Most people are terrible at shooting video. Any longer than 15-seconds and it will probably be boring. That’s why Instagram capped videos at a quarter-minute when it launched the feature in 2013. Yet today it extended the length to 60 seconds for user-shot or uploaded videos.
That’s why I have a hunch that Facebook and Instagram are preparing to launch a more powerful set of video editing tools so that you can make minute-long clips that are actually interesting.
While some worried that videos would be interruptive and clumsy in the sleek Instagram photo feed, people have warmed up to them. Instagram says video viewing time grew 40% in just the last 6 months.
Meanwhile, Instagram started to make some solid revenue on video ads that it launched in 2014. First they were 15-seconds. Then 30 starting in September, then 60 as of last month. But since they were so much longer than user videos, they might have felt unnatural to watch. Letting users post minute-long videos could make the longer ads blend in better.
Basically, people like video in Instagram, and longer user-generated videos make it easier for Instagram to make money on the medium. So how does Instagram make people want to watch each other’s 60-second videos? My bet is by finally offering some of the video editing tools found elsewhere.
As of right now, all you can do to edit a video in Instagram is add multiple clips, trim the lengths, add a filter, toggle sound or stabilization, and select a cover frame. The list of popular editing features it lacks is lonnnnnnng:
- Stories that combine videos and photos (Snapchat)
- Split-screen collages with multiple videos (Editing apps)
- Soundtracks (Vine, YouTube)
- Sync-to-beat for creating audio loops (Vine)
- Add drawing, text, or stickers to videos (Snapchat)
- Stylized templates (iMovie)
- Video effects like slow-mo or reverse (Snapchat)
- Reordering clips (Editing apps)
- Transitions between clips (iMovie)
- Recording video while your device is playing audio (Snapchat)
- Lipsyncing (Dubsmash)
- Audio envelopes for variable volume and fade-outs (iMovie)
- Ghost outlines of your previous clip to line up shots (Vine)
These tools could inspire people to go beyond the “point, shoot, pan, done” amateur clips you see today, and become true instavideographers. These more polished reels could hold people’s attention when more dopamine-inducing photos are just a flick away.
Instagram could potentially release video editing tools as a side app, adding to its wildly popular roster that includes Hyperlapse for timelapses, Layout for collages, and Boomerang for GIFs. That would keep the core app clean and give the tools plenty of room to breathe in their own space.
Alternatively, it could bury them in the main Instagram app. That’s what Instagram did when it released granular photo editing tools beyond its normal filters so you could adjust contrast, warmth, shadow, tilt shift in more.. They all got rolled up and hidden away behind the wrench icon to not distract or slow down novice photo sharers
Honestly, Facebook needs these tools even more than Instagram. It’s embarrassingly outdated. Facebook’s video tool doesn’t even allow multi-shot tap-to-record, filters, stabilization, or cover images. The video experience has hardly evolved in the 2.5 years since I first called Facebook out for being obsolete. That’s despite video viewing becoming insanely popular on Facebook, growing an order of magnitude to over 8 billion video views per day in the same time period.
Everyone seems to know mobile video is the future, especially Facebook and Instagram’s users. If the social giant wants us to watch longer and longer clips, it needs to let us spice them up.