Where do you turn for pictures and sound if you are a director or producer with a skeleton crew and a modest budget? Where do you turn for footage of a polar bear and her cubs, if you live in California? You turn to Stock Footage - that's where.
Images, videos, sound effects, and music- they all add to the mood and color of every good story. They are like the spices that are added to a gourmet dish, so subtle you can't even tell they're there, yet without them the meal would be dull and incomplete.
Unattractive images or even just plain, ordinary ones can ruin any video production, no matter how good the script. Think of how much better the story would be if you had a good script and outstanding pictures and sound. Those are the elements, the "spice" one finds, in every successful, award-winning production.
But, if your crew and resources are limited, how do you get your hands on eye-catching pictures and sound? You use stock footage.
What is Stock Footage?
Stock footage is generic, royalty-free film or video footage, photographs, music and sound effects that are created for anyone who is involved in the creation of video or film projects. There are many agencies that own the copyrights to collections of stock and, for a fee, filmmakers can purchase the stock footage they need in a matter of minutes. Most stock companies do not demand royalties. Their stock footage comes from many different sources: the artists themselves, movies and television programs, news corporations and custom-made generic footage.
One of the reasons stock is so popular among video creators and filmmakers is cost. It is often less expensive to obtain stock footage than it is to hire a crew to shoot new material. The use of stock footage saves a director and producer time and money in the making of a great video production. There are literally thousands, if not millions, of stock footage photos, videos, diagrams and illustrations from companies all over the world to choose from, and they can be downloaded to your computer desktop in a matter of minutes. Many stock websites offer direct downloads of clips in various formats, both compressed and uncompressed, HD and SD.
The First Step
You start by registering on several stock websites. There are quite a few reputable ones out there where you can find not only stock video and film, but also stock photos, vectors, music and sound effects. Some require a registration fee, but others do not. This means that a person can review the stock footage before downloading it to their computer. Some stock sites will even allow you to download the stock you want to use so you can test it out in your production before you buy it. When you decide to buy, you pay for it and immediately download it to you computer. Within minutes you will have it in your non-linear editing program ready to cut into your project.
There are many stock websites out there. Among the more popular sites are Pond5, Footage Firm, Shutterstock, Premiumbeat, and NEO Sounds.
Pond5 is a virtual marketplace for royalty-free stock video, sound effects and music. Its stock library includes a large collection of royalty-free video, as well as music tracks and sound effects. It even has customizable After Effects projects that you can import into your editing timeline. Pond5's high quality stock is within everyone's means, with prices starting at just $1 for an audio clip and $5 for a video clip. Pond5 is one of the most affordable stock video companies in the industry, because prices are set by the contributing artists themselves.
Footage Firm is a stock site which provides HD and SD royalty-free stock clips from just about anywhere in the world. This alone is of tremendous value to video producers as it eliminates travel expenses. It has a large selection of US and international cities, sports, animals and special effects. They are one of the few footage agencies which require no licensing fees, no research fees, unlimited usage, no extra fees for commercial or worldwide usage and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. A 30-60 minute collection of SD stock clips is priced at $149 while an HD collection is priced at $249. Footage Firm also has a nice library of stock music and sound effects.
Shutterstock is one of the largest stock photo and video agencies in the world. It is subscriber-based and its prices vary depending on which plan you choose. With a 25-A-Day Subscription plan, you can download any image or clip from the collection for $249 a month. On the other end of the spectrum is the $2559 a year plan. It also has an On Demand subscription plan where you can download a fixed number of images and clips any time within a year. On Demand prices vary depending on whether you purchase Standard or HD footage, tiff, jpeg or vector images, and the size of the image or footage. Shutterstock.com has been listed as among the top ten best Photoshop stock photo sites on the web.
Premiumbeat is a father and son-owned stock agency that provides high quality royalty-free music only. They claim to hand-pick their collection of stock music, preferring to work with only a select few musicians and composers. All music on Premiumbeat is 100% Legal Copyright Clear music. All music on the site is Exclusive Music and you will not find this music anywhere else. Additionally, they have added Music Players to their product line which are also available for download. Their prices range from $29.95 for short clips, loops or full-tracks to $49.95 for the entire collection.
NEO Sounds has tons of creative music and sound effects that are available for instant licensing and downloading. They offer two types of licenses: the Standard License and theMass Market License and you can use their music and sound effects as many times as you like, for as long as you like. You can even download free Lo-Fi versions of every single music track and try it out on your project before you buy. If you decide to buy, you receive the Hi-Fi version along with an official certificate that confirms your right to use the music in accordance with the purchased license. Their prices range from $5.95 for an ident to $29.95 for a full-track.
Standing Out Above the Rest
There is no question that a good script is what makes a good film or video. Many low budget productions with good scripts and mediocre footage are made every day. Some are even quite good and go on to become successful, gaining critical praise. But it is the ones with the best images and sound that stand out and become not only successful but also unforgettable, leaving an audience moved and inspired. The right combination of words, pictures and sound can make the difference between a good production and an outstanding production. No wonder stock footage sites are so popular among film and video producers everywhere. They are a one-stop and simple solution to getting high quality pictures and sound to match a high quality script. They provide directors and producers a quick and economical way to get that much-needed shot with ease. They are accessible to everyone. They are the go-to place that makes the difference in the look and feel of your production, and they often hold the key to the makings of a great production, one that audiences will want to experience over and over again.
Click here to download a PDF of Videomaker's Stock Footage Buyer's Guide
Teresa Echazabal is a freelance video editor, writer, and producer.