Stock footage has always been used in productions, be it in film, television or commercials. In the past, they were bought under the rights-managed license, complying the usage within extensive considerations. Or if there is a preference not to spend money, own prior works were ransacked for suitable footage to be recycled. Director Edward Bernds’ 1958 film Queen of Outer Space utilize space flight footage from World Without End, a film he made two years earlier.

World Without End – refer time code 00:31

Queen of Outer Space – refer time code 01:02

Today, the advent of technology has eliminated the barriers of rights-managed licensing and paved the way for royalty-free footage. Not only are they much cheaper, royalty-free footage can be instantly downloaded for perpetual usage.

In current economic times where even ABC studios are cutting costs by removing Nicollette Sheridan’s character Edie Britt from Desperate Housewives, the flood of microstock footage sites is good news for production companies. Not only are they able to lower production costs through using stock footage, they also gain an alternative source of revenue through selling their own stock videos.

However, there has been increasing concerns that royalty free stock footage is cheapening the videography profession and marginalizing profit for stock footage. The easy availability and massive amount of stock footage also makes it possible for an indie filmmaker to put together, with some creativity, a story without shooting anything, erasing the cinematography process from the production experience.

A closer understanding of the royalty-free stock footage market will reveal these concerns are misfounded.

While there are large amounts of stock footage available, the low pricing of royalty free footage keeps the content generic, as it is not economically viable to shoot unique content. Productions still require customized content to succeed commercially. The presence of royalty free stock footage only helps to cut down production cost and time, so that more resources can be channeled into other production purposes. As for the indie filmmaker, while it is possible to create experimental works in the genre of found footage films, many independent filmmakers will probably still see stock footage as an alternative option for additional cheap footage rather than core content.