If you make YouTube videos, commercials, music videos or any type of visual content, you’ve probably wanted to use certain footage you weren’t able to shoot on your own. For those unfamiliar, these types of clips are called “stock footage” or “b-roll footage.” Stock footage is a video shot by others that you can use in your project.
All sorts of footage can be captured for stock clips. A few common stock footage types are people walking on streets or animals in nature or even landscapes. Documentaries feature a lot of stock footage clips. Filmmakers use it to break up the visual monotony of interviews and other original shots. Stock footage clips tend to be on the shorter side—anywhere from a few seconds to just under a minute. Longer stock footage clips do exist, but they are pretty rare.
Stock footage companies might employ some in-house filmmakers or videographers, but most stock clips come from independent, freelance creators. Some stock footage creators could be on a freelance assignment, but many shoot footage, upload it to a stock footage platform, like Artgrid.io, and get paid royalties when their clips are downloaded. Uploading your shots to a stock footage site can be an excellent way to make passive income, but you need to be sure of their quality. If you’re interested in going out and filming footage for stock, check out these tips for how to sell stock footage.
Online platforms like Artgrid and others make stock footage more accessible and affordable to all types of content creators. And unlike traditional stock footage companies where you pay per-clip, Artgrid and co. offer content creators subscription-based licensing for royalty-free video clips. For example, Artgrid subscribers get unlimited downloads of clips that they can use as many times as they want in any video project, whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, commercials, documentaries and more.
Finding the right stock footage
This might seem a little obvious, but finding the right stock clips is super important. In other words, don’t just pick the first clip you see. Take your time and dig for the right shot, like you’re a DJ looking through crates of vinyl records.
Clip taken from the story ‘Sound Producer in a Recording Studio‘ by Filippo Cinotti on Artgrid
Some YouTube content, music videos, and other video projects will demand that stock clips look like the original shot footage. Other videos pair original footage with stock clips that conceptually match their narrative needs but don’t share the overall visual style (more on this below). This is known as inserting a “cutaway” shot.
If you’re shooting original footage of a desert location, for instance, then your stock footage desert shots should resemble it. On the other hand, if you have an interview, you can use a stock footage cutaway that doesn’t look like your interview footage but still enhances its style and storytelling.
Documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, for instance, is known for using stock footage in creative ways. In fact, he operates on the more artistic side of stock footage usage.
“I call it re-processed media,” Curtis told filmmaker Errol Morris in a 2005 interview. “Perhaps a better expression would be re-purposed media. It’s different from the traditional use of found footage in news documentaries. Here stock-footage becomes expressionistic – never literal – an excursion into a dream – or, if you prefer – nightmare.”
Matching stock footage to your original shots
Some videographers will want to make sure that the camera movements and lighting match their original footage. In other words, they will want the stock clips to match their style.
Clip taken from the story ‘Ingredients‘ by Sharon Chetrit on Artgrid
If you’re a short film director who uses many dollies and aerial shots, look for stock footage that features these movements. If you shot footage specifically in black and white, find stock clips that were also lit for black and white. Similarly, if you’re a YouTuber known for handheld camera work, look for handheld stock footage to keep the style consistent.
That said, if you really want to mess with various camera movements or lighting setups when combining original and stock footage, then there is nothing stopping you. Just be sure the stock clips don’t distract too much from your overall story or message. And whatever stock footage platform you use, make sure to use tags to find the stock clips you need. They will really optimize your search process.
Using stock footage when editing videos
Artgrid offers clips that look natural, as opposed to stocky. Today’s stock footage is typically high quality, which helps elevate your video’s production value.
Below are some things to think about when downloading stock footage for your project. This knowledge will make it easier to seamlessly edit stock footage into original video production.
Once you found the right clip, the next thing to think about is format. Stock footage is usually available in several resolutions for download. The most popular formats are HD mp4, 4K mp4, 4K HQ mov, and even RAW. But, there are others, and they vary according to company and platform.
Variables like the clip’s frame rate and resolution are also important. Be sure to look at the camera and lenses used to capture the footage. Especially if the stock clips must match the original footage as close as possible.
Color correction & grading
We’ve talked about both how to color correct and how to color grade in recent posts. We typically think about using these processes when editing original footage, but they are also necessary for editing stock footage into a video project.
Clip take from the story ‘Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting‘ by Nehara Malkin on Artgrid
On stock footage platforms, clips are often already color corrected and graded. However, on Artgrid, you can download ungraded video files, then color correct and grade the footage yourself. This way, the clips will more closely resemble your own footage.
Color correction is about getting blacks and whites, contrast, saturation, and colors to look as natural as possible. Color grading, on the other hand, is about giving the video a specific artistic look.
Reframe stock clips
Don’t be afraid to reframe stock footage. That’s right: reframe them. The clips are yours now, so you can do as you please with them.
Imagine you’re a YouTuber, and you need a cutaway shot of hands typing on a laptop, but the clip you like best isn’t as close up as you would like. This is where you can use your video editing software to zoom into a better close-up shot.
Maybe your video needs a shot of a sunset, but the clip you like also features a beach. By reframing the clip, you can cut the beach out and focus on the sunset. Just remember, any stock clip can be reframed just as you want it. You are not bound by the stock footage filmmaker’s vision.
Play with video speed
If you want a sense of velocity when inserting a stock footage cutaway into your video project, change speeds. You could either speed the entire clip up or use speed ramping (also known as “time remapping”) to move from normal to high speed, and vice versa.
If you want your stock clip to move at a slower pace, play around with slow-motion speeds. Just make sure that this doesn’t degrade the clip in any noticeable way. And if slow motion makes the footage look bad, then search for a similar shot that was filmed in slow motion.
Add transitions, VFX, and audio
After you’ve edited your stock clips into your original video footage and tinkered with color and framing, you can consider adding visual effects (VFX) and overlays.
For VFX, you can add things like lens flares, camera blurs, animations, or even glitchy effects. Another helpful effect is warp stabilizer, which can correct shaky handheld camerawork if it’s a bit too noticeable in your chosen stock clip.
To create video transitions into and out of stock clips, you can add fade-ins/outs, crossfades, wipes, dissolves, and others. Such transitions will help you seamlessly edit your stock clips into your original footage.
Stock clips don’t feature audio, so when editing stock footage into your video, think about what type of audio you want. This could be your own or somebody else’s voice over, sound effects, music or any other type of audio that will fit the demands of your story or message.
A brief recap
The most important thing in editing stock footage is finding the right clip and format. Once you’ve done this, you can begin the process of color correcting and grading, reframing, playing with speed, and adding VFX, transitions, audio, and other things.
All of this might seem like a lot to think about, but it’s all standard video editing practice. In the end, learning how to seamlessly edit your stock clips into your original footage will just make you a better creator.
DJ Pangburn is a New York-based journalist, videographer, and fiction writer, with bylines at Vice, Fast Company, Dazed and Confused, and other publications. DJ records ambient techno and IDM under the name Holoscene.