When you think of stock footage, you’re picturing staged scenes and stiff acting in corporate environments, right? The truth is, not all stock equates to smiling doctors or people in suits watching the Dow climb. In reality, stock video runs the gamut from dramatic time-lapses to abstract CGI animation.
These ready-to-use clips can expand your film in terms of scope and production value for a fraction of the cost or effort. They can be used to help you improve your video’s storyline.
Here’s a few creative ways to incorporate stock footage into your projects.
Establishing shots are essential to films and videos where a specific location has to be recognized or a mood or tone needs to be set. They add a great amount of production value to your video as well, especially if you don’t have the budget to go to a certain location or film a sweeping helicopter aerial yourself.
Let’s say you’re shooting a video in Arizona, but it’s supposed to take place in L.A. You want to make sure the audience believes that this is indeed Southern California. Simply dropping in a shot of the Hollywood Hills can add that glitzy, fame-soaked vibe you’re looking for.
Maybe this is a Noir, or a dreary introspective piece about the futility of the people who live here, a la L.A. Confidential or Chinatown? There’s a clip for that.
Nowadays, screens are often replaced in post-production for a number of reasons. You can avoid glare, refresh rate issues, licensing issues regarding on-screen content, or to give more options in editing. When it comes to screens, be it a TV, computer, phone, or even a jumbotron, finding appropriate footage to put on it can sometimes be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. This one takes some skills, but it’s one of the handiest and time-saving uses of stock footage. If this stuff won’t be featured and just lives in the background, you can add several layers of depth to your scene.
Fake ads — and real ones, too
Part of your storyline might include an advertisement for a fictional product or service. Maybe you’re making a Sci-Fi film that calls a spoof of some futuristic technology.
Commercial filmmakers and marketers already use stock footage to tie their advertisements together. Why not employ the same methods as they do?
And, if you are a marketer and need to make real life ads for your business or a client, you can use stock to make real ads too! The reason stock video works well with ads is because often you have less of a story, and more of a concept, an idea that you’re selling. Using stock lets you express how that idea can affect many people over wide areas and demographics (i.e. your potential customer base).
Are you a Terrance Mallick or Stanley Kubrick fan? Are you creating intro credits for a murder mystery or nature documentary? Montages are a classic technique in film and video, often used to portray the passing of time or an appreciation of beautiful nature. Montages are typically filled with short but varying shots that would take time and money to shoot yourself. Stock footage can fill in the blanks — or at least help set the tone — of almost any montage your video needs.
What’s particularly exciting about this use of stock, is you are literally creating a story. Stock can help you be places you can’t, and create stories you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Often, we worry so much about what we’re putting in front of the camera that we don’t have time to determine what needs to be physically fabricated in post-production. There are many high-quality graphics and digital elements that are already made and ripe for licensing. Whether you want to feature them, or just use them for elements in the background, stock video can be much quicker (and cheaper) than trying to render CGI graphics from scratch.
Ever watched a Sci-Fi movie, or a cool hacker film where nonsensical code flies across the screens? Or a super-important file has to upload before the clock runs out? Or, your villain brings up a blueprint to a doomsday weapon? Or, a starship is navigating a black hole at light speed?
Thanks to streaming services, serial documentaries are having a renaissance. With the advent of true crime and the mini-biography (think Making a Murderer and Chef’s Table), the format has accessibility and popularity like it has never seen before. One of the interesting challenges with documentaries is how to portray events that have already occurred — the notorious “reenactment.”
You can easily increase your production value if you use stock video in creative and unexpected ways. And these are just some of the ways that you can use stock video to enhance your next film project.