Stock footage, and similarly, archive footage, library pictures, and file footage is film or video footage that can be used again in other films. Stock footage is beneficial to filmmakers as it saves shooting new material. A single piece of stock footage is called a “stock shot” or a “library shot”. Stock footage may have appeared in previous productions but may also be outtakes or footage shot for previous productions and not used. Examples of stock footage that might be utilized are moving images of cities and landmarks, wildlife in their natural environments, and historical footage. Suppliers of stock footage may be either rights managed or royalty-free. Many websites offer direct downloads of clips in various formats.

Stock footage companies began to emerge in the mid-1980s, offering clips mastered on Betacam SP, VHS, and film formats. Many of the smaller libraries that specialized in niche topics such as extreme sports, technological or cultural collections were bought out by larger concerns such as Corbis or Getty Images over the next couple of decades.

Stock footage is a great resource for video and film creators to save time and money in realizing their vision. If you are in the video production, filmmaking, or other related fields, you probably heard about it before. And truth is, even if you never heard of stock footage before, you have been seeing it hundreds of times a day every day, as most of the audiovisual productions in TV, film, and the Internet are using it. But what is stock footage? And how can you use it to improve your video creations? Well, you’re about to find out.

You can buy stock footage clips easily at a stock imagery agency. Some stock and microstock agencies include stock videos in their offer, in addition to stills and other media types. And some agencies specialize in the footage. In any of them, you can search, find, and buy a license to use a stock video clip. You don’t buy the clip itself, but the rights to use it in your project. There are different license types that grant different rights for usage. Most cheap stock footage agencies work with Royalty Free and Rights Managed licenses for video. To become a real expert in buying stock footage, check out our Definitive Guide to Buy Stock Video!

Stock footage can be used to integrate news footage or notable figures into a film. For instance, the Academy Award-winning film Forrest Gump used stock footage extensively, modified with computer-generated imagery to portray the lead character meeting such historic figures such as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and John Lennon. One of the largest producers of public domain stock footage is the United States government. All videos produced by the United States military, NASA, and other agencies are available for use as stock footage. There are a number of companies that own the copyrights to large libraries of stock footage and charge filmmakers a fee for using it, but they rarely demand royalties. Stock footage comes from a myriad of sources including the public domain, other movies and television programs, news outlets, and purpose-shot stock footage.

Here are some of the most famous video stock libraries:

For many videographers, Pexels is the free stock video site they’ll use. Along with photos, Pexels provides Go Pro action videos, drone footage, and a wide mix of other free content. Their library includes pieces clearly marked under Creative Commons 0 license videos.
Shutterstock also has a colossal collection of footage with 85,000 new clips added per week to their stock video section. Beyond the somewhat convoluted pricing, all subscriptions and clip packs include a standard license that covers web usage and live performance (such as corporate presentations, concerts, and musicals with an audience size limit of 500,000. You will need additional licensing for broadcast, theatrical releases, and streaming services such as Netflix.
Pond5 is one of the largest royalty-free stock video sites with over 17 million clips. Their membership plans are $199 monthly ($999 per year) and include: 10 downloads per month from their collections; Membership pricing on other 4K and HD stock footage; Rollovers on unused downloads For 4K and 4K+ downloads, they give you the RAW and .mov file. They also provide free format conversion.

Envato is a go-to site for stock resources if you’re looking to create different types of content. With individual plans starting at $16.50 per month, you also get unlimited access to assets like Powerpoint templates, graphics, WordPress themes, and audio tracks. Each license covers the right to utilize the Item through communication to the public (performance), broadcast, display, distribution, and reproduction.

Dareful offers free 4K stock video footage you can use whether you’re looking to incorporate holiday-themed b-roll or aerial footage to establish a scene. With Dareful, you can integrate their content into commercial projects.

ProVideoFactory’s stock video site offers unlimited downloads for over 150,000 clips used also by BBC, NBC, Samsung, and other big brands. Their HD plan includes royalty-free licenses to those clips and 10% off the ala carte premium library for $149 annually. Their 4K package provides a 50% off discount to their premium library plus a $300 bonus towards it for $299 per year.

Biteable is a web-based video tool that allows you to create professional-quality videos in a matter of minutes. You can browse their library of over 800,000 free stock video footage clips and create a video for free. If you’re searching for specific types of video stock footage,  you can narrow down the video stock options by keyword, or even use one of the pre-made video templates to streamline the video creation process.

Storyblocks contains over 1 million HD, 4K, and 4K+ clips. Their subscription-based site offers three membership options:  Basic at $19 Monthly, Unlimited Video at $39 Monthly, Unlimited All Access at $65 Monthly.

Videezy’s stock video site contains both free and paid options. If you’ve got a tight budget and looking to avoid paying for footage, look out for the green “Pro” tagged thumbnails. Keep in mind you can use their free stock for commercial productions, but they require you attribute the videographer.
Artgrid is a subscription-based service for video creators and filmmakers that was launched in 2019 by Artlist, one of the top royalty-free music platforms. For a monthly fee starting at $25, you get unlimited access to an entire library of high-quality hand-picked video clips from some of the best cinematographers. Artgrid backs up their curated library of professionally shot footage with a 14-day money back guarantee.

Pixabay’s free stock video features a large range of commercial-free content with no credit required. While their content can be used for commercial purposes, the restriction Pixabay outlines here.

Images: Canva