3 Tips to Use Stock Footage More Effectively


Today we’re taking a look at tips to use stock video more effectively.  So let’s jump into it!

How To Use Stock Footage More Effectively

The following text has been transcribed for optimal reading

There used to be this idea that using stock footage in your production makes it less valuable.  But over the last 5 years or so there’s been a bit of a shift in the mindset of creators, realizing that there’s a lot of very powerful ways that you can incorporate stock videos into your production.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren't still some mistakes that you should watch out for when it comes to using stock videos.

But okay let’s get this out of the way to start with.  We sell stock video here at Motion Array. Everyone okay with that?  Bias is stated upfront? Cool. So now that we’re all aware of that, if you’re planning to use any stock footage, how do you use it to its maximum potential.  Well let’s start right by

Matching elements like color, quality, and frame rate

Here’s where things can get frustrating.  You grab a piece of stock video, plop it on your timeline, and realize, it doesn’t look the same! So how do you make it “work” with your other shots?  There’s a lot of different ways to go about making it match and it can seem like a limitless number of things that you can tweak to make it actually fit with the rest of your project.  But we’re gonna blaze through just a couple qualities to make sure you hit in this process.

Color!  You can easily make adjustments to the look of your footage within the lumetri color panel.   One of the easiest ways is to use the matching feature from the April 2018 Premiere Pro Update.   To start with, go to the lumetri color section and go down to color wheels & match.  Then make sure comparison view is clicked and this box should pop up.   Here you can see the difference between your reference clip and the one you want to change the color of.   

To select your reference clip, move the slider directly under the reference image, drag the timecode left or right, or key in a specific timecode that the reference clip is playing at.  Now make sure the playhead is overtop of the clip you want to make changes to in your timeline and make sure that clip is highlighted.   Now we have the clips that we want to match side by side.   If you have people featured prominently in the shot and you want to be sure to match skin tones, make sure that the face detection is checked, otherwise uncheck it.   Now when you hit apply match, it'll try it's best to match the color between these two clips.  Your mileage might vary, but this can be a really easy shortcut to get you really close to start with.  Then play around with your white balance, tint, and saturation to dial in the color.

But don't stop here.  If you notice that there’s a color being presented more vibrantly, like the green in this shot for example, but you can't get it to match up with the green of another shot, there's one last solution for you to try.  Go down to the HLS secondary selection and you can use this tool to select specific colors.  Once you do then you can widen this range and change the hue of that specific color only, allowing you to achieve a very accurate match.  

We actually made a video which goes over the HLS secondary tool and it's this one here.  Check it out if you want to learn about this tool a little bit more in-depth. 

Next you need to worry about luminance.  How bright is your clip compared to everything else.  Use the exposure to bring everything up or down and then use your whites, highlights, shadows, and blacks to dial in each specific section.  You'll want to watch out for your blacks in specific.  Does your footage have a bit more of a muddy feel like with raw footage, or does it have a really deep rich blacks.  This is a pretty easy way to make your footage look out of place if you don’t make these match up.

Next, let's talk about resolution.  If you picked up a 4K shot to put on your 1080 timeline, you'll probably end up with something like this, with your clip zoomed in way too much.   It’s always better to downscale 4K to 1080, rather than upscale 1080 to 4K.   So what's the solution?  Zoom the 4K clip back out.  Go to your effects control section and scale your clip down to fit.  Or right click the clip on your timeline and hit set to frame size. But DONT, hit scale to frame size. Just a little confusing I know.

Frame rate is a tricky one because, well there’s a lot of different reasons, but mainly because different frame rates can each be great for certain situations.  But if we’re going for just a quick and dirty solution, my suggestion would be to set your composition to be for 24fps, or whatever the lowest frame rate of footage you have to work with.  Then, if any pieces of footage you bring in are at a higher frame rate, say 30, 48, 50, or 60fps, then you can add the posterize time effect and set it to look as if it’s playing back at 24 frames per second.  

The results can be surprisingly effective.   To the professional trained eye, it might not come across as flawless depending on your situation, but chances are this quck fix can get you by in a pinch.  

But every so often you might find yourself in the situation where your stock footage is better than the stuff you got yourself….whoops.  Well depending on what your other footage looks like, lessening the quality of your stock footage shouldn’t bee too hard.

If you notice a lot of noise in the shot, add some noise, there’s an effect for that.  
If you notice that the highlights in your clips are blown out a bit, blow out your stock footage.

The point is that it’s actually probably better to grossen up your stock footage if it makes it match better with the rest of your project.  It’ll overall make your project feel better rather than having this one randomly awesome clip stick out like a sore thumb.

Don’t be afraid to play around with your stock footage

Not all stock footage should just be taken as is, and just plopped into your video project.  Some pieces of footage require additions to actually be complete. Like screen replacement clips for example.  These are intended for you to actually do a lot of work before it would fit with your finished video. By the way if you wanted to learn how to do a screen replacement in After Effects, we have a tutorial all about that.   

But with other pieces of footage it can be a little harder to see how you would change it to make it better unless you have a firm understanding of your editing software.  Take this clip for example, it’s a cool shot, but if my video is moving at a fast pace, there’s too much time in the middle between the focus of the fence and the machine. So why not add a speed ramp in the middle to make the footage more energetic!  It’s a simple change but it makes it feel a lot better. By the way, we also have a video all about how to speed ramp in Premiere Pro if you want to go into detail with that topic.

But when you realize that you’re not bound to use that piece of stock footage exactly as it is, a whole world of possibilities open up to you!  This is a great aerial shot, but do you have to play it forwards? How would it look backwards, and would it suit your project better?

It could be something as simple as adding some light leaks or fake film grain.  But some people have taken it as far as to composite elements that actually weren't there in the shot to begin with.   The more you see stock footage as a piece of a puzzle, and less of a finished product on it’s own, the more flexibility and creativity you’ll have to enhance your larger project.

The bottom line is that really nothing is out of the question to make the footage better and work within the context of your larger project.  

Choose believable stock footage

Let’s end at the beginning.  Even if you match color temperature, match frame rates, match resolution and composite a bunch of things into it, there’s a chance that I might not believe the footage works with the rest of your project.  

And this all comes down to asking yourself 1 question.  What are you trying to achieve with the stock footage that you’re using?  Because the answer can be different from project to project.

Sometimes it's acting as an establishing shot for an area you don’t have access to.  Sometimes it's an important shot that drives forward your story. And sometimes it’s literally just filler because you don’t have any more shots to put over a piece of narration for example.  

What I mean by believable is, do I believe that YOU took that shot with a similar camera, with the intention of using it for the same project?  If you were to watch as someone who was casually viewing your finished video, would you see the stock footage stand out like a sore thumb among the other footage?  (show example while talking)

Some projects you work on may not require you to worry too much about this.  Like if you just need a shot of people being happy and laughing together as part of a montage for how your product makes people happier.  But there are other times where maybe you’re doing something a little more narrative, and you need your video to fit within the framework of the larger story.

One thing that can really help is just making sure that nothing stands out in the shot you’ve chosen as “not belonging” with the other shots.  And this is where choosing videos with a degree of ambiguity can be helpful.

Let’s take some driving shots as an example.  This one is a snowy shot of a single car driving down the road.  It’s a nice shot, but it’s also ambiguous enough to be Whistler Canada, Colorado USA, or even somewhere in Austria for all we know.  There’s nothing to give it away as being only 1 place in specific.

This is why ariel establishing shots are very popular to have taken from stock footage.   It’s because unless you’ve been to this specific hillside, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s not in the same area as this next shot.  You believe that they belong together.

Or if I wanted to take a video of my wife and make it look like in the next scene like she’s running through a field of wheat….I mean you can do that!  Because there’s really nothing about this person that tells me it’s not this person. Well, I mean other than me telling you just now….

But it’s just about ambiguity, because there's projects where you need to be specific.  If you’re mentioning the President of the United States, it’s pretty hard to ambiguously show the White House.  

It’s all about knowing your project and what you need.  And asking yourself critically whether or not what you’ve chosen will mesh with what you’ve already got.

And guys that’s been our 3 tips to using stock video better, but here at Motion Array we always like to give a little bonus tip.

Bonus Tip - Save time by collecting shots to go back to later  

One of the seemingly least effective parts of finding stock video is probably just trying to find the right clip to begin with.  I remember working for a previous organization trying to find a certain piece of stock material to use, and it was incredibly frustrating to wade through everything just to find the right one.  So in the old days I used to have a document of all the url’s of the best stock elements that when i ran across them, I’d copy the link in case I came across a project later on where they’d work.  And it saved a lot of time, and here at Motion Array we’ve given you the tools to easily do that. If you ever come across a piece of stock footage, music, or anything that you really like, and want to save to come back to later, you can click this button down here to add it to your own personal collection.  Name it whatever you want, and create multiple collections for different cases.

So then if you run into a project where you can use that piece of footage, it’s right there waiting for you!

Guys I hope you found this video helpful!  Thanks so much for watching, and I can’t wait to see you in the next video!

Well, that concludes this tutorial. I hope you found it helpful, if you did, please give us a thumbs up and if you’d like to see more tutorials, we’ve got lots of other Premiere Pro TutorialsAfter Effects tutorials, and filmmaking tutorials for you to check out!

Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.

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