IGTV Best Practices – Making the Most of the IGTV Platform

In my guide to IGTV I discussed some of the big picture things to get used to if you're going to be delving into the platform. In this article though I wanted to drill down on what I'm seeing develop in terms of IGTV best practice. We'll cover both the do's and the don'ts of IGTV.

Best Practices for Whom?

IGTV best practices are going to differ between different types of people. Obviously this website is focused on professionals who want to develop their digital marketing skills, but I appreciate that's not the only people reading this.

There are going to be 3 main types of people I think:

  1. People who will just post whatever they feel like and don't care about best practices anyway;
  2. People who are making business style videos and want to “up their game” a bit, but don't want to become Hollywood film producers in the meantime; and
  3. People who make videos of some kind for a living.

My theory is that the 1st category won't be reading this, and the 3rd category don't need my input.

So we'll focus on group 2 – people who just want to up their game a bit.

The IGTV Best Practices Workflow

In a nutshell, we're going to work through these steps with my suggestions along the way:

  1. Concept and Story
  2. Recording and Execution
  3. Editing and Post-Production
  4. Uploading

In each case I'm not going to recommend things that are simply unattainable for most people (eg – “next just ensure that you upload your purpose made LUTS to your HD screen while you record in LOG to ensure that your Arri Alexa is able to capture the most cinematic footage).

However, I am going to suggest a few things that might stretch your comfort zone.

Concept and Story for IGTV

As I write this, we (that is – I and everyone else) are still figuring out what kind of platform IGTV will be. Will it be cinematic? Story based? Entertaining? How-To?

While I have a great love of producing how-to and talking head videos, my guess is that we're going to see a few main types of content posted to IGTV:

  • attractive people doing pretty much anything they feel like and being applauded for it by their adoring fans;
  • people using IGTV much the same as instagram stories – just longer;
  • creative types making entertaining IGTV specific films.

For many people, most of what they post is going to be “talking head” style videos – essentially you have a message you want to share, and you share it over the space of a few minutes. The question is usually how you can do that in an entertaining way without going over the top.

Here are my suggestions:

  • have a core story you want to share and some points to make about it;
  • don't deviate too far from the story in terms of filler content – people don't love you so much that they want to hear what you had for breakfast before you get into the real part of the show;
  • give it a defined start, middle and finish – don't just drift off without some kind of conclusion or point; and
  • for business, make sure your story is relevant to your people – why should they care what you have to say? What parts of the story can they connect with? How are you engaging with them on a human level?

Ultimately I'd suggest keeping most videos under 5 minutes unless you've got a really good reason to do so.  While I don't believe in catering to diminishing attention spans, the truth is that most refined points can be made inside 5 minutes pretty comprehensively, and if you're doing a “talking head” then 5 minutes is actually quite a long time.

Recording and Execution for IGTV Video

Here is where I'm going to make some observations or suggestions that people might disagree with. I'm OK with that 🙂

If You're Recording on Your Phone

Recording on your phone is the easiest way to go because phones record in portrait with less stuffing around than other cameras. And if all you have is a phone, then you don't really have any options anyway. However if you're going down the phone path, appreciate a few things:

  • stabilise your camera – I don't need to get motion sickness just because you decided to do a 10 minute video with your arm fully extended and were wobbling all over the place.  No phone's automatic video stablisation is going to help you there, because you're shaking like a leaf. Get a tripod if possible, or if you don't mind looking a little silly you can get a gimbal or a selfie stick to help keep your camera a bit more steady.
  • audio matters – to go with the first point, the further your phone gets away from your face the worse you will sound.  If you're indoors this means a tonne of echo, and if you're outdoors that means there will be lots of interference. You can improve your audio with plenty of external microphones for your phone, or otherwise ensure that you're in a quiet space with the microphone as close to your mouth as possible.
  • your face will take up most of the shot. If you're going to record yourself talking and you're using a phone in portrait mode, the chances are that your face is going to fill up most of the screen of the viewer. You might or might not be OK with that.

If You're Recording on a DSLR or Other Higher End Camera

This is where things get interesting, because as your tech stack grows you're going to have a lot more flexibility… if you feel like carrying the gear around with you. Here are my tips for recording IGTV videos on a slightly more professional setup:

  • unlike most video setups, a ballhead tripod is going to be better than a fluid head for this. Mostly this is because you have to tip your camera on its side to get the portrait mode. While it's possible with a fluid head tripod it's actually a bit annoying to adjust the plate correctly and avoid your camera tipping over due to the weird weight distribution (depending on which lense you are using).
  • use a wide lense. This will let you get around the problem of your face filling up the screen, and offer you a bit more creative flexibility if you want it – you can fit more in the shot without having to set up your camera 100m away.
  • if you don't mind doing some colour correction during the editing process, use a flat picture profile (eg – neutral or log, depending on your camera options). This isn't necessary but will give you more options in post-production.
  • connect a wireless lav mic. although you could use a shotgun mic like the Rode VideoMic Pro+, I've found a lav mic is just a bit more versatile for the kind of footage you're likely to be recording for IGTV. Plus if you want to move away from the camera or turn to point at something, the lavalier audio won't get as stuffed up.

Of course the downside to DSLR recording is that… [drum roll please]… you need to carry a DSLR around with you, together with whatever other stuff you connect to it.

For a lot of people this will be overkill.

Videography 101 for New IGTVers

Without wanting to give you a full lesson in making films (largely because I don't know how to), here are a few simple tips to help you on IGTV:

  • listen for background noise – lots of folks I'm seeing clearly aren't aware of the massive amounts of background noise going on. Sure, a little is probably fine but try and record where there's relative peace and quiet unless the noise is part of your story.  An easy check before you record is to stay quiet and see how much your audio levels are ticking away just from the background noise – anything more than a tiny bit and you should move.
  • protect your highlights – your “highlights” are the brightest parts of your video, and if these are overexposed (that is – too bright) you will never ever ever get that information back when you edit. To avoid this, try to record without harsh direct sunlight right in front of or behind you.  Having a window to your side can look nice (but not behind you) or in a slightly shaded daylight spot.
  • go slower – although I accept I'm not the most exciting person in the world, there's no need to be constantly moving just because it's IGTV. Slow down.  In particular watch the panning (sideways movement) because in portrait panning will look a lot faster due to the narrower width of the screen and the scene will skate by very quickly. Similarly, it's not mandatory to move location in between every step of a 5 step video.  Just because you've seen some awesome youtube videos with 397 jump cuts in them doesn't mean you have to do it too. Again – if it advances your story then that's great. If not, consider whether it's really helping the quality of your video.
  • b-roll needs to advance the story. If you're going to take b-roll (that is – scenes without you in them of other things happening) then ideally they should be connected to your concept and your story somehow – not just randomly thrown in there because you happened to see a snake eating a deer while you were talking about state taxes (although you could probably connect those two if you tried hard enough).

Try those for starters until you find your flow. Basically just slow down a little and think through your shots – are they connected to your concept and to each other, is the lighting OK so you don't look like a creature from space, and are you mindful of what's going on around you?

Editing and Post-Production

This is where the vast majority of IGTV producers probably aren't doing much, but a few simple steps will help you create much better IGTV videos.

There are three parts to this process:

  1. clips and story;
  2. audio and sound design;
  3. finishing touches and colour.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm the greatest video editor ever to exist – I'm not. But here are a few things you might want to consider along the way.

Clips and Story

Hopefully you planned your story before getting started. Here's where you put it together with smart, efficient editing.

Some clip tips:

  • keep it tight – cut those clips together with a minimum of fluff;
  • check that your clips tell the story you wanted – if not, re-order;
  • don't be afraid to remove entire sections that don't make sense any more;
  • make your opening clip something attention grabbing or likely to keep people watching (confession: I'm not good at this)

Basically ensure you're using the tools to tell your story. If it's not advancing your story, then cut it out.

Audio

First a little cleanup goes a long way.  Depending on your editing software, a simple noise reduction can make a dramatic difference to the quality of your voice audio – but it can also make you sound like a robot if you do it wrong.  If at all possible: remove noise.

With music, just because you CAN add a music track, doesn't mean you should. If you're going to pick some music, at least try and make it vaguely connected to what you're doing.  Selecting good music and editing your story to align with it is actually really time consuming, so if you don't want to invest the time my suggestion is just to leave the music out completely.

Finally, just because you're talking doesn't mean you need to be in shot – don't be afraid to advance the story with your voice will advancing it with your b-roll at the same time. This can keep people a bit more engaged and make things more interesting.

Polish

This is where you make your IGTV video publishable. Basically:

  • add a title of some kind. Personally I'm not a fan of branded opening sequences that go for more than about 3 seconds – they are boring, and I get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. Because of this view, I usually add a few words as a title page in the opening few seconds of the video, but I'm moving the story ahead at the same time;
  • check your consistency – if you're moving around from bright to dark to bright to dark and your phone's automatic settings are constantly mucking around with your colour and lighting, then try to tweak things so that the transitions are less abrupt (unless you're making it abrupt on purpose) and your colours and looks remain consistent through your video
  • clip transitions – personally I think less it more when it comes to transitions. The glitzy, swipey, flippy transitions should be used sparingly unless you want to give your viewers vertigo.  Clean, simple transitions are normally the best.  A simple fade or jump cut is often your best solution for most business related IGTV video.
  • colour grading – if you've shot flat or log footage, then you'll need to add some colour back.  Again, consistency is useful here, so try and give your video a similar look and feel. On basic editing software your options will be limited, so just pick one that looks the least weird and don't forget to apply it to all of your clips.  On Premiere Pro or Final Cut you might have options like LUTS or film grain which can be useful to give your video a nice cinematic feel if that's what you're aiming for.

Uploading

Export your final video in a vertical aspect ratio, and if you're comfortable with large file sizes then 1080p is probably the way to go, with a nice bitrate of around 10-15MBps. If you're working purely on your phone this is going to burn through your storage space pretty fast, so I suggest you add in a regular process to remove the clips from your phone and put them somewhere else.

I see absolutely no point in rendering 4K videos for IGTV at this point – the vast majority of people are on their phones, and the chances they could even tell the difference are extremely low.

The next part is pretty easy – head over to IGTV and upload. But before you do…

  • if you upload on your phone you'll have a choice to select a custom thumbnail – use that!
  • if you're uploading on desktop you DON'T have a choice to select a custom thumbnail, so you might want to make one separately that you can upload

Don't forget that you can put links in your IGTV descriptions – a powerful aspect that's worth paying attention to and using where you can.

Over to You!

This article got really long, and while I could make it even longer with a tutorial on every single aspect of video creation, I think this gives most people enough to be getting on with.

If you scrolled to the bottom then I just have one tip: consider your viewers at every step, and make a video with them in mind.

Got any more tips and hints for IGTV best practices? Let us know in the comments!

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