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Video aspect ratios: everything you need to know

Video aspect ratios  landscape

Video aspect ratios ensure a video looks its best and is not too small or too big for the screen it’s being watched on. Today, audiences watch videos via multiple mediums and devices, wherever they are and whenever they find the time. For example, audiences may consume a brand video or commercial from the comfort of their sofa whilst watching TV or streaming a boxset via their laptop, or they could watch a video in the palm of their hand via a smartphone on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. In each scenario the viewer expects to watch a great looking video with the correct aspect ratio.

From a brand’s perspective, they also want the viewer to have a fantastic experience wherever and whenever they watch their videos, so they must invest time and budget into creating video in the right aspect ratio for each device and placement.

What is aspect ratio?

“An aspect ratio defines how wide your video is and is the proportional relationship between a video’s width and height (E.g. 16:9).”

Five common aspect ratios for video

Below are the five most common video aspect ratios that you need to consider when planning your video marketing strategy.

  • 16:9 is standard widescreen which you see everywhere on the Internet and it’s the standard aspect ratio that most DSLR’s, smartphones, tablets, and camcorders record in.
  • 9:16 is the vertical video which we view in some places on the Internet, such as Facebook and Instagram stories. Yes, it’s a 90 degree flip of the 16:9 video aspect ratio!
  • 4:3 is a traditional aspect ratio for TV, it’s slightly wider than a square and was used at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. It was also the standard format for most films made before the 1950s.
  • 1:1 is square video and its used on the news feeds of Instagram and Facebook.
  • 2.4:1 is ultra-widescreen commonly used in film to create a super cinematic feel, it’s also referred to as anamorphic aspect ratio.

You may also come across video aspect ratio 1920 × 1080 which is a 16:9 aspect ratio. By default, smartphones, DSLRs, and most modern camcorders record video at 1920 × 1080.

Video aspect ratio

Why are video aspect ratios important?

Video aspect ratio directly influences the look and feel of a video or film. Think about a widescreen TV advert, they typically create a certain mood by intentionally featuring objects and scenery in a frame, whereas, a square video on your Instagram feed will often put the product, plate, person etc into focus and smaller movements or gestures are more noticeable. Storyboarding is a great tool to help you plan your video frame by frame and can be done for any video aspect ratio.

As you’ve put so much effort into crafting the perfect storyboard, filming great content and of course production a fantastic final edit of your video, you want to ensure that every element in every frame of your video can be seen by the viewer. Using the correct aspect ratio will ensure your video can be watched by audiences in its optimum format, and do the time and resource invested in production justice.

What happens when you use the wrong video aspect ratio?

Unfortunately, when you use the wrong aspect ratio you will waste screen space with pointless black bars, crop out people’s heads or products, cut off important text or messaging etc. Don’t take the risk, plan your next video project thoroughly and produce it for each relevant aspect ratio.

The importance of aspect ratio for mobile users

Unlike photos or text online, videos cannot be pinched or zoomed in on, so the video has to fit the users screen so they can consume the content instantly and perfectly. If they can’t, then your video will not be watched on their smartphone for more than a few seconds so all the effort that went into the planning and production of your video is wasted.

The best aspect ratios for social media

Consuming video on social media platforms is incredibly popular, billions of videos are watched everyday so it’s crucial for brands to ensure that they create videos in the correct aspect ratio for the social media platform(s) they will utilise in their video marketing strategy. As an example, Facebook’s video platform, Facebook Watch, receives 75 million visits every day and 8 billion videos are watched every day on Facebook. If you’re trying to reach new audiences with your video on social media, read on to learn the right aspect ratio for each platform.

Facebook video aspect ratios

Most videos on Facebook are consumed on a mobile device so whilst the standard 16:9 video aspect ratio is fine for this platform, audiences will get a better viewing experience from a square or portrait video as it fills their screen better. Here are the ideal video aspect ratios for Facebook by placement:

  • Feed video: 16:9, 1:1, 4:5, 2:3, 9:16 (recommended: 1:1 or 4:5) 
  • Facebook Stories: 9:16
  • Facebook Live: 16:9

Instagram video aspect ratios

Instagram used to all about square content however this platform has evolved to introduce more shapes, consider sharing portrait videos in your newsfeed as it will the users smartphone screen better. Here are the video aspect ratios you can work with on Instagram:

  • Instagram feed videos: 16:9, 1:1, 4:5 (recommended: 1:1 or 4:5)
  • IGTV: 9:16
  • Instagram Stories: 16:9, 1:1, 4:5, 9:16 (recommended: 9:16)
  • Instagram Live: 9:16

Twitter video aspect ratios

Phew! A more straightforward platform for sharing video. On Twitter we recommend widescreen video, so 16:9 is your go to video aspect ratio. You can also post square but widescreen looks the best.

  • Twitter feed videos: 16:9, 1:1

YouTube video aspect ratio

YouTube is only for standard widescreen videos, it’s only ever featured the 16:9 video aspect ratio and we predict it always will.

  • YouTube video: 16:9

LinkedIn video aspect ratios

On LinkedIn you can share YouTube links in your posts but really you should upload a video directly into the Linked In platform, this is known as “native video”. Adding video in this way means that it will autoplay and is more likely to grab attention but you will need an aspect ratio of 1:2.4 or 2.4:1.

  • Linked In Video: 1:2.4 or 2.4:1

Snapchat video aspect ratios

Snapchat is a very busy video sharing hive of activity thanks to its 173 million daily users. Most videos are shared and consumed in vertical format, which is aspect ratio 9:16.

  • Snapchat video: 9:16

Video production and aspect ratios

The world of targeted TV and web advertising is complex, advertisers and brands can promote their videos in a catalogue of placements as they seek to engage new audiences. This also means that producing video is more complex as there are additional aspect ratios to deliver.

Video marketers, videographers, and video production companies have more choice than ever before and need to strategically decide which aspect ratio(s) are best for the video they are producing. Before you begin filming your video, it’s essential to list where your video will be featured, and the video aspect ratio required by that medium or placement. Next, ensure that these requirements are on your shoot list and that everybody in your production team is aware in advance of the video shoot.

Let’s create a professional video

Prefer to work with creative video experts to create a standout video for your brand? Let’s work together! Fresh Cut are a leading video production company helping brands tell their stories on TV and online since 2006. With studios in Leeds, Manchester and London we are proud to work with brands and budgets of all sizes. Take a look inside our fantastic portfolio of creative video content and get in touch with our talented team to discuss your next video project.