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Stock Footage and Film-making

Updated on May 25, 2016

At the threshold of any video-production, cost is a major factor in play which finally shapes up the quality of the result.

Due to the complete dependency of a project on how much it’s funded at, often methods are implied to save the quality and the authenticity of the product within the budget constraints.

The usage of stock-footage or archive-footage is one such cost-cutting method that is used in professional video-productions for fuss-free, budget-video-creation experiences.

Comfort Film-making: Stock Films
Comfort Film-making: Stock Films | Source

How is this Done?

- Stock-footage is a film or a video package or a single piece of shot that is archived at its creation after not being used in the original production. The purpose of the ‘stock’ is to be made available for future use in different video projects where similar footage is required by the filmmakers who cannot afford to shoot the required due to lack of time or limitations on funds.

- These stocks are archived by different companies with the rights to the footage falling under their name when they buy unused footages of the past. They then store these film clips in the latest formats making them available on sale for current or future use. Often these stock footages are shot and stored privately by the organisation handling the production which may come handy in other future projects.

Shutter Stock - The Ultimate Stock King
Shutter Stock - The Ultimate Stock King | Source

- Stored footages may be used in different mediums of video-production such as news, film, television, etc.

- These stock can be purchased through the suppliers in two ways – ‘Rights Managed’ and ‘Royalty Free’

- ‘Rights Managed’ is a method where the buyer of the stock-footage pays its owner a licensing fee for its usage. As the license is bought, the licensing fee is continuously paid on its use by the current user to its original owner. The fee is based on factors depending on its usage such as type of media, length of the video-footage used, location, purpose, etc. Also, factors such as harmful usage of any sort-wrongful portrayal, religious or even sentimental topics or even its artistic relevancy are too decisive. At the end the stock footage owner may choose to either allow or disallow the license of use of the footage depending on the comfort over the above factors.

- ‘Royalty Free’ method is a one-time fee paid to the owner of the stock and can be used by the customer as freely as possible and at the same time the owner can sell the footage to multiple customers as per choice. This method gives an ‘unrestrictive-content’ right to its user. No factors other than the seller’s choice are prevalent in this method.

Stock Footage in Story (Fiction and Non-Fiction)

- Films and other artistic or professional video productions such as television soaps or a story reconstruction on a news channel, often require a particular style of footage for each. In this scenario, the right stock can help the video boost from its original shot footage, through its artistic and relevant depiction, into a more engaging and larger product.

- In fiction, stock footage is used to establish the scenario of a story. A single stock shot of the location, where in the story the scenes that follow take place, often act as a transition or segue. For example, used in many television sitcoms often when transitioning to a city or a select part of a city just before the scenes of the show.

- Many times stock shots of various artistic elements, bring a new depth to the pace, characters or the visuals of the film. For example, a riot scene is shot with 15 men (in fame) rebelling against the police officials. A stock footage shot or repeated shots of a previous riot, real or previously unused footage of a fictional project, placed with the original filmed riot, would enhance the magnitude and the emotion that the scene captures while also having traces of realism through the addition of the actual stock footage.

- Non-fiction video productions such as news channels and documentary-films make the use of mostly real stock-footage for their projects. The stock footage used is seen in sync with the over-lapping voice overs of either interviews or a narrator, depicting the words for which the visuals are added.This stock is more comprehensibly researched as the authenticity of the video matters in these productions.

Stock Footage as Video and Sound Effects

- Video Effects: Almost every fiction and non-fiction production requires video effects in their presentation. Similar to video stock, organisations make their own or collect stock from individuals who create these effects through software’s such as Adobe After-Effects.


Rainy Scenes: A Common Sequence that Often Seeks Stock Treatment
Rainy Scenes: A Common Sequence that Often Seeks Stock Treatment | Source

- Sound Effects: Background of every video production has layers of different sound elements that complement the scene. Sounds such as music (melody and lyric), voice-overs and sound-effects are added to enhance the emotional connect to a scene. Where the voice-overs are mostly created in every production, music and sound-effects are used from stock-footage.

- Musical rights to any melody or a lyric are licensed by the creator and the studio where it was recorded.

Audio Jungle: The Indomitable Audio Stock King
Audio Jungle: The Indomitable Audio Stock King | Source

Stock Footage in Shoe String Budgets and Big Brand Productions

- For independent films or productions involving shoe-string budgets, stock footage comes in use as the production value of such films is relatively low. Thus filmmakers turn to available video footage stock, video effects stock, text stock, etc., to design their films as per choice.

- Stock footage helps such films in their artistic communication. As the cost of pre-production and production is cut, post-production using stock material becomes the most important layer of all.

- Corporate productions are performed in a much more constrained environment where a certain amount of budget is given to the team of filmmakers under a strict period of time. The artistic elements involved are for to the marketing of the corporation and its products.

- In these corporate productions, two kinds of stock footage can be used - Corporate-owned stock footage-(stock material from previous video productions by the corporate), or different stock footage-(stock videos, video and text effects and royalty free music taken from outside sources). Stock such as the company logo, melody/ song, and text/ animation are used definitely in the film for its own branding.

Stock Footage - Past and Future

Many organisations and governments have made an effort to systematically record and digitally safeguard all recorded footage before the digital era so as to keep the historic documentations and the old artistic productions still alive.

With the digital age, stock-footage has a new industry with greater number of individuals creating self-stock of different types and selling their licenses through the internet. This creates an easier play field for young filmmakers who can afford the cheap stock material and use it in professional use.

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