the 16:9 also works as an option, the 4:5 “portrait” ratio applies more so to Instagram’s limitations (it is also a good option for Facebook and maybe even Twitter, although it’s worth noting your image will be cropped slightly in the feed thumbnail view before a user clicks onto the image with the latter platform).
Sitting somewhere between the square and fullscreen 9:16 portrait ratios, 4:5 is as far as you’ll be able to push portrait photography in the scrolling feed, ever since they allowed users to branch out from the forced square frame a few years back. It’s a great option for those images which might have a little more detail in the top and bottom of frame, that you might not want to crop out. When it comes to video, we’d still recommend going for a 1:1 square dimension, but there are certain situations where the extra header/footer space might be beneficial - maybe for use of subtitles, or dividing up multiple images/video into one frame.
So that's it from us! You can of course experiment with other ratio's within the boundaries of these three, but these are the main ones worth considering for your content. If there's anything you think we've missed here, let us know by leaving a comment! And if you haven't already, follow us over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more tips and to make sure you don't miss any future blog posts!