Stock Video Footage and Why You Should Use It

27.04.2021 Video Production
Eoin Dowdall
Creative Director

Stock video. B-roll. Archival footage. We may not all have heard of the names but we have definitely all seen it. Think of the panning shots of a city skyline in your favourite action movie. The close-up imagery of guests enjoying a drink outside a local cafe. The wide-angle footage of nature’s most spectacular scenery in the latest wildlife documentary. All stock video footage. It is the video that fills in the gaps between your main content, helping the whole thing flow naturally. Mastering how to use it properly can add a professional edge to your work and allows access to imagery that would otherwise be difficult to produce.

B-roll was at one time more frequently attained through the outtakes of other work. Nowadays there is a plethora of stock video footage made specifically for this purpose. It can range from something as simple as children playing in the park to something as spectacular as a birds eye view of the Himalayas. If you are in need of specific footage, there is a good chance that the internet can deliver what you’re after.

Customers outside an urban cafe

Stock footage helps the story flow, whilst intricately correlating with the mood and pace of your narrative. Whilst using B-roll does help lower costs, if used incorrectly it can look clunky, disjointed and often tacky. And we’re sure that these are not attributes that you want associated with your next big video production. The solution is a strong, experienced editing team that knows what they are doing when it comes to optimising video production value. Because of this long list of potential errors, it is important that you use the footage in the correct manner. But first of all, you may ask why you would use stock video footage in the first place.

Why use stock video footage?

The use of stock content is becoming increasingly popular as a digital marketing element. A 2019 poll revealed that stock imagery was the most popular marketing visual that year, with 40% of marketers making use of it. And there are a number of reasons for this increase in popularity:

Capture otherwise impossible video footage

If you are looking to blow your audience away with awe-inspiring visuals, it comes at a cost. Those who aren’t willing to splurge a large chunk of their budget on filming this themselves can turn to stock footage as their best option. For example, if you wanted to capture shots of the Amazon jungle thicket or perhaps the deepest, darkest recesses of the ocean floor, then you are going to be taking a large chunk out of your marketing budget. Think of the astronomical travel, equipment and admin costs involved in such a shoot. Alternatively, B-roll footage can offer you the very same thing at a fraction of the price.

Some companies require such footage to help build up their brand image. If you are running a company that prides itself on being at home in adventurous extremes, a studio shoot is unlikely to cut the mustard. Such archival footage lets brands get their hands on video imagery that would otherwise be unattainable without spending big. And just to clarify, we do not recommend planning for spending of this manner when planning your production budget.

Save time and money

Rolling on from our last point, using B-roll is a magnificent means of saving on production costs. And this isn’t restricted to globetrotting brands looking to shoot the miraculous. Stock footage is perfect for adding context to your overall video footage. It is the best means of immersing your audience into the setting of the video (AR video technology aside). For example, if your video were to be set within the walls of an urban building, be it a family home, local business or place of work, breaking up the core content with establishing shots of the city in question helps add context.

In this instance, this type of video imagery can be particularly effective during cutaways. Thanks to the large bank of stock video footage available online, specific footage tends to be readily available. So, whether your video is set in London or Lima, you should be able to find what you are after.

Aerial view of London

Then there is the question of time. Attaining all of this footage can be a time-consuming ordeal, as well as a costly one. Particularly if you are after shots of locations that don’t lie on your doorstep. Rather than devoting extra time to shooting this specifically, it may be prudent to opt for acquiring said video content instead of shooting it yourself.

That said, it is always a good idea to make the most of your time on a shoot day and recording B-roll between takes is an excellent use of this spare time. Even if you don’t have a particular use in mind, it will likely come in handy, whether in this production or the next.

High-def quality adds production value

Most stock video footage available online is of a very high quality – typically with a minimum resolution of 1920×1080. This means that you won’t have to skimp on quality to use the video that you want. Plus, when looking to add production value to your work, this can be a reasonably priced means of doing so. To have high-definition video footage merging one scene with the next adds a professional, premium feel to your finished work.

There are a number of ways to add production value to your video content without breaking the bank. Top-quality use of B-roll footage is one of them. It can catch out the audience in the best sense possible, adding to both the video’s aesthetic and the story’s narrative.

Use as a background setting

Creating a background on which to add special effects is another way that you can make the most of B-roll video. This is something that won’t apply to a particularly wide range of video production teams given the technical nature of creating such footage. However, those with the skillsets can use stock footage in this manner to great effect.

This doesn’t have to be an intricately executed, life-like insertion of characters into a setting. In fact, some companies use layers of animation on real-world B-roll settings to create an effect that suits their brand. Alternatively, simple animated infographics can add context to a simple scene, with the video footage in turn adding a more visually appealing aesthetic to the delivery method.

Bananas with googly eyes

Animation has the additional benefit of standing the test of time better than most other video formats. So, if it does match your branding, background settings can be a creative and efficient use of B-roll video footage.

To use video footage from days gone by

Stock video footage isn’t a recent phenomenon. It has been around for decades and as such there is a wealth of old footage available to use for those seeking a taste of the past in their current video content. This could be used to compliment the style of a particular brand, to include something that no longer exists or perhaps to tell a story that spans over a number of years.

This is a feature of B-roll footage that cannot be replicated by brand new shots. That is unless your budget and content strategy allow for like-for-like recreation or special effects.

Old school car in a city abroad

Easily edited to match current trends

Just as archived video footage can be useful for capturing the past, it can also help remould your content in the future. Due to the fact that stock footage acts as the mortar between the bricks of your core content, it can easily be edited. Essentially meaning that you can alter conjoining clips to suit current trends. This could be through the updating of outdated segments or by inserting new video content to match the relevance of a particular event. For example, a brand may use stock video footage of a mother and daughter nearer Mother’s Day, whilst implementing something more festive clip during the Christmas period. This way, the same footage can be made relevant year-round.

Alternatively, the B-roll can be edited to fit certain formats. Such as cutting the content down to fit within an applicable time bracket for a particular social media platform. Editing the stock video allows you to tweak the overall format whilst your core content remains largely untouched.

For off-the-cuff content

When misused, archival footage can seem clunky and misplaced. However, this isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. If a company harnesses this as a characteristic of their brand strategy then suddenly it can become an advantage. Using B-roll in an off-the-cuff manner can be both tacky and humorous. This is a means of playing the role of a jester.

It is important to bear in mind that this is not something that will suit just any brand. But brands that use this cheesy humour as a core branding characteristic can utilise this in a beneficial manner. Those that fit within The Joker bracket of the 12 Brand Archetypes, for example, are a good fit for this relatively niche content marketing strategy.

For more information on stock video footage and how to get the best out of it, drop us a line.

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