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This article was published on June 20, 2013

Instagram video first look: Good for people, better for brands

Instagram video first look: Good for people, better for brands
Harrison Weber
Story by

Harrison Weber

Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.

Yes, you heard right: you can now upload videos to Instagram. As of today, the Facebook-owned photo sharing network supports 15-second clips, ships with 13 video-only filters and includes a new stabilization feature dubbed “Cinema.”

Of course, Instagram fans will likely be concerned about this change, and for good reason; Instagram has thrived on simplicity and video has a habit of complicating things.

The update is still hot off the presses, so shift your eyes below for a first look at what’s new. Then, we’ll get to our thoughts on the change.

Using The App

The first thing you’ll notice when shooting a video in Instagram is that photos still have top billing. The big take-a-photo button remains, but off to the side you’ll see a new camcorder icon. Click that and you’ll be prompted to shoot a video.


Instagram lets you record up to 15 seconds of video, which feels pretty long in practice. Of course, you can record as short a video as you’d like, and you’re able to combine multiple clips — just like Vine. Unlike Vine, however, basic editing features let you delete clips without starting over entirely.

As you gear up to shoot your first Instavid™®, your instinct may be to shoot in landscape mode. Sadly, Instagram does not currently flip videos recorded in that position. Facebook tells us this is a bug and will be fixed soon.

Trying out Instagram's new video filters.
Trying out Instagram’s new video filters.

When Instagram founder Kevin Systrom announced that video for Instagram would ship with 13 new filters, all the hipster-haters probably let out a nice, loud groan. But after experimenting with these filters, it appears this is something Instagram got right.

Filtering requires no loading, and they’re applied instantly as your video plays back (pictured above). Our only complaint is that many of these filters fail to stand out from one another; all of them have a similar vintage flair with a generic-but-somehow-nostalgic touch.

Instagram's Cinema feature in action.
Instagram’s Cinema feature in action.

Now, on to Cinema: That little icon above your filter options turns Instagram’s Cinema stabilization feature on and off. It’s on by default, and works surprisingly well — so much so that we didn’t notice it was on until tapping it off. Be careful when turning it off, or else you’ll be taken aback by horrible shaky cam. Or, maybe I just have shaky hands.

Moving along, after you’ve filtered your video, Instagram tasks you to pick a cover frame. This determines what users see as they scroll by your video. From there, the recording is uploaded and ready for likes.

Choose your cover frame.
Choose your cover frame.

Will It Work?

The video feature is still quite new, but our first impressions are largely positive. That said, almost immediately after you see a few videos in your stream, your view of Instagram will start to change.

Videos are a higher-friction medium, but they’re also more engaging than photos. In this way, videos seem to diminish the importance of photos on the network. This isn’t necessarily a bad change, either, but it’s a change that not everyone will love.

Put another way, if you don’t like Vine, you won’t be very happy with Instagram right now.

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.30.54 PM

In the feed, videos auto-play by default, but this can be tweaked in your settings. They blend right in with your photos, aside from the overlaid icons in the top-right corner.

A Business Opportunity

In a relatively short amount of time, brands like Urban Outfitters and Oreo flocked to Vine in hopes of connecting with new customers. Like Vine, videos on Instagram present a new way to sell products, and there’s no doubt companies will quickly start finding ways to get your attention.

It’s easy to imagine how brands might take advantage of this new functionality in an irritating way. Indeed, companies like Lululemon and Burberry have already started experimenting with the feature.

As of right now, this system is entirely opt-in: you have to follow a company to see their photos and videos. But with in-stream ads and promoted posts on the horizon, videos could be more beneficial for brands than they are for people.

With a change as significant as this, there will be backlash, but likely from a small subset of users. Videos bring in new ways for users to share their lives with others and express themselves. I don’t believe that’s something most users will reject.

Are you ready for clips of cute kittens, poolside lounging, or even ::gasp:: video selfies? Brace yourself. Your feed will never be the same.

Image credit: Ryan McVay / Thinkstock