A Guide To Video Aspect Ratios

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Video aspect ratios change depending on the platform or screen where the video is presented. Understanding the differences in aspect ratios and how to adapt to these changes, is essential to achieving perfect visual appeal on all platforms.

If you want to learn about video aspect ratios and how to apply them to different social media platforms, this article is for you. This guide explains what a video aspect ratio is, lists common video aspect ratios, and includes suggested aspect ratios for videos on different social media platforms.

So, let’s get started.

What is video aspect ratio?

The video aspect ratio describes the relationship between its width and height on a screen. It determines the proportions necessary to ensure optimal visual rendering for a specific device or social platform.
The dimensions are usually expressed in the form of Width:Height. For example, if a video aspect ratio is 16:9, 16 refers to its width and 9 to its height. Also, if a video with the exact dimensions (16:9) were to be presented vertically, then the aspect ratio would be turned to 9:16. Here again, 9 still refers to the width and 16 to the height.

Common aspect ratios and their uses

There is no single video aspect ratio you can use on all platforms. Platforms process and render videos differently. So there are many aspect ratios you may encounter when trying to find the best one for your target social media platform. Understand that all video aspect ratios are significant; it’s the context that makes them great or poor.

The aspect ratio you choose should ensure a good viewing experience on your target platform. Here are some common aspect ratios you can use for your social media videos and other video creation purposes.

16:9 – Widescreen

Youtube screenshot of smart phone

The 16:9 aspect ratio is recognized as the global reference format for television, film, mobile devices, DSLRs, (most) camcorders, major online streaming platforms, and of course, social media platforms.

It may strike you as the go‑to aspect ratio for a good reason. It is considered the right aspect ratio for any landscape viewing. Some of the best possible resolutions for a 16:9 aspect ratio are 720P, 1080P, and 4K ultra‑HD (UHD).

1:1 – Square

Youtube screenshot of tree branch

The 1:1 aspect ratio was originally used on square television screens. Today, it is a perfect ratio for square video on larger screens. This ratio is ideal for social media in‑feed videos.

Think about Facebook and Instagram feed videos. It displays videos in square boxes and leaves enough room at the top and bottom of the screen for written (generally related) content, especially on mobile devices.

4:3 – Standard

Youtube screenshot of city

This aspect ratio is a little wider than the 1:1 square. For much of the 80s and 90s, the 4:3 aspect ratio was considered the standard for many movies and television shows. Most films were shot in this format, and it offered extensive visual experiences. But this trend only continued until the digital age and the birth of HDTVs.

The introduction of HDTVs encouraged the use of aspect ratios such as 16:10 and 16:9 and made 4:3 obsolete. Today, it is mainly used for SDTV and computer video display. You will also find this aspect ratio on larger mobile devices such as the Apple iPad series.

3:2 – Classic 35 mm

Youtube screenshot of city port

The 3:2 format is specifically designed for film shooting and used for classic 35mm photography. It is most commonly used in the photography and film industry for digital SLR (single‑lens reflex), mirrorless, and compact cameras.

Although it continues to be used on some laptops, tablets, and portable gaming consoles, it is rarely used by broadcasters today.

21:9 – Cinematic Widescreen

Youtube screenshot of car race

The 21:9 ratio is designed for shooting ultra‑wide screen films that create a theater‑like feel. It is used to display movies recorded in TheaterScope and contemporary anamorphic formats. You’ll find this aspect ratio used in high‑dimensional screens such as special theaters, amusement parks, etc.

Interestingly, it provides a similar feel on ultra‑wide computer monitors. It allows the video to be displayed across the entire monitor, creating a perfect cinema‑like viewing experience. Also, the 21:9 aspect ratio is used to create 360‑degree videos. They are designed to provide deeper and broader viewing experiences.

9:16 – Vertical

Youtube screenshot of indoor space

The 9:16 aspect ratio has become mainstream following the creation of smartphones with video functionalities. This aspect ratio allows for the vertical display of videos on phones. In other words, it allows playing videos while still holding the phone in the upright position. It’s the perfect flip of a 16:9 video and works great on all phone apps and social media platforms.

How does video resolution relate to the aspect ratio?

While some aspect ratios may appear to work with every video platform, it doesn’t mean you would use them everywhere. The aspect ratio you choose should serve your video’s overall feel on the screen so you should consider the resolution before choosing the aspect ratio. Why?

The video resolution is related to its sharpness, and the aspect ratio is associated with video proportions. If you use a wider aspect ratio to stretch the video, it will alter the pixels displayed on the screen, aka the resolution.

You can’t simply make the video larger by changing its aspect ratio. You must first ensure that your shooting resolution supports the aspect ratio you want. This means you must first shoot your video on the appropriate resolution before you can apply an aspect ratio without affecting its sharpness.

We recommend the following resolutions for the aspect ratios listed above:

  • 1920 x 1080 pixels = 16:9
  • 1080 x 1920 pixels = 9:16
  • 1080 x 1080 pixels = 1:1
  • 1024 x 768 pixels = 4:3
  • 1080 x 720 pixels = 3:2
  • 2560 x 1080 pixels = 21:9

Social media video aspect ratios

On social networks, the visual aspect of your publications is crucial. A poor choice of aspect ratio could mean the difference between attracting and engaging a large viewership and being completely ignored.

The video aspect ratio varies according to each social media platform. Each platform has its rules. You need to follow them to create the best videos for your audience. Here are our tips for designing the best videos for your publications on social networks.

Facebook

Facebook is one of the best destinations for video content on the web. Here is a breakdown of the best aspect ratio recommendation for Facebook. They consider the platform’s many video displays.

  • 9:16 for Facebook live videos 
  • 1:1 or 4:3 for Facebook feed videos
  • 9:16 for Facebook stories
  • 16:9 for in‑stream ads on Facebook
  • 9:16 for audience network on Facebook

Instagram

Instagram is the sister platform of Facebook. Here are the recommended aspect ratios to ensure the visual quality of the video content you post is top‑notch. 

  • 1:1 or 4:3 for Instagram feed videos 
  • 9:16 for Instagram stories
  • 4:3 for in‑feed ads on Instagram
  • 9:16 for Instagram Stories ads
  • 9:16 for Instagram Reels
  • 9:16 for IGTV
  • 9:16 for Instagram Live videos

YouTube

YouTube is undoubtedly the leading platform in the video industry. Here are the ratio aspects you should use on YouTube to give your videos a professional look and ensure good engagement.

  •  16:9 for all videos on YouTube
  •  9:16 for YouTube Shorts videos
  •  16:9 for YouTube Live

LinkedIn

At its core, LinkedIn is not a video platform. However, most users of the platform enjoy short actionable videos. Here are the best aspect ratio recommendations for your LinkedIn videos.

  • 4:3 for LinkedIn feed videos
  •  1:1 for LinkedIn feed ad videos
  •  9:16 for LinkedIn stories

Twitter

Twitter is also a great place to post your marketing and branded videos. Here is how you need to go about the aspect ratios on the platform.

  • 1:1 for Twitter Ads videos
  • 16:9 for Twitter Live videos
  • 1:1 for LinkedIn feed ad videos
  • Use between the 1:1 and 16:9 aspect ratios for Twitter feed videos

TikTok

TikTok is the most popular video platform today. You need to ensure that you are on the right track by following the site’s requirements. Here are the recommended aspect ratios on TikTok.

  • 16:9 for your organic feed videos
  • Use any of the 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9 aspect ratios for ads
  • 16:9 for your live videos

How to change the aspect ratio of a video

It is not advisable to change the aspect ratio of your video after shooting. It can be done, but it has its drawbacks. With that in mind, there are two main ways to change the aspect ratio. You can either add black bars or crop them.

Cropping

Cropping video to reduce its aspect ratio will force you to remove people or objects from the frame. When your goal is to reduce the size of the video, you will be forced to choose the essential parts of the frame and lose the rest. 

Black bars

Adding black bars to change the aspect ratio of your video does not technically change the aspect ratio. It simply adds black bars to the video and adjusts it to the target shape. It is a better alternative to cropping because it keeps the video entirely. But there are still black bars, and it alters the viewing experience.

Important to know

If your video is not uploaded in a supported aspect ratio, your broadcast platform will automatically edit the video. It will either shrink the video to fit the aspect ratio set or crop it with black bars.

For example, YouTube recommends uploading videos in a 16:9 aspect ratio. If you upload a 1:1 or 4:3 aspect ratio video, the platform adds white padding around it to fit.

Wrap‑up

Keeping your videos in perfectly matched aspect ratios will ensure seamless playback and a convenient viewing experience. You can also be sure to create visually compelling content across all media without having to suffer unwanted cropping or loss of video quality.

Plus, viewers are used to seeing video content in a certain way. So if your video breaks with the consistency people are used to on a site, it can lead to abandonments.

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