Improve your Video with Stock Footage

So you’ve just finished shooting a video, and you’re in post-production. It’s time to put everything together into a coherent whole. It’s time to go through your shots and find stock footage to fill in the gaps or possibly even replace some of the shots that you took. Why would you want to do that?  Here’s a few good reasons:

You Can’t Shoot It All Yourself: Classic example: you’re shooting a scene in a desert. You’ve driven out into the sands, and you’ve got all of the up-close-and-personal shots. Now it’s post-production, and you just realized why the desert scene feels illegitimate; there’s no establishing shot. Since you’re not about to go back out and charter a helicopter, you hunt down some stock footage of rolling dunes, and you’re back on track to a completed project.

This kind of thing can work just as often in the planning stages. Find a killer bit of stock footage first, then find a location to film at that matches the establishing shot. You save a few hundred bucks renting a flyover, and the end result is just as cohesive as the flyover would have been.

Compensate for Missing Shots: This is the worst thing that can happen to an editor. While you certainly can’t use stock footage to replace shots of the characters themselves, almost any ’empty’ shot can be ad-hoc’ed using stock footage. Say one tape went missing, and with it went that killer shot of the creepy shadows on the window and that other shot of the snow falling off the roof. Or the Director of Photography simply missed that coffee pot overflowing on the checklist of shots. It’s stock photography to the rescue!

Even if a particular clip doesn’t quite fit in visually with the rest of the clip, you can always snag it anyway and use AfterEffects or similar software to modify it until it fits in nicely with the rest of your work.

Stay within Your Budget: We’ve all looked for jobs on CraigsList and seen people with ridiculously low budgets for the goals they want to achieve. $500 for a three-minute video might make sense if all you want are some stills and a voiceover, but it’s not enough to rent a quality camera for an entire day, much less put together an entire video.

With stock video clips, you can ‘cheat’ your way into having an entire commercial or PSA without having to hire any actors, rent a camera, or any of it. Just spend your budget on some quality stock footage, design a story to weave the clips together, and head back to AfterEffects to make them all visually contiguous. You’ll probably still have to hire a voice-over artist, but if you’re clever, you can do everything you need to do and still have a decent profit left over.

In the end, your ability to use stock footage well is limited by two things; your imagination and your skill with your post-production software of choice. If it looks the same to you, no one else is going to know the difference. And as an added bonus, you can save a few hundred bucks or more in the process. Now why would you ever not want to do that?


 James Daugherty is a videographer and photographer who relies on stock footage and stock photography from Shutterstock.


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