Increasing Your Inventory Using Stock Footage Libraries

It’s your assignment, client, or deadline. You’re the one in control of the story. So don’t think of Stock Footage as using someone else’s work, but as an offering of a larger video staff than you alone can supply.

So there you are meeting with a prospect, taking notes on a moderate budget project that promises to bring many rewards. Perhaps rewards in the form of exposure to a new market or maybe exposure to many new markets. Or maybe this is one of those clients that does several projects per quarter and the added revenue would really help pay the day-to-day expenses of your operation.

The problem is the client wants specific footage that isn’t possible given certain circumstances. Perhaps they want a brief shot of spring daffodils in a garden that tilts up to a clean blue sky so they can overlay their logo. But it’s full-on winter, and all you have to work with is gray stormy skies and a frost-hard garden without a bloom in sight. Or maybe they want a great shot of a kid doing ollies and nollies on his skateboard. OK, you can hire some skateboarders and a jib and dolly and shoot take-after-take all day trying to get that perfect execution, but they don’t really have it budgeted into the project.


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Give them What they Want

The client knows what they want… it’s already in the storyboard! So what do you do? Well, you can try to talk them out of the “extra” stuff… if you don’t mind telling them their business. Maybe you can include it in the estimate… but there’s that nagging feeling that they really don’t want to spend that much. You might even try to fake it and just do a quick set-up for that “extra” video. You go out and buy fake daffodils and some “blue sky” seamless and … well, you know how that’s going to work out! You know there are several competing bids on the project and most importantly you know the other producers will figure out how to get the shots. So how are they going to get those shots? They’re going to use stock footage!

Yes, the ever growing world of stock. It includes video footage, still photography, sound effects, illustrations, fine art, music and many other “artsy” images. Stock art or “content” as it is usually referred to, isn’t limited to editorial subjects. It spans all subject matter ranging from editorial to scenic. You can find footage on everything from animals dancing on stage to kids doing tricks on their skateboards.

Each category of stock art is divided into many sub-categories. A search for vintage stock, for example, might give you a choice of the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s and so on which then breaks down into sub- sub-categories that includes politics and sub categories of sub categories such as “political events of WWII”. Every time you see that famous shot of JFK standing at the podium saying “We choose to go to the moon” you are looking at stock footage. As a matter of fact you can get that footage at for just $169.

How to Find What you Need

What if you have all the visuals, but still need that certain audio zinger? Perhaps your project is just crying out for that special “mosquitoes buzzing all around” sound track. Well you can find that and just about every other sound one could wish for as long as you have a connection to the internet and a passion for the “search”. So, where do you start? The first thing to consider is your budget… or lack thereof!

There are several business models under which stock agencies supply stock content. They offer “rights managed” stock, “royalty free” stock and even “free” stock.

  • Rights Managed: Extreme Control

    As the name implies “rights managed” content is closely managed. It includes rare or very high quality content issued in limited quantities to high paying clients. It is licensed for a limited amount of time and must be used in a very specified way that the agency can track. If your project requires footage of a kid on a skateboard doing very specific tricks, you can choose to license video of a professional boarder on his skateboard landing the 900, which consists of two-and-a-half rotations (900) in the air before landing back on the pipe. Of course, you might want to bring along some investors because the agency might want a lot of money for a video like that. As a matter of fact, they may shoot that footage just for you if you are so compelled and willing to pay for it.

    The advantage of rights managed stock is not only quality but also the limits the agency puts on its usage. Those limits come in handy when competing interests are working on similar projects. Say you’re working on a branding ad that specifies a pan of a jogger in a specific location. That footage will be featured in the ad that runs for a year. Since the footage will be featured for quite a long time the last thing you want is a competing advertisement using the same video. With rights managed video you can specify “location limits” so it’s yours and yours only. Agencies can customize a usage program to fit each client’s needs and the clients can rest assured that their ad campaign will not be compromised.

  • Royalty Free: Generic for All

    Royalty free content is available to anyone who wants it and is willing to pay for it. There are no limits as to where or how many times it is used and therefore it’s best for generic usage. As such it falls in the “generic” price range. Lower cost isn’t the only reason you might want to consider royalty free and don’t forget lower cost doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality. As a matter of fact much of the royalty free content available today was initially produced for the rights managed market. For a variety of reasons agencies choose to move that content to their royalty free libraries and those reasons may include that the content is a bit dated or the market is saturated. That bodes well for you, the buyer, because you have access to world class content for much less than it would cost to produce.

    The huge variety of royalty free sources, the very high quality and the fact that it is readily available through instant download sites provide compelling reasons to consider royalty free stock. If you’re planning on including footage of some daffodil blooms with a beautiful blue sky, royalty free is probably the best place to start. Once you discover just how useful royalty free stock is you might want to consider a subscription plan such as the one offered at There you can sign up for a subscription, have access to world wide content at competitive pricing and receive discounts for purchasing larger quantities of art. Enter your company or personal information once and browse through pages and pages of quality. You can tag footage in a holding area that you don’t wish to buy right away, and when you return all your info is still there. It’s like a having a personnel stock library every time you log on to the web!

  • DVD Purchases: Buy it and Keep it

    What if you specialize in one video genre, like weddings. You really don’t want to browse the web and buy your content a la carte each time you do a project. You would rather have a complete library of content, with a theme, one that you become familiar with and can easily visualize every time you start a project. This is where companies like Digital Hotcakes comes in. They offer just such a program through their website There you can browse through specific catalogs that feature very high quality content in specific themes and when you find that perfect content you purchase just the volumes that suit your needs.

  • Free for All: but Buyer Beware

    If you are just creating family videos for fun or your church needs a new outreach video and you don’t want to spend anything there is always free content available on the web.
    Free stock is just that: free. Not to be confused with Royalty Free, where you do have to buy it but you can use it anywhere anytime, for the most part, free stock is available to anyone and is truly free. You can use it in any way you want without restrictions or recourse. You can find free stock just about anywhere on the web, but a good place to start is There you will find many works that are in the “public domain”. Another source is But be advised once you’re in the “free” realm you’re on your own. But your journey into that world of free content can be fun, rewarding and perhaps at times a bit scary.

    You might realize that having access to content from all over the world will give you that competitive advantage and now all you need to figure out is how to start, but it all sounds rather complicated. Taking somebody else’s stock art and incorporating it into your video might have you asking: How do I know it will work? What software do I use?

    A word of caution here would be to consider model and property releases for your plans to include free and any other content in your projects. If you are working on an advertisement you should make sure that everything is in place to protect you and your client. There are very specific laws designed to protect those who create content whether it’s video, still photos, graphic art, sound FX, music, etc. There are plenty of sites on the web that address the legal issues of distribution of stock content and it’s not difficult to understand. A good place to start would be the ASMP: the American Society of Media Photographers. Vist their web site.

Sound Considerations

Audio stock has different considerations than video and some companies that offer audio stock content also offer solutions to help you integrate that content into your project. SmartSound, for instance, has great royalty free music libraries on DVD as well as offering the software solutions designed specifically for sound track creation. When editing music or sound FX into your production you can become bogged down with the time consuming process. They have designed their company around offering workflow solutions as well as music and sound libraries that allow you to integrate a dramatic sound track into your project in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of hiring it out! Imagine integrating themes from famous TV shows such as Batman, Bewitched or Lost in Space! You can find this content and their workflow solutions at

Stock up and Get Editing!

So, with all this access to world class stock content you now have the tools and resources necessary to create exciting productions that will set you apart from the rest of the pack. And you can do it without breaking the bank. Now all that’s left to do go out and get those projects. And by the way… if you integrate all these resources into your production you may just want to submit your efforts to your local ADDY awards. Who knows-you may just bring home some hardware and that would certainly be something to talk about!

Terry Michael specializes in retail advertising photography and videography for clients world wide.

Manufacturer’s List

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