Stock Footage Terms


If you are new to licensing stock footage it may be helpful to be familiar with some of the terms you may encounter.


Stock Footage – Stock Footage is video or film based footage that has been professionally shot for the purpose of licensing to others so they can edit it into their own video projects. These days stock footage is generally licensed online and downloaded in the form of a digital file. Stock footage is readily available for meeting tight deadlines and can be licensed for far less than hiring a film crew to get that specific piece of footage you need.

Clip – Clip is a term that refers to a short bit of footage. Stock footage is generally sold as individual clips. Most stock footage is available in clip lengths of 5-30 seconds.

Royalty Free (RF) – Is a term that refers to the licensing model the footage is available through. A royalty free license allows the end user, after a one-time payment, to use and re-use the media indefinitely in any number of projects without additional licensing fees. The copyright of the material remains with the creator and some basic restrictions apply (be sure to read the terms of the licensing agreement for specifics).

Rights Managed (RM) – While Royalty Free (RF) allows unlimited use of a piece of footage, Rights Managed is a bit different in that the commercial and editorial rights of an RM footage clip are priced based on a specific usage and a limited amount of time. RM licenses may be more or less expensive than an RF license depending on your final use of the clip. Due to this an RM license generally involves negotiations with a footage producer or account executive.

HD – HD or High Definition refers to the format of the footage. 1080 and 720 are the two size formats that hd footage generally is available in. The numbers refer to the vertical resolution and are usually displayed in a format such as 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 where the first number refers to the horizontal resolution. Both formats display in a 16:9 widescreen format. Whether you need 1080 or 720 depends on the format of the rest of the material in your project. Footage can generally be downsized if the original piece of video is a larger format than your project calls for.

Progressive and Interlaced – With progressive scanning a moving image is displayed where all the lines of each frame are drawn complete in sequence. Interlaced footage creates each frame using two fields. One field draws all of the even numbered frame lines and the other field draws all of the odd numbered frame lines. The two fields display information alternately at a fast rate so that when viewed each frame looks like a complete image. Often progressive or interlaced footage will be denoted as a “p” or “i” next to the resolution of the footage such as 1080p.

Audio – Is the sound source connected to each video clip. It is common for most hd footage to not have an audio track as part of the digital file. A video editor will often want to create their own audio track using voices, music, etc.