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A Complete Guide to Instagram Video Formats in 2021

By Kristina
24 Sep, 2021
9 min read

Once a platform for attractive, square images, Instagram has now expanded to take social media to the next level with a whole variety of engaging, exciting features designed to help you draw in an attentive audience. From 24-hour Instagram Stories to the new and innovative Reels features, video seems to be everywhere on Instagram today.

But with any video-forward platform, uploading and recording the perfect video for Instagram comes with its own challenges, particularly on this mobile-first social media.

In this guide, we’re going to help you figure out what the best Instagram video format, file size, orientation, and length should be. We’re also going to consider how to upload or record your Instagram videos, so you can always find the most attractive dimensions and aspect ratio for your clips.

instagram log in page

Instagram Feed Video Posts

Instagram first released the ability to upload video clips to your feed in 2013. These are designed to be short, engaging videos (not feature-length films) that can easily be recorded and uploaded without the need for any fancy recording or editing equipment.

When Instagram feed videos were first introduced, these clips could be a maximum of 15 seconds long. However, as Instagram video grew in popularity, this was upgraded to allow users to upload up to 1 minute of video footage alongside the standard photo feed posts.

To ensure your videos can be uploaded without any issues, you’ll need to consider the following specifications. Not only will this make sure your upload doesn’t fail, but you’ll also be able to cultivate a more visually attractive feed that looks great on any device.

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Instagram Feed Video Format

  • Best video format: MP4 or MOV with an H.264 Codec ACC audio and 3,500 kbps video bitrate.
  • Length: Instagram Stories videos must be minimum of 3 and a maximum of 60 seconds. 
  • Orientation: Square, portrait, or landscape
  • Aspect ratio: At least 1:19.1, maximum 4:5. For best results, Instagram recommends you use an aspect ratio of 1:1 for Feed videos.
  • Dimensions: The best dimensions for a Feed video is 1080px wide by 1350px tall.
  • Size: There are no limits to Instagram feed video file sizes. However, for best results, you should stick to a maximum file size of 50MB.
  • Frame rate: Instagram videos should have a minimum frame rate of 30 FPS (frames per second).
  • Resolution: All Instagram videos should have a minimum resolution of 720 pixels.

How to add a video to your Instagram feed

  1. Open the Instagram app, navigate to your profile, then click the “+” button in the top right-hand corner of your screen.
  2. Select “feed post.”
Create new feed post
  1. Tap on the video you want to upload, then click the blue arrow in the top right-hand corner.
  2. If you want to upload multiple clips or images, select the carousel icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the clip.
  3. Next, you can add filters to the clip (similarly to a standard image post).
feed post
  1. Under “Trim,” you can shorten the clip or select up to 60 seconds from a longer video to upload.  
trim
  1. “Cover” lets you select the thumbnail you want to use with the video. This is important, as it’s what users will see on your page before clicking to watch your clip.
cover

Instagram Stories Video Format

Introduced in 2016, Instagram Stories revolutionized the Instagram user experience to upload short clips or images that would be visible for 24 hours. This upgrade was likely in response to the success and popularity of Snapchat’s 24-hour story-sharing capabilities and has become a popular feature in the Instagram universe.

Since 2016, Instagram Stories have undertaken numerous ‘renovations’ to ensure they’re as exciting and engaging as possible. Now, you can add text, tag friends, or ‘check in’ to a location, along with uploading stickers, GIFs, and even music to your Stories.

You can record Instagram Stories videos directly via the app or upload footage in your camera roll. Stories can last up to 15 seconds, but if your video is up to 1 minute long, Instagram will break this down into 15-second segments. 

Instagram Stories Video Specs

  • Video format: MP4
  • Length: 1 to 15 seconds (or up to 1 minute, broken into
  • Orientation: Portrait is best, but you can also share square
  • or landscape videos/photos in Stories.
  • Aspect ratio: A minimum 1:19.1 and maximum 9:16. Instagram recommends aiming for an aspect ratio between 4:5 and 9:16 for Stories.
  • Dimensions: For Instagram Stories, you’ll get the best results with 1080px wide by 1920px tall dimensions to suit a smartphone being held vertically.  
  • Size:  As with Feed videos, you should generally stick to a maximum file size of 50MB for Instagram Stories.
  • Frame rate: Minimum frame rate of 30 FPS (frames per second).
  • Resolution: All Instagram videos should have a minimum resolution of 720 pixels.

Shoot video directly through Instagram Stories

  1. Open the Stories camera.
  2. Pick a camera mode (for example, Boomerang, Superzoom, Rewind, Hands-Free, Normal, etc.)
  3. Record your video using your smartphone’s camera directly in the Instagram app.
  4. Once you’re done recording, add your selection of GIFs, text, stickers, music, locations, tags, and more.
story types

Add pre-recorded video to Instagram Stories

  1. Open the Stories camera.
  2. Swipe upwards on the screen to view your device’s gallery.
  3. Select the video you want to use.
  4. Add your selection of GIFs, text, etc., as above. 
story

Remember, Instagram Stories clips can be a maximum of 15 seconds, so if your pre-recorded video is longer than this, the app will automatically cut it into 15-second segments up to 1 minute long. Any GIFs, music, or stickers you add to one section will not transfer to the following clip, so longer videos will require more editing before you can publish.

story stickers

Instagram Live Videos

Although Instagram makes no secret of being a mobile-first platform, you can usually upload images and videos via a PC or Mac with relative ease. However, Instagram Live videos can only be broadcast using a mobile device (you can watch a Live video on any device), so we can expect the specifications for Live video to be a little more specific. 

Instagram Live videos have become a hugely popular way for brands and influencers to engage with followers. By providing viewers a behind-the-scenes glance at their lives, hosting Q and A sessions, and much more. Once you’ve finished a Live broadcast, Instagrammers are also able to save the footage onto their device, post it as a Story, or share it to IGTV (which we’ll cover shortly).

Instagram Live Video Format

  • Video Format: MP4
  • Length: Up to 60 minutes.
  • Orientation: Portrait
  • Aspect ratio: Because Instagram Live videos are shot in portrait mode, the dimensions and aspect ratio should reflect this. You want an aspect ratio of 9:16 for Instagram Live footage.  
  • Dimensions: Like Instagram Stories, Live Videos look best with dimensions of 1080px wide by 1920px tall. Other dimensions will not be supported.
  • Size: Instagram Live videos are shot and streamed directly from your smartphone or other mobile devices, so file size isn’t really relevant.
  • Frame rate: As with all other Instagram videos, Instagram Live should be short with a minimum frame rate of 30 FPS (frames per second).

How to use Instagram Live Video.

  1. Open the Instagram Stories camera.
  2. Swipe across to the “live” mode.
  3. Tap the “live” icon to start the broadcast.
live video instagram

When you swipe to “live” mode, you’ll be able to see how many of your followers are online and will receive a notification that you are live broadcasting. It’s always a good idea to wait a few moments when you begin a Live video to give viewers a chance to join before you jump into the critical parts of the video.

  1. When you’re ready, tap the “end” button in the top right-hand corner of the screen to end your live broadcast, followed by “end now” to confirm.

Once you’ve ended your broadcast, you can tap the “save” icon in the top left-hand corner to save it to your camera roll or share it to your Instagram Stories.

Instagram Video Reels

After the unrivaled success of TikTok, Instagram released its new and innovative Reels feature.

Here, you can upload short and engaging clips up to 15 seconds long and fill them with all sorts of fun effects from audio to speed control, stickers to AR effects.

You can easily share Reels to your Instagram Feed to showcase them to your followers. If you have a public Instagram account, your published Reels will also be available in the Explore tab for new users to discover.

Instagram Video Reels Format

  • Video Format: MP4 or MOV
  • Length: Instagram Reels can be up to 15 seconds long. However, like Stories, you can upload multiple clips and stitch them together to make longer content. This is great for things like how-to videos, for example.
  • Orientation: Reels are always viewed in portrait mode; therefore, the dimensions and aspect ratio used within Instagram Reels will always be the same.
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Dimensions: 1080px wide by 1920px tall. Other dimensions will not be supported.
  • Size: Instagram Reel videos can be up to 4GB in size.
  • Frame rate: The optimal frame rate for Instagram Reels videos is at least 30 FPS (frames per second). You can play around with speed settings when editing your Reels video.
reels

IGTV

IGTV is slightly different from Instagram’s other video streaming options as it was designed to enable users to post more long-form, immersive videos. Think of it as Instagram’s answer to YouTube, with the maximum video length enabled varying depending on your account’s size and verification status.

While IGTV used to sit on the main Instagram app, the button is no longer in use, and Instagram has released a separate IGTV app that you can use to browse and upload IGTV content. However, Instagram users with a linked IGTV account will receive a tab on their profile page that followers can click on to check out the latest content.

We don’t have loads of information on the now separate IGTV app, but we’re presuming the specs for video publishing have remained the same since Instagram removed the IGTV button from the main app:

IGTV Video Specs

  • Video format: MP4
  • Length: Up to 15 minutes for most accounts. Large and verified accounts can publish videos with a maximum length of 60 minutes. 
  • Orientation: Portrait or landscape
  • Aspect ratio: To match a standard phone screen, Instagram recommends IGTV videos use an aspect ratio of 9:16 for portrait videos or 16:9 if you prefer to record horizontally.
  • Dimensions: Unlike many Instagram video options, users can upload/record video in landscape mode with IGTV. This means IGTV videos can have the following dimensions: 1080px by 1920px, 1920px by 1080px, or 1080px by 1350px. IGTV videos on your main Instagram profile grid can also have dimensions of 1080px by 1080px.
  • Size: Videos up to 15 minutes can be a maximum of 650MB, while 60-minute videos can be up to 3.6GB.
  • Frame rate: As with all other Instagram videos, IGTV footage should have a minimum frame rate of 30 FPS (frames per second) and a minimum resolution of 720 pixels.

With IGTV, you can also select a cover photo or thumbnail. This will lead to engagement with the video and can make or break how popular your clips are. For best results, IGTV cover photos should use an aspect ratio of 1:1.55 or 420px by 654px. These will be cropped for viewing on the main Instagram app. 

IGTV

Best Instagram video format: Top tips and takeaways:

There’s no getting away from it; videos on Instagram are here to stay! Whether it’s videos up to 60 seconds playing through your Stories or you’ve actively downloaded the IGTV video app for more in-depth options, video content is a must for any successful Instagram strategy.

That said, no matter how great your content is… If you don’t get the best Instagram video format, Instagram video sizes, or Instagram video dimensions just right, no video on Instagram is ever going to get viewers excited.

So, before you spend countless hours recording the perfect Instagram video content, don’t forget to check the video specs and follow our below top tips for excellent content that’s sure to convert and engage.

  • Find a great cover photo/thumbnail.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on sound (Remember sound only plays if you turn it on for most videos)
  • Focus on the first few seconds - Viewers will usually decide whether they want to watch your entire video within the first 3-5 seconds. 
  • Find the right video length – just because the video can be 60 seconds doesn’t mean you need to use the entire length. Use analytics to help determine the optimal video length to keep viewers engaged. 
  • Edit your videos – Even a great video on Instagram might require some video editing. Don’t be afraid to download some video editing software to ensure you’re only posting the best possible content (obviously, a Live video on Instagram won’t require as much editing). 
  • Take advantage of analytics – Instagram Insights and other tools are your friends! Don’t forget to check the detail behind the performance of each video you post and use the information to create better and better videos. 
  • Play around with stickers and other interactive features available (particularly with Instagram Stories). 
  • Maintain consistent branding
  • Remember, most Instagram users are used to viewing vertical video – Not only does publishing video content on Instagram in portrait save users from turning their phones, but the optimum aspect ratios have been carefully selected to make your content look as attractive and engaging as possible. 
instagram feed stock

FAQ

What video format does Instagram use? 

The best Instagram video format is MP4. This is how the vast majority of videos will be uploaded and presented on Instagram.

That said, most Instagram videos can also be uploaded using a MOV file format with H.264 Codec AAC audio and 3,5000 kbps video bitrate.

What video formats can I not use for Instagram? 

Videos on Instagram must almost always be MP4 or MOV file formats. If you wish to upload a video that’s not an MP4 or MOV file type, you will need to use a third-party converter before you can upload your content.

Is video more engaging than a photo on Instagram? 

According to Sprout Social, in 2020, videos on Instagram received 49% higher engagement levels than static photos, demonstrating that video content really is the future.

However, that’s not to say that static images should be forgotten about. The best Instagram feeds are filled with a combination of video and photo posts with compelling, relevant captions and hashtags that keep followers interested.

How many MB of video can I upload on Instagram? 

Instagram video sizes tend to be reasonably generous, with the ability to upload maximum file size of 3.65GB for a 60-minute IGTV video.

Instead of focusing on the maximum file size, Instagram video sizes are more strictly related to the length of the video. This will vary depending on the video type (an Instagram Story, feed post, Reel, or IGTV upload).

In most cases, your video will need to be 60 seconds maximum duration. However, IGTV can actually be a maximum of 60 minutes in length for large, verified accounts. Stories and Reels are made of clips up to 15 seconds long. However, they can stitch together a maximum of 60 seconds worth of footage if you have a more extended clip you wish to share.

What’s the best Instagram video format? 

The best Instagram video format is MP4 with H.264 Codec AAC audio, 3,500 kbps bitrate, and a frame rate of 30 fps (frames per second). Most videos will be viewed in portrait mode with a maximum width of 1080px and height of 1920px, so it’s a good idea to remember these video specs when filming video content for Instagram.

Kristina

I'm a content manager at sixads. I'm fiery about marketing, writing and traveling, so you can often find me scribbling away in some unknown corner of the world. If you want to know more ways to increase traffic and attract buyers to your online store get in touch with sixads on one of the channels bellow.