Stock footage, and similarly, archive footage, library pictures and file footage are film or video footage that is not custom shot for use in a specific film or television program. Stock footage is of great use to filmmakers as it is far cheaper than shooting a needed scene. Stock footage can also be used to integrate news footage or notable figures into a film. For instance, the Academy Award-winning film Forrest Gump used stock footage extensively, modified with computer generated imagery to portray the lead character meeting historic figures such as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and John Lennon.
One of the largest producers of public domain stock footage is the United States government. All videos produced by the United States military, NASA, and other agencies are available for use as stock footage. There are a number of companies that own the copyrights to large libraries of stock footage and charge film makers a fee for using it, but they rarely demand royalties. Stock footage comes from a myriad of sources; including the public domain, other movies and television programs, news outlets and purpose-shot stock footage.
Television and movies series also often use stock footage taken from previous installments. For instance, the Star Trek franchise kept a large collection of starships, planets, backgrounds and explosions which would appear on a regular basis throughout Star Trek's five series and ten films, being used with minimal alteration. This kept production costs down as models, mattes, and explosions were expensive to develop and film. The advances in computer graphics in the late 1990's and early 2000's helped to significantly reduce the cost of Trek's production, and allowed for a much wider variety of shots than previous model and painting based visuals.
News programs use film footage from their archives often when more recent images are not available. Such usage is often labeled on-screen with an indication that the footage being shown is stock footage.
Use of stock footage is a cost-effective way to add production values to television and film projects and when artfully done is indistinguishable from the body of the work.
Some series, particularly those made for children, reuse footage that is repeated in many episodes. Using such footage means that they do not have to continually repeat the filming of the scene, cutting costs and time and, for a young audience, increasing familiarity. This introduces problems such as the requirement to, for example, wear the same clothing and inconsistency can sometimes become a problem. When cleverly filmed it is possible to avoid many of these problems.
Examples of stock footage
- Moving images of cities and landmarks
- Moving images of natural environment
- Historical footage
Stock footage is most often used in commercials when there is not enough money or time for production. More often than not these commercials are political or issue oriented in nature. Sometimes it can be used to composite moving images which create the illusion of having on-camera performers appear to be on location. B-roll is also another common term for stock footage and is used in reference to film making.
Suppliers of stock footage fall into two categories; rights-managed and royalty-free. Many websites offer direct downloads of QuickTime clips, the standard now in use for NLE applications.
Examples in popular culture
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" used stock footage from the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "Mirror, Mirror".
- Jaws: The Revenge used stock footage from the first Jaws film.
- Most of the Godzilla films have stock footage. However, Godzilla: Final Wars has the most stock footage from all the Godzilla films.
- Gamera: Super Monster was notable because it relied heavily on the use of stock footage of Gamera fighting monsters from previous Gamera flms. However, this was done to try and get Daiei out of bankruptcuy. It failed and the film is considered the worst in the series.
- Many of the films mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000, incorporated stock footage to varying degrees, notably Invasion U.S.A. which seemingly featured more stock combat footage than original scenes.
- The movie Airplane II: The Sequel uses stock footage of failed flying machines in a parody of a flashback scene. The same footage has appeared in several other productions, notably Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.
- Various American television shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Late Show with David Letterman, have made use of the "Monkey washing a cat" footage for comic effect.
- Seed of Chucky had use of stock footage from Bride of Chucky in the beginning credits.
- Through the use of stock footage from Superman: The Movie and Superman 2, Marlon Brando was able to reprise his role as Jor-El in the 2006 film Superman Returns after his death.
- Television interviews and press conferences of Robert F. Kennedy were incorporated into Emilio Estevez's Bobby.
- Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends constantly add scenes shot in one episode into another, commonly done in Seasons 1 and 2.
- In The Simpsons episode, Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy, Homer drinks a bottle of Grampa Simpson's love tonic and gives Bart and Lisa money to take a cab to the movies. They wind up at the "Springfield Stock Footage Festival".
- A 2007 Saturday Night Live sketch called the "Stock Footage Awards" showed an awards ceremony for humorous examples of stock footage such as "obese people shot from the neck down walking on a city street."
- 2006's Kamen Rider the First included digitally manipulated footage of deceased actor Hideyo Amamoto, who played Dr. Shirigami in both the original and the film, however he is dubbed over by Eiji Maruyama here.
- The sequels for the Rocky films always begin with footage from the previous film, with the exception of Rocky Balboa, although footage is used near the end of the film.
- Anime and other animated series that feature heroic characters with a secret identity use stock footage to show the protagonist assuming their heroic identity, either by a simple costume change or a physical transformation. Examples include Sailor Moon and other series in the magical girl genre of anime, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and its sister series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and American superhero series such as Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Stock footage is also used in episodic animation for other events that recur on a regular basis (usually at least once an episode), such as the Voltron sequences showing the characters accessing their robot vehicles, merging those vehicles into the Voltron robot, and summoning Voltron's "Blazing Sword" weapon.
Stock footage sites
International stock footage organizations