8 Tips for Producing Amazing Vertical Video Content

Nick Cicero

June 22, 2018

This blog was originally posted on
Conviva Acquired Delmondo in November of 2018 and has become Conviva Social Insights.

There are more than a billion people right now who use Instagram. That means there are more than ONE BILLION HUMANS WHO KNOW THAT VERTICAL VIDEO EXISTS!

Now, episodic vertical video is mainstream. With the release of Instagram’s IGTV, it’s clear they believe that vertical videos are not only here to stay, but that vertical videos are the preferred way to watch content on your phone.

But this isn’t news to us.

Here at Delmondo we bet big on the growth of vertical video four years ago when the company was founded and we rolled out the first Snapchat analytics platform.

Today we measure vertical video for customers on Snapchat, Snapchat Discover, Instagram and Instagram Stories, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…vertical video is everywhere!

When we first wrote about this trend as people were using weekly takeovers to create their own shows, creators and innovative publishers saw the opportunity to set up more appointment viewing to break through the clutter of the single snaps or videos people had typically posted.

Later, platforms took note too and started pushing them to produce more of this, as we wrote about Snapchat’s visions of creating mobile TV with Discover in our piece titled “I Want My Snapchat TV” back in 2016:

Snapchat, is the new force in the space, capturing the attention of eyeballs shifting from the Television screen to the most important screen in the world, the one that goes with you everywhere you go. And it’s not just your eyeballs, an intent-based loading system means that users actually have to engage with a Snap to open and view it fullscreen. With millions of people giving Snapchat 100% of their focus in the moments they engage – this is giving way to a new, more pure attention metric.

We’ve worked with brands who had ambitions to make their own vertical video shows too, like Marriott Rewards who in 2017 launched the first Branded Episodic Snapchat series, multiple long-form videos not cut up into stories, but as premium long-form vertical videos with short ads as trailers. The premiere episode has been named the top-performing advertisement on Snapchat to-date, achieving the longest average view-through rate of any campaign ever.

With the excitement around IGTV we thought we’d share a few of the things we have learned over the years.

Here are some of the elements we have seen that will lead to a successful vertical video series:

1. Create a fast-paced environment, this is not a lean-back experience

Think about it, for the past 4 years people have been conditioned to watch vertical video in short bursts of 10 seconds or less, and to tap past anything that doesn’t immediately grab their attention. This learned behavior isn’t going away which is why you need to make sure your vertical videos are fast paced and created for the person on-the-go rather than lean-back on the coach experience.

2. The first 3 seconds are VERY important

You have tops 3 seconds (really like 1.5) to grab a viewer’s attention to stick around, otherwise they can swipe over to an unlimited number of other options for content.

This means you need to let people know what they are getting into.

Using Delmondo data from thousands of accounts on Instagram Stories we’ve found that more people exit or swipe away from a story on the first frame, more than any other part of story. Sounds obvious when you think about it, but we still see people trying to add too much complexity into the first few seconds of a story, with title cards or more.

The availability of new content a finger swipe away make it imperative to capture the attention of the viewer and let them know why they should be interested in the story that is coming.

Line Graph Of Different Frames Dropped Significantly

3. Animated graphics, cutscenes, mixing elements are where it’s at

Vertical video has evolved since the rough, grainy, no edit days of early Snapchat. IGTV is a place for premium vertical content so expect that you will need to do some editing before you upload. Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier and even mobile apps like Perfect Video make editing and exporting in a vertical format easier than ever.

Adobe Premier Setting Guide For Vertical Format

4. Access

Give people access to people, places and events that can only be filmed on a phone. Access is something that people expect when they watch content vertically. Mobile phones have allowed anyone, anywhere to be the videographer, leading to a new level of access for content that was previously unavailable. Celebrities and influencers in their homes, on the go, back stage or in the dressing room at a large event are staples of the vertical content universe.

5. Authenticity

Instagram and Snapchat created platforms that allowed creators, celebrities and influencers to talk directly to their audience. While technically it is a one person to many relationship, anyone on the receiving end, due to the nature of replies, can create a one on one relationship. This level of authenticity is ingrained in the vertical video format. When making content, engage directly with your audience as there is a big difference between talking to someone and talking at someone.

6. Produce for the platform

Do not repackage horizontal video for a vertical video platform. When you film for vertical you film differently. You have to follow the point of interest and keep them centered in the shot and you have to think about what is going on in the top and lower third portion of the screen because you don’t want to waste space. When you film horizontally you focus on the exact opposite, when you crop a horizontal video to be vertical it shows.

Vertical Filmmaker and head of TEN:FIFTEEN Creative Mike Platco had this to say.

“If your content is going to be vertical, then there is no reason you shouldn’t be thinking vertically from start to finish – storyboarding, set design, filming and editing should all be done in a vertical format. If you’re using a phone, its even physically easier to film vertically than horizontally… Unfortunately I still find myself taking horizontal video elements – sometimes even wide screen shots – and turning them into vertical stories for instagram and snapchat. Not only does it take up a huge chunk of time, but the end result is often something that clearly was not intended to be viewed this way. Shots are too zoomed in, the footage has trouble keeping up with characters that are panning across the screen, and there is a SIGNIFICANT decrease in video quality.”

7. Mobile (and vertical video) is still the land of celebrities and influencers

The best performing content on vertical is still dominated by celebrities and influencers. The name and face recognition you get from partnering with existing content creators will save you thousands of dollars in paid ad promotion and can often give you an automatic head start for any vertical content series.

8. Use data to improve your series!

Here at Delmondo, no matter if you have a show on IG Stories, Snapchat Discover, FB Watch, FB Live or IGTV we can provide you with data to make informed decisions on the direction of your show. To improve you need to constantly keep an eye on what’s working, what’s not, and where people are tuning out in your videos.

It’s an exciting time to be a vertical content creator. You have more options than ever to distribute your content and anyone can create their own show using only their mobile phone, so get out there and start creating video!

If you’re interested in creating or measuring a vertical show we’d love to help. Sign up for a free trial of Delmondo today!

By Nick Cicero and Mike Metzler