Royalty free stock footage
March 30, 2021

What Is Royalty-Free Stock Footage?

By Daniela Bowker 5 min read

What is royalty-free stock footage?

Royalty-free stock footage is video content or clips, usually less than 1 minute in duration, that you can buy to include in a larger project. While that might sound like cheating, it really isn’t. Stock footage is used in everything from news reports to soap operas, to add detail and context in ways that might not be possible or practical for the production team. Stock footage can be found in almost anything that you watch, which means that you shouldn’t be afraid of using it.

Think of it this way - you can use stock footage in a whole range of ways to make your life easier and to elevate your output while keeping production costs down at the same time. High-quality, royalty-free stock footage brings flexibility and freedom to your filmmaking.

When and how to use royalty-free stock footage

Imagine that you’re filming a production set in Paris, but you’re based in New York. Most of the scenes are actually interiors, which means that shifting your entire production team to France would be both expensive and unnecessary. And right now, in the midst of a pandemic, it’s not possible or responsible either. But you have options. 

To suggest that you are in Paris, all you need is a Parisian skyline featuring the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. You buy this as royalty-free stock footage to set your scene and suggest to the audience that you are, actually, in Paris. For cutaway and transition shots when you might want to give your audience a pause or show a shift in context, you can always use shots of a Parisian café or restaurant, of the Métro or of traffic whizzing up and down the Champs-Élysées. 

Using royalty-free stock footage isn’t limited to overcoming international travel restrictions, though. You’re filming something that is set in spring, but in your real world, it’s autumn. No problem! Head to a stock footage site, purchase some scenes showing spring blossom and use them as cutaways. Autumn is now spring. You’ve helped your audience feel more immersed in your story without having to delay your production. 

Royalty-free footage can be used for detail and close-up shots that you simply cannot film yourself, as well as wide-angle, pan, and drone images that you might struggle to shoot. Think sports scenes, close-ups of specific plants or animals or large crowds. Far from stock footage being a cheat, it means that you can produce high-quality video on a budget, a deadline and with professionalism.

Where to find stock footage

There are plenty of stock footage sites out there, offering hours and hours of free footage for you to use. However, it’s a good idea to think carefully about where you purchase your footage and under what type of license. Sites that offer stock footage for free all have extensive libraries of footage that you can use without paying for a license, but the quality can be variable, and no matter how talented you or your video editor are, that could let down your production. To make sure that you maintain video quality and you’re covered for legal issues such as property and model releases, using royalty-free stock footage is a better choice.

What does royalty-free mean?

You might have heard about licenses in relation to music and still images; the same applies to stock footage, too. When you download stock footage to use in your projects, it comes with a license. These licenses come in different forms and they determine how and where your downloads can be used. 

If you have selected footage that is out-of-copyright, either because it is very old or the creator has given up their copyright claims to it, you should not have to pay for the license, but it’s important to double-check that you are, in fact, allowed to use it. 

With a rights-managed license, you will have to pay for every play of your production that features the stock footage. This can get very expensive very quickly, so you will need to think carefully if that particular footage is worth including in your project.

A royalty-free license means that you can use the footage multiple times for one fee. The exact terms of the license will vary from catalog to catalog, so it’s worth reading the details carefully, but the principle is the same. It’s worth remembering that you’ll often hear royalty-free footage be referred to as ‘free footage’. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are free to use, but you don’t have to pay for them again and again.

Why Artgrid is the best choice for your royalty-free stock footage

If you’re looking for royalty-free stock footage to download and include in your projects, we really think that Artgrid is the best stock footage site. Artgrid’s subscription fees are reasonable, starting at $25 a month ($299 billed annually) for unlimited downloads for an entire year, and it has thousands of hours of footage for you to download that is all easily searchable and its license is straightforward and comprehensive.

When you download stock footage from Artgrid, it’s yours to use as you like in as many different projects as you like and in perpetuity. If you cancel your Artgrid subscription, the clips you downloaded while you were subscribed are still yours to use. You don’t have to worry about having to renew licenses in five years’ time, or pay to use a clip again in a different project. Easy!

Unleash your creativity with royalty-free stock footage

Royalty-free stock footage is a valuable resource for your filmmaking. It opens up the world for you when you cannot travel; it can allow you to switch seasons overnight; it can provide you with crowds when you can’t create them. Stock footage, far from being a cheat, is about professionalism. It brings you detail and skylines on a budget. Don’t overlook it!