I’ve been dabbling with IGTV since Instagram first launched it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it in terms of engagement and getting eyeballs on my videos, since the service was pretty much segregated to its own app, but nevertheless, I kept uploading videos. Now that Instagram has integrated one minute IGTV previews in the Instagram timeline, I’m actually seeing more engagement and people watching, liking, and commenting on my videos.
That said, uploading a proper looking vertical video for IGTV isn’t quite as simple as uploading a 9:16 video. Without getting into too much detail, this is what I’ve learned over the last month or so.
IGTV takes the first frame of your video and makes it the thumbnail that displays both on your Instagram bio and in the timeline (if you choose to share the IGTV video in the timeline), or you can upload your own thumbnail (you only get one shot at this: once you’ve uploaded a thumbnail, you can’t change it). In both cases, Instagram will crop the top and bottom of the 9:16 thumbnail to show the center 1:1 (9:9?) square. So, make sure the first frame of the uploaded thumbnail looks good in the vertical center.
The preview that is shown in the Instagram timeline is cropped to 4:5. This applies to both the 9:16 thumbnail (which is only displayed briefly when scrolling in the timeline) and the video itself. So, make sure that whatever is playing when the top and bottom portions of the video are cropped to 4:5 looks good. People can watch the first minute in the timeline and choose to watch the full 9:16 video on IGTV at anytime within that minute.
Finally, IGTV doesn’t necessarily always display the full 9:16 video. If you’re using a device that has a true 9:16 display, like the iPhone 8 Plus, then you’ll see the 9:16 video without cropping. However, if you have a taller phone, like the iPhone XS Max, or the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, or something similar, then the video will be cropped on the sides to fill in a certain amount of vertical space. I don’t know if this is a standard, defined crop amount, but for me, it looks like the zoom makes a 9:16 crop look more like a 8:16 (or, 1:2) crop by cropping off the vertical sides of the video. This can cause issues if there is text on the screen that goes edge to edge, so you must account for that.
I whipped up a template to make things a bit easier. It’s a 9:16 template that shows all of the crops I mentioned. The gray areas are transparent (it’s a .png file), allowing the content under the template to be seen. Just drop it on top in the timeline in your video editor of choice and you’ll be able to check if your video will look its best when it’s cropped in all of these different ways.
IGTV is evolving, so this all might change in the future, but for now, this template seems to be fairly accurate with the various crops of IGTV videos in Instagram.