Let’s be honest here, you’ve watched at least some YouTube videos, movies, or Instagram reels. So, you would’ve noticed that each type of video has a different dimension. Likewise, each of them gives their respective audience a different viewing experience.

The dimensions of these videos are called aspect ratios, and they’re a very important factor to consider when recording and editing videos.

But what exactly is this “aspect ratio,” and why is it so important to video production?

Well, that’s precisely what we’ll be doing here exploring and learning what aspect ratio is, its importance, the different formats, and how to alter a video’s aspect ratio. Well then, let’s begin, shall we?

What does the video aspect ratio mean?

The aspect ratio of a video is closely linked to its resolution. Some of the most commonly used ratios are:

  • 16:9 or widescreen (with a resolution of 1920 x 1080), 
  • 1:1 or square (with a resolution of 1080 x 1080), and
  • 4:3 or full screen (with a resolution of 1024 x 768).

Why is aspect ratio important?

Aspect ratios are highly crucial to the viewing experience of an audience. If your video is wider than the screen and the height is the right size, there will be black bars above and below the video. You’ll get these black bars even when the video’s dimensions are smaller than the screen.

There’s also the fact that the video will look grainy when zoomed in. It can be irritating for viewers to see the black bars, and they can even lose interest in what they are watching.

Take, for example, a 4:3 video that’s being played on a smartphone in landscape mode. The black bars around the video will be distracting to the viewer, and when they adjust the size by zooming in, parts of the video will get cropped out of view. This is a common problem when watching old TV shows on modern TVs and devices.

That’s why, whether we’re shooting or editing a video, we first consider where the audience will watch it. Each platform has a different requirement when it comes to aspect ratios. For example, the aspect ratio of a YouTube video is different from that of an Instagram reel.

Another important role of aspect ratio is as a storytelling device. Sometimes, filmmakers purposely shoot particular scenes of a movie in different aspect ratios to indicate if it’s a flashback or a scene from a different time.

What is the best aspect ratio for videos?

There isn’t one best aspect ratio that is prescribed for all videos. It really all depends on the purpose and the platform on which the video will be played.

So let’s look at some of the most commonly used aspect ratios.

For film and videos

Cinematic Widescreen (21:9)

The 21:9 format is used for ultra-widescreen/cinematic widescreen or for movies in order to create a cinematic feel. It’s also called CinemaScope, Panavision, or Anamorphic, although each of them has slightly different ratios. The cinematic widescreen is also expressed as 2.33:1, while CinemaScope is 2.35:1 and Anamorphic is 2.39:1.

Widescreen/horizontal (16:9)

16:9, which is a standard widescreen aspect ratio, is commonly seen on YouTube, television, and streaming platforms. This is also the default aspect ratio that most DSLRs, camcorders, smartphones, and tablets use when recording videos. For smartphones and tablets, the 16:9 aspect ratio is used when recording in landscape mode.

Vertical (9:16)

As you can see, this aspect ratio is basically the flipped version of the 16:9 widescreen. 9:16 is the aspect ratio we get when we record a video by holding our smartphones the right way up, or vertically. You can get this aspect ratio even by turning your DSLR on its side.

9:16 is the perfect format for Instagram reels and stories, TikToks, and YouTube shorts.

Square (1:1)

A 1:1 aspect ratio will give you a square-shaped video. We use the 1:1 format when the video is to be uploaded as posts on Instagram, Facebook, and some other social media platforms.

However, you must note that all videos, no matter the aspect ratio, will be posted as reels on Instagram. So, if you post a 1:1 video on Instagram, it will look fine as a post, but there will be black bars above and below the video when you open it.

For social media

When it comes to social media platforms, the platform itself frequently recommends the best video aspect ratios.


The recommended aspect ratio for YouTube videos is widescreen, or 16:9. It gives platform users the best viewing experience. YouTube Shorts, on the other hand, are like reels, and the recommended format is 9:16.

Facebook and Instagram

The recommended video aspect ratios are similar for both of these platforms, as you can upload the same video to both at the same time.

For regular video posts, you can use the 1:1 or 16:9 aspect ratio. Whereas the 9:16 format is best suited for reels and stories. Instagram also supports the 4:5 format.


Twitter recommends the 16:9 format for landscape and portrait videos and the 1:1 ratio for square videos.


Almost all TikTok videos are in vertical format. TikTok recommends its users use 9:16 (vertical), 1:1 (square), or 16:9 (widescreen/landscape) aspect ratios.


The recommended ratios for LinkedIn videos are 1:1 and 4:5 (full screen). You can also use the 16:9 format.

How to change a video’s aspect ratio?

Since we mostly work with Adobe Premiere Pro, we’ll look at the steps for changing the aspect ratio in this video editing software. Just note that some software doesn’t let you alter the aspect ratio, but you can find some free online tools, like Clipchamp, to accomplish this task.

Moving on, here’s how we do it with Premiere Pro:

  1. Create a new sequence in Premiere, and always remember to choose a preset when you do so, like a 1080p preset, for example.
  1. Go to the frame size in the settings tab next to the presets. If you selected the 1080p present when creating the sequence, the frame size should already be set to 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  1. While you’re in the frame size settings, you can change the ratio to 1:1, 9:16, or any other orientation you want. Change the dimensions by altering the pixel value in the width and height boxes. If you want a square video (1:1 format), change the dimensions to 1080 x 1080. For a vertical format (9:16), change the values to 1080 (horizontal) and 1920 (vertical). 
  1. Ensure that all the important elements are in the frame and click “OK.”. The video will then take on the new aspect ratio.

Time for the wrap-up…

When it comes to crafting the best viewing experience for your audience, aspect ratio is a very vital factor. Actually, it’s as important as the video resolution, and we’ve seen why that’s the case.

Here are some important takeaways:

  • Always record your video based on where it will be played.
  • There’s no single-best aspect ratio. The optimal format depends on the screen size.
  • When you don’t have another option, you can change the aspect ratio with Adobe Premiere Pro or some other tool.
  • Filmmakers use different ratios as a storytelling device in their movies.

Now that you’ve had a chance to go through all this, we hope you have understood the concept of aspect ratios, and everything connected to them.