Is it okay to use stock footage?
How many of us have pondered over whether to use stock footage in our films? It’s one of those things that throws up questions like, “So, if I do use stock footage, does that make me less talented?”. Well, it’s a tough one, as there’s so many different things to consider, if you do use stock footage it has to fit with continuity, you can’t have footage of a farmer’s field spliced together with a cityscape for example.
What we at Perspective Pictures say is - yes! It’s fine to use stock footage, in certain circumstances. If you’re in doubt and think only indie filmmakers, with low budgets, use stock footage then you’re wrong. As No Film School explains: “Now, just because Hollywood does it doesn't mean you should too -- but really -- they use it -- all the time. It's safe to say that every production is trying to save as much money as possible regardless of the budget; this goes for major productions, too. Films like 21 Jump Street used stock footage for certain insert shots, namely the exploding watermelon seen in the drug montage. The filmmakers could've captured that on their own by setting up a high-speed camera and a watermelon and just going to town, but instead they chose to save a little bit of money and time by using stock.”
Stock footage can act as the saving grace of many a moment in your film, especially if you need to include something like montages, which are often fast paced and would take up so much extra time and money to film. Another great use of stock footage is introductions to cities and various other locations. Adding in some stock footage of a specific area shot by a drone will be a great addition to the storytelling aspect. As any good filmmaker knows, it’s all about storytelling, a film should never be about adding certain elements just to look fancy.
20 Questions Film gives a superb bit of advice on how adding stock footage to your film works and how maintaining good communication with your team on it is crucial: “Working with stock footage means communication between the editor, the post coordinator, the post supervisor, the director and the producers is key. Things like what house the stock footage clip came from, the cost of the clip per second of being used and how long it’s actually being used in the film all needs to be tracked. Google docs are a great tool that can help you keep track of all these variables. I recommend creating one google doc that tracks all incoming documents/files and another that tracks their usage in the film.”
Finding stock footage
Finding stock footage to use in your film isn’t hard, but it’s always best to source HD quality - as anything else will seriously mess up continuity. There are many sites that offer short clips for free to download, but the HD quality, royalty-free footage you will often have to pay for. Most sites, luckily, do not charge too much though.
Dreamstime are one of the premier go-to sites for stock footage, with a bulging archive of videos that really are quite spectacular. Pexels Video, Videvo and Videezy, among others, all feature professional stock footage that doesn’t cost the earth too.
Never forget, you still need to be creative in what stock footage you choose, as well as how you fit it into your film. It’s certainly not a tarnish on your talent.