Aspect ratios: content optimisation in 2020

They may not be the most glamorous of subjects, but aspect ratios remain an essential thing to understand, both from a technical perspective about user experience and from a creative one and knowing how we’re going to film your content.

In short the frame in which a video is displayed can usually be any number of shapes or aspect ratios – but there are a few common ones. 16:9 (a horiztonal rectangle), 1:1 (a square), 9:16 (a vertical rectangle).

It makes sense to optimise your content by delivering it in the format that fills the most available space without seeing all your hard work (and budget) cropped. But optimisation works differently for each platform and device.

There are hundreds of possible iterations so making sure you’ve got the right spec for each destination can be complicated – that’s where we come in. Below we’ve cobbled together a current best practice guide that breaks down what aspect ratio video content should be used where.

Twitter

Twitter recommends that video content (either in post or ad form) be delivered:

16:9
1:1
9:16

YouTube

YouTube is a little less lenient with the vast majority of content still shown at a 16:9 ratio. This is the standard ratio for desktop and mobile, although the platform is now accepting 9:16 (i.e. portrait) formats for mobile viewers.

If you’re uploading adverts to YouTube then you should be aware of the six main placement types – Trueview, pre-/mid-/post-roll and bumpers and any content delivered should be optimised and not just in terms of aspect ratio – remember that bumpers are capped at 6 seconds!

Facebook and Instagram

Compared to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram require a huge range of different formats. Given the diverse nature of their various products and the ways people consume them, thinking caps need to be firmly on when it comes to video optimisation.

From newsfeeds and instant articles to in-stream video, stories and right column content, there are plenty of places to go wrong and while most aspect ratios might work across several different products, if ads are served in anything other than the preferred ratio then they miss out on key optimisation.

Format something for the right aspect ratio for every respective destination wins you the most on-screen real estate, the best viewing experience and ultimately a greater likelihood of a conversion.

Facebook Ad Manager provides a handy breakdown of what is needed across their properties.

Facebook:

Video campaigns across both Facebook and Instagram: 4:5
Video ads on Facebook without links: 9:16 (with a caveat that the most important parts are visible with a 2:3 crop for mobile viewers watching it without clicking through on the news feed).
Video carousels: 1:1
Non-link ads: 16:9 – 1:1
360 content: 1:2 (full screen when clicked)

Instagram:

Video ads on all feeds: 1:1 – 4:5
Video ads appearing on Stories: 9:16
Audience Network: 1:1 – 16:9

As you can see there are more than a few options. And the bigger and more complex the campaign, the trickier things can become. Thankfully, this is what we do for a living and we’re quite good at it. Depending on budgets we can either create all these variations manually or use tools like Peach to help us along the way, meaning the right copy gets to the right eyes on the right platforms. Easy. Evy, actually.