Edited by Pat Bitton
January 23, 2020
Paid and Free Stock Video Sites
"The best things in life" may not all be free, but many of the best stock video sites are free and their collections grow daily – sometimes by tens of thousands of clips. It has been only since the 1980s that video stock footage really began to proliferate and major sources of it – both free and paid – began to appear.
The Explosion of Free Stock Footage
Since then, the field has kept gaining momentum:
First, there was great transmigration from analog to digital recording. Analog footage inevitably degrades. Sometimes just from being run repeatedly, more often when copied repeatedly. Video can be copied without limit and suffer no reduction in quality. (VHS was the standard for consumer-level analog video recording.)
Second, was the development and perfection of the video file converter, which made it possible to change analog footage to video footage. Professional quality converters available at increasingly good prices to individuals and corporations, movie companies and independents, became a new source of permanent high-quality video.
Third came the sheer accumulation of footage day after day in news videos, marketing videos, government, and countless other sources. In other words, the sheer supply of footage became tremendous--and keeps growing geometrically.
Finally, and as is almost always the case, the internet and the web became powerful engines for the trend, with video display eventually on hundreds of millions of webpages and, while stock video footage certainly was a big source of those videos, much original material also was shot – and became part of the new supply.
Sources of Free HD Video and Clips
Search today for the "best stock footage sites" and you get lists of free sites running to 50 or more. And those tend to be the general sites, the accumulators of video clips who provide users with filters to sift through thousands of topic areas, quality levels, and perspectives. Although the explicit rankings usually differ from recommendation to recommendation, the same dozen or so sites keep popping up. We will look at a few of the best sites as well as the staggering range of other sources such as libraries, governments, museums, and so forth. And also at a few paid sites.
What's in the Collections of Completely Free Stock Footage?
If you are not familiar with these sites, it might surprise you to hear that stock videos typically range from 10 to 20 seconds. About the shortest "clip" a site will accept is six seconds. We are talking about video material that usually is inserted in a longer project. Background, scene-setting, fill-in scenes for movies, "file footage" on the evening news, material for documentaries: all of it comes from collected stock video footage.
The quality varies enormously – no surprise – but keeps trending higher, with state-of-the-art video-editing software, and new standards. Not uncommon, now, is to shoot in 24p and 4K. In video technology, 24p is a video format that runs at 24 "progressive" frames per second. And 4K resolution, or just 4K, indicates a resolution of approximately 4,000 pixels. Digital TV and cinematography use this level of resolution for their work.
Stock videography may seem in huge supply – and the quantity is there – but keen hunger for new footage remains. Brands, for example, want footage for social, TV, and digital campaigns but there are some yawning gaps. Consider the huge number of events, personalities, geographical hotspots, products, inventions, and new technology that have appeared just this year. There is no video library packed with footage of those. It is commonly pointed out that there is no better time to sell your stock footage.
Broadly, stock footage is categorized as commercial or editorial. Commercial is used in marketing; editorial is used in story-telling on the news, in movies, in documentaries. In the discussion of sites for free video stock footage, the term "royalty-free" is front and center. A film that is "royalty-free" is copyright material or intellectual property that you can use without paying royalties or a licensing fee for each use. When a site announces that it offers videos that are royalty-free, it means no royalty goes to the video's owner – not that you can get the footage without a fee. Some of the biggest, best-known sites advertise "royalty-free," but require you to buy a membership, subscription, or "points" to get their stock.
When video footage is copyright-protected that usually means protected literally by technology that prevents downloading or protected by legislation. Both may be viewed as aspects of "Digital Rights Management (DRM)." DRM technologies control access to work to prevent it from being used, modified, or distributed against copyright.
Here are best free stock video sites offering video stock footage in broad, general collections that a user can search. Some collections are so complete that heavy users of video may subscribe to only that site for all their needs.
Videvo is the largest resource for free high-definition (HD) stock footage. Surprise: you still need to check the license for each video. Is it free for use in commercial work (marketing) with no attribution (credit to the creator)? If the clip has the "Videvo Standard License," then, yes, it requires no crediting when used in commercial work. You can use a filter at the top of the site so that you will be shown only clips with the license.
Pixabay is considered a "user-friendly" site to search and has more than 1.4 million videos and photos available. All the videos are under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, meaning you can use them in your commercial (as well as editorial) projects without giving credit.
Pexels, with fewer videos than, say, Pixabay, is growing very rapidly and, conveniently, the entire site is CC0 license. Any and every clip you find can be used with complete peace of mind.
Life of Vids, a collection of free stock videos from an advertising agency in Montreal, also frees you entirely from copyright restrictions. But if you want to redistribute their footage from your site, there is a limit of 10 videos.
Distill supplies free HD videos from a collection with a reputation for being carefully managed with the needs of "creatives" in mind. One deal is that you give them your email address and they will provide you with 10 free videos delivered to your inbox every 10 days. The clips are handpicked, but this arrangement is aimed mostly at people who want to make a splash on social media.
Stock Footage 4 Free maintains a wide range of video footage. Again, you sign up with your email and get access to their entire collection of professional stock videos. All have a royalty-free license, all can be used without fees. The chief categories are construction and energy, nature and animals, mansions and wealth, international locations, and lots more.
Videezy's collection is large and royalty-free for personal and commercial use. They ask only that you credit Videezy when you use the footage. If you want to use the footage without such attribution, you buy credits.
Public Domain, Libraries, and Other Sources of Free Clips
Remember, this list easily could extend to 30 or even 50 sites. On most sites, downloading a high-resolution version of any video is as easy as hitting the "download" button. Most sites add new material every week. These sites with general collections of free video footage are far from your only source, even without turning to "paid." For example, the U.S. Government offers its gigantic archives of videos basically free (think NASA, for example, and entire U.S. military).
Here are just a few libraries and "archives" that offer stock footage. Note the remarkable range: Al Jazeera Creative Commons, BBC Motion Gallery, CNN Collection, Corbis Motion (now via Getty Images), Fotosearch, Framepool (a gigantic Germany supplier), the Internet Archives, NASA Images, NBCUniversal Archives, the Science Motion Library, and the Visual China Group. Some charge, but almost all have sections of their collections that are free. Some, like NASA, are all free.
Some Big Sites for Paid Video Stock Footage
Storyblocks is justifiably described as "huge" in aerial footage, time-lapse videos, and standard B-roll clips related to the environment. Here, again, we shade from free to paid because you have to become a member to download videos, but there is a 7-day free trial during which you can download five files.
Shutterstock charges based on video resolution. Its archive of more than a million videos is one of the largest and is easy to use and affordable.
iStock offers you the best price if you buy credits ahead of time to use for videos. Credits cost $1.50, but less when you buy more. Most videos require 50-100 credits for high-resolution clips. They also have a free monthly video.
Pond5 advertises the availability of 2 million videos with a wide range of prices. The site is a marketplace where those who wish to sell their videos can upload them and put a price on then. An attraction is an especially easy system for previewing a clip.
Getty Images is as "big name" as they get, with a video image library that includes both editorial and commercial standard stock video. Getty includes both editorial and standard stock video and, like many other sites, also has sections for stock photos and music.
Fotosearch is several companies that deal with rights management and royalty-free stock videos. There is a huge variety of footage on almost everything in one place.
Movavi Business Suite
As we mentioned earlier, the advent of high-quality, professional video-converting and editing systems helped to propel the rapid increase in the supply of video stock footage, including the large collections of free clips. With editing equipment of Movavi quality, virtually any video file format can be used in your multi-media project – and improved in quality and color while you are doing it. There is no watermark on the output video if you choose.
Use Movavi Business Suite to create tutorial and marketing videos, edit clips in a professional video editor, record screen activity and webcam, and save videos in any popular format. With Movavi Business Suite, your software presentations, video blog content, and much more will get the attention of clients and prospects. And you can increase your income with custom videos. Your company is promoted through branded footage that includes your logo, contact information, and every other finishing touch that announces "professional."
And, when you market your product or service by uploading your video to YouTube, or anywhere on the web, you do it directly from the Movavi program. It saves you time and hassles with intuitive and rapid export.