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Tutorial: How to Optimize Video Content for Instagram

Here are some tips to help you quickly create videos that are tailored for Instagram.

Welcome to this tutorial on optimizing video content for Instagram. This tutorial covers some editing, exporting, and distribution tips for Instagram videos, using Adobe Premiere Pro. Feel free to check out some other articles across Streaming Media Producer and OnlineVideo.net that share content and creative tips on Instagram videos.

So, why should you consider adding Instagram video to your bag of tricks? More than 5.2 million people viewed brand created Instagram videos during Q1 of 2017, according to a report conducted by L2, Inc. According to SproutSocial.com, an estimated 71% of U.S. businesses use Instagram. It’s is a highly visual platform and a great destination to showcase those eye-catching videos. Chances are that your customers or companies may already be using Instagram or thinking about it at some point in the future.

Here are some tips to help you quickly create videos that are tailored for Instagram. Keep in mind that Instagram allows a one-minute length for video uploads. However, we strongly suggest using a 15- or a 30-second time length at maximum.

Choosing Sequence Settings

Starting with the very first step, you need to create a sequence that matches the dimensions of an Instagram video. They use a square ratio, so you'll want to make a custom sequence with settings of 640x640. You can do this by selecting one of the available sequence presets and changing the values in the Settings tab (Figure 1, below). Further down in this window, you can enable maximum bit depth and maximum render quality to enhance the compression of your video. Once you have the settings checked, you can save this as a preset for future videos to streamline your workflow.

Figure 1. Choosing Sequence Settings for a square video in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Scaling Down

Next, you'll most likely be working with 1080 or even 4K footage. Because we're editing for much smaller frame settings, we're going to have to scale down or reposition our video to fit within the 1:1 Instagram ratio. When you bring down the video clip on the sequence, Premiere Pro will actually prompt you to change the sequence settings. But we want to keep the existing settings to properly work within the Instagram delivery specs.

As you can see, the video is much larger than our settings. A quick tip that I use with 1080 footage is to scale down to a value of 60 in the video's Effect Controls (Figure 2, below). That gives you a close representation of the original 1080 framing that was captured. You can fine-tune the framing by adjusting the X and Y values in the position area. I'd suggest following the same rules of composition you use other places.

Figure 2. Scaling the framing

Grading the Footage

The next thing I like to do in my workflow is add some contrast and saturation to the footage. Now keep in mind that Instagram does give you the option to add filters on their platform, but adding a little bit into your post software will give you more control. So I'll adjust the video by going into the Color tab of Premiere Pro and using the Lumetri Color toggles. There's a lot of damage you can do with these settings, so I'm only going to add some contrast and saturation to enhance the video.

Figure 3. Adding contrast and saturation in the Lumetri Color panel

Exporting the Video

Next, we can export the video to get it out to a file type that's suitable for Instagram. In the toollbar, choose File > export > Media. Starting at the top, we'll use the H.264 format and keep the Match Source option for a preset (Figure 4, below). Under the Video tab, make sure the video frame size is set to our Sequence Settings of 640x640. I'll keep the box checked next to render at maximum depth. We'll do VBR encoding, and finally, enable the use Maximum Render Quality option. Using an encoding parameter similar to this will keep the file size down and suitable for Instagram. Once we're ready, we'll export the video.

Figure 4. Choosing export settings

The final step is to get this video onto your mobile device or your customer's. There are a lot of ways you can do this, but here's an easy one I like. If you have a fast email system, then you can email the video as an attachment and have your client download the video to their mobile device. Then they can post directly to Instagram with that device.

The other option that works a little smoother for me is to upload the video to a destination like Google Drive. Then you can email that video link to the customer, and have them open the email on their phone or mobile device and download it. Then they can upload that video straight to Instagram. That option has worked extremely well and has been easier for the companies we work with.

I hope these tips help you as you begin or increase the video production process for Instagram.