Tips For Picking a Great Stock Footage Clip

There are more stock footage video clips than ever before but that doesn’t mean there is consistent quality with each stock footage clip you search for. There is a vast array of options and choices when hunting for the perfect stock footage clip to use in a video, advertising or PowerPoint presentation project. Searching for a stock footage clip that fits the bill in terms of subject matter and quality of execution can often times be tedious and frustrating. Below is a list of ten tips for picking a great stock footage clip for your next project.

1. Composition

Every great stock footage video clip starts with eye-catching composition. Composition includes the way in which the visual subject is constructed and placed within the frame. More standard composition places the subject in the center of the frame and uses symmetry and balance to compose the picture. A more photographic and stylized approach is to “weight” the frame and place the subject near one of the edges of the frame, which gives the stock footage clip an edgier and more modern look. Visually engaging composition is one of the primary elements of a great stock footage clip so pay close attention to this when choosing a clip.

2. Motion

Motion is another important element to carefully look at when reviewing and selecting stock footage clips for your projects. Motion can include both camera movement as well as movement of subject. Typically the most dynamic and enticing motion happens when the camera is moving in some way. A moving camera during a shot adds drama, power and impact creating a high level of cinematic production quality. There are a variety of camera movement techniques including using a dolly, jib arm, crane, tripod or many other specialty equipment devices that can create beautifully crafted movement during a shot. Look for stock footage clips that have distinct movement to give your project an added level of craft and production value.

3. Performance

If you’re searching for a stock footage clip that includes talent, then it’s key that the performance of the talent is believable in the clip. Stock footage clips that include talent have received a reputation over the years of looking “staged” and less than real. Another key element to selecting a great stock footage clip is the believability of the performance of talent within a clip. There is a lot of stock footage in the marketplace that features bad performances and over acting of talent. Be selective when choosing a stock footage clip and weed out talent and performances that look staged.

4. Lighting

Good lighting can greatly enhance the overall quality of a stock footage clip. What defines good lighting you ask? Good lighting is the balance, ratio, look and level of the overall light within a scene or shot. The lighting can come from a natural light source, be generated artificially or be a combination of both. Premium and pro stock footage clips are shot by seasoned directors of photography who are experts at creating shots with commercial-grade lighting. They have an arsenal of techniques, equipment and tricks for making a stock footage clip look stylish and professional with lighting. Use a critical eye to look for those stock footage clips with the best use of lighting.

5. Focal Length

Focal length describes the length of the lens used on the film or video camera for a particular shot. A short focal length will give the image a wider field of view whereas a longer focal length will compress the image and bring the field of view tighter and closer. The longer the focal length typically the more out of focus the background is from the subject. Different focal lengths give different emotional feelings to a shot and can have a profound effect on the look and quality of the stock footage clip you’re using in your project.

6. Art Direction

When researching and selecting stock footage clips, quality of art direction will be another important element to consider. Art direction primarily refers to the scenery, decoration and props within a scene. Like any other art form, the quality of execution when it comes to art direction can vary from one stock footage clip to another. Pay careful attention to these details because art direction that is well thought out and implemented can have a big impact on the stock footage clip.

7. Locations

The location or locations featured in a stock footage clip has a big influence on the quality of the clip. A visual and relevant location has as much impact on the shot as composition, camera movement and lighting. A good location influences the overall emotional tenor of a shot as well as providing context for the subject matter, whether it is a high concept clip or a more realistic one. Locations during shooting are enhanced with good art direction, props, lighting, composition, talent and camera operation; however the foundation for a quality stock shot starts with a solid location.

8. Authenticity

The overall authenticity of the stock footage clip you’re selecting for your project is another key criterion when researching clips. Authenticity is all about the truthfulness, realism and naturalness of the overall qualities of the stock footage clip. This includes many of the elements discussed above but especially includes the performance of the talent (if any) as well as the props, wardrobe and art direction for the scene. All of these elements must “ring true” for you and your audience or the clip will scream out that it’s a stock footage clip. The believability of the stock footage clip or clips you choose will determine how well it integrates into your final video, commercial, TV show or PowerPoint presentation.

9. Resolution

With so many camera acquisition formats on the market today, there are a countless number of delivery resolutions and formats for stock footage clips (i.e., 1080i, 1080p, HD, 720p, SD, PAL, etc…). It can be overwhelming for sure. Be sure you research and understand what the final resolution of your project is before final delivery of your project. Talking to your video editor and technical team upfront before researching and searching for stock footage is a key step not to be overlooked.

10. Compression & Delivery

Compression is an important consideration when ordering and/or downloading the stock footage clip(s) that you choose for your project. Different companies offer a variety of compression codecs when delivering files and masters to you after you’ve ordered. If choosing to have digital files delivered to you be sure you understand the type of codec and compression that will be used within the stock clip you’ve ordered. Some companies deliver stock footage clips without any compression and others deliver clips with a considerable amount of compression. Knowing the codec and compression of your clips before ordering is an important consideration to remember to be sure you’re getting the quality you need for your project.