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Royalty Free Stock Footage: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Buying

We all know that stock footage is a real time saver for video production. Besides choosing the right video content, one should also consider these 8 important things before purchasing your footage.

We all know that stock footage is a real time saver for video production. Besides choosing the right video content, one should also consider these 8 important things before purchasing your footage:

1. Royalty free: Always opt for royalty free stock footage so that your usage is not restricted to the number of projects or release locations for a one-time licensing fee.

2. Delivery Format: Stock footage is usually delivered in one of the following formats:

The format that best suits your work will depend on your destination and resolution of your playback. If you are not sure or are likely to use the stock footage in other playback formats, then definitely go for High Definition Progressive ( HD 1080p or HD 720p ). They may cost slightly more, but their image quality will hold up better after format conversion or image manipulation because they are non-interlaced and high resolution. Of course, you can also use them in high definition projects as well.

3. Source: Many stock footage providers in the market claim to deliver multiple video formats, but are actually converted from one main native source. Confirm the footage source. If you purchase an NTSC clip converted from a PAL source (or vice versa), then you won’t get quality video. Make sure the stock footage video you are purchasing is from a similar or higher resolution source.

4. Compression Method: Stock footage delivered via download usually employs some sort of compression to keep file size manageable. Quicktime Photo JPEG compression codec is fast becoming a standard for digital delivery. This compression codec, when compressed to 75 – 90 %, gives the best quality without visible losses while also keeping file size manageable.

5. Alpha Matte: Alpha Matte is a black and white (256 grey scale) image used to isolate a certain section of a video frame in a compositing software, so that you can easily replace its background. This is especially important if you are purchasing a clip for its foreground element only. Alpha Mattes are usually available in 3D animated stock footage, as well as chroma key video, offered by many websites.

6. Model Release: If your stock footage contains recognizable faces, and you intend to use the clip for commercial purpose, make sure the clip comes with a Model Release, a document signed by the person recognized in the clip that gives the buyer the right to use the clip. However, for editorial footage (that is, footage that is newsworthy or has documentary value), model releases are not usually required.

7. Property Release: Similarly, if your stock footage contains a recognizable property and you intend to use the clip for commercial purposes, make sure the clip comes with a Property Release from the property owner.

8. File Size and Broadband: What’s the point of having all these checks in place if you don’t have the extra bandwidth to download them? Make sure you have a broadband Internet connection. Always check the file size of the footage you intend to download against the Internet speed you have, as High Definition or long footages can easily go up to a few hundred megabytes in size. In many cases, you can still buy your stock footage online and have the stock footage provider ship them directly to your location, incurring a shipping cost and a few days of delay.

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