Stock Footage Houses
Serving and accentuating production’s vast spectrum
By Mark Smith
Whether a production company is working on a documentary about World War II, a televisions series about the social revolution of the 1960s, a PBS special about wonder drugs or an awards program in the movie industry – or any other project – there will be a footage house that can offer just the right content to make the final product truly shine.
More and more options are becoming available in the market to help producers do just that. And while acquiring, accessing and paying for footage can be expensive and cumbersome, there also are new avenues available to make it easier and less cost-prohibitive.
8,000 Clips per Week
Ben Pfeifer, vice president of new business for New York-based Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com), can make a bold claim: That the nine-year-old technology company “licenses more commercial images each year than any other company in the world – including stills.” As for the video part of that equation, he says the house offers more than 1 million royalty-free film and video clips.
|Shutterstock offers users more than 1 million royalty-free film and video clips.|
Pfeifer calls Shutterstock “a two-sided marketplace,” as shooters and filmmakers from around the world add more than 8,000 clips every week to its library. “And every time a clip is downloaded, we pay a flat royalty rate of 30 percent,” he said. “We believe that the strength of our relationship with a contributor should be based on our ability to drive sales.”
The collection includes model-released content, so the user knows that the owner of the footage has been signed off on and that it’s all legal to use. Many companies buy content and pay the supplier for a flat fee, for instance; but Shutterstock doesn’t work under exclusive contracts and Pfeifer feels that filmmakers “appreciate the flexibility that provides.”
Key collections at Shutterstock, which went public last year, include work from Monkey Business, BIWA and the Novus Collection, with various other lenses focused on nature, business, slow motion and establishing shots such as a helicopter flyover of The Big Apple.
Shutterstock is putting more and more resources to the footage end, in sales and support, and more features for contributors and customers.
Media for the Masses
|Video Blocks CEO Joel Holland.|
The news at Reston, Va.-based Video Blocks concerns the raising of $10.5 million in venture capital that is being used to fuel its growth as a low-priced provider of high quality stock video and audio — and plenty of it.
The new approach started at Video Blocks in 2011, when the house unveiled its subscription-based model, which is “very different than what the competition offers,” says Joel Holland, CEO. “For $79 a month, a subscriber can get as much material, of any kind, as needed” from www.videoblocks.com.
Incorporating that model also means offering more than enough stock footage, and Holland says that’s a deal. “We’re purchasing thousands of clips daily and we’ve expanded our content offerings from 50,000 to 100,000 clips in a year. We plan to continue that expansion, though our focus is still quality over quantity.
“Our TV production company clients buy from collections,” continued Holland, “but we found that the trend is to cater to laymen or prosumers who want to create a video, and the number of content creators is growing exponentially.”
On that note, Video Blocks is now distributing, all told, more than 1 million stock video (and audio) clips (the library is about 70-percent video) per month. As production companies know, getting quality clips for a reasonable price is tough. “But we’ve decided to shoot for a vast customer base,” Holland said, “to make the economies of scale works for us.”
The Stock Video Vault (SVV, www.stockvideovault.com) can be found under roof at Crew West, a production company in Phoenix, Ariz., where Doug Podkowsky works as an audio tech while coordinating the vault.
Much of SVV’s library evolved from the lens of Dustin Farrell, a well-known time-lapse cinematographer who “led us to the footage side of the production business in 2008,” said Podkowsky. “Once we realized the demand for his footage in particular, we were fielding calls from producers from various parts of the industry who wanted to license his content.”
Stock Video Vault’s library includes time-lapse panoramas.
Farrell’s panoramic shots are attractive because “they’re very crisp and incorporate dynamic motion, which means that the camera moves very slowly [i.e. 10 feet in 12 hours],” so the shot actually moves as if it was shot with a dolly, said Podkowsky. “It’s almost too slow to notice with the naked eye.”
The panoramic part of the library includes shots of cities, but much more of remote landscapes, often in the Southwestern United States, and at worldwide locales such as Iceland, Austria and Jerusalem. The bottom line is that “Farrell ventures to remote spots where few other cinematographers shoot,” Podkowsky said.
|[Top to Bottom] Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson boxing match from Sept. 8, 2012.
The cast of the HBO series Girls at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards after-party.
A Yellow jacket wasp from the Time-Life Wild, Wild World of Animals series,
episode “Insect Engineers.”
Thus Crew West’s footage business was launched, but SVV also works with other shooters; it’s obtaining more footage to complement a collection that also encompasses real-time video of wide landscapes and cityscapes, or “scenesetters.” They’re available on its recently re-launched website, where footage is leased on a rights managed basis, meaning costs vary.
Working at HBO for the better part of two decades has given Max Segal an all-encompassing view of its library. The director of HBO Archives estimates that www.hboarchives.com posts about 70,000 online clips of a 1.5-million-asset library, mostly garnered since the early ’70s.
At its core, HBO Archives consists of four video collections: HBO Sports, HBO Entertainment News from the early ‘80s, HBO Films stock shots, and The March of Time documentary series, which consists of footage from the 1930s to the ’60s on 35mm (which is in the midst of the long transfer process to HD).
While the archive is impressive, it could have been even more robust had more of HBO’s pioneers had a bit more foresight – or eyes in the backs of their heads, depending on your perspective. “It was just a variety of sports. We were ESPN almost a decade before there was an ESPN,” said Segal, “but some content was erased from two-inch tape.”
The cablenet’s newest sub-collection is Classic HBO Sports of the ’70s, with NCAA basketball, PBA Bowling, gymnastics, tennis, diving and the more recent “Where Are They Now?” NFL segments. But as for acquisitions, don’t look for any additions soon.
“We’re knee deep in footage, so we’re just trying to handle what we have,” said Segal, who also still favors working the phone. “The website helps, but it’s not possible to digitize everything. We really prefer that clients call us so we can advise them.”
It’s not so much about acquiring footage as aggregating collections for New York-based Footage.net which, according to Chief Marketing Officer David Seevers, pulls together 40-plus collections, including those of top names in the stock footage business such as Getty Images, Shutterstock and CNN ImageSource.
“We’ve become one of the largest stock footage research and screening sites in the world, with well more than two million clips from a vast array of sources,” said Seevers, with subject matter ranging from network news to archival clips to extreme sports.
|Footage.net is one of the largest stock footage research
and screening sites in the world.
In short, Footage.net offers stock footage of virtually any topic, which drives the company’s quest to add more partners and attract more eyeballs to the site; it monetizes by charging partners a variable fee.
Among its big news of late is the addition of the Shutterstock and Celebrity Footage libraries earlier this year, “which really expanded our royalty-free offerings, which are simpler to license than rights-managed footage,” Seevers said. The other big news is surpassing the 2 million-clip mark, which makes Footage.net “one of the largest stock footage resources in the world.”
Its goal is to “bring more images on to our site and make them readily available through our cloud-based platform, thus making the service of higher value to our footage partners and our users,” Seevers said, “and then try to drive as much qualified traffic to the site as we can.”
Searching the World Over
From its base in Orem, Utah, StockFootage.com’s “group of cinematographers, colorists and VFX artists have created a unique library of stock footage,” says CEO Chris Dortch, “that encompasses breathtaking, arresting footage of some of the most incredible places, sights and scenes on Earth.”
It’s easy to see why the company’s artsy collection is noteworthy, as Dortch points out that the company’s cinematographers have acquired content “in hundreds” of national parks, in addition to a more recent and more daunting task: spending “several weeks with the U.S. military shooting high-speed footage of C4 explosions, machine guns, operating shots from Chinooks, Black Hawk helicopters and many other military vehicles,” he said.
StockFootage.com’s library includes national parks, cityscapes and U.S. military footage.
Getting the permissions and 100 signed model releases from the military was no easy task for the company, but StockFootage.com expedited distribution by allowing its clients to license content, then download HD, as well as 4K Ultra HD, footage.
Noting the cityscapes, slow-motion and time-lapse shots, Dortch explained that it’s all in the approach: “While Getty and other companies are primarily news outlets, StockFootage.com is more of an art gallery,” he said.
|Global ImageWorks specializes in “deep footage,”
or raw footage not found elsewhere.
Of recent note is the kickoff of the company’s continued addition lensed by cinematographers who shoot worldwide; moving ahead, Dortch says that 4K is becoming very popular with clients such as The Discovery Channel, the BBC and National Geographic. “We hope to connect in a better way with our buyers,” Dortch said, “since we’re users of stock footage ourselves.”
Having It All
A small, independent company based in Haworth, N.J., with a vast and varied footage collection, Global ImageWorks (GIW, www.globalimageworks.com) operates with “the resources of a larger operation,” says President Jessica Berman-Bogdan, since in addition to licensing, it also has an active research and clearance division.
GIW represents cinematographers, filmmakers, production companies and journalists in their quest to find “deep footage – meaning raw footage and not just the short clips,” said Berman-Bogdan. “However, filmmakers also need to have stock shots, so we have added high-end stock shot libraries, too.”
The house offers historic and contemporary footage of, well, virtually anything: people, culture, lifestyles, pop culture, global conflict, extreme weather, aerials, et cetera. It also represents more than 75 sources/copyright holders’ special collections, such as the entire Soul Train library, which consists of 1,100 weekly episodes, specials and award programs; an extensive West Coast hip hop collection; and 200 interviews with music professionals.
Also prominent at GIW is the Omnibus TV show, hosted by British journalist Alistair Cooke, which delved into parts of U.S. culture, arts and science; of recent note is the company’s licensing of the 45,000 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, the Lost Civilizations TV program, and The S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Collection.
“We’ve built out our collection so it runs from historic to contemporary,” said Berman-Bogdan, noting that GIW offers rights-managed and royalty-free footage. The company also is about to launch a new website with an e-commerce component and a more advanced search tool. That will prove handy in this diverse universe, because “we’re always adding new collections,” he noted.
The Past and More
If history is your bag, make the acquaintance of Joe Lauro. The president of the aptly named Historic Films (www.historicfilms.com) offers a library of about 50,000 hours of clips, some of which are more than 100 years old.
|Historic Films offers 50,000 hours of clips, some of which
are more than 100 years old.
The Greenport, N.Y.-based house offers what Lauro calls “a complete archive of general interest, lifestyle and news footage from the 1890s to the present,” with a specialty of music on film. “We have the largest collection of jazz and rock ’n roll from the 1920s to the present day,” he said.
That’s a bold claim, but a claim that can be made by a company exec who can offer approximately 50,000 musical performances “of just about everyone you’ve ever heard of,” from acts that appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert to Pathé Films, and various other collections. Consider, for instance, the recent addition of a teen dance show from Cleveland, Upbeat: It includes the last footage of Otis Redding and his band, the Bar-Kays before their plane crashed in Wisconsin, and even content from the current Rolling Stones tour.
Another new collection along the entertainment theme is the FJ Library, which consists of premiere and red-carpet-type material. And Historic, which in recent years has offered a proprietary digitization system that allows perusers to view about 25 percent of its clips in their entirety, recently took over L.A.-based Film & Video Stock Shots to accentuate its collection with more contemporary lifestyle content.