How Stock Footage Can Help You and Your Film

Unlocking the potential of stock videos in your film and career.

 

“It’s Like Lego Bricks for Filmmakers.”

Lights Film School recently came across MotionElements, the leading royalty-free marketplace in Asia for worldwide stock video and audio content.

Stock video represents a growing business opportunity for independent filmmakers as well as an alternative method of content acquisition. Check out our five-question interview with the ME Team to discover how selling and buying stock video can help you build a business and benefit your films.

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Greetings, ME Team! To set the stage for our readers, let’s explore what, precisely, stock video is. Who needs it, and why? Who makes and sells it, and why? What are the legal considerations? What inspired you to build a platform to connect clients with content creators, and how does it work?

Stock video or ‘library footage’ is content that filmmakers can use in their own videos without the need to shoot it themselves. The seller benefits because they often have shots that they do not need to use in their own productions, but can still monetize by selling via the community marketplace.

How it works is, let’s imagine, for example, you’re on a shoot in Japan and you take some aerial shots of the Tokyo Tower as B-roll. Instead of letting it sit on the shelf, you upload it to MotionElements.com.

Another motion creator halfway around the world requires a shot of the Tokyo Tower for his project, but instead of hiring and flying a crew over to Japan to film it, which can add up to the equivalent of a very well-funded independent film, he purchases your stock video at a mere fraction of the cost. He is happy, you have made money on otherwise redundant footage, and everyone wins.

MotionElements helps connect you to other stock video producers all over the world. Both buyers and sellers can be anyone from the filmmaking community, from large companies to independent professionals. Because our marketplace focuses on video creators, MotionElements takes this concept further and applies it to related media types, like Stock Animation, After Effects Templates, Apple Motion Templates, and Stock Music.

Essentially, we were filmmakers before and used to find sourcing for video-specific content quite a challenge; this is what inspired us to begin building a community for video creators. MotionElements then began to branch out into other areas to help content creators find the resources they need to quickly and effectively produce their videos.

For example, filmmakers can now purchase After Effects Templates to jazz up their opening titles and create motion background animations. Editors, who don’t necessarily know much about After Effects, can purchase a template, customize it, and learn from the experts who created that template, while Motion Graphics artists can purchase beautiful live action footage to use in their animations.

We provide the resources and platform so that the creators can focus on creating. To me, it’s like Lego bricks for filmmakers.

Of course, copyright is always a main concern when it comes to stock content, as it should be. As an artist, you would like to get paid fairly for the work that you do.

What attracts many artists to creating and selling stock media is that you retain ownership (copyright) of your work while allowing buyers licenses to use your work in their own projects. Depending on whether you have an exclusive agreement with a stock agency, you can choose to distribute that piece of work over various platforms and marketplaces, and still earn from every sale made, because you still own it.

Every stock marketplace has their own copyright agreement and licences. At MotionElements.com, we’re a fair and creators-friendly marketplace. We allow artists to set their own prices for their works, because who knows better how much you should get paid than yourself? We offer partial exclusivity, which means that you can choose to sell some elements exclusively at our marketplace, to optimize your profits and visibility, and sell other elements non-exclusively. Artists get 70% royalties for ME-Exclusive content and 50% for non-exclusive content, one of the highest in the microstock industry.

The royalty-free usage license on MotionElements allows buyers to acquire the right to use that content in their projects, without buying the copyright or having to hire a crew and equipment for a shoot, thus allowing their budgets to stretch further.

What equipment, skills, and training are needed to become a successful stock video creator? How much time and money does it take to get up and running? How much can one expect to make as a stock video creator?

The great thing about creating video nowadays is that, as an independent filmmaker, you most probably already have the skills and equipment to start right now. You just need a camera that takes good quality video and you’re off.

Needless to say, it isn’t all point-and-shoot. But we do have good footage coming in from hobbyists who are experimenting with their gear. After that, it’s a matter of how far you want to push yourself to increase your skill or how specialized you want your gear to be.

That said, stock video is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You do need to put in a little time and effort to produce the videos, organize them, tag the right keywords and upload them for sale. Sales will rarely come rolling in right away. There will be good months and low months. There is seldom a particular pattern, even across the most prolific videographers and motion creators.

However, a huge benefit that makes more and more videographers sell their videos as stock is that they can work on it in their free time and not worry about it after the initial effort. It’s also a great bonus that cut-offs or unused B-roll from projects, which otherwise have nowhere to go, can be put to good use as a potential money-maker in your stock library.

Once the content is uploaded, it creates a recurring passive income and sellers can literally make money in their sleep.

Lots of potential. At risk of generalizing, what are clients looking for? What sort of topics, aesthetics, and tech specs tend to sell?

Different clients look for different things. Every project is different, thus, the type of stock content needed can vary widely from one sale to the next. People like our Stock Animation and After Effects Templates categories. Probably because we have over 500,000 of these, and we have specialized categories for Stock Animation.

As more and more global interest turns to the east, we have an increasing demand for Asian-themed stock footage.

Business content is also an evergreen theme. However, as standards and trends move, so do the needs of these clients. No business wants to seem outdated. As an example, take a look at how different videos can look like when someone is searching for “business” nowadays:

Is there a correlation between “artistically good” and “financially successful”? What other correlations exist?

We could spend hours debating what is “artistically good”.

However, I do think there is a difference between “creative” and “aesthetically good”. For example, a beautiful shot of the New York City skyline may be “aesthetically good”, but not “creative”. While a shot of a dancing frog in the rain is “creative”.

But what are the chances of someone looking to buy a shot of a dancing frog in the rain? Hence, what we can say is there is a correlation between “aesthetically good” and “financially successful” content.

Interesting! That makes a lot of sense. So, how is creating stock video different from creating project-specific content? Ie., what are the unique considerations of stock video – composition, lighting, etc. – and why?

In many ways, creating stock video content is similar to creating project-specific content. The fundamental rules apply; good composition, lighting, steady camerawork. However, for the stock video to be successful, it is good to put yourself in the shoes of the buyers. Think for a second, what is it that they would like to buy? What is it that they cannot create by themselves, or would be too expensive or time-consuming to create by themselves?

As a rule of thumb, try to shoot at the best possible quality and keep as much “information” in the footage, so as to allow maximum customizability for the buyer in the post-production process.

Flexible Content

Also, generally, the content should be highly flexible, so that different people can use it in different ways. Start off by brainstorming the content you as a filmmaker have needed in the past, and evaluate your ideas based on how “flexible” they are. How probable is it that someone else will need that content and buy it for their own video?

Shooting various subjects/people with a white/greenscreen background makes the content very flexible, by allowing people to key out the background or change the background to flow with the story.

Composition

Frame the shots slightly more loosely, especially for 2K or 4K footage, as buyers can later scale up the footage if they need to.

Also when possible, shoot stable shots using a tripod, as it is easier to add camera shakes in post-production than to correct them with stabilization. Hold the shot for a few seconds, then perform any zoom/tilt/pan, then hold the shot for a few seconds. This technique allows greater flexibility for editing.

Also, it is good to film the same person doing something in a full body shot and a mid shot. This allows the buyer to purchase both shots and “edit” them into a story.

Exposure

Try to expose the subject optimally, without overexposing the highlights too much. Over-exposure of the subject is irreversible unless you are shooting RAW. What if a potential buyer doesn’t want content that’s overexposed?

White Balance

Shoot at the proper white balance point. Keep it neutral and white, as this makes it easier to color-correct in post.

Lighting

Sufficient lighting is important. You do not want to crank up your ISO too much as this induces noise in the footage. Bear in mind that the buyer will want to further edit and post-process the footage, hence we want to try and keep our ISO and noise level as low as possible.

If you are filming a subject with a white background, do try and illuminate the white background evenly/overexpose the white background, so that it’s an evenly flat white:

Text Copy Space

In addition, some other considerations will be to shoot a subject with enough empty area for text-copy to be inserted in post:

Quality

Definitely, shooting in RAW offers multiple advantages to adjust and transcode the footage into various codecs in the future. We would recommend it as an acquisition format.

Finally, shoot at the lowest ISO, highest quality format and resolution available. You never know when your shot might appear in a feature film!

Great tips! Clearly, your team includes professional stock video creators, so we’d love to hear more craft-related tips for indie filmmakers foraying into stock video creation. Ie., how do you choose a subject, how do you shoot that subject, and what steps do you take in post to prepare it for the market? What is a stock video creator’s workflow?

There are some stock videographers who focus on a particular subject or theme, like underwater, aerial or even 35mm vintage film. Others expand to as many and as generic themes as possible, populating their portfolios and going by numbers.

One thing I find in common is that many stock videographers are not afraid to try something new. That is partly due to the need to find something interesting for such a wide market out there but largely from the fact that they have the freedom to shoot whatever they want, whenever they want.

A stock videographer tends to be opportunistic as well. We have videographers using their family and friends as topics and subjects. They know someone who has a studio or an interesting workshop, they had a newborn, their friend is heavily pregnant, they are going to a wedding, going to Switzerland….

The profession comes with a curiosity and creativity to capture every moment and make it beautiful so that someone out there will want to use it in their project.

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Content Organization

Content organization isn’t the most fun part of the process, but naming your file appropriately, putting in a description and appropriate keywords, is a necessary part of the process if you want buyers to find your work.

A key document you will start to use is your metadata. This is a sheet filled in with relevant information for each clip, including pricing. Think of your metadata as a log for all your content. This file can be used not only for your own organization, but also for marketplaces like MotionElements. This way, the system will be able to attach all the information in your metadata to your clips at the click of a button, instead of you laboriously going to each clip individually and filling out the information.

Giving enough relevant keywords is also crucial. This will go a long way in letting your work be found by buyers. Think of all potential keywords the buyer will search for and don’t limit to just the subject of the footage. Keywords can include the place, possible event or even the mood and concept of the shot.

A good internet connection is highly recommended when uploading your work. MotionElements does offer a complementary HDD upload service, whereby you can ship your HDD directly to us.

And of course, always backup your precious footage to multiple backup drives!

Ultimately, every videographer and editor has his or her own style, but once you’ve got a workable system, keep at it. Then repeat the process and tweak along the way as needed.

A fantastic overview of the stock video world and how independent filmmakers fit in. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and industry insights with us!

For more from MotionElements, check out their blog, featuring some of their bestselling artists and in-depth, behind-the-scenes content.

 Michael Koehler, with


Want to learn more about stock content?

Then join our online film school, complete with a comprehensive filmmaking course. It’s everything you need to learn how to create professional narrative and documentary films using the equipment you already have, wherever you live, with guidance, community, and resources at a fraction of the cost of traditional film school.

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