Animated Video Production

Vertical Video Guide: Facebook, Snapchat, Aspect Ratios & More

Shawn Forno 05.14.2019

Vertical video went from an unforgivable sin to a mainstream media style practically overnight. Now, it’s the new normal for online video, especially on social media. By the end of 2017, mobile video had become the most common way to watch online videos.  It makes sense then, that vertical is the preferred orientation for social media videos. People just don’t want to rotate their phones to watch a 30 second ad.

vertical video guide

 

Social media juggernauts like Facebook and YouTube have embraced vertical video formats in recent years. The newer generation of social media apps, like Snapchat and Tik Tok, use vertical video almost exclusively. While most platforms now support (and even prefer) vertical video, they each have different standards. Here’s a look at what you need to know to make vertical videos that work on the most popular social media platforms.

Vertical Video Aspect Ratios

Vertical video (also known as “portrait mode” video) comes in a few shapes and sizes, but generally vertical video means a video with an aspect ratio of 9:16. The aspect ratio describes the relationship of video width to video height. In vertical videos, the video is taller than it is wide.

Using the right aspect ration helps your video display correctly and prevents distortion or clipping. For a more comprehensive look at aspect ratios read our complete guide to aspect ratios.

Vertical Video Tips

If you’re recording with a phone, shooting vertical video is easy. Most smartphones automatically record in 9:16. If you’re using a camera, you may need to edit to the correct aspect ratio after the shoot. You can even shoot in horizontal mode and edit to vertical, but that’s the most difficult option best left to professional videographers and video editing experts.  If you do decide to shoot horizontally, make sure you keep the subject of your video in the center of the frame so you can easily cut down the frame without losing anything important.

On the subject of video editing. Depending on which video editing software you use, you may need to rotate your video within the software. If not, the software may automatically add black bars on the left and right to fill out the frame.

Tips for shooting vertical video:

  • Avoid too much horizontal movement or fast pans, these seem more intense when the field of view is narrower
  • Fill the space, text and other graphics can help fill the taller frame
  • Focus on the subject, vertical video is up close and personal, don’t be afraid to zoom in on the details

Of course, if you’re creating an animation, you can set your aspect ratio from the beginning to ensure that your finished video looks exactly as you expect.

Facebook Vertical Video Guide

While Facebook hosts a variety of aspect ratios (including 1.91:9, 16:9 full landscape, 1:1 square, 4:5 Vertical, 2:3 vertical, and 9:16 full portrait/vertical), it has fully embraced vertical video largely due to vertical video engagement rates with mobile viewers. When Facebook A/B tested vertical video against square ratio video using the same creative, video length, targeting, budget and bid, they discovered that vertical resulted in brand lift 70% of  the time. Viewers even reported a 3 to 9 point increase in ad recall.

vertical video guide

What’s even more interesting is how vertical video changes how we watch video ads. In the Facebook test, 70% of video watch time, including video ads, was with the sound on. Typically Facebook mobile viewers prefer muted video. However, full screen vertical video is engaging enough to encourage audio. And Facebook isn’t alone in their findings.

An independent test by Annenberg Media found that vertical video reached 25,000 more people on Facebook, beating both square and horizontal formats. It’s clear that vertical video is great for engagement.

Facebook and Instagram Vertical Video Aspect Ratios

Here are the technical specs for Facebook vertical video:

  • For Facebook and Instagram feeds: We recommend 4:5 but you can also use 1:1.
  • For Facebook and Instagram Stories: Most people hold their phones vertically so we recommend 9:16 to capture the full screen. You can also use 4:5.
  • For video carousel format: We recommend 1:1 and consistent ratios for all videos in a carousel.
  • For Facebook and Audience Network in-stream video: We recommend 16:9 to fit the videos the ads are in.

A few important takeaways from that jargon is that vertical video is supported on both desktop and mobile players, and that vertical video is presented on Facebook without letter-boxing—the only exception being in feed desktop letter-boxing. That’s not complete adoption, but it’s a big step forward for vertical video from a platform with over two billion users. And the lack of that annoying black border is increasing engagement rates on Facebook for vertical video.

Optimize your videos for mobile feed playback at 9:16 aspect ratio. This one act could be the first step in updating not just your video marketing strategy, but your entire inbound lead funnel.

Instagram Vertical Video Guide

vertical video guide

Over the last couple of years, Instagram has embraced different kinds of video. In-feed video most often appears in square format (1:1) while stories and IGTV standard vertical video at 9:16. When creating video for Instagram, consider whether you’ll be sharing the video in feed or in story to decide what aspect ratio is best. If you plan to use your video in both places, make sure to keep your subject vertically centered so you can crop from the top and bottom without losing anything important.

YouTube Vertical Video Guide

More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices, so it’s no real surprise to see YouTube adapt to vertical video. Previously ground zero for letter-boxes, YouTube updated their app to “dynamically adapt to whatever size you choose to watch it in.”

That’s good news for advertisers. According to YouTube’s A/B test results, vertical ads see a 33% percent lift in brand awareness and a nearly 12% lift in consideration over their horizontal counterparts.

vertical video guide

Snapchat Vertical Video Guide

You can’t talk about vertical video without mentioning Snapchat. Snapchat is the true home for vertical video, period. News outlets and major media companies like Vice and ESPN, create 10-second vertical video ads that see hundreds of thousands— if not millions of viewers each day. Vertical is the default content format for Snapchat Discover as well.  And according to Cheddar CEO and founder, Jon Steinberg, “On Snapchat Discover, the default content formatting is vertical.”

Steinberg looked at the different engagement rates of Snapchat ads in both horizontal and vertical formats and “vertical video ads have up to 9x more completed views than horizontal video ads.” Steinberg is convinced that vertical video is the future for branded content. “We need to move even more aggressively to develop vertical content, especially on our Snapchat Discover channel.” Sounds like a plan.

TikTok the new home of vertical video

The hottest new social media app, TikTok, is built on vertical video (9:16). Users create and share ultra short vertical videos. Use of the TikTok has exploded since 2018, and advertisers are starting to use TikTok for advertising. Brands like Red Bull were the first to jump on the TikTok bandwagon. The audience on TikTok is young, engaged, and always looking for great videos to watch.

Inspiration for your vertical video

Need some inspiration to create your own vertical videos?  Check out some examples from the world’s first vertical film festival.

“Umwelt”

“Basket Case” (2nd prize winner)

Nespresso “One Day”

The takeaway

Vertical video is here to stay. If you’re creating video for social media, it should probably be your default option. Understand how to shoot and format vertical video for every platform to reach more viewers.

For more tips on how to succeed with animated video, download our free eBook.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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