Royalty free stock footage
March 30, 2021

An Introduction to Stock Video

By DJ Pangburn 9 min read

As videographers or vloggers, we’ve probably all thought about how it would be great to use someone else’s footage in our own projects. It’s not that we can’t do it ourselves. It’s that sometimes we just don’t have the time, budget or technical skill to capture certain types of footage. 

Imagine shooting a video set inside a forest. You’ve captured all of your shots but you’d love to have a smooth aerial of the forest’s canopy. The only problem is that you don’t have a drone camera setup or know any drone cinematographers. Or maybe your video needs vintage news clips or beautiful underwater footage. 

Enter: stock videos. Like stock photos, filmmakers can look for stock videos for aerial forest shots, vintage news clips, underwater footage and more. 

Below, we’re going to dive into the world of stock videos and how they’re created. We will also explore where to find stock videos and detail why royalty-free stock footage is a great option for videographers, filmmakers and vloggers. 

What is stock video?

Before getting into some of the details of stock video, it’s important to distinguish this media from stock film. Unlike its film counterpart, stock video arose in the 1980s as digital video cameras (VHS and Betamax) and archives came into being. A number of companies specialized in offering stock videos to advertisers, documentary filmmakers and news networks and were later bought out by larger stock media companies. 

In recent years, more videographers and filmmakers are shooting stock video and uploading it to subscription platforms. Thanks to the Internet, finding and using stock videos is easier and more affordable than it’s ever been. 

Ideally, videographers and filmmakers use stock video, or 'b-roll' as it is also known, to help tell their story. Vloggers might also want to use stock video footage to better communicate with viewers or to add something different to their style. 

Typically, stock video clips are under one minute, though length can and does vary. Stock clips can be everything from establishing shots of cities and various landscapes to subways, space and extreme-close up shots of objects. Basically anything you can imagine can become stock video. 

Stock video can also feature clips of practical effects. They could be physical effects built for movies and TV shows like the scale models from the original Star Wars and Blade Runner movies. Other stock video clips of this type can feature 2D and 3D computer special effects. In fact, some stock videos can be completely computer-generated, made in Maya, Cinema 4D, Houdini and other video editing programs

Where to find stock video

As hinted at above, there are a few different ways of finding and obtaining stock video clips. Each option has its advantages, but in looking for stock videos, be mindful of your budget and the quality of the stock video clips. 

As we’ve noted in a previous article, finding the right stock video clips is like crate-digging for the best vinyl records. The idea is to have fun, find visuals you love and make sure they fit your project. 

Below, we will explore options for finding stock video footage. 

Royalty-free stock video

Perhaps the most common type of stock video footage license is royalty-free, which can be found on Artgrid, Shutterstock, and Pond5. It’s important to understand that royalty-free does not mean the clip is entirely free. With an RF license, the user pays a one-time fee to use the footage in as many projects and media as they like, without ever paying any royalties to the stock footage rights holder.  

Now, it’s important to know that each Royalty-Free stock video platform will have their own restrictions. For instance, a platform might restrict users from editing stock video clips into their film and television projects. Other platforms might offer royalty-free clips with a per-use fee. 

Artgrid users, on the other hand, pay an annual subscription fee. This allows users to download, use, duplicate, alter and edit stock footage. It also allows users to present and use it on any platform, whether it’s YouTube or Vimeo, Facebook or Instagram or any other digital media format. 

Stock footage agencies

Another option for stock video footage is to seek out stock footage agencies, then buy the video clips you need. Again, stock footage agencies are a very traditional way of obtaining stock footage. It’s a great option for those productions with a big budget, like Hollywood studio films, television and Internet advertisements, and so on. 

Independent videographers and filmmakers probably won’t have the funds to purchase stock video clips from agencies. Nevertheless, if your documentary project or vlog gets good financial backing, then these agencies might be worth some consideration.

Public Domain & Creative Commons

Another path to stock footage is to turn to the public domain. A legal term for non-copyrighted media, as well as media protected by free licenses, public domain stock video clips are those available to all. For instance, a bunch of early 20th century films and musical recordings have now passed into the public domain, where they can be found and used by anyone. 

Stock videos in the public domain are free to use. As noted above, they tend to be older video clips, like old educational films, newsreels, and government documentaries. 

It’s possible to find newer stock video clips in the public domain. For instance, a filmmaker or videographer might have made their clips public domain via a Creative Commons license. A Creative Commons license is a type of public copyright license that may give users the right to share, use, and adapt a video clip for their own projects. There are occasionally some restrictions to Creative Commons stock footage, so be sure to consider that when looking for clips.  

Why royalty-free stock video is the right choice

We discussed royalty-free stock video above and listed some of its advantages. It’s worth mentioning them again, but also useful to detail some other upsides to royalty-free stock video footage. 

Royalty-free stock video licenses are usually either a one-time fee or an annual subscription fee. The big advantage to choosing a royalty-free stock video platform is the subscription fee, which allows users to download and edit stock video footage for projects, and usually distribute it in different formats. (Again, check the terms of use details as you research royalty-free stock video clip platforms and choose those with the fewest limitations or restrictions). 

A big upside to stock video clips platforms is that the online user interface is easy to use and fun to explore. Unlike public domain websites such as Archive.org or the Creative Commons website where the UX is clunky and clips are scattered without order, the interface is easy on the eyes, and clips are curated according to common themes.

In Artgrid, for example, every clip is part of a “Story”, which is a collection of shots from the same sequence. This gives editors a lot more variety and flexibility, improving your ability to tell stories with stock footage.

Another useful feature that you won’t find on public domain sites is search filters. In Artgrid, you can filter your search according to Video Themes like Sport & Fitness, Medical & Health, Green Planet and even abstract clips and timelapse. You can also filter according to shot type, meaning you can find clips for close-ups, handheld, interiors, exteriors, 4K clips and so on.

Additionally, in Artgrid you can find clips curated in ‘Collections’ like Wildlife, City Llife, Technological Devices, Corporate Stock Video and even collections of Glitchy Stock Video Footage or clips with the same color scheme, like Blue, Yellow, Green and Red. One of our recent entries in Collections is “Kitchen Symphony,” which features a bunch of awesome stock clips of chefs cooking. 

No doubt the biggest upside to royalty-free stock video is that the platforms that offer it typically make it really affordable for independent and low-budget filmmakers.  So, check out all the different sources of stock footage and see what suits your needs.