Stock Footage: the Dos and Don'ts

Stock footage. It can be a filmmaker's best friend, but if you're not careful, it can really undermine the great work you're doing on that slick corporate video. Here's a tried-and-true recipe to follow, with tips on what to look out for and how to make stock footage work best for you.

 

Ingredients

Our go-to stock footage sites:

1. VideoHive

As an Australian company, we love to support other Australian companies wherever we can, and VideoHive is a great place to start on your stock footage hunt. They're based in Melbourne and have some of the best prices on the market, plus they often host the same footage as other sites who charge four or five times the price.

2. Videoblocks

Another well-priced provider, Videoblocks has a membership option that allows you to pay US$50 per clip if you pay an annual fee. A lot of their more generic footage is great, and there are some particularly excellent drone shooters on there. Added bonus: they're the only provider of the lot who offer a low file size download option, which is great when you're right on deadline and you don't need your clips in 4K in two hours.

3. Shutterstock

With Shutterstock you're getting slightly more expensive (AU$109 per clip), but you get what you pay for and the quality is reliably good here. They're particularly good for industrial construction, and blue and white collar workers and engineers acting well.

4. Dissolve

Dissolve has variable pricing and although the starting price is a low US$29 per clip, the worthwhile stuff tends to be a more expensive option. It's always worth checking out though.

5. iStock and Getty

Getty owns iStock, and both are really next tier suppliers, with some incredible footage so swing on by if money is no object!

 

Method

How we mix it all together:

Check all the sites. It's time-consuming, but it's worth knowing you've found the best example of what you're after. We check 2-3 pages in on a search on each of the above sites.

Download options. You can download clip samples with watermarks on them so that you can try the footage in your edit first. You never really know how it's going to work in the edit before you've had a chance to experiment, so we download heaps more clips than we will actually end up using, try them all in different scenarios, and purchase only at the final stage (and after the client has okayed the purchases).

Think outside the box. What cool things would you shoot if you were there yourself, on that scene, with a camera? Rather than searching just "highway construction", think about searching "pouring cement" or "angle grinder sparks" to get some cool shots that you'll use in a fast montage of maybe less than a second each, but will really pique the viewer's interest.

Look particularly for dolly shots, moving camera, and drone shots. These are vastly more dynamic, and drones in particular when used correctly can add a great deal in production value to a video.

 

To Serve

Finessing your presentation, and what to avoid:

You'll want to do some grading in the final edit that changes the colours of the stock footage to gel well with your other video elements.

There's a really big difference between using stock footage to add impact to your video, and inadvertently drawing a lot of attention to the fact that there's obvious "stock footage" in there. Subtlety is key! It is often worse having obvious stock footage than having no footage at all. Ask yourself every clip viewing, "Does this look like stock?" If so, don't use it.

Some dead giveaways are:

  • Static, tripod shots often look cheap – as mentioned above, aim for dolly/moving camera work.
  • Timelapses are frequently a giveaway that you're using stock; consider whether you really need it very carefully, and make sure any timelapse shots sit seamlessly within your video.
  • Actors – look closely. Are they over-acting, with over-the-top gestures? Do they all look a bit too perfect, like models?

 

Now you should have all the elements you need to get that stock footage working for you. If you have any other tips to add, we'd love to hear them!

We'll leave you with a fun corporate video spoof made entirely of stock footage by the folks over at Dissolve: