Learning Something New About Stock Footage Websites

A post about stock footage and saving money.

Last year I wrote about stock footage. In that post I wrote about Artgrid, using stock footage and why I decided to cancel my account. Flash forward to December 2022 and I am upgrading my Artlist account (royalty free music and sound effects) to an Artlist Max Social account. This reads like an advertisement but I assure you it is not.

If there is one point I have tried to make clear since starting this site it is that I am not making any money. None. Not from writing, not from making videos – not from anything I am putting online. Which is why every time I write about a camera or editing software or using a service like Artlist I try and be upfront about what I get out of it and whether or not it makes any sense. The short version for nearly everything is that it doesn’t.

If I could go back in time and offer younger me some advice it would be “don’t spend that money”. On almost anything. If you have something you can use, like my first beautiful Panasonic camcorder, just use that. Don’t upgrade. Don’t listen to people online telling you what you need. Just make do and be happy.

Back to December: I upgraded this account. Despite my advice of not spending money I spent money. Why would I do this? The cost for one. My old plan was $300 a year for music and sound effects. I use both a fair bit despite not having much of an online presence. When I joined Artgrid last year (so I could have access to stock footage) I was charged another $470. $770 seemed like quite a lot of money for something I was not really using (aside from making fake trailers – which since I now have an active account I can share).

Because my yearly cycle begins/ends in February I was prorated when I made this change to my account. Looking at the website the cost will be either $360 a year for the social plan (which is what I have) or $480 for the pro plan. So given that I was spending $300 a year for access to music and sound effects, this is a pretty good deal for me. I pay $60 more a year and I now have access to all of their footage. In addition to that they have templates for Final Cut Pro X, LUTs and plugins (in the above video I used some of their transitions).

I’m not entirely sure this makes sense from a financial point of view. My intention, which it seems is always the case, is to do more this year. Post more on this site, create more videos for YouTube. I plan to create short form content for Instagram and write more fiction. Will it happen? I hope so. The past two years have been lacking in the creation department and I certainly have been feeling the loss.

Having access to music that I can use and share is an absolute blessing and if you take a moment and compare the various royalty free music and video sites I think you will find that Artlist is more than competitive (again not an ad but this is something I have struggled with). To prove this point I am going to look into the various sites that offer music and stock footage.

You may not have noticed but I have spent a good deal of time finding sites and comparing them. I began making a chart, taking screenshots and attempting to find a way to share my findings in a way that is visual and easy to follow. I have failed at this because there are too many sites with too many options to make this streamlined. Instead and I am going to speak to the three sites that are comparable.

Before I share this I want to point out the following: there are many different companies providing these services. In my travels I looked into many that were already familiar to me (The Musicbed, Filmsupply, Epidemic Sound, Pond 5, Adobe Stock) and I was surprised at how much the pricing differed. As much as I adore The Musicbed and Filmsupply I doubt I’ll ever use their services as I simply cannot afford them.

Filmsupply, I love you but you are pricey.

Many of the other services have more reasonable prices but they greatly limit the number of downloads. Shutterstock costs $60 a year less than Artlist and Storyblocks but at that price only allow ten downloads a month. I digress, let’s move on to the important part of this post.

Artlist Max$30
Envato Elements$16.50

I’ll be honest I want to be incredibly in-depth and helpful here but even narrowing this down to three sites leaves a good deal of variables. For me, I need the basic creators license that Artlist and Storyblocks offer – the ability to post on social media and access sounds and video. I don’t work with other people, I am not making worldwide commercials or films and I don’t make wedding videos. So, for me these are the prices for the plans that make sense.

That being said one consideration to note is the ability to keep the videos/content I’ve made if I decide to no longer use the service. In the past I found that the service Epidemic Sound did not offer this option – meaning that if/when you stop using their service you have to replace the music in your videos. That’s just a terrible feature. From what I have gleaned all three of these services allow you to keep the footage/music/sounds in your videos even if you not longer subscribe to the service.

My subscription is set to renew on the 12th and to be honest when I started writing this I had no intention of using another service. Since discovering Envato Elements and looking through their site I am no longer sure. They have a ton of assets, the quality looks good and the cost of using their service is almost half of the other two. As I keep reiterating I want to pay as little as possible and after spending a couple of weeks looking at these services Envato Elements seems like the smart choice.

Stock Footage

A few thoughts about stock footage, laziness and burning pianos.

Before memes existed my concept of stock footage was poor. I knew of it, had certainly seen it but probably could not have told you what it is. Now all of us are knee-deep in some form of it or another on a daily basis.

Again, they are bracelets not rings.

This past weekend I decided to finally give in to an urge and joined a stock footage site. What kind of urge can only be satisfied by joining a stock footage site you ask? Why the video making urge. Still unclear?

For me, a person who is primarily a writer, I continually come up with ideas that are expressed only as words. Before I started writing screenplays this was not troubling. Once I began my foray into the world of screenwriting I found myself wanting to make the things I was writing. Which is, to put it very mildly, a whole other kettle of fish.

Over the years I have bought cameras, written about buying cameras, and spent a great deal of time learning how to use said cameras. I think I have improved. But what I actually have achieved is still a long ways off from what I write.

Recently I have been flying my drone more. At times I have been getting footage that is downright good. I want to do more with this footage than just stick it on a hard drive. So I’ve been trying to edit the footage together and do…something with it. Only it’s footage of rivers and buildings and people the size of ants walking their dogs. It is not terribly interesting. Enter – stock footage.

My hope was to join a quality site, I chose Artgrid.io for a number of reasons, and be off and running. The main reason I chose Artgrid is that their policies are similar to Artlist.io which I use already for music. It is a decent service, you get to use the clips you download as much as you want and how you want and there is no weirdness about leaving their site and losing access to the video or music you previously downloaded. I love the clips on Artgrid, the things I have found over the course of the past two days surpass anything I have shot and I am amazed at the variety.

This is a roundabout way of saying my expectations were surpassed. I had heard a song on Artlist last month that excited me greatly. I wanted to use it. Only I don’t have any footage that works with the song. I kept thinking about what I could shoot but it kept coming back to other people. And motorcycles. And fire.

Which is what stock footage is meant to help you with. And it has. I spent about an hour on the site, found a number of clips that are interesting and perfect for the song and put something together. I have had to remove it because I have cancelled my subscription and no longer have access to the clips I downloaded. Instead I am going to include the winner from a competition from FilmSupply. This person went above and beyond and did a voice over and created visual effects for their trailer but the it’s the same basic thought.

Immediately after putting this together my next thought was, “Now what?”. And I had all of these clever ideas for using my drone footage with stock footage to tell a wonderful story. Only those ideas all quickly fell apart. The reasons are simple.

First, nearly all stock footage comes without dialog. So yes I have clips of people but they aren’t talking and even when you take a number of clips for the same sequence you do not really have a story. This is a man bringing his vegetables to his farm stand to sell them. He interacts with a customer, counts his money, smiles at the woman with him. That’s it. I’m not saying you can’t craft a story from that but it certainly isn’t War and Peace.

The second reason isn’t really a reason just how things are: this isn’t meant to substitute going out and shooting things for yourself. The general idea is you need to fill a specific hole or gap in your film. An exterior shot of the doctor’s office or the drone shot following the car driving up the coast. Or a piano that is on fire slowly falling off of a cliff.

These sites have these things and allow you to complete your story without spending a few days driving around to try and find something that works (or setting a piano on fire – this can be very helpful and keep you out of prison). It’s not meant to give you the exact storyline you were looking for, with all the little looks between your leads, so you can direct your movie without leaving your home.

As with all of these lessons I learn, I am sure this is obvious to nearly everyone else. I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake with such matters. I’m pleased I was able to put together my fake trailer and be rid of the nagging thought of needing to do something with that song. I wish I could have done so without having to pay for it.