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Square Videos & How To Make Them

Social media has changed the way video makers must plan, shoot, edit and upload videos. Not only should we be making more, but every video needs to work harder to catch the attention of our viewers. One way to do this is to fill as much available space in a news feed as possible.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Viewing windows are changing in size.

The traditional dimension of a video screen is rectangular in a horizontal aspect (aka 16:9), which is fine if your audience is viewing your content on a horizontal screen. The mobile revolution, however, means more content is being consumed on the go… and mostly with the phone held vertically. Expecting viewers to turn their device to fill the screen with your 16:9 video is a tall order.

Because of this, social media channels are changing the size and dimensions of their viewing windows to accommodate viewing habits. Apps such as Snapchat cater exclusively for vertical video (aka 9:16), and if you know that’s where your target audience spends most of their time, then vertical video is exactly what you should be making. We will dedicate more words to vertical video in another post. For the time being, the happy medium of video dimension is SQUARE (aka 1:1).

Instagram was the square pioneer, the advantage being that the mobile viewing experience is the same regardless of how you hold your device. Other channels such as Facebook have adapted the dimensions of their viewing window to accommodate square posts. This means more ‘real estate’ in the news feed, resulting in more eye-catching content.

How to make square videos with a rectangular device

Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

We recently made a series of videos for a garment printing company, using an iPad. They wanted to use their videos on their website and in their newsletters, which would be hosted on their YouTube channel. So we made their videos in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Whilst we were making their videos, we also shot a behind-the-scenes (BTS) video about how we made their videos. We knew we wanted to share this on YouTube and Facebook, so we needed to end up with a rectangular and a square video without having to shoot the video twice.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. We planned what content we wanted to capture and wrote a script using one of our own templates – what we call our Storyboards.

  2. We took an extra camera person and filming kit along to shoot the BTS video. We directed him to frame all the important action in the middle of the screen.

  3. We edited the rectangular video in an editing app as normal. The end result was a 16:9 video which we saved in our device’s gallery and uploaded to YouTube.

Then we downloaded a video cropping app, and from within the app we selected the BTS video, which opened in the app. Using the square (1:1) frame positioned in the middle of the rectangular video, we then cropped the video. This removed the left and right edges, leaving us with just the action in the centre as a perfect square. We then saved this version to the gallery and uploaded to Facebook.

Key Takeaways

If you know you want to upload your video to more than one channel, plan ahead so you don’t have to film and edit the video twice.

When shooting, frame all of the important action – such as people, objects, activities etc – in the MIDDLE of the screen.

Edit the footage as normal in a 16:9 editing app. If you want to add text, only add it to the centre and make sure it doesn’t creep into the areas you’ll be cropping off.

Save the 16:9 version and upload it to YouTube. Then crop the video square using a cropping app. We like Crop & Trim Video and Square Video for Android and Vont for iOS. There are other cropping apps available from the Play Store or App Store. Save the cropped video and upload it to Facebook/ Instagram.

Written by Ruth Duggal, Director & Trainer of Make Your Own Video Training Academy.

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