On June 20th, Instagram announced a brand new viewing platform dedicated to video, called IGTV. Offering a run time increased from 60 seconds to one hour, a bespoke app for all your video content and more besides, IGTV is the latest move by a social media channel to embrace the unique storytelling capacity of video. But the implications on content marketing is far more widespread than it first appears.
As someone who has spent the majority of the last twenty years watching video evolve from clunky, tape-based camcorders the size of a small house to an afterthought feature on a stills camera through to the re-emergence of video as a ubiquitous entertainment format whether you’re at home or on the bus, this latest move gives me cause for both concern and excitement.
After seeing the popularity of home video peak and trough with every new technological advancement, most of which bringing renewed convenience and ease, I welcome IGTV with open arms.
Just like the Wachowskis using bullet time in the Matrix, or Martin Scorsese making a long, single-take steadicam sequence in Goodfellas, the film community must innovate to stay relevant. And IGTV gives everyone with a mobile phone the chance to bring something new to the table.
And, as shown by Les Twins in conjunction with Bacardi, there are interactive options to crowd source opinions unlike any other video hosting platform currently available. By allowing the audience to make decisions on the locations, shot selection and general content everyone who participated felt involved, and the result gained widespread media coverage, all thanks to a sideways swipe.
So hurrah for that, and hurrah for IGTV.
So far, details are scarce as far as ads are concerned, so the platform still raises some questions from the content marketing angle. We rely on targeting and sponsoring our posts, using the myriad of social media channels, to find the right audience to promote our clients. I’m not expecting a radical approach, but knowing that there are no channels per se, rather users to follow, means the early logistics of supplying and promoting content is already different. Not scary, not bad, just different. Watch this space.
Putting the maximum runtime up to one hour may seem radical, but live feeds from Instagram have had a maximum limit of an hour since launch. So why make such a song and dance about the ability to make pre-made videos an hour long? There are plenty of rumours related to premium content, following the likes of Netflix, Youtube and Amazon in providing series and movies only available on their platform. Beyond that, we wander into the murky world of the ‘perfect run time’.
I asked one of my colleagues in the Insight and Planning department, Becky, to have a look into what the recommendations. It’s something of a catch 22 situation, trying to fit a decent narrative into slowly dwindling run times, as the majority of metrics show viewership drops off a cliff after a few minutes. But is this really the case? If we only listen to metrics, narratives will suddenly need to be wedged into arbitrary run times, and fantastic content will be discarded, all due to the collated viewing habits of hundreds of millions of views.
So what’s the solution?
If the story is worth telling, and happens to venture north of the ‘recommended’ 3 minute run time, what’s not to say the viewer won’t stick around? If you’re struggling to trim out great content, why cut it? A recent project resulted in a 5 minute video, but every person involved was at pains to cut anything. So we didn’t. If nothing else, a longer run time allows for greater versatility, but content is still king.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. Vertical framing. Every TV and cinema is wider than it is tall for a number of very, very good reasons.
Video was first created to track movement, in 1878, by Eadweard Muybridge. Following the lateral movement of a horse, he took a series of stills from cameras positioned along a racecourse to show each movement. Trying to perceive movement in any other way is confusing to the eye, as depth perception is compromised by the 2D viewing format. Instead of distance being covered in an obvious manner, an object travelling up or down simply gets bigger or smaller. It’s how Lord of the Rings could make Gandalf look far bigger than Frodo, when in fact he was just further away.
Vertical framing is very, very different.
Vertical framing makes it more difficult to capture lateral movement, as there’s less frame for the subject to move into. Just watch someone try and follow the erratic movement of a family cat in a Skype video, without throwing up, and you’ll see what I mean.
A vertical frame is better for portraits. I’m a photographer too (own horn, tooted), so I appreciate that people are mostly longer than they are wide, so fill a frame better in a vertical fashion. That’s why it’s called portrait framing in photography.
Yes, we could crop a traditional video to fill the frame. We can even track within that frame if something is moving. But if you don’t create something for an intended purpose, it’s far harder to make it fit afterward. Just ask a designer trying to make a square company logo fit every magazine and online ad. But do it out of punching range.
So don’t ask your video editor to suddenly recrop a video to suit IGTV. But do ask your director to bear it in mind and, even better, get your presenter or interviewee to record a behind-the-scenes piece or diary video on their phone. As with every new method of viewing, sharing or interacting with content, context and intention must be considered.
Don’t spend ages shooting a video for IGTV if you don’t know why you’re shooting it. Know where it’s going, what it needs to do and how the success of it will be measured. Brief the people involved. And try something different.
See it as an opportunity to rethink and go on the attack. Make this new platform work for your content, and let your approach be as new and radical as these evolutions allow.
Video Production Manager