Optimising Video Projects For Social Media

20th May 2020 No comments

Torrin Holland is a video producer at Laureus, a major sporting organisation that hosts a major, annual international sports awards event. In 2020, the awards took place in Berlin. This interview about making videos for consumer audiences was recorded a few weeks before the big day, in January 2020.

Prior to working at Laureus, Torrin was a video producer at Sony, creating video content for their online channels for Europe – including for YouTube.

In this short excerpt from our longer interview, hosted by Southpoint Films’ Managing Director Rowan Johnson, Torrin shares some thoughts on making videos for different social platforms. He also shares how he overcomes some of the unique challenges he faces when creating videos for different aspect ratios.


The transcript for this video has been edited lightly for clarity in written form.


Over the years that you’ve been doing this professionally, how has video production changed with respect to how you’re thinking about the audience?


Well I always go back and say, in order to make any kind of content you need to know who it’s targeting, what they like. And some of that’s through trial and error if you’re starting out. 

But generally, if you’ve got a video that’s targeted towards a youthful presence – with some fancy headphones at Sony, for example. You sort of know that you’ve got to play that video to a certain style.

It’s got to be friendly for their age demographic. Make it colourful, bright and hard hitting with good pace. So I always look at what’s our audience first.

And then, what platform are we showing this on? Because not all platforms are the same. They each are very different. They have very different algorithms. I know Facebook is now trying to promote longer-form content and they’ve changed their algorithm to make sure that longer-form videos will appear on the homepage.

I know Twitter recently changed back from square to 16:9. And Instagram is obviously 1:1 square. And not all videos will work for any of these platforms. I think businesses are slowly starting to realise that.

I know in social media they already are aware of this and they will make bespoke videos for each platform. But with businesses, I can understand – because to do that it usually requires more budget to specifically make it. But recently we’ve started to create videos specifically for a specific platform.

So the process isn’t really about how you film it. It’s all in the pre-production and where you want it to go, and that method has been there for a long time.

So that hasn’t changed too much, it’s just generally where you’re putting it and the audience and how it fits. And all that. Does that make sense?


Yeah, what you’re saying is that a lot of the stuff that’s changed is stuff like this introduction of like different aspect ratios, and the popularity of that.

So when Instagram TV came out, and it was 9:16 portrait format rather than the 16:9 which we film in normally for normal standard widescreen video, that was seen as quite disruptive. 

So now you’re going out and filming stuff specifically for those different aspect ratios rather than going away and retroactively trying to fit stuff into them once you’ve filmed it?


Yeah, because if you take a 16:9 video that has got a few close-ups in, to capture emotion, you can’t put that in a 9:16 aspect ratio cause you’re literally just getting the whole the whole face.


Yeah, if I cropped down this video that we’re filming here it would just be your face.


And you have to crop it because obviously the aspect ratio is different. So it doesn’t fit otherwise. It’s a little bit more forgiving when you shoot wider but that’s when you think ahead and you think “we want to show it on Instagram. We need to plan. Plan for this.”

So yeah, we’ve done some 9:16 content before. Back when Instagram TV first came out, it generally did very well.

But Instagram TV sort of… I don’t want to say it’s dying out, but obviously the buzz is all over for it and the only opportunity – the big opportunity that it gives is just people to create videos with a more artistic flair.

You know, whether that be split screening stuff – just taking it out of the norm. And that’s where 9:16 sort of offers the more creative elements but I’m not entirely sure if it’s… With Facebook and, as I say, Twitter going back to focusing on 16:9 content, I’m not sure if it’s had that same impact – IGTV.


Yeah, I’ve not had any real success with it myself. Obviously I’m targeting, with most of my content, businesses – and they’re slower to adapt to these things. So we don’t have to be on quite the cutting edge of adopting that stuff as much as anyone else.


And I would say IGTV is strictly more of a social platform. Any B2B stuff on there probably wouldn’t work in my opinion because it’s just…  when you look at the demographics, those who use Instagram and who use IGTV, you generally see a lower age range that aren’t really interested in like – I don’t know – a car advert or something like that being shown in IGTV format.

It’s bad enough when you get those ads anyway, come up in your normal feed, you know.


There’s too many ads on Instagram but that’s a topic for a different day.


But it’s funny enough because TikTok’s exploded massively and it’s huge around the world – specifically for the younger demographic which are using it.


And is that something you guys are looking at at all?


We’re looking at it. I can’t really say much more than that.


Yeah, I didn’t know if you’d produced anything for it yet.


For us it’s about making sure the content’s right for it. That goes back to what I originally said, which is not all content works for every platform.


Yeah, and I think that’s actually really fair. I find that not very many of my customers are that fussed about social media other than LinkedIn and Twitter perhaps. But yeah, definitely.

The more polished stuff generally doesn’t tend to do quite as well as the stuff that’s just a little bit more off the cuff on a lot of social platforms.

I think it’s a really interesting challenge to overcome and I know – even just from my clients – that when they share a little 30 second clip from their smartphone on Twitter or or whatever, sometimes that will do better on social media than something I’ve gone out and filmed for them.

But obviously you still need the polished, good quality stuff – the actual longer form, longer-lasting, evergreen stuff – like the promotional video for your website.


I mean, I would always say that the content you put on social media has to be… It’s not what you want per se. You don’t necessarily want to put your message on there. You want to put a message that resonates with people.

So it’s almost like, you have to put content that your audience wants to see rather than you wanting them to see. If you get what I mean.


Yeah yeah, you gotta think about the audience first. And I guess that also comes to mind with things like mobile devices. Like, now a lot more content is being produced with subtitles. 

Which I think is great from just an accessibility standpoint because so many people watch content with subtitles anyway. The number of people that I know that put subtitles on Netflix because it helps them generally because they can’t have the TV too loud because they live in a flat.


Yeah, I do that as well when I’m eating dinner and I can’t hear it.


I do the same. It’s exactly the same thing – or if I’ve got a bag of crisps, or something, and you’re crunching. And you’re like “ah, I can’t hear what they’re saying” so I put the subtitles on. I think it’s a really good thing that lot of people overlook.


Well it’s interesting you mention that because I’ve seen a number approaches of different subtitles on Instagram and stuff. I think the general challenge is, how would you make those subtitles visually interesting? 

Because you can have them bog-standard on the bottom like you would get Netflix and stuff. But is that visually interesting? Not really.

If you animate them in or have them on a really cool background then it is.

The Minnesota Vikings was brought to my attention the other day – the NFL team. Their Instagram channel does this combination of picture in picture, with no audio being played from them specifically. Like a football player or American football player saying what’s happening.

But the way they animate the text in the corner is visually interesting and it keeps the pace going as well. So it’s about new ways of trying to make that subtitle text visually standout so it grabs your attention.


I’ve seen quite a few different ways of that happening. Obviously there’s the bog-standard kind of subtitles at the bottom which, personally, I prefer – because I think it’s not getting in the way and it’s not over the top. But I have seen some where you’ll have some pop up next to the person. A word will come in and they turn it into (effectively) a motion graphic piece.


Yeah it is almost like a motion graphic piece.


It’s interesting. I think the nice thing about the fact that is, because it is so low on the scale of technicality, it’s not like doing actual subtitling. Like obviously on Netflix when you turn the subtitles on.

I’ve got a whole video about the difference between open and closed captions, and obviously because a lot of these platforms don’t support captioning in a formal sense where you can just have a button to turn them on and off, I think it is forcing people to be quite creative about how they incorporate it in. 

Which on the one hand I think it’s really fun, but on the other it might not be so great for people that do actually have impairments and can’t see the small text. Because you can’t make in bigger and smaller. But it’s definitely interesting to watch as someone who makes videos.


It works for the Minnesota Vikings probably because it’s a sports team. Like, it’s out there, it’s in-your-face. You kind of expect it. So yeah, it’s obviously back to the target audience, you know.

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