Shooting Vertical Videos for an Instagram Series with Top Brazilian Creatives

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Creativity is being reframed. Directors, DPs and camera operators, ever since they were old enough to hold a camera in their hands, have been seeing the world in horizontal aspect ratio. Some may even remember when TV images were 4:3 before widescreen became the norm.

Whereas in the smartphone era vertical filming requires just a simple flip, for film and video professionals it’s a bit like rotating a worldview through 90 degrees. As Brazilian film director Marcel Izidoro puts it, “To create vertical framing nowadays, you have to toss 100 years of history of cinema out the window.”

So how do creative industries rise to the challenge of working with vertical video, and how do brands embrace the content possibilities that work best in this format?

That was the challenge that Instagram set out to tackle with its short video series Instagram Creators Presents. And Story Productions had to rise to the challenge, too, as we were tasked with shooting three interviews as part of the series, all in vertical format.

The Solution

There are still few high-quality productions being made in vertical (9:16) format. With that in mind, Instagram invited creative storytellers from all over the world to produce vertical videos for a new video series, Instagram Creators Presents. Each one was given free rein to experiment with the vertical canvas and present their own unique style.

The Instagram Business blog outlines some of the ways that different artists have experimented with the format. But the three Brazilian artists, whose creative process Story Productions was asked to film as part of the series, all developed their own approach. They were cinematographer and photographer Camila Cornelsen, the film director Marcel Izidoro, and the graffiti artist Speto.

Each one used different elements that spoke to their work and style. The purpose was the same: to produce a vertical video. But the processes and results were incredibly diverse. Camila mixed video and a collage in a highly technical process, involving three cameras and a big crew. Speto took a much more spontaneous approach and captured the video with his cell phone.

As for M.M.Izidoro, he used an effect that turns 360-degree images into 2D and filmed a ballerina dancing in daylight and at night, capturing the dance close up, with an intensity he says wouldn’t have been possible with horizontal. His film was one of those released at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Keep It Simple and Creative

For the Story Productions team, filming Cornelsen, Izidoro and Speto’s creative processes for each Instagram Creators Presents video was a new and inspiring challenge. We also had to work in a vertical format, adapting not only our view but also our equipment. One thing is to shoot vertically with a cell phone; another is to do it with a professional camera.

The approach was surprisingly simple; “The Instagram team instructed us to stick two pieces of tape on the camera's display to simulate the vertical framing”, says Daniel Lobo, Story Productions DOP on the shoot. “It required a change of perspective and we learned a lot from the experience.” The videos were cropped in post-production from 16:9 aspect ratio to 9:16.

Douglas Silva, the Story Productions’ director on the shoot, saw the potential for the vertical format. “As producers and creators, we need to adapt to the new media. Why is vertical shooting wrong and horizontal shooting right? Vertical video speaks to the instant, casual approach to video that we’re used to in our daily lives.”

Story Productions took care of all aspects of the production in Brazil, commissioned by US agency Man with a Cam for Instagram.

The Potential for Brands

Investing in influencers and creators to experiment with the potential of vertical video has been a savvy move for both Instagram and Facebook in 2018, as young people increasingly turn to influencers for their news, entertainment and consumer advice. And all via their smartphones, of course.

Instagram announced earlier this year the launch of IGTV, its stand-alone app for long-form vertical video, that some say has the potential to compete with YouTube in the video space.

Facebook recently launched a similar project to Instagram Creators Presents, enlisting 15 influencers around the world to push the creative boundaries of vertical video. An article in Campaign magazine about the project reveals Facebook data that shows that people engage more actively with vertical video, watching for longer and more likely to turn on the sound than with horizontal.  

As Instagram and Facebook Stories and videos grow in relevance and reach, brands are beginning to embrace the creative potential of the vertical format, especially those with their eyes on younger audiences. Story Productions is helping brands connect with audiences on Instagram through video; read about the Grey Goose campaign we produced for Instagram. How can we help you go vertical? Learn more about Story Productions.

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About the Author

Catherine Balston
Catherine Balston is a British journalist, resident in São Paulo since 2009. Catherine started her career working as a digital media producer in London, for Channel 4 and agencies, and has since gone on to author guide books, edit magazines, and publish articles on everything from culture and food to travel and politics. Catherine is the communications executive at Story Productions, writing about the company's work and clients in the world of video production, branded content and format development.

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