If you’re working with video, there will ultimately come a time in your editing process when you’re looking at your project and you realize you’re missing something. Whether it’s a simple shot of a sunset, some sound effects for your background visuals, or something more labor-intensive like inserting some visual effects, you’ll need to explore your options. If you don’t know how to make music, don’t have the time or budget to go out and shoot said sunset, or don’t have the proper recording equipment to get sound effects, then you should turn to people who do it best: stock-media artists.
I would like to add, however, that just because it’s called “stock” doesn’t mean it’s boring, or the old standard footage of people walking down the street shot from the neck down, or the same 15 music loops, drum beats, or screams that you hear everywhere. There is an incredibly vibrant array of media created by artists from all over the world at your disposal, right here at Pond5.
I am also saying “stock media,” because it’s not just photography or footage that’s in demand. It’s also music, sound effects, 3D models, After Effects templates, PSD files, vector images, animations, and (most recently) 360/VR videos that can all be used as “stock” with a click of the mouse. There are, of course, some nuances to finding the exact item you need and getting it to fit in with your project, so here’s what you need to know.
Searching for Stock Media
The first step to working with stock footage is finding the right content for your needs. Since there are literally millions of creative assets available, you need to be able to narrow it down as much as you can. Use Pond5’s advanced filters to find your exact frame rate or resolution, or narrow it down to “Pond5 Exclusive” or “Model Released.” You can also sort your results to get different media, which helps in many cases, as you may want to avoid shorter clips or clips that are older.
While you’re searching, you may also come across a file that is close to what you want but not exact (like a song needs to be longer or a clip that needs to have the color correction removed, for instance). You can use the artist’s profile page to send a message to them, asking if they can help you out. Most of the time, the artists will respond quickly and re-upload the file with your requested changes. There is also a footage request section in the forums where you can post your needs as well.
Secret Pro Search Tip: Type “artist:(artist name)” to search a single artist, or type “!artist:(artist name)” to eliminate an artist’s content from the results. You can do this as many times as you want in the search field if you want more than one to be shown/eliminated.
Purchasing Stock Media
Stock sites and agencies have different usage rights for different media types, so you need to be sure of those before you buy. Don’t use Editorial footage or non-model-released clips in a commercial piece, because that is very bad (and expensive for legal reasons — read this for more about usage). Some sites offer rights-managed content and/or enhanced licenses, so if you have a specific use for the media you’re buying, be sure to work that out with the site. Most of Pond5’s content is covered by a royalty-free (use as many times as you want), worldwide, perpetual use (as long as you want) license. So you simply check out and start editing.
If you’re not sure about a piece of content, but want to try it out first, you can always download a low-resolution or watermarked version of the clip to insert into your project to see if it will work, then go back later to purchase the real thing. (Unless you’re editing Sam Smith music videos, in which case you’ll forget to remove the watermarked sound effects at :11 and :43 in the song, of course.)
Downloading your purchases is pretty straightforward. Pond5 allows you to choose which codec or file format works best for your project. Read this to learn more about your Pond5 “downloads” section.
Converting Your Media
Not all media will work immediately after downloading. Some files may require you to conform/transcode them to match your project*. The first thing I do after every shoot or when editing is to convert all my media to the same file format, frame rate, and container (mp4, mov, etc.). This makes it easier on your computer and keeps everything nice and similar so there aren’t dropped frames, black bars, or audio-compression issues.
MPEG Streamclip by Squared5 is a great free program that I’ve been using for almost ten years, but it doesn’t come with ProRes automatically and certain other formats/codecs that you have to pay for. If you want to convert to ProRes, you may need to look elsewhere, like Handbrake, Freemake, or Convertilla, to name a select few. You can also always just import the file into your editing software and export it to your preferred settings, too, so you should use whatever you feel most comfortable with.
*Most editing software is pretty good at working with multiple codecs, especially Premiere, but keep in mind that it may slow down your computer to have many file types and codecs in one sequence.
Adding the Media to Your Project
Since you’ve made sure the media you’ve purchased will fit right in by conforming it, most of your work is already done. Managing your files appropriately in your project is the key here. I usually make a separate folder for my stock music, SFX, and footage in Premiere, just to keep it more organized. Read more tips on organizing your project here, but use whatever method you’re most comfortable with. If you’re working solely with AE templates, I suggest you save a duplicate version of the template to work off of; that way, you can always revert back to the original if you’re getting a little too overzealous with your modifications and get lost.
Adding Color Correction/Grading/Filters/Effects
The final part of making the stock media fit into your project is matching the visual or aural aesthetic of your content to the piece. Use color correction and grading for your visuals; for audio files, you need to add the filters or audio effects you’ve used throughout your piece to keep it copacetic.
Most of the time, video files have some basic color correction done on them by the artist, so look for that when you’re working with them. You may only need to add your grading and be done with it. The same goes for AE Templates, PSDs, vectors, and photos. The more time you take to match your files, the better your overall piece will be, and the less people will realize you’re using other media.
Using the Pond5 Premiere Add-On
An additional tool at your disposal is the Pond5 Adobe Premiere Add-On. You can search all of our video, music, SFX, and public domain content right within the Adobe Premiere interface. With a single click, the file will import into your project as a low-res preview, and you can adjust as you need to and see if it works. From there, all you need to do is click on “replace with high-res clips” and the selected items will all be purchased and replaced in your timeline.
Stock media has been used in projects of all stripes and sizes, from parenting blogs to Mr. Robot to Iron Man 3 and Dallas Buyer’s Club (and the aforementioned Sam Smith music video). Sometimes it can save you in a pinch, and sometimes it’s a beautiful piece of music or footage that becomes the most memorable part of your project. It’s versatile, easy to work with, and can be used as long as you want — and it’s all created by artists for artists. Have more questions? Let us know in the comments or visit our help center.