An aspect ratio is the quantitative relation between the width and height of a video. It defines how we consume our content. Have you ever tried posting a video to Instagram only to have the edges of your video cut off? This is a problem of aspect ratio. Understanding what aspect ratios fit best in each of the various social medias is critical to getting your content seen on the internet.
The majority of our eyes are shifting from TVs to phones, so our aspect ratios are shifting too. We’ve seen this kind of mass change before. Our original standard definition TVs showed video in a 4:3 aspect ratio. With the dawn of HD video, suddenly our screens shifted to 16:9 in 2009.
Because today’s TV screens are built for the 16:9 aspect ratio, you’ll see this first-hand if you turn on an old show. Look at the black bars on the side of your screen. Many old shows still air reruns at 4:3, leaving extra space on the side of the screen. This is called the “pillarbox effect” and it also affects old video games.
Social Media Aspect Ratios
Today, remembering just one ratio isn’t enough. We have a lot of social media platforms and with each is an ideal aspect ratio for viewers. Below is a breakdown of how various ratios look on a mobile device. With most users holding their phones vertically, you’ll see how vertical video has become an emerging trend since it fills the majority of the screen.
Today’s content creators should focus on designing video for mobile first because that’s where the majority of viewers access their social media accounts.
Users are taking in far more content from their mobile devices when compared to desktop computers. Because of that, 16:9 is becoming a less popular aspect ratio for videos. Blog.Bufferapp found that square video (1:1) is about 78% more effective in reaching viewers than landscape video (16:9).
Recommended Aspect Ratios, Video Clip Length, and Resolutions for Social Media Sites
Each of the social medias sites support different aspect ratios. Let’s look a little closer at a few of the biggest ones.
- Supports: 16:9
- Best for Viewership: 16:9
- Best Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2060
- Ideal Length: Longer form works here. Depending on how entertaining your content is, you can range from 2-12 minutes.
- Supports: 16:9, 1:1 (carousel), 4:5, 2:3, and 9:16.
- Best for Viewership: 4:5, 2:3, and 9:16 (because of the dominance of app viewership, this works best).
- Best Resolutions: 1080 x 1920 or 1920 x 1080
- Ideal Length: < 2 minutes.
- Special Note: You will want to upload files directly to Facebook rather than sharing a YouTube link.
- Supports: 1:1 (square), 4:5 (vertical), 1.9:1 (1080 x 566), or 16:9 (landscape).
- Best for Viewership: 4:5 works best in the standard feed.
- Best Resolutions: 1080 x1 350 (4:5)
- Ideal Length: 30 seconds, though capped at 60 seconds. See Hubspot on length.
- Special Note: IG Story must be 9:16 (vertical) and caps at 15 second. IGTV must be 9:16 (vertical). Best bet is to format video for this rather than posting a 16:9 video sideways. 1 hour cap on length. It’s currently being determined (as of this writing) what is the optimal length.
- Supports: 1:3 to 3:1
- Best for Viewership: 1:1
- Best Resolutions: 640 x 640
- Ideal Length: Keep short, around 30 seconds. Capped at 140 seconds.
How To Adjust Video Aspect Ratio
Almost all of this sizing and resizing happens in post production. While you can pre-adjust the aspect ratio at which your camera uses to shoots photos, you cannot for video (there are some exceptions). Most cameras do not have a video aspect ratio choice. You need to shoot in the standard 16:9 ratio and then crop/edit your video in post production to fit the size you want. You can do this with editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro.
Please note that you can bring 16:9 videos into apps like Instagram and Twitter. However, if you want them to perform at their maximum potential, you should resize them according to this article.
Vertical video is a 9:16 aspect ratio. If you turn your camera sideways and shoot “vertically”, you will effectively be adjusting the aspect ratio. When you load this footage onto your editing system, you’ll just need to rotate your footage by 90 degrees to account for the rotated camera.
If you shoot your video horizontally and want to post in a “vertical video platform” like IG Story or IGTV, you would need to scale-in your video. With this, you’ll lose about 67% of what you shot. If you turn your camera and shoot vertically, your rotated video will fit perfectly and you won’t lose anything.
Optimal Social Media Video Length
Time limit is important to keep in mind when creating content for each of the social media platforms. They all have maximum time limits, but more importantly, they have ideal lengths for drawing in viewers. The chart below provides a quick view of maximum file size, maximum time limit, frame rate, and optimal length each of the platforms.
What we can see is that one size does not fit all. Content creators need to be prepared to create multiple versions of videos depending on where they want to post. Each social media platform has a personality of its own. Because of that, the content that it holds must fit within the walls of that personality.
Creators need to think about time limit, size, and content type when designing videos for each social platform. Yes, it can seem like a lot of extra work but optimizing for viewership will be huge in getting eyes on your video.
The world of online video is constantly evolving. As our viewing devices change, our aspect ratios will change as well. As creators, we must continue to evolve with these devices and give thanks to the audiences that these social networks have provided for us.