A graphic template awaiting the user to “insert text here”.

Every video project created essentially boils down to two things: budget and deadline. If you’ve made the decision to turn video production into your livelihood (or even if you’re thinking about it), finding viable shortcuts to work around these constraints is necessary. Using stock video footage and templates can maximize your time in a variety of ways while also being friendly to your budget. When used appropriately they can elevate your projects while offering the freedom to expand your business. 

Money Management

If there’s one thing more important than time in a project, it’s money. Budgets are a constant factor in any video and need to be adhered to. Going over budget can negatively impact a project’s success and simultaneously cost you future work from a client. In this aspect, stock footage can be immensely helpful as well. 

The idea behind stock video footage is to have readily accessible art, video clips and pictures that can be used in a variety of projects quickly. While it’s easy to see how such things could save you time, not everyone understands exactly how it saves money.

Say you’re working on a project that calls for B-roll footage of a metropolitan skyline, preferably in a bird’s eye view. Renting out a helicopter and all the necessary camera equipment to record footage (which will only be used for a few seconds) isn’t very practical. Using stock video footage of a skyline would make more sense and the cost of licensing video clips would be far less than the rental costs involved in filming it yourself. The same could be said for large explosions, underwater shooting or any extreme shots. 

Time vs. Money

The old adage “time is money” doesn’t always have to be taken literally, as there are moments where your time is worth more than the money you spend. For example, you need footage of cars driving on a highway, which is simple to record without hurting your budget, but it will cost you time. You have to get to location, set up equipment, record the footage and then pack everything up. While that doesn’t sound particularly long, compared to the five minutes (maybe) it takes to drop stock video footage into your editing timeline, it’s an eon!

Recording something easy and simple might be more cost effective than purchasing the stock video footage, but the time saved could be far more valuable. The hours spent recording B-roll could have been used on other aspects of your video. If the your project calls for VFX or you’ve come up with a neat last minute idea, you’ll need enough time to complete them to your satisfaction.

From a business standpoint you’ll most likely be working on more than one project at a time. This means you can’t always spend hours recording footage (which only amounts to a few seconds) on one project. Your time is better utilized multitasking on the rest of your business

Being over budget means less profit, but clients won’t return with more business if you’re turning things in late: balance is necessary. Every project you do has different requirements, your need to save either money or time will vary and it’s up to you to determine which is most important. As such, it’s vital that you understand the needs of every project from the beginning. 

Templates and You

Graphic templates are another great way to save yourself time, money and hassle on a project. Templates exist for transitions, lower thirds (i.e. titles you’d see at the bottom of the screen in documentaries or news), and even opening title sequences. Like stock footage, they’re pre-manufactured elements you can quickly place into your videos.

Even if your primary business revolves around simple wedding videos, some degree of graphics are always going to be necessary. They give your videos a more professional look; elevating them above the others out there. Templates can give your projects a professional appearance, even if you lack the skills to generate your own motion graphics.

Graphic templates are pre-manufactured elements you can quickly place into your video to save yourself time, money and hassle on a project.

Deciding on when to use templates versus crafting them on your own is the same as it is with stock footage: what are the needs of the project? Animating and rendering a motion graphic takes time, and if you’re staring down a deadline, but need something to push your video above it’s current quality, using a graphic template is a great idea.

If you choose to go the template route, there are some great places to buy them from with a variety of choices to fit nearly any need you have:

When to Say ‘No’

Budget and time constraints aren’t the only determining factors in using stock footage and templates in a video. It also comes down to whether or not it works in the context you’re using it for. If the entirety of the video is set in a posh metropolitan environment, using stock footage of a rural road wouldn’t make much sense.

Beyond continuity, it’s also essential to make sure shot styles are matching up. Stock video clips may not always match the quality of footage you’ve shot yourself, making it look strikingly different from the rest of your video. The last thing you want, is for viewers to recognize what’s stock and what’s not. It’ll take them out of the experience and lower the overall quality of your video.

Those may seem like fairly obvious examples, but they’re the sort of things you have to think about when using anything from stock. The biggest risk you run with templates (which can also apply to footage) is overuse. Utilizing the same graphic multiple times isn’t necessarily bad, but when you’re using it for every project, it’s not good. Viewers will recognize the pattern and feel you’re being lazy, while clients will not feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

Say you’re working on videos for two clients, both of which are selling a beverage. Imagine how they’d feel seeing their brand being used in the exact same graphical template as a potential competitor. It’s not a situation they’d be happy with, and likely wouldn’t choose to give you any more of their business. 

Great Tools When Used Wisely

Stock footage and templates are amazing tools that save you oodles of time and money, while allowing you to feature elements in your videos that might otherwise be impossible. They add to the quality of your work, which can lure in new customers. It’s important, however, to be sure the use of stock elements in a particular video is appropriate. Used successfully, stock footage/templates can elevate your business, but if you’re not careful, they could cost you dearly. 


Finding What You Need

Not all stock footage and templates are created equal, and if you’ve decided to use these amazing tools in your videos you need to be discerning in your choices. The Internet is riddled with people selling stock footage and it’s important that you know what you’re getting before making that purchase.

Don’t waste money on footage sight unseen, going with a seller who offers video previews is always a bonus. This way you can make sure the footage you’re buying is what you actually need. The same holds true for graphics templates, but with those, it’s also important to make sure you’re buying templates you can manipulate. It’d be horrible to purchase a template that’s too complicated for you to figure out quickly, or your software simply can’t take advantage of it.

If you’re on the hunt for good stock footage, these are some good places for you to find them:

The bottomline here is that when it comes to stock footage, it pays to shop around and find exactly what you need and build your library from there.

Jordan Maison is an editor and VFX artist who has plied his talents in Web content for Disney Studios as well as movie and videogame websites.

Wave line with Sample Text image from Shutterstock.


  1. In most dire cases where time is not on your side, stock media is definitely a life saver.


    The use of stock footage is more or less an accepted practice nowadays with better cameras in the hands of more people.


    And while most post production house will never admit to it, Video Templates for After Effects (and in some cases even Apple Motion) are definitely a cost effective solution.


    If you want to dabble in stock media for video production, I'd definitely recommend MotionElements ( http://www.motionelements.com ) as they have a decent library there.


    They also have some free content so that is definitely worth checking out as well:



    Hope this helps.

  2. Just to throw in my two cents worth on the article printed in the magazine. On page 57 there is an example of a cut-in. It looks like a surfer riding a wave in a golden sunrise, cut to bright mid-day shot of surfboards on the sand, cut back to surfer. The caption reads "This cutaway of a stock footage of beach and surfboards doesn't work because the lighting is strikingly different."


    My experience in post production is that the colors of the shots could possibly be altered to find a happy medium for them to work. The aspect that I see as to why these shots really don't work is the difference in the ocean conditions. The two sunrise surfing shots show a good even 4-6 foot long-period swell, where as the cut-in shows 1-3 foot barely surfable waves. So the continuity of the ocean conditions don't match from shot to shot.


    To me these details are just as important as maintaining continuity throughout a scene. When looking for stock footage cut-ins, I always try to make sure continuity matches as much as possible.


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