If you work on videos for Instagram reels, here is what you need to know about video formats, codes, aspect ratio. Also download a free crop and safe zone template for IG Reels.
In 2022 there are only two platforms that offer the experience of showing a feed of short videos: Tiktok and Instagram Reels. These two are the top downloaded Android and iOS mobile apps today. With this popularity of short videos, video creation for these two platforms became another hot thing. In this guide we will focus on Instagram Reels and cover everything a video creator should know about the video formats, video codes, aspect ratio, video bitrate for their next video for Instagram Reels.
What are Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels was a new feature that Instagram started offering its users after the rise of Tiktok’s vertical video platform in 2020. Reels became a new way to create engaging video content on Instagram. At the beginning Instagram would accept videos with the duration of 15 seconds. In 2022 you can upload videos running up to 60 seconds.
To upload videos to Reels, Instagram users can record and edit multi-clip videos with special effects, audio, and the other features available in the Reels video editor in your Instagram app.
After the video is ready, you can share it on the platform. Other Instagram users can find new Reels in the Explore space.
How Reels work
Reels is a simple-to-use video sharing feature on Instagram. In your Insta account you can select Reels and you will see a bunch of editing tools available to you (left side of the screen).
Here is what you are able to do in the video editor:
- Audio: Instagram has a large library of music that one can use in their video.
- AR Effects: Users can use effects available in the editor.
- Time & Countdown: This feature allows setting the timer for hands-free recording.
- Align: This tool helps line up objects from your previous clip before recording of your next video clip starts.
- Speed: This tool allows you to either speed up or slow down your video.
Here is how you can share videos on Reels. There are a couple of way to do that:
- Public account: You can share your video reel into Explore. You can also share the reel with your followers by posting to your Instagram feed.
- Private account: You should know that Reels follows your privacy settings on Instagram. If your account is set to private or if it has a limited access to your content, your reels will be only visible to those Instagram users.
Why should you create reels on Instagram?
Some users prefer using only Tiktok. Even if it’s easier to publish videos on one platform, Instagram offers a lot to consider it too. It is a massive social media platform with over 1 billion users worldwide. For commercial users, like companies, brands, celebrities, Reels is another gateway to increase exposure and get new following. Adding Instagram Reels to the marketing mix is a definite Yes.
Video format parameters for Instagram Reels
The majority of Instagram users use their smartphones to record footage for Reels. For more professional videos you may want to use an NLE (video editing software) like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple’s Final Cut Pro. If you use professional software to edit videos, you need to know the technical specs and limitations for Reels videos.
Let’s look at the video format, video codec, aspect ratio, resolution, frame rate, bitrate, video length applicable to Reels in 2022.
Video format for Reels videos
The video format is a file format for storing video data on your computer and smartphone. Check the video file’s extension to see the file’s format. MP4 is the most popular online video format. MOV, FLV, AVI are also popular formats for online videos.
MP4 is the best video format for Instagram Reels. MP4 is also the best format for other Instagram videos: Stories, IGTV.
Video and audio codecs for Reels videos
Codec is that software that compresses videos when you record them. When played, this same software decompresses the same videos. Codecs are needed to reduce video file size. The compressed video is stored using a file format. Here are the popular video codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, H.264, DivX.
Audio codec works in the same way for the audio used in the video. AAC is the most popular online audio codec today.
For your Reels videos, H.264 is the preferred video codec and AAC is the preferred audio codec.
Aspect ratio for Reels videos
Aspect ratio is the width of the video in relation to its height. Before the new digital age, 4:3 was a popular aspect ratio on TV sets. This means videos for those devices needed to be 4 units high and 3 units wide. Today you will see 16:9 as a more popular aspect ratio. It means that your video is 16 units high and 9 units wide.
For instance, a 4K video (3840 x 2160 pixel) has the aspect ratio of 16:9.3840 divided by 16 and 2160 by 9 give the same result (240).
The aspect ratio is related to the video resolution, but they measure different things. The aspect ratio measures the width and height. The resolution measures the count of pixels in the video.
Reels are designed to be viewed on your smartphone or vertically, full screen, on mobile devices. 9:16 is the preferred video aspect ratio for Reels.
Reels can be also shared on the Instagram Feed, but they will be cropped to 4:5 aspect ratio. This is important to know so that you budget for the crop zones. This is why we will have free crop and safe zone templates for you below.
Video resolution for Reels videos
Video resolution is the physical size of video frames. It counts the number of pixels in one frame. The same 4K video (full high definition) has 3840 pixels across the breadth and 2160 pixels along the height of the video.
So can you use 4K videos on Instagram Reels? Not yet. 1080 x 1920 is the optimal video resolution for Instagram Reels. It is the same video resolution you’d need to post videos on Instagram Stories.
You can always shoot video in 4K with the 3840 x 2160 resolution. When you upload the ready video to Instagram, the video will be compressed. The quality of the video will not suffer in the process. Make sure that your video is vertical before uploading to Instagram.
Video frame rate for Reels videos
Since video is a series of still images, these stills should appear on the screen with a certain frequency. This frequency is called “frame rate”. The frame rate is measured in frames per second or FPS. 24 FPS means 24 frames per second.
30 FPS is the optimal frame rate for Reels. In 2022 some smartphones like newer high-end Android phones can shoot footage above 30 FPS (like 60 FPS), target 30fps or below for your Reels videos.
Video bitrate for Reels videos
The bitrate is the amount of data encoded in a video per second. It is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). If the bitrate is higher, it means the quality of the video is higher and the file size is bigger.
If you export your video in Premiere Pro, the default bitrate will be set to 10 by default. Your 15-second HD video will be under 15Mb. If you increase your bitrate, your video file will be larger.
When you change your bitrate settings in the video software, you can either reduce or increase the size of your final video for Reels. Targeting the 4 Mbps bitrate will be optimal for Reels.
Video file size for Reels videos
Even though Instagram allows you to upload video files up to 4Gb, we don’t recommend uploading such large files. Go with the final video files of under 50 Mb.
Video length for Reels videos
The length of your video would ideally be between 15-30 seconds. But you can go all the way to 60 seconds in 2022.
Ideal video and audio settings for Reels
Here are your ideal video and audio settings for your next Reels video.
Optimal video settings
- Video format: MP4
- Video codec: H.264
- Video aspect ratio: 9:16
- Video resolution: 1080 x 1920
- Video frame rate: 30 FPS
- Video bitrate: 4 Mbps
- Video file size: under 50 Mb
- Video length: between 15-30 seconds
Optimal audio settings
- Audio codec: AAC
- Sample Rate: 44100 Hz
- Channels: Mono
- Bitrate: 160 kbps
5 Creative Tips for Your Next Reels Video
Here are several tips that you want to use in your next Reels video.
1. Set a goal for your video
Whether it’s a business video or an influencer piece, make sure the video has a goal. Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with the video or series of videos. Is it about growing your audience (focus on shares)? Is it about brand awareness (focus on messaging)? Is it about selling a product (focus on calls to action)?
2. First 3 seconds are important
Similar to Tik Tok, Instagram Reels offers a fast-paced environment. If your video is not engaging during the first 3 seconds, your viewer will keep scrolling past your video. So start your videos with something to spark the viewer’s attention.
3. Use text
If the video is muted, you want to include text so that viewers don’t miss your message. Don’t caption everything, but rather place your message strategically in the video.
Make your text colorful and dynamic.
4. Be creative with calls to action
If you call out to something in your video, make your call to action as simple and clear as possible. Again, Reels is a quick scrolling environment, so you want viewers to get the meaning of your call to action without thinking too much.
Be more creative than “see more” or “learn more”. These two phrases are so overused. Go with other active verbs like explore, discover, get started.
5. Test videos
Testing is always a good idea. Use the same video with different messaging, different calls to action, different sharing settings to see which works best for the overall exposure.
Free crop and safe zone template for Reels
Our friends at FilmBodega have a free and safe zone template that you can use in your video edits for Reels. This template helps visualize the automatic crop zones on Reels and Tiktok so that you fix that all in edit. Download this free template here.
The above video and audio settings can help you create technically perfect videos ready to publish on Reels. The free crop and safe zone template helps you create a seamless experience of publishing Reels videos across the Instagram feeds and stories. Create more videos without the hassles of Instagram’s rejections.
Need free assets for your next Instagram Reels video? Check out these useful resources and collections of video and audio elements: