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Instagram Video Guide: How to Create Videos for Reels, Stories & Instagram Live

Want to wow your Instagram audience? From Reels and Stories to Instagram Live, here's everything you need to know about Instagram video.

Posted 7 Jan 2022
Instagram Video

Instagram has evolved into much more than just a photo-sharing app. Videos are now the most popular form of content on the social platform, so if you’re a brand or business not already using Instagram video to your advantage – you should be! 

However, given Instagram’s constant introduction of new features and formats, it can be tricky to know the specifications for each of Instagram’s video formats. This guide will help you understand the basics of Instagram video and how to use it. But first, let’s talk a bit about why Instagram is so popular for video.

Why is Instagram So Popular? 

Instagram is still amongst the most popular social media platforms, and for a good reason. Instagram offers a range of formats and features – from Instagram grid vids to IGTV and reels – which allow users to express themselves in unique ways. 

Why Instagram Video Size Matters

Like all social media platforms, Instagram has some basic requirements for its videos. The reason for this is simple – Instagram wants to ensure that the videos uploaded to its platform look as professional as possible. 

There’s also the fact that Instagram doesn’t want to overwhelm its infrastructure by accounting for thousands of video formats and lengths, but we think it’s safe to say that these requirements are also there to encourage platform-wide consistency.

That being said, Instagram video size doesn’t involve just length. There is a ton of other stuff to consider, such as aspect format and file dimensions — all of which we will cover. But first, let’s go over how to optimize your Instagram videos for maximum success. 

How to Create Engaging Instagram Video

Young woman with smartphone making video for social media outdoors on street. by halfpoint

1. Define Your Objective

Setting realistic goals, defining your objective and determining the purpose of your video will help you be more efficient and ensure your underlying message or mission translates to your audience.

2. Ensure Brand Consistency

Brand consistency across all videos will indirectly increase discoverability, and make your videos instantly recognizable. 

3. Tailor Your Videos Specifically for Instagram

While content repurposing is a viable strategy that many marketers swear by, it often doesn’t work very well for Instagram. Apart from the obvious length and dimension limits between YouTube and Instagram, there are other platform-specific issues to consider.

Firstly, there’s a reason why Instagram videos are optimized to be viewed without sound. They’re created to offer maximum impact in the shortest amount of time, to grab people’s attention while they’re doing something else – like commuting or watching TV.  

The main takeaway: the way people consume Instagram and YouTube content are inherently different, so you should adjust your YouTube marketing strategy and Instagram campaigns accordingly.

4. Go For a Hybrid Stories-Feed Video Strategy

Stories may be the hottest thing right now, but at the end of the day, feed videos are the best way to get a foothold in the Instagram ecosystem due to the simple fact that they remain there. Make sure you’re utilizing both formats to their greatest potential.

5. Adhere to Instagram’s Video Specs

  • The best video format is MP4.
  • The audio format should be AAC with 3500 kbps bitrate and H.264 codec.
  • A minimum frame rate of 30fps
  • The optimal resolution for video should be 1080px wide and 920px tall. 

How Long Should Instagram Videos Be?

Instagram has an array of different features built for specific types of videos. Including Reels, IGTV videos, Story videos, feed videos, and live videos, the platform allows users to upload videos of all shapes, sizes and lengths. Here’s everything you need to know about Instagram’s various video formats, their individual details and specifications, as well as tips and best practices for creating high-quality Instagram videos… 

Instagram Video (IGTV)

Instagram Video – previously known as IGTV – ranges from 15 seconds to 10 minutes on mobile, and up to 1 hour on desktop. Users can upload videos in either landscape or portrait, based on the size and specifics of the content they’re creating.

Users can upload HD-quality videos to Instagram Video. Initially, Instagram only supported vertical videos; however it now supports both landscape and vertical videos. Files size is capped at 5.4 GB and is restricted to MP4 format. 

The most appealing thing is that Instagram Video is integrated into the Instagram ecosystem which makes cross-posting relatively easy. Upload a video and a 1-minute preview will pop up in your follower’s feeds, together with a link leading to the full video. 

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories allow users to create 15 seconds clips, which they can then upload to their Story. Stories display videos for up to 24 hours, after which they are saved into the archive. 

Instagram Stories is a fantastic feature that is custom built to reach a larger audience. So, it is advised not to overdo stories, as people will quickly lose interest. 

As far as formats are concerned, Stories supports 1080px X 1920px resolution videos, favoring the smartphone video style. Videos of any other sizes are resized to fit the screen, so it’s recommended to film Stories videos in a vertical format. 

You always want your Instagram Story to be a big hit. By following the correct video time limit, your account can reach unexpected heights of popularity. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Consider sharing “behind the scenes” type snippets on your Instagram Stories. Don’t overdo it — chances are people don’t care that much about the day-to-day at your business. 
  • Combine 15-second videos into seven different story clips; that’s commonly considered  a sweet spot for audience engagement. You don’t want followers rushing through your Stories.
  • Use relevant hashtags that are trending. 
  • Include relevant GIFS and stickers to make your stories more visually enticing.
  • Utilize Polls to encourage natural engagement.

Instagram Feed Video

Even though feed videos have been overshadowed by the popularity of Stories, the feed is still arguably Instagram’s main feature. Stories are ephemeral — feed posts are forever (unless deleted by the user, obviously). 

But enough with that, we’re here to talk about video lengths. If you post a video to the Instagram feed, that video is limited to 60 seconds. You can technically upload a video longer than 1 minute, but Instagram will ask you to trim out a 1-minute section. Doing so is pretty straightforward – after selecting the video and tapping “Next”, simply hold and drag the video within the handles until you find the minute you’d like to keep.  Alternatively, you can also drag the handles to the right or left and select a portion shorter than 60 seconds. 

This might seem creatively restrictive, and in some ways it is. However, we’d argue that limiting users to 1 minute videos encourages creators and brands to be more aware and concise with the content they put out. Plus, Instagram itself isn’t really designed with long-form content consumption in mind – for that, there’s always Instagram Video.

Instagram Live Video

Instagram Live videos are much less restrictive in length. Offering a maximum time limit of 4 hours, live videos leave creators and brands with a lot of wiggle room to better interact with their followers and engage with them.  If you want to go live for more than 4 hours, all you have to do is restart your live session and you can pick up where you left off. 

Instagram Live can be a powerful tool in the right hands, as it boosts discoverability and helps brands build a stronger connection with the people that matter most – their audience. On that same note, Instagram live can also act as a valuable feedback and insight-gathering tool. 

Another small but mighty feature they’ve recently introduced is the ability to go live with 3 other people, giving creators more opportunity to tap into each other’s audiences. 

Instagram Reels

With TikTok’s explosive ascent to social media stardom, marketers and social media users alike were wondering if that would represent the beginning of the end for Instagram. 

Surprisingly, Instagram responded with their own snappy, short-form video feature – Instagram Reels. Even though it’s a relatively recent feature, it’s now hard to imagine Instagram without it, and similarly to other features, it can be a powerful branding or marketing tool when used correctly. 

Instagram Reels allows users to create 30-second long, snackable videos. Users can either upload directly from their camera roll or shoot a video natively from the app. Similar to TikTok, Reels sports a plethora of filters, sound bites and special effects that creators can use to add some sparkle to their videos. 

The reels feature also comes with features that offer a lot of flexibility to creators. For instance, it allows you to shoot in breaks, set a timer, and shoot in different locations. Plus, re-recorded videos can also be uploaded, edited, and meshed together into a single reel. 

Instagram Video Ads

Instagram Video Ads are exactly like feed videos, with the sole distinction being that they’re used to advertise. Instagram Video Ads are limited to 60 seconds. 

Is There a Way to Hack Instagram’s Video Limits?

Let’s be reel – videos can’t always be 60 seconds long, and some types of content just don’t lend themselves to short-form videos. So is there a hack around this? Well actually, there is!

Instagram Carousels allow users to upload up to ten videos and images into a single post. It works by allowing users to swipe through photos and videos, creating the illusion of motion. It’s kind of like a digital variant of a flip book, with the added benefit of boosting engagement on account of the user having to swipe through the photos and videos.

Carousels are a great option if you feel your content is limited by Instagram’s video length requirements. And best of all, brands can easily integrate carousels into their Instagram marketing strategies along with traditional videos. 

Guest Author: Marco Giulian

Marco Giuliani is the Content Marketer at Planable.io. Passionate about content marketing, YouTube content creation, and everything in between.

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