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How to Use Stock Footage Effectively in Your Video Projects

Justin Andrews

For many filmmakers, there's a unique thrill in capturing that perfect shot or weaving together original scenes to create a masterpiece.

Let's be honest: sometimes circumstances aren't always in our favor.

Whether it's a restricted budget, time constraints, or just not being in the right place at the right time, there are moments when we need a little help to make our vision come alive.

Stock footage – a boon for some and a bane for others – encompasses pre-recorded video clips designed to be integrated into larger projects. These can play a pivotal role, be it filling narrative gaps, bridging scenes with smooth transitions, or simply enhancing the overall mood of a project. But here lies the rub – not all stock footage seamlessly integrates into a project. Some might come across as laughably out of place, outdated, or of subpar quality.

If you've spent any time browsing stock footage, you've probably stumbled upon clips that make you question their existence.

The man laughing alone with a salad.

The overenthusiastic office handshake.

The family that seems a bit too happy about their morning cereal.

We've all seen them and wondered why these exist.

Thankfully, the stock footage landscape has evolved for the better.

Platforms like Filmsupply are leading the charge in offering high-quality, relevant stock footage that doesn’t break your project. They’ve curated a collection covering various genres, themes, and moods. You can browse by category, keyword, or color to get the nuances just right.

While pricier, the footage from these platforms matches up in quality, ensuring your project doesn't feel like a mishmash of cheesy scenes and too-happy actors.

Here's how to harness the power of stock footage effectively:

Budget Accordingly

Quality stock footage isn’t cheap. If you’re used to paying $25 per clip, you’ll need to take a look at pricing on the more premium stock footage websites. Pricing will depend on the size of your organization and how you’re using the footage. Don’t be surprised if it costs $400 to $600 per clip.

Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

Rather than hoarding clips, focus on sourcing footage that aligns with your project's tone, quality, and narrative. Remember, having a few great shots is better than numerous substandard ones.

Consistency is Key

When integrating stock footage, ensure that it matches your project regarding color grading, resolution, and style. This goes a long way in creating a cohesive visual experience for your audience. You can purchase raw footage instead of a compressed file with color baked in. This will allow you to color-grade the footage to match better.

Customize and Integrate

Today's digital tools allow us to integrate stock footage seamlessly. Use motion design to tailor clips to your needs, ensuring they flow with the original footage. Match cuts, transitions, and pace to make the stock footage feel like it was always part of your project.

Be Creative with Editing

Your editing style can transform stock footage. Play with speeds, add overlays, or experiment with transitions. The aim is to adapt the stock footage to your project rather than vice versa.

  • Lighting: Match the lighting conditions of your stock footage with your original footage.

  • Movement: Match the movement and speed of your stock footage with your original footage. If your original footage is shot with a handheld camera or a drone, you don’t want to use stock footage shot with a tripod or a crane. You also want to match the direction and angle of your shots.

  • Composition: Match the composition and framing of your stock footage with your original footage. If your original footage follows the rule of thirds or uses symmetrical balance, you don’t want to use stock footage on the other side of the pendulum. Also, be aware of your shots' scale and depth of field.

While stock footage might once have been the laughing stock (pun intended) of the filmmaking world, it has come a long way.

With discerning eyes, the right tools, and a touch of creativity, it can be the missing puzzle piece that completes your video project.

Don't shy away from it; embrace it and let it elevate your work.

Need more convincing? Check out some of the work we’ve done with stock footage:

  • Preparing to launch a fresh platform version, Igloo sought to establish the mood for the upcoming changes. Collaborating with our colleagues at SVM, another agency from Rhode Island, we crafted a unified communication strategy and brought the new brand to life.

  • Axis Communications is the leader in sensors and cameras, helping organizations create smarter and safer atmospheres. To help them showcase their offerings' impact in various industries, we developed a video strategy using a long-format video that could easily be broken into smaller units.

  • To keep its brand aligned with the needs of its clients, Toppan Merrill refreshed their brand with new messaging and colors We worked with a group of agencies to help think through the execution of the new brand, updating every asset with a mix of our captured and stock footage.

If you’re ready to start your project, contact us today.