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How To Shoot IGTV Vertical Videos That Stand Out

My name is Mic-Anthony Hay (@micanthonyhay) and I’m a cinematographer and Sony Alpha Imaging Collective member based in New York City. I spend most of my free time exploring the streets of the Big Apple looking for visual stories to tell. Filmmaking is my favorite method of telling stories because I love having the option of adding another layer to a narrative through sound, so when Instagram first announced Instagram TV (IGTV) I was excited for a new way to show my followers how I see the world with cinematography.

Make your vertical videos for IGTV stand out from the rest with these tips from Alpha Collective member & cinematographer Mic-Anthony Hay.

I immediately began thinking of stories to tell through vertical video and a few months later I launched a series called Mic-Anthony Hay Moments (or #MH_Moments for short) with a goal of finding interesting establishing shots with numerous subjects moving in and out of my compositions. I've learned a lot in the process of creating these and have some tips to share so that you too can start uploading your own style of vertical videos on IGTV. I’m aware that a recent update allows landscape video on the platform, but I encourage you to #BeAlpha and try something out of your comfort zone.

Tips For Creating Video For IGTV

1. Select The Right Gear (4K Camera & Wide Lens)

I rely on wide lenses to fill my 9:16 composition with as many layers as I can that are relevant to the story I’m trying to tell of a location. I use the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master and the Sony 12-24mm f/4 G. When paired with my Sony α7R III and recording in 4K, they produce images that I love and that will ultimately provide value to my audience. APS-C cameras like the Sony α6400 and RX0 II that have 4K capabilities are also a great choice for vertical filmmaking.

2. Vertically Stabilize Your Video

Stabilized video is important to me, so I use a tripod with a fluid ball head to position my camera vertically and compose from edge to edge to get the framing right in camera. If your tripod doesn't have a fluid ball head, you can get an L-bracket to keep your camera vertical. You can also use a stabilizer if it’s essential to the story you’re trying to tell.

3. Give Yourself Flexibility In Post

You may want to tell your stories differently with a mixture of wide, medium, close up, and extreme close up shots. I'd suggest that you still shoot a little wider, and in 4K because you'll definitely need the flexibility when editing video assets for a 9:16 project. I shoot in the S-log 2 picture profile for more flexibility with color grading and exposure adjustments.

4. Use Filters To Avoid Overexposed Footage

I try to get my exposure right in camera, but sometimes I have to make compromises. This is when I rely on the technology in my α7R III to have my back. The 15 stops of dynamic range in the camera lets me recover dark shadows or regain details in an overexposed composition. I'd suggest that you invest in a few ND (Neutral Density) or VND (Variable Neutral Density) filters to avoid issues with overexposed footage.

5. Customize Your Vertical Video Settings

I find myself in many situations where I don't always have the time to make the perfect composition, and just have to hit the record button. Because of this, I use one of the 4 MR (Memory Recall) dials on my α7R III as a bookmark for my vertical video settings.

6. Fill Your Dual Card Slots With Sony TOUGH Cards & Let Your Imagination Run Wild

IGTV allows users to upload at longer lengths and bigger file sizes, so let your creative imagination run wild as long as there’s a well-established story to your video that keeps viewers engaged. I fill the memory card slots on my α7R III with two 128GB Sony TOUGH memory cards. You’ll appreciate the fast read/write speeds when recording in the field and ingesting in preparation of the edit.

7. Don’t Forget About Audio

So now you have a ton of sharp and well-exposed vertical video assets to tell your story, but you also need to gather quality audio in the field. Audio is almost the most important aspect of filmmaking so make sure that it’s clean and adds another layer to the visual story. I use a stereo shotgun microphone that I attach to my camera's hot shoe. Bring a pair of headphones to monitor your audio levels, which should be between -6 and -12 db.

There’s already a ton of content for Instagram users to choose from, so make sure that you allow the technology in your camera to set your work apart from the rest. Watch #MH_Moments on my IGTV channel @micanthonyhay.

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