Lots of people ask why we chose a square video format for StoryTagger. Selecting the video format was a big deal for us, and lots of factors influenced our decision. Here’s the backstory on why we decided it was cool to be square.
How did square video get so popular?
Back in 2013 Instagram required all image and video content to be square. Square style content (especially video) is perfect for small screens and with over 90% of Facebook’s 1.74 billion monthly users on mobile this format made clear sense.
When it comes to standing out on busy feeds, size really does matter. Research shows that square video takes up to 78% more space on a mobile newsfeed than landscape. Visually, being square certainly punches above this shape’s weight! So, it wasn’t a surprise that the format quickly spread to other platforms.
Buffer recently reported that 1:1 video now outperforms landscape video on mobile. So much so, that most platforms including YouTube now support square, landscape, and vertical uploads dynamically presenting the best format for each channel.
Social and mobile platforms favour the square, but what else does it have going for it?
Square video and ergonomics
Modern phones are big and often heavy, so holding them steady in a landscape position can be tricky. The extra weight puts pressure on our wrists. And, to get a well-framed selfie headshot often means holding your phone at full reach.
We quickly spotted that an outstretched arm makes it hard to read on-screen notes while recording. Also, our arms at full extension are less stable leading to inevitable extra shake which makes videos harder to watch.
Square video avoids the complexity of framing a landscape or portrait video. In enterprise scenarios seeing superfluous background also risks accidentally showing unauthorised workplace environments or people who have not agreed to be in the video. More recently, the popularity of TikTok has made ‘portrait’ popular, but it’s a tricky format to get looking great on a traditional widescreen format, so it lacks flexibility.
Better at capturing the emotion
Rigorous user testing and research proved that square video was the best option for StoryTagger creators. It’s the most flexible format and even more importantly the 1:1 ratio makes it easier to frame the individual capturing the rich emotion and meaning shown on our faces. After all, this is what StoryTagger is all about.
Challenges facing landscape and portrait selfie video formats
- Too much background
- Doesn’t catch the face well
- Risks showing unauthorised environments or people in shot
- Uncomfortable holding your phone in landscape position
- Increased risk of camera shake
- Uses too much screen space
- Harder to focus on the face
- Shows too much of the body
- Doesn’t translate well to widescreen format