It’s taken Facebook four months to try to catch up in the “Visual Sharing Wars” after Twitter leapt far ahead when it launched its Vine video app in February.
Now Facebook’s popular Instagram app lets you shoot and share short video clips as well as still photos.
Here’s how it works.
Then set up an Instagram username and password.
Select whether you want to use the camera on the front of your phone (at least on iPhones like mine) or the one that faces away from you.
Then press and hold down the red video camera button to start recording a 3 to 15 second clip.
Lifting your finger off that red button pauses the recording. Tapping it again resumes recording.
If you don’t like last little segment of your clip, tap the backward pointing arrow with an “X” on it to highlight that section in red, and tap the red “Trash Can” icon to delete it. You can then re-record that little video chunk.
Unfortunately, you can’t move backwards more than one such segment without first erasing the one that came after it.
Using Camera Roll Videos
Although Instagram can access the still photos on your iPhone Camera Roll, unlike the VideoBite, Ptch and iMovie apps, it can’t find video in the Camera Roll that you shot with your iPhone (unless you used Instagram to record it).
[8/10/13 Update: Instagram can now access all of the video clips in your iPhone's Camera Roll, even if they weren't recorded with the Instagram app. You can now crop the videos, too. There are two annoying problems that may arise while using the Instagram app to edit video. First, the audio associated with a clip may not play at all, during editing, making it difficult to decide where to set the starting point for the Instagram video you're creating from an clip imported from the Camera Roll. Second, you apparently can't set the ending point. So creating a Instagram video with audio that perfectly matches the length of the clip will be problematic, as will include an entire "scene." ]
Nifty “Camera Switching” Feature.
Unlike other iPhone video apps I’ve reviewed, Instagram lets you switch between the front and rear facing cameras if you pause while recording a video clip.
You could use that “camera switching” feature to record a conversation between yourself and another person by shooting a short segment of yourself, pausing, then switching to the rear-facing camera to record the other person.
You could also use that feature to “put yourself in the frame” while mentioning your location (“Hi, Mom, at at the Eiffel Tower!”) and then switch cameras to film the scene before you.
This feature alone would make Instagram a great app for shooting video if you could create videos longer than 15 seconds.
Stabilizing Your Video
If you’ve got an iPhone 4 or 5, Instagram will automatically “stabilize” your video in an attempt (which I found doesn’t necessary work very well) to remove camera shake that might have occurred if you were moving around or not holding your phone steady during shooting. You can turn stabilization off by taping on the icon with the “shaking lines” around it.
After shooting your maximum 15-second long video clip, hit the green “Next” button at the top right-hand area of the screen. You can play the clip to review it, go back and re-record it by hitting the backward facing “Camera” button at the top left, or pick a filter (including “Moon” which turns your otherwise color video into one that is black and white) from the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.
Tap the green “Next” button again to pick a frame from your video to serve as a “Cover” photo.
Captions and Photo Map
Tap the green “Next” button once more and add a caption.
At this point in the app, you can also choose to add your video to the Instagram Photo Map that is part of your Profile. (This feature is turned off by default.)
Making a “Feature Length” Instagram Video
Instagram videos can’t be longer than 15 seconds. But if you save Instagram videos to your iPhone Camera Roll, you can use a video editing app like Ptch or iMovie to “stitch” multiple Instagram clips, and even still photos, into a longer “movie” that has a music soundtrack or narration.
Sharing Your Video
You can share your Instagram video on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Tumblr, or via e-mail.
I decided to just post my first Instagram video on my Instagram Profile without sharing it. That worked fine.
Then I went to my Profile on my iPhone, tapped on the little three dot icon next to the video, and successfully shared it (one at a time) on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail (there are two ways to do that).
The Secret to Saving Instagram Videos to Your Phone
As with Twitter’s Vine, you can save a video made with Instagram to your device (i.e., the iPhone Camera Roll). Saving your video to your iPhone’s Camera Roll will give you the option to share it via text message, or post it to YouTube, two things you can’t do within the Instagram app itself.
To save the video to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, do not click on the Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, Tumblr, or E-mail share buttons on the screen where you add the caption. Just hit the green “Share” button at the top right-hand side of the screen. [8/10/13 Update: If you use the Instagram app to edit a video already on your iPhone Camera Roll, the new edited video seems to automatically be saved to your Camera Roll along with your original video.]
After saving your Instagram video to your phone’s Camera Roll, you can go to your Instagram Profile, find the video, and share it on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Tumblr, or via e-mail.
Uploading Instagram Videos to YouTube
Unlike iMovie there’s no way to directly upload an Instagram video to YouTube. But if your video was saved to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, you can upload it to YouTube from there.
Stuck in “Instagram Hell”
But when I tried to simultaneously share my second Instagram video on Facebook, Twitter, and by e-mail, the app got stuck in some level of “Instagram Hell” with the app saying it was “processing” the video, a process that never finished. Turning off and re-booting my iPhone canceled the “processing” attempt, but when I re-shot the clip and tried to share it again, my video was sent back to “Instagram Hell.”
I shut down my iPhone again, rebooted it, and re-recorded my clip. Same result: “Processing.”
It occurred to me that problem might have been caused by selecting the “Moon” filter to convert the video from color to black and white. So I “went back to the drawing board,” didn’t apply any filters, and had the same “processing” hang-up.
Finally, I did a Google search and found that other Instagram users were running into the same problem, perhaps because those users were so eager to try out the new video function that they were overloading Instagram’s servers.
The Instagram “Help Center” has now added this information about the upload/sharing issue:
Issue: Processing Error for Video on iPhone
Some people are getting a processing error when sharing video from their iPhone. We’re aware of the issue and hope to have it fixed soon. Thanks for your patience!
Note: If you’re experiencing this error, it shouldn’t happen every time. Try recording a new video to experience the beauty of video on Instagram.”
(While the “processing” error still was occurring as I updated this story this afternoon, I did find that although my Instagram video hadn’t finished “processing, I was still able to share it. And the “processing” error didn’t happen when I create an Instagram video on my iPad.)
[8/10/13 Update: This uploading problems seems to be resolved. I uploaded video edited with the Instagram app to Twitter and Facebook today without a hitch.]
Instagram on the iPad
The Instagram app, including its video feature, does work on the iPad. But the app isn’t “optimized” for use on the iPad. Most annoy is the fact that the Instragram app it rotate from portrait (vertical) to landscape (horizontal) orientation on the iPad, which makes it difficult to use if you’ve got your iPad installed in a keyboard case that holds the iPad in landscape orientation for typing, as I do.
Pros and Cons
Shooting video is easy enough with Instagram and the ability to switch back and forth between iPhone front and rear facing cameras is a huge, huge plus.
This promotional video by Instagram doesn’t walk you through using the app, step-by-step, but it does provide a sense of how it works.
Instagram will record the ambient sound around you while you’re shooting video. So if wind blows across the mike, or if other objectionable background noise, such as from jackhammers or traffic, gets picked up, your video include it in the “soundtrack” and you wont’ be able to remove it.
And unlike Ptch and iMovie, Instagram won’t let you add a music soundtrack to your clip.
At 15 seconds, Instagram videos are longer than Vine (6 second), but much shorter than those that you can make with Ptch (60 seconds) or iMovie apps.
And, of course, unless Facebook can get rid of the “processing” hang-up that is preventing users from uploading and sharing videos, the Instagram video function would be totally useless.
If you have been using Instagram to share still photos, then using it to shoot and share video may suit you fine.
But I’d much rather use the more versatile Ptch or iMovie apps which can produce much more entertaining video than Instagram, even if the uploading snafu gets resolved.