The Ultimate Vertical Video Guide 2020
Production & Filmmaking
March 12, 2020

The Ultimate Vertical Video Guide 2020

By Ran Kidron 13 min read

Recently, we talked about how to post YouTube videos on Instagram. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about vertical videos, which is the shape mostly used on Instagram and other social media channels. You'll see how to crop your widescreen footage, how to purposely shoot vertically and we'll also talk about camera set-ups, composition, camera movement, export settings and more.

Vertical videos have become so ingrained in our day-to-day lives, that we don’t really notice them when we scroll our Instagram stories, Facebook feeds or even Youtube. With over half of all video content being consumed on mobile, it only makes sense to create mobile-dedicated content. That’s why big-name artists, huge brands and even pro filmmakers are all producing vertical videos.

There are two fundamental ways to make a successful vertical video: the more common approach these days is to shoot your video normally meaning on a wide aspect ratio and then create a vertical version of it by cropping it. The second is to flip your camera sideways and actually shoot vertically. There are pros and cons to each method so let’s dive deep into that.

Cropping Your Widescreen Video

Let’s start with what most people do, which is creating a vertical version out of your original wide aspect ratio video. The benefit of that is that you get more versions of your video - a beautiful, cinematic-looking wide video and the new vertical version that you can share on the dedicated social media platforms. Sounds great, right? Well, the major drawback of this method is the significant loss of quality your vertical video will suffer when it comes to framing, composition, camera movement and overall storytelling.

Just think about it - if every frame of your video is built around the idea of a widescreen watching experience, taking that width away from your composition will cancel out a lot of your well-thought-out ideas and intentions. For example, if you wanted to a long-shot that establishes the environment and the location, many details will be lost in vertical, and your shot will no longer tell the story you wanted it to tell. Not only will the new vertical shot lack the visual aesthetic it had before, but your ability to deliver your message will also suffer, and so will the impact of your video.

If you try to force a close-up shot into a vertical frame, for example, you’ll get an extreme close-up and a not-so pleasing frame.

Know Your Aspect Ratio

It is possible to crop your wide aspect ratio videos successfully, but it requires a bit of a mind shift. You have to start thinking vertically from the very beginning of your project.

But first, you need to know the ideal aspect ratios and resolutions for each social media platform.

To save you time, we've compiled a list of suggested ratios and sizes for all the types of visual media used on every social channel.

  • 1.91:1

The most recommended ratio for Twitter links shares. Size 1200 x 628 pixels

For Facebook and LinkedIn the size is 1200 x 628 pixels.

For Instagram and Twitter photo posts, use 1200 x 628.

  • 16:9 ratio

The most recommended ratio for Twitter photos. Size 1200 x 675

The most recommended ratio For YouTube channel art. Size: 2560 x 1440 or larger

For Facebook cover photos (allow top and bottom cropping), size 2560 x 1440 or larger

The most recommended ratio for YouTube video thumbnails. Size 1280 x 720 pixels.

For Facebook photos 1200 x 675 pixels

  • 1:1 ratio (square)

The most recommended ratio for Instagram photos, size either 1080 x 1080 or 1200 x 1200 pixels

The most recommended ratio for YouTube Channel icons, size 800 x 800

The most recommended ratio for all social channels profile pictures, size 500 x 500 (with allowed cropping to circle).

For Facebook photos, size (1200 x 1200 pixels)

For Pinterest Pins when repurposed from Instagram.

  • 4:5 ratio (portrait)

For Instagram posts, 1080 x 1350.

For Pinterest Pins, when repurposed from Instagram.

  • 2:3 ratio

The most recommended ratio for Pinterest Pins, size 600 x 900

  • 9:16 ratio

The most recommended ratio for Facebook and Instagram Story images and Snapchat, size 1080 x 1920

For Pinterest Pins, the size should be 600 x 1067.

  • 1:2.1 ratio

Although this ratio is no longer recommended for Pinterest Pins, it can be successful in 600 x 1260. Just remember that it won’t crop in the feed. 

More Tips for Shooting Widescreen

The next thing you want to do is to create guidelines on your monitor so you can actually see your vertical frame while shooting and take away the guesswork. You can do this by turning on the guides on your display if you have that option, or you can do it physically by blocking parts of it with cardboard or by sticking two pieces of gaffer on your display. Now you can focus on storytelling instead of worrying if your frame will work on vertical. Just think about what you’re trying to accomplish with each scene and make sure that the story, the composition and the framing work for both horizontal and vertical.

for vertical video stick pieces of gaffer on your monitor
Stick pieces of gaffer on your monitor

Here are some more useful tips if you’re shooting a widescreen video:

  • Try to shoot everything wider than you usually would. Remember that a close-up shot might turn into an extreme close-up when cropped vertically, and a wide shot might lose a lot of details. Keep an eye out for that.
  • Shoot in the highest resolution possible to get that extra flexibility in post-production.
  • Avoid shaky footage and fast camera movements as these will be exaggerated in your vertical version, and you’ll also find it difficult to keep your subject in the frame.
  • Get creative with split screens - these are very trendy these days. They can really spice up your edit and make good use of the vertical format.
  • Another cool trick that you can do is simply duplicate your video, blur it out and use it as a background layer to your scaled-down video. That way you get to keep more details but you still utilize the vertical screen real-estate.

blur background to get a cool vertical video

  • Pro tip - Use positioning key-frames to keep your subject in the frame or use Premiere Pro’s auto-reframe tool.

So now you know everything you need to create a vertical version out of your already existing wide video. But, what if you want to shoot the whole video vertically in the first place? How would you go about doing that and more importantly, why would you even want to?

Shooting a Vertical Video

Shooting vertically gives you maximum control over the final image and helps you nail down everything from composition, to frame blocking and camera movement. That’s why we decided to shoot entirely in vertical a recent campaign video dedicated to Instagram and Facebook stories.

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A post shared by Artlist.io (@artlist.io)

Because we shot our video with the heavy-duty Red camera, we had to build a special rig for it. If you have a smaller camera like a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, there are easier ways to rig it vertically. For example, if you’re using a tripod, all you need to do is mount your camera sideways, tilt the tripod’s head, and you’ve got a vertical shot.

The rig of our Red camera

If you have a camera cage, just mount a quick-release plate on the side of the cage. Another option you have is going with a handheld camera.

Here are some useful tips we picked up when we shot our vertical video:

  • Because the vertical frame is so narrow, you have to be very precise with your camera moves to keep an ideal framing. Try to go for smaller or more controlled movements.
  • Try to be as stable as you can. Use a tripod, a dolly or a gimbal if possible. Remember that shakiness is very noticeable in a vertical frame.
  • All the usual compositional rules still apply, so don’t discard them just because you’re going vertical. Using leading lines, for example, can have an even greater effect when used in a vertical composition.
leading lines can be helpful when shooting a vertical video
Leading lines can be helpful when shooting a vertical video
  • Have your subjects move towards and/or away from the camera instead of crossing it horizontally.
  • When you use a wide lens, try lifting the camera up and tilting it down. This usually creates depth and an overall more compelling shot. 

Love them or hate them, vertical videos are here to stay and they have become an inseparable part of today’s video content realm. We hope we were able to inspire you to go out and create some beautiful vertical videos and take advantage of this format’s popularity and many advantages across the different platforms. Whether shooting vertical or horizontal, the important thing is to stay creative.

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