How to Create Professional Videos for Instagram

Have you seen some high quality, well produced videos on Instagram and was wondering how it was done?  These posts were not filmed using the Instagram app on someone’s phone, but rather via a DSLR camera, and processed after on a video editing program.  We will go over the steps involved with this below, as well as how to properly export your video for the highest quality possible.

Shooting on a DSLR Camera

The first step in this process is to shoot your footage on a high quality DSLR camera.  You may be able to use a phone that has a well made camera, but you will not end up with the professional quality you are hoping for.  This is because manual video controls are either non existent on a smart phone, or not nearly as responsive as one on a DSLR.  Along with a better processor, most new DSLR cameras allow you to record 60fps at 1080p, meaning you can slow down your footage and still maintain an entirely smooth video.

If you want to have a clear subject and blurred background, you will need a small f-number for your Aperture to reduce your depth of field.  Remember that your depth of field will also be determined by how far away your focal point is – so you will have a greater effect if shooting a subject close to your camera.  Most kit DSLR’s will be at around f5.6 default.  By using a lens with a wide aperture, or by reducing your depth of field (reducing the f)  you will increase how blurred your background becomes.  In order for this effect to work indoors, you will need increased lighting.

There are plenty of tutorials online how to properly use your DSLR camera, but you will want to make sure you have good lighting and that your camera is held as steadily as possible.

You should also remember while filming that videos are limited to 60 seconds by Instagram – so you will not want to plan for any video being longer than this when shooting.

Editing your Footage

Once you have all of your footage ready to go, you will want to open up the editing software of your choice.  Since we use Adobe Premiere Pro, it will be used for the examples below.

Editing will require some tutorial videos if you are new, but in general, you want to edit your footage in a sequence with the same quality and frame rate that you shot everything in.  When you export, you will have to decrease all of those settings, but it will be easier while editing to keep your sequence in the same settings.  Instagram is extremely limited in the quality it allows, and videos will often look nicer when in a square format (though not required).  If you want your final video to be in this square format, I would suggest changing your sequence size to a square, or to always keep in mind where it will be cropped in your final product.

You will also want to add some music if the video does not have any audio.  In order to do this without breaking any copyright infringements, you can use some free audio sources online, or pay for a royalty free music account. SoundCloud has a lot of free music options designed by the community, you just need to filter your search results to say “To use commercially” instead of “To listen to.”

Exporting your Footage

As we mention below, Instagram maxes its video upload size to 640 x 640.  So while you shot your footage at 1080p or 4K, you will be exporting in standard definition.  You need to make sure that you are exporting this footage at this smaller standard definition video size and not let Instagram do the compressing, because their video compression software does not take the care that your editing program will.

For a minute long video you will not want your file size to be much larger than 20mb, so when you are ready to export everything, there are a few tweak you need to do. You will choose “H.264” as the Format, and “Custom” as the preset.  In the “Video” tab, as shown in the example to the right, you will need to reduce the profile from “High” to “Main”, and the level down to “3.1” if you are keeping the video in wide screen, and “4.1” if you are turning it into a square.  This will automatically drop your width and height settings, so you will want to wait until tweaking your Level before playing with the sizing options.

Once that is set you can go and tweak the width and height of your video.  If you would like to keep your video as wide screen, you will choose the ratio as 640 x 360, as shown in the example in the right.  It is slightly shocking, but in 2017 this is the highest definition that Instagram will allow for a wide screen video. If exporting as a square, you will want to choose 640 x 640 (which is why you need to choose “4.1” as the level instead of “3.1”).  This will of course crop the sides off of your video if you haven’t already done so in your sequence settings.  These are Instagram’s maximum dimensions that it will display.

The final thing you will need to tweak in your video tab is your Bitrate. You will want to take down your target Bitrate to about 3, and your maximum Bitrate to about 4.  This is much lower than you are likely used to, but since this is a standard definition video, it is right around where you should be.  This should reduce a minute long video to around 20MB, and be ideal for Instagram’s settings.  You can also reduce your Frame Rate to 23.976, or keep at what your footage was originally shot at.

Remember that the example to the right is being kept wide screen because it would crop out some things we want to show.

In the audio tab you will want to reduce the sample rate to 44100Hz, channel to Mono, and Bitrate to 160kbps.  Make sure you have the “Use Maximum Render Quality” box checked, and you can then save the preset for future video exports.  This is important so you don’t have to go through this process for every video you export.

The final file size after doing all of the above for the 1 minute video example we are showing is only 22MB.  This is a perfect size for an Instagram video of this length.

Instagram Highest Quality Settings

Resolution: 640 x 640 (Square)  640 x 360 (Widescreen)

Maximum Frame Rate: 30fps

Maximum Video Length: 1 minute

Maximum File Size: 30MB

Preferred File Type: .mp4

Supported Video Codecs: H.264, VP8

Supported Audio Codecs: AAC, Vorbis

Audio: Stereo AAC audio compression, 128kbps + preferred

Saving to your Phone

Unfortunately, unless you are using a paid third party program, you will need to upload all videos to your Instagram account via your phone. This means that you will now have to get your recently saved video onto your phone’s storage. There are a couple methods to achieving this.

You could use Dropbox or Google Drive in order to transfer everything over. This would just require you having the Dropbox or Google Drive app installed on your phone. Upload your recently saved video from your computer, and then find the file on your phone and download it to your device. It is now ready to post.

Since your file should be under 25mb, you can also just email the video to yourself via an attachment.  Once emailed to yourself, you can then download the video by checking your email on your phone.

Posting to Instagram

Now that the edited, exported video is saved to your phone, you are ready to post to Instagram.  Assuming you took the proper steps involved in exporting your footage, Instagram should not do any compressing on your video quality.  This is why your video will be in much higher quality than if you had just exported in high def, and let Instagram do the compressing.

You will want to follow the normal steps involved with posting to Instagram – but you will likely want to avoid any filters on your high quality video.  Include as many relevant hastags to your post as possible, and post it for the world to see!

Example

Below is an example posted to our Instagram account @ModernAlchemy. It has the exact settings shown above and is exactly what is shown on Instagram.  This may be lower quality than you are used to on your large computer screen, but it is as high definition as you can get on Instagram.

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