How To's

How to Post a Video on Instagram

This post is a little more for the other professionals out there, but if you have any kind of business this could come in handy. (Sidenote – if you’re not using video to promote your business yet, you’re missing out on valuable SEO and social media engagement.  Contact us to talk about making your brand film happen!)

In case you missed it, the recent Instagram updates included some BIG changes to video.  Previously, you could post up to 15 seconds of video.  Now, you have up to 60 seconds, and Instagram tracks views on videos (in addition to likes and comments).  The ‘why’ part is pretty easy – video captures engagement.  Scroll down your Facebook feed and count how many of the first 20 posts are video.  How many of them are reshares of video?  My percentage is pretty high.  Then check out the engagement on those videos.  Instagram knows that video gets engagement, and they want to be able to prove that so they can sell that.

You may have already figured that out too.  Maybe you paid for a really great brand video short last year, and you’d love to post it to Instagram.  Maybe you’re also producing video content and you’d like to figure out how to get your piece from your computer onto Instagram. We’re going to share our workflow with you.

How do you get a video from your computer onto Instagram, and still have it look good?

Our preferred editing platform is Final Cut Pro X, so that’s where we’re going to start.  If you edit in another platform, jump down past the pic for the second step of this tutorial.

Step 1:  Editing and exporting your video.

You have a few choices to make in the editing of your video.  Currently (as of spring 2016) 8k, 4k…none of that does any good on IG.  1080 is the highest they use, and it’s scaled down  However, if you’re going to use this clip on another platform (on your own website, FB, or uploading to YouTube or Vimeo) edit it as you usually would, with the highest resolution you can.  We’ll convert it for Instagram later.

You also have a decision to make regarding the crop.  You can post 16×9 in Instagram.  But, any wide frame format WILL be cropped to the IG square in search modes.  This is how you hope to have new clients find you, by showing up as a top search on a hashtag or in their suggested media window.  You may decide that the crop doesn’t bother you, but it bothers me, so I letterbox everything. I want my feed to look consistent, so anything that isn’t 16×9 is edited to 16×9 on a white square background.  You can also decide to edit your video square.  We prefer to compose our shots in camera, but you do what you want with this.  If you’re going to post your original file, edit as you usually would (be sure you’re under 60 seconds) and File > Share > Master File (we use Apple ProRes 422, knowing that we’re going to compress again before uploading anywhere).

If you are going to edit as a square (letterbox or otherwise) start your project as such.  File>New Project> Change your Format to Custom, set it to square (1080×1080, 720×720, etc).

Edit your project. (Note: sometimes, I just take a snip from an existing complete project to use for this.  That’s part of the reason it’s nice to have all our finished projects as a ProRes file; best quality for reuse).  Be sure you use legally licensed music.

If you are going to letterbox, create your film as you usually would.  The default is for your clips to fit fully within the screen, so there will be blank space at the top and bottoms.  Once you’re happy with your film, open the Generators menu (it’s the film countdown box with the little number 2 between Themes and Titles).  Scroll to find a custom generator, and drag it under your film.  Stretch or shrink it to fit the film exactly. Open the Inspector and click on your generator to change the color.  You can also create your own custom image (with your logo or company name in the space) and place that under your film instead of a generator.

If you are not going to letterbox and just want to create a square film, you will want to adjust the video settings in the Inspector to Fill (instead of Fit), or manually adjust each shot to fill the frame.  Then export as previously described.

Here are a few samples from our feed.  This is what it looks like with the letterbox.  This is also how your videos will appear in searches and hashtag listings.

Instagram Shadowbox Feed

This is what our feed looked like before.  You can see how the first video in the second row is cropped in this view.

FCPX to Instagram        FCPX to Instagram

Step 2: Convert

We use Adobe Media Encoder to convert our ProRes files to whichever final format is needed.

In addition to controlling the compression on your own, this is also going to get your file small enough for Instagram.  I haven’t found any hard and fast guidelines on what works for the new 60 second videos, but these guidelines on creating a 60 second ad are what I’m going by.  Be sure to check them out if you film faster than 30fps, or are having problems getting a video to upload.

The Media Encoder comes with tons of presets.  As of last update, it did not have a preset for Instagram, so we created a Custom one and saved it.  When you open Media Encoder, click the little + upper left of the Preset Browser window.  I think we based ours off of the Vimeo 1080p HD preset.  Give your Preset a name (we did one for 720 Instagram, one for 1080).

Basic Video Settings:
Height: 1080 (or 720)
Width: 1080 (or 720)


Media Encoder for Instagram Settings

Details for those who need them:

Video Settings:

Media Encoder for Instagram Settings Media Encoder for Instagram Settings

Audio Settings:

Media Encoder for Instagram Settings


Media Encoder for Instagram Settings

Make sure you’ve selected your new preset on the dropdown next to your video and convert.

Step 3.  Get it on Instagram.

Seriously, this is the hardest part of the process.  You’d think if Instagram wants video so bad, they’d make it easy for us to upload it, but as of now, it is not.  You must somehow get your video to your mobile device (which must have enough free memory to temporarily host your video, which really sucks if you upgraded your iPhone before you started posting video on IG and were like “Nah, I’ll take the 16gb.  What do I need all that extra memory for?”  You need it for video.)

You have a few options.  You can email yourself the video, you can put it in Dropbox and get the Dropbox App, you can airdrop it to yourself, or you can use my favorite, Hootsuite.  I had mixed results with all the other methods, but Hootsuite hasn’t let me down yet.

Caption it, hashtag it, then go have a drink.  You’ve earned it.

This is just one way to make it happen.  If you’ve found a way that works better for you, be sure to share it in the comments for others!

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