Uploading video from Avid to Instagram

The image of two large diamonds floating on a disc with a women's hand about to pick them up
Comparing a full sized video raster with that of an Instagram raster

Video for social networks

Many of the social networking sites have the option for users to upload video content to their site profile and allows users to share a personal video that has just filmed, for example with a mobile phone. It is also possible to produce, film and edit specific video content relevant for each different network and this requires some extra thought. Social Networking sites offer a new way to help promote goods and services and many offer enhanced advertising opportunities like Facebook and Twitter for example. You may want to use just one or a range of different sites to promote a product, service or particular event. As well as researching the audience and considering the way your video or advert would look on each different site you also need to produce the film and edit the video. Once the content has been created and edited on your edit system you need to look at how to get it uploaded to the sites in question.

Instagram specifications

Some sites have quite unique specifications or requirements for their hosted video content. One of the more unusual sets of specification is Instagram. Their specification for video uploads is recommended codec H.264. 640 x 640pixelss. Video duration 3 to 15 seconds. There is a maximum file size to consider

Of course, there will be many different ways to upload your content. I am going to explain a way that worked for me using Avid Media Composer as that is the editing software I use. I’m also going to explain the process for uploading to Instagram which is perhaps the most complicated of all the social networks that I have explored to date.

Resizing the raster size of edited video

The edited footage that I want to upload to Instagram is 16:9 aspect ratio with a 1920 x 1080 pixel raster size. I need to fit as much of the whole image as I can into the 640×640 pixels that Instagram allows. To help with this I first created a 640 x 640 white box in the centre of a 1920×1080 black filled raster in Photoshop. I then created an alpha channel of the white box and exported the file as a .tiff file.

In Avid I then imported this Instagram cut out graphic and edited it over the current edited vision layers. Using a key effect I could then see the video underneath. By adding a resize effect on the edited clips below I could then resize each clip so that as much of the video would fit into the 640 x 640 shape. Once the clips in the sequence have been re-sized make a copy of the sequence and then remove the Instagram cut out graphic on the new sequence. I then export this sequence from Avid Media Composer.

Optimising video compression

To export and compress the video I selected the sequence in the bin, then went to the top file menu and selected export. Go to options and select export as QuickTime Movie, then custom and format options. Select H.264 and 25 fps. You might want to experiment with what data rate works for your video. I have experimented with different data rates and found that I could still upload a 15-second video at a high rate of 20000  /sec. Of course, you could use a lower rate (say 5000kbits/sec) depending on the complexity of the video image. By doing several tests at different bit rates you will be able to if any compression artefacts are present and what your optimum bit rate is. A larger file will take longer to upload but with only 15 seconds duration it’s never going to take ages. Consider what audio settings you want should you have audio with the video. In the video format option I set the scaling to 640 x 640 and highlighted crop pad. Colour levels should be RGB. After export with this specification, you should have a 640×640 video of your timeline sequence.

Uploading video to Instagram

I found that to upload a video to Instagram I needed to move it onto my phone first. To get the video onto my iPhone 4 I first uploaded it to Dropbox on my mac desktop. After it had uploaded I then launched the app on my iPhone and downloaded the 640 x 640 video via Dropbox onto my iPhone. To upload the video to Instagram select the video that should now be on your phone camera roll. From experimenting with different uploads I did find on my iPhone 4 that any video file over 50MB would fail. I did succeed in uploading a 34.7MB file. You may want to keep the file size as low as possible to enable quicker uploads.

Different social networking sites

From an editors perspective, Instagram is one of the more complex social media sites to upload to given its precise raster size and limitations on duration, codec and file size. These same principles listed above can be applied to different editing systems or used to upload to different social media sites. On most sites, it’s far easier to upload video as you can export longer films, widely used raster sizes and more file types. The main criteria seem to be ensuring that the video clips stay under site-specific file sizes. A good free video compressor is MPEG Streamclip which is available to download from https://www.squared5.com/

Article updated October 2015 – Instagram 16:9 raster support

Instagram has announced it is now supporting 16:9 videos so you don’t now have to crop the raster as mentioned above. I’ve spent a few hours now exploring how to upload a 16:9 video. I succeeded by using the UP (iOS version) video uploading application. It took many attempts and I was only successful after I reduced the file size (15 seconds of video) down to 9.9MB (I wonder if there is a 10MB file limit). Although the original video media was 1920 x 1080 I had to reduce the raster size and then also the bit rate down to 5000Kbps. People with the latest version of iOS can upload 16:9 video directly from their phones. If you need any help with your social media video production please do get in touch.

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Julian Langham

Julian started his career in media in 1994; shortly after Julian was invited to join the BBC where he was quickly promoted to Editor. Julian left the BBC to develop his freelance career in 2009. Highly-practised and skilled in constructing engaging narratives, Julian’s key strength is his ability to produce strong visually-led stories. In his work, Julian shares his passion for creating powerful synergies between story content, visual rhythm and music.