Adapting Widescreen Music Videos for IGTV

 John Mayer's studio video specifically shot for IGTV.

John Mayer's studio video specifically shot for IGTV.

With the advent of Instagram's new vertical video platform, artists are presented with the opportunity to share their content with a new audience. However, with this new platform comes new challenges.

Many content creators are uploading more polished content to IGTV than the rough, temporary videos usually posted on Instagram stories. Tech journalists like MKBHD and artists like John Mayer are going as far as to shoot with high-end video gear either shot in vertical orientation or cropped for specific delivery on this new platform.

The higher time-limit of 10 minutes for smaller accounts and up to 60 minutes for larger accounts, a comment section, and presence at the top of the artist's profile makes it ideal for placing key content for new fans to discover. For independent artists, content like music videos and official vlogs would likely be the best fit.

 Being at the top of the profile, IGTV is a great place to put your key content.

Being at the top of the profile, IGTV is a great place to put your key content.

IGTV's terms of service require videos to be vertical with aspect ratios ranging from the more square 4:5 to the fullscreen 9:16. You can find out more about their requirements here. This presents a challenge for artists wanting to bring their music videos over to the platform as most music videos are shot in 16:9 or at an even wider aspect ratio. Unless artists start shooting their videos in vertical format, which is unlikely, they will need to crop in on their videos instead, and special attention is required to get the best results.


ADAPTING "COMFORTABLE"

We recently took on the challenge of adapting Hawking's Comfortable Music Video from its 2.40:1 anamorphic format to IGTV's 9:16 format. We shot the video anamorphic, meaning the image was captured was widescreen to begin with (we didn't add black bars in post). As the cinematographer on the project, converting this video made me cringe a bit as we had to throw the original framing out the window. Luckily since we shot the video in UHD, we still got a relatively high-quality image from cropping in on most shots. Adjusting the source footage left or right was required for each shot to correctly frame the subjects.

 Cropping into widescreen can be extreme, but if you frame it right you can usually get a good image.

Cropping into widescreen can be extreme, but if you frame it right you can usually get a good image.

For some of the close-up shots, we found the image didn't look that flattering after we cropped in, or that it left out too much information. In those cases we either replaced the shots with wider versionsof the shots we had previously recorded, or cheated by extending the frame above our subjects. Since a lot of our shots were done in a white room, extending the headroom was relatively easy.

 Adding headroom in this shot was easy, and allows us to see the whole subject in this wide shot.

Adding headroom in this shot was easy, and allows us to see the whole subject in this wide shot.

The money shot in this music video involved the character played by actress Maddie Phillips standing up in a field at night, illuminated by the northern lights. Since the sky in this shot was mostly computer generated and composited in, changing the composition to keep the shot extremely wide even in IGTV format was possible (though it took a bit of work).

IGTV+Aurora.jpg

ADAPTING "BROKEN GLASS"

A more conventional example would be how we worked on Hawking's Broken Glass Music Video. Unlike Comfortable, this video was originally shot in 16:9, meaning we could pull additional information from underneath the "black bars" at the top and bottom. We didn't get many close-up shots, so this one was much easier to convert. The only thing we really needed to do was adjust the position of the source footage left and right from shot to shot to get the right band member in frame.

IGTV+Broken+Glass.jpg

CONCLUSION

It remains to be seen if IGTV catches on as a serious content platform like YouTube. However, Instagram has been extremely successful so far, and adapted Snapchat's stories feature pretty successfully, so there definitely is some promise. That said, unless the platform continues to gain momentum over the next couple years, we will likely not see many content creators shooting for vertical aspect ratio, and instead see most people cropping in on their original footage instead.

Here are a few key things we've learned:

  • Cropping your video without fine-tuning it will look bad.

  • Tripod and steady shots look way better on IGTV than handheld shots.

  • Don't bother worrying about the rule of thirds.

  • Don't be afraid to take out and replace some shots that don't crop well.

  • Split-screen can help if it makes sense in the context of the video.

  • If all else fails, you can try 4:5 ratio which will crop your footage less.

Check out HAWKING on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

I offer editing services for artists looking to adapt their content to IGTV. If you are interested, feel free to head to our contact page and send us an email for a quote.