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Video Formats Explained - Video formats for socials

Understanding Video Formats for Social Media

WHAT ARE VIDEO FORMATS
Video formats (or aspect ratios) are essentially the width and height of video frames. These formats determine how the video is shaped and how it fits on the screen – wide and cinematic, intimate and immersive – or somewhere in between. Creating video outputs to fit these formats ensures your video is optimised and visually appealing across the platforms. Along with being a smart way of repurposing of a single video shoot – this also drives engagement and connection = more bang for your video buck.

WHY UNDERSTANDING ASPECT RATIO MATTERS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Social platforms have different aspect ratio requirements that determine the optimum shape of video for that specific platform. Understanding these nuances can really impact the reach, appeal and effectiveness of your video. Currently, the standard 16:9 ratio is great for YouTube and websites, while a 9:16 (vertical), 4:5 (portrait) or 1:1 (square) ratio is better suited for platforms like Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn supports various formats, but here we like a classic 16:9 here or a 1:1 square. We generally craft video for social in three main aspect ratios of 16:9 (landscape), 1:1 (square) and 9:16 (vertical) but there are other options too – like 4:3, 3:2 and 21:9.

video formats explained 16:9

STANDARD 16:9 ASPECT RATIO

The 16:9 aspect ratio is a classic format that’s been ingrained in our viewing experience for years, reminiscent of the widescreen movies we’ve grown up watching. This familiarity brings a sense of comfort and cinematic quality to video. 16:9 looks great on pretty much any screen, from smartphones to laptops to widescreen TV. This versatility ensures that video can be enjoyed seamlessly across different devices and platforms, without losing quality or visual impact. Visually the 16:9 format offers scope for creativity and storytelling. With its wide frame, video creators have more room to play with composition, visual effects, landscape and narrative elements.

Video Formats Explained

VERTICAL 9:16 ASPECT RATIO

Vertical videos are super ‘now’. Born of back pockets, these tall tales have taken social media by storm – and for good reason. They’re immersive, attention-grabbing and have a casual (caught-on-the-fly) feel. Verticals are perfect for capturing those spontaneous moments on the go. If your intended distribution platforms include IG Stories, Facebook Reels, Snapchat, or TikTok – vertical videos are fresh, contemporary and are great for standing out in a sea of content.

video formats explained

SQUARE 1:1 ASPECT RATIO

Square videos are the unsung heroes of the format world offering the classic appeal and credibility of 16:9 and eschewing the limitations of a vertical frame. Square videos are like the Swiss Army knives of content – versatile enough to shine on any platform, from Instagram to Facebook and beyond.

OPTIMISING VIDEO ACROSS SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Staying current with platform trends ensures your content remains relevant and engaging – and doesn’t get side-lined by ever-changing algorithms. Guidelines for what ratios work best on different platforms are always evolving so keep an eye on what other top creators are doing, tune in to social media experts or check in with each platform to find out what they’re currently advocating. We love Sprout Social’s always Up-to-date social media guide. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-video-specs-guide/.

LINKEDIN

When it comes to LinkedIn, professionalism is key. Stick with the classic 16:9 format for sharing industry insights, thought leadership pieces, or career advice videos. This format exudes credibility and authority, making it the perfect choice for engaging with your professional network.

Instagram

Ah, Instagram—the playground of visual storytelling. Here, vertical and square videos reign supreme. Use vertical videos for IG Stories to give your audience an ‘inside look’ – share quick tips, conversation starters, company events or celebrations. For your feed, opt for square videos to create targeted and visually appealing content that grabs attention.

Facebook

With its diverse audience and endless scroll, Facebook is a universe of opportunity for video content. Mix it up with a combination of 16:9, vertical, and square videos to cater to different viewing preferences. Share long-form content in 16:9 format for maximum engagement and grab attention with vertical and square videos in the newsfeed.

TikTok

Here, vertical videos reign supreme – commanding attention with full-screen immersion. Embrace the vertical format and let your creativity run wild with short, snappy videos that entertain, inspire, and delight. Vertical is aligned with the TikTok energy “just ripped the phone out my pocket to grab this” – the vibe is casual, intimate and playful. Vertical invites viewers into your world.

Video Formats Explained shooting for aspect ratio

SHOOTING FOR ASPECT RATIO

While a video project can be edited into different formats for different platforms, it’s important that the production team are aware of the intended outputs when shooting so that they can frame shots with the aspect ratio in mind. There are a bunch of technical considerations here – but in simple terms the video subject or elements are ideally positioned in such a way so that when cropping you don’t sacrifice any element in the frame, impair balance or reduce visual impact. Video production teams will plan for separate takes or one wide shot with the elements framed in consideration of the different aspect ratios. Makes sense right? You don’t want to lose your key talent out of the right side of frame in a vertical edit.

Have a play! Experiment with different aspect ratios and see which perform best on the different channels and check out your engagement metrics to understand which aspect ratios resonate most with the audiences you want to reach. Collaborating with your video production team to craft video outputs to fit specific social formats not only delivers on ROI but, more critically from a strategy perspective, ensures your content shines.

Lou Harness is Founder/Producer at Webflicks – a boutique video production company specialising in business stories that engage, connect and create conversation.

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