TRENDS: STOCK FOOTAGE
Stock footage libraries are offering more unique and innovative clips and longform assets than ever before to meet customers' demands for footage that helps tell stories from beginning to end and build out content designed for all media platforms.
Launched in 2002 with footage from its sports department, New York City-based HBO Archives (www.hboarchives.com) has continued to grow with sports material, clips from its entertainment news division of premieres, red carpets, awards ceremonies and behind-the-scenes shows, plus the addition of Time Magazine’s renowned The March of Time newsreels and Time-Life’s The Wild Wild World of Animals series.
Recently HBO Archives has added HD and 35mm footage from HBO Films and HBO Original Programming. “We’re starting the harvesting process with our John From Cincinnati surfing series and a few films like our new feature, Taking Chance,” says archives director Max Segal. “When we started we were primarily serving documentary producers with sports and newsreel footage in standard definition. Now, as we build an HD library, our client base is much broader than ever before. There’s such a hunger for HD material, and we’re following that lead.”
Clips from HBO Films and HBO Originally Programming, including the Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee miniseries and Empire Falls, are stock shots, not footage featuring actors, he points out. “They’re cultural, beauty and aerial shots, including unused footage and alternate takes.”
Sports remains a strong category for HBO Archives, however, since the cable network remains a powerhouse of sports programming. “In May we won eight sports Emmys,” Segal reports, “including awards for our ‘24/7’ reality boxing series, which is all HD; we’re making that available for stock. Although boxing is still our strength, we’re diversifying and got back into tennis last year. We did the Billie Jean King Cup, for the world’s top four women players this year, and hope to do a companion event for the top four men next year. Our live event footage is typically available for stock after 48 hours.”
Sometimes clips with non-sports appeal emerge from HBO’s acclaimed Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel series. “They’ve been to some unusual places — Vietnam, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay [the latter’s clips will be available soon],” notes Segal. “Crews know if they have the time they should take advantage of being there and shoot extra footage.”
Even the vintage The March of Time, which had big budgets in its day to shoot single-theme newsreels for theatrical and later TV viewing, is a contemporary draw to producers. “For those doing news of the day, The March of Time can be helpful in setting up a story historically — Wall Street, Mideast oil, global warming,” Segal explains. Selected episodes of the newsreel series are now available for screening online; about 50 episodes have been converted to HD and are attracting the attention of period feature films and commercial producers.
HBO Archives offers thorough searches for prospective customers with Smart Search, a one-year-old feature, which calls up both clips that are accessible online and those stored only as text descriptions. “Text database recognition eliminates overlapping finds so there are no double-returns,” says Segal.
Haworth, NJ’s Global ImageWorks is known as a library that doesn’t just carry stock shots but offers deeper content for non-fiction filmmakers. Its new Website (www.globalimageworks.com) features over 10,000 videos that president Jessica Berman-Bogdan characterizes as “sequences for viewing. It’s an easy method for finding even an individual shot because you see it in context.”
Global ImageWorks just announced exclusive worldwide representation of the Soul Train library, which comprises over 1,100 hours of material from the iconic show’s 35-year run.
“It’s pretty monumental,” says Berman-Bogdan. “Everybody’s in there, from classic Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, to Snoop Dog, Will Smith and Beyonce.” Footage, which has never been available for licensing before, encompasses the weekly shows plus more than 21 annual awards shows and specials; both performances and interviews with the artists are available. “Highlight reels and a searchable database will be on our Website as the content is digitized,” she notes.
Music fans can also mine Global ImageWorks for early rap and hip-hop footage from a filmmaker who covered the LA scene and captured performers like Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Queen Latifa at age 18. The library also reps filmmakers with blues and Mississippi Delta collections.
The company has a number of other unique offerings. Its archival travel collection spans the early 20th Century to the 1960s and ‘70s and features everything from home movies to the work of well-known travel filmmakers. Global ImageWorks also represents Storm Chasers’ severe weather footage shot on HD; underwater and topside cultural footage shot on HD worldwide; and the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation’s documentation of the death and rebirth of coral reefs across the globe.
Another standout collection is HD animation and digital effects, which includes aerials, landscapes, cities, underwater life, and smoke and fire effects. “We have live-action HD fire, rescue and wildlife footage, and HD aerials covering world destinations, and now we’ve got some of that in CG for an interesting contrast,” says Berman-Bogdan. “We’re always looking to make a connection with our footage.”
The main trend she observes is that there is no significant trend in topical footage requests right now. “In 2008 the environment was huge, but that has waned. In 2007 global conflict and politics was big. Now requests are quite varied without a real pattern. There’s always a need for location aerials, and our archival travel collection has been frequently licensed, along with our music collection, but recently no single category or theme is more heavily in demand than another.”
What Berman-Bogdan does see is an increase in customers wanting “all rights, in perpetuity, for all platforms. Ninety percent of the time people want world rights for every form of media and new media, but their budgets aren’t growing along with this demand. That’s a huge challenge for those of us in licensing.”
Evergreen, CO’s Mammoth HD has all but eliminated its SD collection except for some specialty lava footage, says CEO/creative director Clark Dunbar. Otherwise 100 percent HD, the company offers a unique perspective on high definition stock, carrying not only exceptional footage for broadcasters, filmmakers and corporate producers, but also vertical HD material for digital signage and display, as well as Red 4K footage for feature films or downconverted for any HD application.
The digital signage market, which used to rely on still images or slide shows, according to Dunbar, now feeds video to its horizontal or vertical big screens. Customers include special venues, specialty retailers and even the Social Security Administration’s public offices. “We have a library — scenics, landscapes, sports, wildlife — dedicated to vertical HD shot with HD cameras rotated 90 degrees to shoot 1080x1920,” he explains. “And we can crop 1080 out of any Red 4K, so everything in our Red library is available as vertical cropped.”
Mammoth HD announced a Red stock library when the Red One camera was
unveiled and delivered its first Red footage just weeks after the first cameras shipped.
The collection is growing fast with new footage added of the Santa Barbara wildfires, wind energy, Joshua Tree National Park, Big Sur, San Francisco, Hawaii, Alaskan wildlife, California condors, boxing and workouts/fitness. “When we started, most Red 4K footage was downconverted for HD delivery,” Dunbar recalls, “but now we’re seeing requests for 4K delivery and above. People are looking for higher resolutions for features and special venues.”
The company also has a new collection of timelapse footage with more on the way. It encompasses locations from Europe to the Far East with scenics, clouds and traffic plus starfields over New Zealand; the footage is available in HD, 4K and HD vertical formats.
Mammoth HD is believed to be the first to announce a stereoscopic 3D library for later this year. “Japan is starting a 3D TV channel, and in the US we’re seeing features and special venues with 3D content,” says Dunbar. “We’ll be opening a gallery of 3D footage shot HD or above, including Red 4K and above as new Red cameras become available. A community of filmmakers already has outtakes from projects and stock footage they’ve shot with stereo rigs in the nature, scenics and sports categories. The amount of 3D we saw at NAB confirmed our decision to go in this direction. We actually looked at 3D five years ago, but there weren’t enough tools in place to make it possible for a wide market. Now there are.”
While Mammoth HD has largely been proactive in offering unique stock footage, the company tracks trends in usage, of course. “There are always demands for clean energy and green subjects,” notes Dunbar. The natural world, wildlife, modern rail and personal modes of transportation are also often requested, as is anything related to health and healthy lifestyles, the latter representing a “small but growing” collection at the company.
Denver-based Thought Equity Motion, TEM, (www.thoughtequity.com) offers a different take on stock footage, positioning itself more as
a media-rights provider than a supplier of clips.
“People typically use stock as filler. We provide a whole different realm of usability,” says CEO/founder Kevin Schaff. “We’ve stopped clipping up footage and offer longform assets that people can use to tell their stories. Instead of mimicking stock photography and just illustrating a story we have footage to tell a story from beginning to end. People want access to everything.
“To my knowledge, nobody else has broken the mold this way. That’s why we’ve become the fastest-growing company in this space,” he continues. “We’re able to provide access to every form of motion-based material with search technologies that are easy to use.” TEM’s model “empowers” customers creatively more than conventional clip models, he believes.
TEM currently represents collections in three primary categories that customers can access for storytelling: news (The March of Time and NBC News), Hollywood and cable studios (Sony Pictures, Paramount, MGM, HBO) and sports (NCAA, the Big Ten, the ACC, the SEC and international sports producers).
In response to media companies looking to add value to advertising in the run up to NCAA March Madness, TEM tapped the NCAA’s extensive collection of basketball footage and digitally mastered content for several producers. The producers built 15 original programs for broadband, which they pushed out to Websites and iPhones where USA Today picked them up to bolster its online sports content. Other media companies also took advantage of the package to extend the sales period around the high-profile college basketball event.
TEM’s own Storyline Collection is designed for commercial producers. Launched last year, the premium, royalty-free collection is shot in 35mm and HD, and features over 20 storylines, including health and fitness and global business. The storylines capture key plot points with a beginning, middle and end — such as a couple looking concerned, a visit to a doctor, the couple happily engaged in a leisure activity — which can be used to tell myriad stories for advertisers.
The company recently began to represent the NBC Sports collection, which includes footage from various Olympics, the French Open and Alli Dew action sports. “These sub-collections have storylines from a topical sense and really great stock like the best HD aerials of China from the Beijing Olympics,” notes Schaff. “We can store every aspect of every tape and mine outrageously-high production value content from that.” Several major new Hollywood studio representations are expected to be announced by TEM shortly.
The trend for customers to want online delivery of HD files led TEM to configure a custom system to meet their needs. “Ninety-five percent of all our deliveries are over the Internet,” Schaff says. “We download low-res comps of the licensed material to the client for editing. They send their EDL back to us, and our system grabs the high-res content, cuts it up and delivers what’s in the timeline. To my knowledge, we’re the only ones with this process for Sony, Avid and Final Cut.”
Saturday Night Live is a big fan of TEM’s process, he points out. “They’re designing new skits up through Friday and need to grab, use and integrate footage less than eight hours from air time. The combination of the technology and the level of access we offer really changes the game.”