A Quick Guide to Creating Videos with Stock Footage
By Bob Hadfield.
It’s not unusual for us to complete one of our smaller projects having not shot a single piece of action ourselves - thanks to stock footage which can be an extremely useful tool in the armoury of a video production company.
It’s a great way to minimise cost and time particularly for smaller businesses, so I thought I’d shine a bit of a light on this area for our blog and show it’s certainly not a practice to be sneered at.
In the right hands it can deliver amazing and very cost-effective results.
You may also be very surprised to know just how much even big TV and film productions regularly rely on stock content. Chances are you see stock footage used hundreds of times a day every day on TV, film and the Internet and don't realise.
Where to Begin?
So…let’s say you’ve been asked to put together a short video to help market a new business. Their budget is tight, and you believe relying on stock footage is the way to go. Where do you start? There are many stock footage websites out there, and over the years we’ve used most of them. The good news is that purchasing stock footage has never been as affordable as it is today. The crucial thing to do, is have a good look around the various websites before you potentially create an account with any of them as they will all have their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the specific project you are working on. Only you can determine which one(s) to use.
As a general rule, the more expensive stock websites such as Shutterstock.com and istock.photo have some of the best pieces of footage money can buy – stunning sequences, but as the saying goes, “you pay for what you get”. If you have a truly key moment in mind and need something specific to deliver a wow factor which the video you are working on really hinges on, then stock websites like these can be extremely useful indeed, but you will likely be in the region of £100 plus for each piece of footage. However, it is much more likely that most of the time you will want greater scope of choice to build a more complete story with stock footage. For this, I recommend using a stock subscription service.
For a monthly fee of around £12.50 (technically it’s 14.50 EUR) elements.envato.com gives you access to all of their stock footage, music, photos, graphics templates and more. On a quality/production level, their footage might not quite be on the level of the big players such as Shutterstock and iStock etc, but what you get in scope, choice and range of format is truly staggering. They have 1.3M pieces of footage alone - not counting their music, photos and graphics. What this then allows you to do is build up a storyboard with the stock footage itself. Being able to quickly download anything you find and plonk it into your video editing timeline is a really powerful ability which can rapidly hone your ideas and helps keep your own time (and therefore costs to your client) to a minimum. Might I suggest this can also be a good way to build up storyboards and concepts for larger projects, even if you are ultimately shooting all the footage yourself. It is a great idea-building process.
The range of options Envato Elements provides at a low fee is superb
Making Your Video
So…you’ve got a good idea of the visual sequences you want to use for your video, it’s now literally time to face the music. I can’t stress how important a good soundtrack is to a video like this. No matter how coherent you think your sequence of stock footage is to tell your clients story, you can’t get away from the fact that they are ultimately separate pieces of footage. A good video editor can certainly use tricks to slow sections down (even if the footage wasn’t in slow motion to begin with) or speed them up, and of course, decide the appropriate moment to go from one clip to another. But in my view, the most significant influence of the very essence of a video project is the soundtrack. A great piece of music in your video can bind your clips together – give it that essential connective tissue that brings it all together. So, before you spend most of the time in your editing chair, decide what music you want to use and let it dictate the rhythm and flow of the video. You will likely need to chop and change the music track itself. For example, I will find that ‘big finish’ moment in a sound track and make sure it aligns with the final call to action of the video. I then figure out a seamless way to cut the music track so it gets me to that important big finish in a way that sounds natural and unforced. Then, I know I am ready to make the video sequences fit with that.
Above is a screenshot from Final Cut of a project I recently worked on for a client, all using stock graphics, stock audio and parts of the clients logo itself I separated in Photoshop (no actual filmed footage). For the soundtrack you'll see I used a song called 'Magical Fantasy Cinematic Intro', which is split into two. After a short time experimenting, I found a spot where the start of the music could seamlessly merge with a crescendo in the music track for the final part of the video. This becomes the glue that really binds the whole piece together - essential when using stock sequences.
If you can get these elements right, you are almost there. Then it is a case of using good titling to ‘top and tail’ the video and/or to land some key messages throughout. Using your client’s logo effectively is also key (perhaps even animating their logo a little might be worthwhile, as I did in my example). You may also consider using a voice over artist as well.
Ultimately, it’s all about good storytelling – regardless of whether your project consists completely of stock footage, content you’ve shot yourself, or somewhere in between. The real success of any video you work on is in the story and that it lands the right messages effectively.
If you have a good eye for that, that’s honestly the hardest part - the rest is easy!
P.s. if you want to have a look at the completed video which the above screenshot was taken from here it is.