YouTube: an Asset for Footage Companies?

In our interview with footage researchers last month (A View from the Archival Trenches), archival researcher Jodi Tripi said that "everybody on the planet thinks that YouTube is a search engine and that they are a footage researcher," a reality that often complicates life for archival researchers. So this month we reached out to a group of footage industry leaders to find out how YouTube has affected their work, and whether the platform is an asset to their businesses. We got a great response from the footage community, including Scott Dittrich (Action Sports), Alan Bradshaw (AP Archive), Alastair White (British Pathe), Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage), Chris Bridson (Conus Archive), Jim Erickson (CriticalPast), Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archives), Lorena Booth (Framepool), Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks), Sami Sarkis (HOsiHO), Sandrine Sacarrere (INA), Adam Sargis (, Ben Jones (Science Photo Library) and Martin Lisius (StormStock). You can read their responses in full below. As noted, in our interview for our February newsletter, Jodi Tripi said, "everybody on the planet thinks that YouTube is a search engine and that they are a footage researcher." Do you agree? And if so, what are the implications for the footage industry in general and for your business in particular?

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): Jodi is spot on.  Just about every day we get an inquiry from someone whose higher up (usually a director, sometimes a producer) saw a clip on YouTube and wants to know if we have it or can supply something virtually identical. Overall, I think it helps shops like ours, as it does drive people to us when they have trouble tracking down the person who posted (who usually has no rights to the footage). As a catch-all video depository, I see it as a net plus both to us and researchers. There is also a lot of rare material up there that would otherwise never surface.

Alastair White (British Pathe): Yes of course YouTube is a search engine and we should all accept this.  It is the industry’s primary video platform with thousands of new videos uploaded every day, so it is human nature to start off your search there.  It is the responsibility of the industry to try and ensure this platform works to our benefit, because it is not going away.  We understand that only a small proportion of viewers are potential licensing customers, but the numbers are so large that even a small percentage is a large figure.

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): We agree to some extent that frequent use of YouTube has “dumbed down” footage research.  That said, most of our business still comes from Google text-based search results.  Either way, we find ourselves constantly adjusting our business to suit the whims of Google, whether to satisfy text-based search or YouTube search.  As long as Google remains basically unchallenged by competitors, this will be the state of the industry.

Chris Bridson (Conus): Researchers using YouTube as a “search engine” has become ever more evident. Being part of a business that deals with archives, I have heard from researchers attempting to source video found on general internet sites can be very challenging.  As anyone and everybody can post clips, many that they don’t own rights to, it can be very challenging for researchers to source material.  Many times this workload is passed down to archive houses, to assist in determining if something exists within their holdings.  We would prefer to get the research requests directly, spending our time to find the best material to pitch within our own collection. In the end, we feel this saves our clientele time and in the end, money.

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): I agree on both counts. YouTube is a search engine, one of the most popular, and whether people look for Kanye, cats or epic fails, it’s hard to argue it’s not footage research to some extent. Of course, footage research as we know it entails a lot more than search engines, and the vast majority of YouTube videos don’t mention much about copyright, licensing, access to uncompressed versions and all the other facets of our work. However, as a wildly, rightly, popular site it’s impossible to ignore its impact. For archives it’s a great source of interaction with clients, contributors and the wider world. For creators and rights owners it’s a showcase and a shop window as much as it’s a sea of pirates, and can generate revenue as well as publicity. For researchers it can often be the first port of call, the start of a long journey to licensing the clip they need. But while the visual history of film and television remains off YouTube, legally at least, it won’t replace the expertise of traditional researchers, nor the archives that preserve such content.

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA): We have more and more footage requests with just a YouTube link. It is quite complicated for us to identify the footage spotted on YouTube because Ina has more than 1.5 million hours of programs online. In that case, we need to do a deeper search in our database to have access to the content requested by the client. It takes us more time to process that way.

Sami Sarkis (HOsiHO): We do have a YouTube channel but we don’t push it that much. It’s here for our showreels. We haven’t yet seen any evidence of business coming from YouTube. In the future we’ll probably upload more individual clips to YouTube and see what happens. We are using many social media sites, and the most efficient in terms of visibility and driven traffic are LinkedIn and Facebook, according to our records.

Adam Sargis ( Yes that is the impression most people have. I also use YouTube as a research tool, but reluctantly as it is mostly non-professionals posting the content: it is often impossible to contact and/or get a timely response from the person who posted content.  Most of time they don’t own it and have no right whatsoever to it. The footage industry can only benefit from the free exposure and any user who wants to license footage may be delighted to find that it is an established footage house posting.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): Almost anyone can do some research on-line. But, not all data is out there. Veteran researchers like Jodi Tripi, Roxanne Mayweather, and Chris Lutz have acquired and developed trustworthy sources directly for material. Their clients demand high quality footage that is properly cleared. So, if you want to do it right, you really need to hire a professional. Would you skimp on a director or cinematographer? If quality is important to you, then you can’t skimp on a researcher. They can save your ass!

Scott Dittrich (Action Sports): I agree with Jodi.  You tube is not a search engine for stock footage, nor should it be.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): I would certainly say that the younger people do believe that it is an asset to them to search for footage. It is certainly one of the steps that young people take to find something. The hard part is how do you clear it?

Lorena Booth (Framepool): YouTube does act as an unofficial search engine and people looking for footage tend to use it as a content search engine. The problem is that they are not fully aware of the quality restrictions as well as the copyrights involved. Licensing from YouTube can go either way, very fast and easy for simple stuff, or very slow and complicated when the desired video requires third party clearance. As footage experts, we have to be prepared to educate the client on the implications of licensing YouTube material, which can potentially cause unforeseen project delays.

Alan Bradshaw (AP Archive): Over the past few years we’ve certainly seen a change in how our customers approach us in terms of buying footage. Increasingly editors, directors and assistant producers source their content from YouTube first before calling in an experienced archive producer toward the end of a production to clear the footage. Trying source copyright on YouTube is a minefield and often the archive producer has to frantically replace shots with known archives in the edit due to time constraints.

FN: What is your YouTube strategy? Do you have a dedicated channel for your footage business? If so, what sort of content does it include? Is it driving inquiries?

Alastair White (British Pathe): British Pathe’s YouTube strategy is well advanced.  3 years ago we recognized the power of YouTube and uploaded the entire British Pathe archive, 85,000 individual films; this was the largest single upload in YouTube’s history.  We have a number of YouTube channels, which currently have over 540,000 subscribers.  We also produce a number of new films each month to encourage viewership and subscribers. 

Alan Bradshaw (AP Archive): We noticed that a lot of AP News content was being uploaded to You Tube by members of the public without our control and without AP being credited for the content. So in 2014 we made the decision to up load our entire archive to the YouTube. By having our whole archive sitting on YourTube’s servers we are able to take advantage of their content ID system, which allows us to control what happens with AP copyright video on YouTube. The upload was one of the largest in YouTube’s history and when completed 1 million minutes of video had been published! For us it’s been a great marketing success and allows people to find our content easily with clear instructions on how and where they can license our video. By including our metadata with the video, it’s vastly improved our SEO on Google, making us far more visible to potential new business. We initially launched on YouTube with two channels, AP Archive and British Movietone, but since acquiring the British Movietone archive at the end of last year we’ve now launched a specialist channel looking at royalty around the world. We have more channels planned too over the coming year.

Lorena Booth (Framepool): We consider YouTube as an asset rather than as a competitor. Clients who do not yet know Framepool, will stumble upon our footage while on YouTube and come back to our site. Therefore YouTube is treated as an additional way of generating business and bring awareness to our brand and business. We have different channels and playlists where the client can be led back to our page and also show what our collections are all about. Our channels cover all content we offer - historical, editorial and creative. As well as special playlists highlighting projects where Framepool footage has been used. [It is driving inquiries] both from large and small clients.

Chris Bridson (Conus): Years ago, we started to use YouTube to highlight a special collection of “caught on tape” material, CaughtOnTapeTV, which was initially designed for our International clientele that were frequently using the site to find clips.  More recently, we created a new channel to highlight the entire OJ Simpson criminal trial, OJ Trial Uncut.  We found YouTube to be the perfect venue to post long clips that researchers can easily access.  Should they have a licensing need, the footage is clearly identifiable as being ours, and researchers can record specific time code information that will match our master.   Both channels have proven popular for researchers and have driven inquiries.    

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): We have a YouTube channel, and our strategy with it is to simply have a wide representation of our collection on it, well watermarked. The channel drives inquiries, although oftentimes the inquiries are from consumers, not professionals.  We try to filter out items that might not be suitable for all ages. That’s sometimes difficult, given how much war-related content we have.  YouTube has placed a small quantity of our clips behind an 18+ age filter, but those clips remain accessible.

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): We have a dedicated channel at, and we post highlights, new collections, striking clips and more. Many of our contributors have their own channels too, and pass us any requests they get from the public or clients. Our own channel doesn’t drive sales as much as it’s a brand awareness tool, and a convenient embed facility for other social sites. Our contributors’ channels certainly drive sales to us, although for every sale there are dozens of people with interest, but no budget, of course.

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): Yes, we do have a YouTube channel that features a subset of the screeners we have on our website. It definitely puts the footage in front of a great many more eyeballs than would see it on our website. We generally get a least a few sales a month from clients who see the footage on YouTube and want to license.

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA): In March 2012, Ina and YouTube concluded a partnership allowing Internet users to get free access to a part of the INA audiovisual memory. This agreement covers the broadcasting and monetization of 70,000 Ina videos on YouTube. This initiative responds to a common desire to make accessible to all, the French audiovisual heritage. It permits Ina to share its memory with millions of Internet users of all ages and nationalities browsing videos on YouTube each month. Ina has now 28 dedicated channels on YouTube for the general public only, not for footage business.  These are thematic channels (Politics, Paris Vintage, Society, Best of Classic, Travels, Sciences, History, Animals, Humor, Performances, Culture, Talk shows, Best of 60’s, best of 70’s, Best of 80’s, best of 90’s etc.). To date, Ina has 270,000 subscribers for all its channels. In 2016, 84 millions Ina videos were seen on all its YouTube channels.

Adam Sargis ( Post much as possible. We have a dedicated YouTube channel including all content we have in both short clips and long form. Yes, it is driving inquiries.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): StormStock does have a YouTube channel. It features some of our more dramatic material. We do occasionally get inquires via YouTube searches, but they tend to be small jobs, projects with small budgets.

Scott Dittrich (Action Sports): I totally ignore YouTube.  Those who use it say it is a waste of time and only attracts the lowest budgets.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): We have a YouTube channel with around 2700 followers. Every time we cover an event we put together a 2-3 minute highlight reel that showcases the best of the event and the biggest celebrities there. Then we blast that video out to all our clients and our social media sites, and pushing that video out to YouTube is just one more step in our routine. We’re producing those videos anyway, so it is not extra work for us. We just have to upload the file using a special compression because it does have all that watermarking on it. We do want people to appreciate that quality of it so we upload it in HD. We believe that YouTube is just another search tool that some of these young people will do a search on, so it is just one more outlet that we’d like to cover. We put all the people’s names [from the event] in the metadata so it helps make it searchable. And that is also where we host our videos for social media platforms, meaning that when we put something out on Facebook or Twitter, YouTube is the place where the video is hosted. It isn’t costing us anything to do it and the hope is that we either get revenue from a license or the advertising that is associated with it. The reality is low, though occasionally we do see some spikes. Our clip of Kim Kardashian getting flower bombed got over 168,000 views. We did a video on Adam Levine’s star on the Walk of Fame, which got over 30,000 views. We did an event for a pre-Grammy party that got over 20,000 views. I think somebody embeds it in a social media capacity and it gets shared and I think that is how that quantity of views happens.

Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks): Yes, Global ImageWorks has a dedicated YouTube channel.  We have a representative sampling from across our various collections and have a targeted marketing plan to include YouTube. We have found that over the past few years YouTube has become an effective tool in the arsenal for business-to-business marketing.  It has become a way to connect us with new clients.  Between 20% to 30% of our collection is represented on our company’s YouTube page, organized into thematic demo reels as well as many stand-alone clips based on specific collections or topics such as historic travel, global conflict, 9/11, automotive history, world cultures, or sample reels from our premium collections such as The Dick Cavett Show, Austin City Limits, Harold Lloyd or Omnibus. 

FN: Are you getting calls from people who have found a clip on YouTube and believe it belongs to you? How do you handle these inquiries? Is this a good source of new business?

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): Not usually from the public finding our site or our clips, although it’s happened on occasion – we’re not an archive of record per se. It’s far more common that people see clips on our contributors’ channels, contact them, and then are passed to us by the contributor. Most vanish with nary a reply when they get an email from an agency that talks of licensing and the like, but a significant minority do turn into sales.

Lorena Booth (Framepool): Yes, we do. Whenever clients come across something which leads them back to Framepool, we either license and deliver the clip right away or act as the facilitator to clear any third party rights or perform additional research to fulfill their needs. [Is it a good source of new business?] Yes and no. It does bring new business from small companies or small clients acting like a B2C. Not a great source of new business because YouTube is a huge content cloud not meant as a footage search engine therefore it becomes somewhat difficult to narrow down the search to a particular subject.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): Funny thing is folks will see footage on the YouTube StormStock channel and then ask us (StormStock) if it’s ours. Naturally, we say yes. Only a tiny percentage of jobs come through YouTube. and professional researchers are far more important to us.

Alastair White (British Pathe): Yes, we get enquires everyday from customers who have found one of our films on YouTube and wish to license it.  It is a particularly good source of new customers from overseas who may not be so familiar with the British Pathe archive.

Chris Bridson (Conus): It’s not common, but on occasion, we have received an inquiry regarding a “caught on tape” clip that they have found on other Channels and ask if it’s ours.  Due to the infrequency, this is not a good source of new business.

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): We get regular inquiries, usually through the contact form on our web page.   It is a good source of new business.  Usually, we just refer the person to the clip in question as hosted directly on our site rather than on the YouTube channel.

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): We handle the sale as we do any other. If they email us about the clip, we ask how it will be used and the duration of the license. About half respond and it usually turns into a sale.  Overall, a good percentage of those who come to use from YouTube tend to be independent producers and students with lower budgets.  So, we tend to get somewhat lesser rates, but a sale is a sale. 

Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks): Yes quite often. In addition to our continuing to upload more footage all the time, several of our footage partners have their own YouTube pages and include links and notes referencing Global ImageWorks for anyone interested in licensing clips. With more researchers using YouTube as a primary source, the goal is to insure all stand-alone clips are watermarked and can be referenced back to us so they can be easily licensed.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): It’s hard to say. When we get a referral we try to ask them where they found us and it’s rare that we hear it is from YouTube. I don’t how much it generates in terms of sales or legitimate licenses. It does certainly make people aware of our brand and let’s people know what we do. There are at least 2,700 people who have subscribed and want to know what we are shooting. Obviously we have our website connected to it so there is a way to find us and reach out to us. But I don’t have an answer to that because I don’t have enough customer feedback. There are a handful of times when someone has shared a YouTube link with us and asked if we had anything like it. We find it and send it to them. Usually we’ll have something that is similar or better. It does not happen a lot. I’m sure you see on sometimes people will just embed a YouTube link and ask whether anyone can tell me what this is or tell me who this belong to. Or can someone find me something like this? So they use it as an example.

Sami Sarkis (HOsiHO): It happens sometimes and we drive them to our main site.

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA): Ina footage on YouTube has a burnt-it logo so it is quite easy for audiovisual professionals to identify Ina as the rights holder. We only handle the inquiries for which the clips belong to Ina. YouTube could be one of the sources of new business because more and more audiovisual professionals use this platform to find their clips (quicker way to find the footage they are looking for). But, to date, Ina does not use YouTube as a professional platform.

Adam Sargis ( Yes. I try to determine if the caller has a budget to afford the clips they want. Is it a good source of new business? Yes and No. If the sale is automated, yes. But mostly non-professionals and students respond.  They are usually shocked at the prices, even when discounted, and require some amount of educating about buying footage. Many of the YouTube generated interest are time wasters, however.

Alan Bradshaw (AP Archive): Each video that we publish on YouTube has a direct link back to the same video on This makes it very easy for anyone interested in licensing our content to do so without fuss. It’s been a great source of new business especially with customers who wouldn’t traditionally buy video.

Scott Dittrich (Action Sports): No.

FN: Overall, has YouTube been a positive factor for your footage business? Why/why not? What are the risks?

Chris Bridson (Conus): YouTube has been a positive factor, but using the site is not a major part of our business model.   We prefer to focus our resources on making it easier to find footage within our own collections of material.  While 90% of our clips have screeners posted to view and download off, we are working hard to close that gap and get as much as possible online for researchers to view.  In addition, we are constantly adding metadata to our scripts, making it easier for both ourselves and our clientele to find that perfect clip.

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): I’d say it’s been positive. Even without the publicity and sales/marketing aspects, it provides a very easy to use service for the dissemination of content across our social channels – being able to embed videos from YouTube into Facebook, etc. is a great help, saving us making different formats for every platform. It provides decent statistics and analytic tools, too, making it easy to measure the reach and effect of different topics and styles of video. I’ll be uploading a very different-style video after answering these questions, in fact, and I’m intrigued to see the responses. On the response point, it’s a truism of the web, sadly, but really: don’t read the comments! We leave them on for interaction and genuine questions, but on a popular video they can fill up with rubbish fast. We posted an animation comparing the sizes of the planets and stars that quickly turned into a slanging match between religious and anti-religious types, interspersed with people who still get a kick from puns on “Uranus.” We’ve maybe been lucky that we’ve not had anything to date that’s reflected badly on us, and we try to respond to genuine questions and enquiries quickly. Some videos we’ve posted have been picked up by media aggregators and shared on their sites, which has driven interest and interaction, and has been good publicity, leading to big spikes in subscribers, as well as contact with the aggregators themselves. On the downside there’s always a risk that someone will rip a video, block the watermark and try to monetize it themselves. It’s happened a couple of times that we know about. That doesn’t look good for us or the contributors, but they have improved reporting and other tools.

Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks): My answer today is different from what it might have been a year or two ago.  YouTube has become a primary search engine for experienced researchers but it is only one of the tools of finding footage. Experienced researchers understand that YouTube is not always the most accurate way to source copyright or ownership but it is a great way to find what might be available.  However as more footage companies embrace YouTube, it is a growing way for people to find legitimate licensing channels for footage. The risk is that many inexperienced researchers do not understand that YouTube is not the be all and end all to finding footage and that too often the sourcing and copyright information may be inaccurate.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): For our business it is more positive than negative. People do find us on YouTube, so overall it is an asset. I do think it is a much more business to consumer platform. But I do think when people do searches they have found us on YouTube and then come to us to license something. It makes people aware of our brand and what we do. And the subscribers get notified when we post something new.

Alastair White (British Pathe): Overall, it has been a positive factor in our growth; we have seen a doubling of our overseas business.  There are some risks involved such as pirating of footage, but our belief is that most serious producers would not risk ripping off a video to put into their program to then deliver to a channel (and warrant that the program is fully cleared), they would prefer to license it legally through us to ensure they are fully covered.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): I think our YouTube channel has been positive, but it really only generates a very small part of our business.

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): YouTube has been a positive factor for our business, but we wish that Google would return to showing more video search results that are not from YouTube within the Google search engine. They used to show more video search results outside of YouTube, but have pretty much abandoned that practice. The risk with YouTube is that it is yet another layer that completely controls our Google video search results.

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): Yes, very positive. Only downside is you do get a fair number of inquiries from people with no budget at all who want the footage for free.

Sami Sarkis (HOsiHO): I don’t think there’s any risk if the footage is well watermarked. It might be a good source for our business, but not yet! For us it is more another way to advertise our content in general. The limitation is that it needs a lot of time, thus resource and costs if we intend to have a significant portion of the collection up there!

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA): Ina does not use YouTube as a professional website.

Adam Sargis ( Yes, YouTube is important to us. I think that those in the entertainment business would recognize that we are a footage company. We can post almost everything. We are able to monetize most of our content and get monthly YouTube payments. The burn-in time code we use is abbreviated, without the frenetic frame count, so that the content is more watchable as entertainment. [Risks include] take down notices made by psycho claimants for music and content. Getting copyright strikes. 3 times and you may be out.  People use the clean portions, free, and blur or crop the logos and time code. It is my feeling that those people would not have bought the content in any event.

Scott Dittrich (Action Sports): No.

 Lorena Booth (Framepool): Yes it has. It has allowed for Framepool to use it as an additional platform to highlight its content, services and expertise. The risk is having our footage being used without the proper licensing and authorization by people who may be unaware of the licensing requirements for legal use.

FN: How do you protect your content on YouTube?

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): We overtly watermark content that is on YouTube.   YouTube consumer feedback (from viewers outside the pro industry) suggests that they absolutely hate the practice, but we know from long experience that this is a necessary protection tool.  We’re continually amazed at how poorly our competitors protect their content.  It does not bother us when consumers cast “Thumbs down” votes on our videos due to our watermarking, because we are not interested in driving up non-pro viewership, and we’re not trying to use YouTube as a major advertising revenue driver. We only want our videos to be found by the “right” viewers:  Legitimate researchers licensing for the professional industry. That kind of customer is not bothered by overt watermarking.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): We watermark our material on YouTube. We did ask YouTube if we could join their copyright protection program, but they said no. We will continue to pursue that. I think it would benefit both parties. It would help to protect our copyrighted footage, and would further illustrate their commitment to protection and the DMCA.

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA): Ina is very careful about the protection of its content on YouTube. It has a dedicated Legal Team whose role is to control any piracy of its content. Ina uses the filtering technology used by YouTube, Content ID, which is free to the rights holders. This technology allows them to identify and manage Ina content uploaded on YouTube. Identification files are created and compared to users' videos.

Alastair White (British Pathe): All our films are branded with the British Pathe logo.

Chris Bridson (Conus): We add either a watermark and/or a BITC window to our clips, which will identify the clip as being ours and discourages any outside, unauthorized production use.  Nothing goes up clean.

Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks): All footage we have uploaded to YouTube must be watermarked, timecoded and tagged as being from Global ImageWorks. Content ID is a good attempt by YouTube to help with copyright and sourcing but oftentimes it has also created problems when there might be multiple copyrights or conflicting copyright interests – ie.  multiple copyright interestsmight exist when there are both the physical clip rights and separate music rights to a recording that is a second copyright or if a finished program is put through Content ID which includes legitimately licensed clips which also have been registered through Content ID- these conflicting rights situations may cause a clip to beincorrectly flagged for infringement.

Adam Sargis ( I burn a large logo on the upper left and have a medium time code and user bit burn-in on the lower right or more recently centered a bit more to be in tandem with YouTube ads. So that the pop-up ad appears over the time code/user bit portion, causing the viewer less overly visual interruption.

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): We place the same time code and company ID burn in into the footage. So, it would make it difficult for someone to use it in any kind of professional project.

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): Mainly through watermarking, and top-and-tailing the video with our name and website.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): We originally thought theft was an issue, so at the bottom of every video we post it says “License this Clip and More at” and it has a watermark on it. Because people have no problem taking YouTube footage and doing what they want with it. Which is why the watermark and the line at the bottom is there, because a lot of people fair use that stuff. Or try to. Once they see the watermark, a legitimate outlet, I think, that would scare them away from that. We are obviously happy to negotiate a reasonable license fee for that, but that is what makes us feel okay about it. Because at the beginning we knew people would just steal stuff from it. We supply footage to online platforms and people post that onto YouTube. So we need to do some enforcing on that. We do our own research and try to monitor people using our stuff. People do repost stuff on there all the time. We do a lot of policing daily, obviously separate from YouTube. We watch a whole host of shows and online platforms. Theft is everywhere. Even with the biggest companies. You’d be amazed. The news departments have just hacked their staff so far down that they just have no incentive, they just work off of complaints. If somebody wants to make a claim they just try to make it go away quietly.

Lorena Booth (Framepool): All content is watermarked for additional protection.

Scott Dittrich (Action Sports): I don't’ post it there.

FN: If you have found YouTube to be an asset for your footage business, are there any limitations to its utility?

Lorena Booth (Framepool): As mentioned earlier, it is an asset but the majority of YouTube users are there to watch videos and expose their content just like us rather than to buy footage therefore not much revenue is generated from this particular source.

Ben Jones (Science Photo Library): Its sheer size is something of a barrier to utility, as there’s so much content there that we’re a mere drop in the ocean: we don’t get many views from organic searches, however we keyword our work. As with the rest of the web, it’s not always easy to find rights information or the ultimate owner of the footage, nor contact details. Their algorithms sometimes cover our videos with adverts for services we’d never endorse, although I should say they’ve made it straightforward to remedy these. It also lacks the art and creative slant of services like Vimeo, whose more discerning users tend to offer more than slang and slanging. But I wouldn’t be without it, and we’re looking to engage more with it going forward, rather than pulling back.

Adam Sargis ( Although users can search only the videos on your channel, you cannot easily search the Playlists that are like the old subject related comp reels we used to dub and send to clients. This was an easy first response to a request, which is followed by a more specific research and audition clip delivery. There is no way to sell or vend clean files via YouTube, at the moment. Vimeo Plus is a good alternative, but my library is too large to have them host all.

Chris Bridson (Conus): YouTube has been an asset.  One drawback is the occasional challenge of copyright claims from other production companies. Ironically, most of these claims come from productions to which we originally licensed the material in question.  I understand these claims are most likely auto-generated and are cleared up after filing a dispute, but it’s just another task to add on to the daily workload.

Jim Erickson (CriticalPast): For us, the primary limitation of YouTube is the sheer size of the service, which causes it to be administered mostly by bots rather than humans.  That means that we constantly have to respond to problems flagged by algorithms, which usually result in paperwork (online form responses) that may or may not be adjudicated by a human.  The biggest problem we have with YouTube is the constant daily attention it requires of us, coupled with the sense that someday HAL will randomly refuse to open the pod bay doors.

Mark Trost (F.I.L.M. Archive): The major downside is that you are throwing the stuff out there to the world and much of the world doesn't realize they have to pay for use (especially if they want clean material). Some are surprised, others just go away and we suspect they take it down and use it as is. But since they can do the same thing from our website, there really isn't much of a downside. Overall, a highly useful tool for us and the client.

Martin Lisius (StormStock): The upside to YouTube is it allows for some free exposure. But, it is limited as a source for business because it’s not the ideal audience. Stock footage is very niche. There are only a tiny percentage of people that need it. YouTube is an on-line general audience video network for people that want to see music videos, how-to videos, entertainment, celebrities, and videos of dogs running around in circles chasing their tails.

Sandrine Sacarrere (INA):  Ina does not consider YouTube as an asset for its footage business. Ina has its own professional website,, allowing clients to carry out research in the whole of its audiovisual database, view the footage online, create clips, download low res footage etc.

Michael Goldberg (Celebrity Footage): Because it is so big, if you search Matt Damon, I don’t know if we would come up. You’d have to search something more specific, like what event he was at or something connected to it. We’d obviously appear if you were to type “Ben Affleck Footage” or a term that was more in our world, CelebrityFootage is in our domain so that helps us get to the top a lot of time on searches.

Jessica Berman-Bogdan (Global ImageWorks): It is impossible to monitor all the illegal clips that are up on YouTube. No sooner do you locate one and have it taken down, then it is either back up or someone else has put up another of your clips.  So to a certain degree we in the footage licensing business have become somewhat resigned to the fact that some of our content will end up on YouTube without permission. 

Alastair White (British Pathe): Our preference is still to drive customers to our own website, as they then have a range of enhanced privileges such as low resolution downloads, etc., but once we have made contact with the new customers we can explain this to them.  That said when we analyze our visibility each month we take into account all our digital platforms including our own website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and all the other social media platforms.

What's Ahead for the Footage Industry?

A conversation with veteran stock photo industry analyst Jim Pickerell on the future of stock photo/footage licensing. 

Jim Pickerell, Photo Industry Analyst

Jim Pickerell, Photo Industry Analyst

Jim Pickerell began his career in 1963 as a freelance photojournalist, and has been working in the photography business ever since. Through his online news service Selling Stock, Jim has established himself as one of the most respected analysts of the stock photography business. We spoke with him recently about his views on the current state of the stock photo business, as well as lessons for the future of the footage industry. You’ve studied the stock photo business for many years. How would you describe the condition of the industry at the current time? Is this a good moment for the industry?

Jim Pickerell: In general, the demand for still images and video clips is growing. However, the pace of usage growth is very slow for stills and faster for video. In terms of revenue generated we are seeing a slight decline in revenue from stills and an increase in the revenue generated from video.  

FN: Why is the revenue declining in the stills industry? What are the big issues and trends?

JP: For the stills industry as a whole, revenue has probably plateaued. I expect to see a slow, but steady decline. There are several reasons for this. 

There is a huge oversupply. Since customers can get something that will more-or-less fit their needs almost anywhere, they are demanding lower prices. For a long time the suppliers have been selling images for whatever the customer is willing to pay. 

Oversupply creates too much choice and makes it harder for customers to find the right image for their project. Many customers are spending hours on research and they’re getting frustrated. Lower prices make it difficult to offer customers research support, so the leading agencies don’t really offer much in the way of picture research services. They are not tightly editing their collections. Some smaller specialist libraries, offer a more personal relationship and research, but it is unclear whether they can charge high enough prices, and get enough business, to sustain themselves long term.

In theory data, algorithms and good keywording were supposed to solve the search problem. Thus, customers would do their own research and the agencies could eliminate that cost. It is not working out that way. Reliance on data and search algorithms have not made it as easy for customers to find the right image as they were supposed to.

More customers are turning to small, well-curated collections like Stocksy and Aurora Photos in order to save research time. Customers are willing to pay somewhat more for images from a curated collection, but most of the big guys haven’t figured that out yet.

Oversupply also makes it difficult for individual creators to make enough sales to justify continued production. Lower prices and declining royalties make production less profitable for producers. Many of the best producers - those trying to earn a significant portion of their living from image production – are finding that they can no longer justify the time and expense and are moving on to other ways to earn a living.

Meanwhile the agencies are trying to suck up as many images as possible from amateurs without regard for how useful the images might be for customers. The amateurs will not earn significant revenue and will soon get tired of submitting new content. Another big question is whether the amateurs will produce enough of the kind of imagery the major users need. Personally, I don’t think amateurs will, because most of what is needed requires cost, planning and risk.

Creators are expected to produce without any guarantee that they will receive any compensation whatsoever for their efforts. Agencies are not sharing enough specific data relative to what customers are actually buying. Such data could help producers focus on creating more of the images in greatest demand. Producers need to be able to review images that have actually sold. 

It has also become easier for many potential customers to create more of the content they need themselves. And, of course, image theft is a factor.

Do you think that footage has reached the oversupply level?

Video may not have reached the oversupply level yet, but it is much harder to rely entirely on keywords to find the right clip. Thus, while a customer may be willing to review 500 still images that are returned in a search, when it comes to video clips they may only be willing to review a much smaller number of clips because it takes much longer to review each one.

FN: How much gross revenue does the photo industry generate?

Based on an analysis I did in 2013, I thought gross revenue for the industry was about $2 billion ( In early 2016 I estimated it at about $2.4 billion ( I don’t think there was really that much growth in 3 years. Rather, given all the consolidation and the fact that I have talked to more agencies I believe I have a  better handle on the real size of the market than I did in 2013.

The above figures include footage. I have been relying on the ACSIL Global Survey for figures for the size of the footage market - $394 million in 2011, $550 million in 2014 and possibly $700 million by end of 2017. However, I am somewhat skeptical of these numbers. I do believe the demand for footage is growing, but I question whether it is growing that fast.

I published a list of top footage distributors back in April ( I think Getty does about $75 million, Shutterstock less than $50 million. Getty’s annual footage sales have been about the same since 2010. This could be because Shutterstock was taking market share with lower prices. I believe several of the top-ten footage agencies generate less than $10 million from footage sales, so maybe $200 million for the top ten companies combined.

I know there are a lot of specialist suppliers, but I have trouble believing that combined they generate $400 million. I wonder how much double counting is occurring. For example, Getty represents 33 different brands in addition to its house brands. When Getty makes a sale of a clip from one of these brands they report the gross fee as part of their revenue. Then they retain a percent (+/- 50%) and send the remainder to the brand. The brand reports what they receive as their revenue. That revenue is being double counted.

Who are the leading companies in the photo business at the moment? 

According to a recent VisualSteam Art Buyers Survey ( the top 10 favorite destinations for searching for images are Getty Images, iStock, Shutterstock, Pond5, Alamy, Thinkstock (a Getty property), Dreamstime, Masterfile, Photoshelter and Aurora Photos. I also think AdobeStock should be somewhere in that mix.

See this link for Top Footage Distributors ( )

FN: Are any of the larger stills companies growing?

Some companies, like Shutterstock, are growing. I think they have been growing by taking a larger share of a static/shrinking market.

Much of Shutterstock’s growth has resulted from taking market share, in terms of gross revenue generated, from Getty Images and iStock. The market may have seen some overall increase in demand for images in the last few years, but that has been offset by lower average prices. After years of struggle, Getty and iStock have finally got their pricing in line with Shutterstock. As a result, it will be much harder for Shutterstock to take additional share in 2017. In addition, AdobeStock is likely to become a stronger and stronger competitor to Shutterstock.

FN: How are the smaller players doing? Are they able to compete?

JP: If we’re talking about agencies, most are trying to cut costs to keep their doors open. That tends to limit the kind of service they can provide and their ability to edit their collections. It also puts limits on what they can afford to spend on marketing, so the only customers who know about them are the customers who have used them in the past. There is huge turnover on the customer side. Finding a way to make the new hires aware of the agency’s existence is difficult.

If we’re talking about creators, most of them are suffering greatly. In November I published a couple stories about how bad things are:
Most major, experienced producers have seen a steady decline in annual revenue since the peak around 2000. Many are only earning 10% to 20% of what they earned in 2000 and have been forced to find other ways to make a living.

FN: How closely do you think the stock photo business and the stock footage business align in terms of business trends and growth potential?

JP: The footage industry will have to deal with all the same problems that the still business has faced. Footage will grow to some degree while the use of still photos will decline. 

There will be growth in video usage on the Internet while the proportionate share of paid still image use online will flatten, or decline. It will become increasingly easy for image users to either create what they need themselves, or steal what they need.

FN: Do you see any issues that are unique to the footage industry?

It is harder to create good video than it is to shoot stills. That may allow video producers to thrive and prosper a little longer before amateurs overwhelm the market. However, the big question is whether most of the Internet users will need much in the way of video clips, or will they be looking for complete packages that hang together as a unit in style and quality. 

The need for complete packages that tell their specific story may drive customers toward hiring a freelance producer to put together what they need. Or they may shoot what they need themselves. There are many young videographers out there hoping to make a mark. They will work for peanuts. When preparing something for the Internet, customers may be more interested in content that personally connects with their story, rather than possibly higher quality clips that have no relation whatsoever to the people and operations they are trying to promote.

For this reason, I question how much real long term growth potential there is for the footage industry, particularly as it gets easier and easier for part-timers and amateurs to produce what is needed.

FN: What lessons can footage companies learn from watching the stock photo industry? 

JP: I think the two industries face similar issues. Footage is simply replacing stills in a lot of media. People will get more of their information and advertising online rather than in print. 

As for lessons, first and foremost, footage companies must keep prices high enough to enable them to supply curation and customer research. They need to understand that footage creators will not be willing or able to produce high production-value clips unless they are earning enough to justify the investment in time and equipment necessary to produce such work.

They will need to do a much better job of letting freelance creators know exactly what is selling (a database of clips that sold this month) rather than making creators guess at what the customers are really buying.

The still business may be able to survive on images produced by hobbyist and amateurs. I don’t think the footage business can.

Lastly, they will need to do better editing and curating their collections than the still image companies have done.

FN: It seems like more stock photo companies are adding footage to their portfolios. Is this making a significant contribution to their businesses yet? Or is it more of a sideline? 

It’s a sideline, but it may be the only growth segment of their business.

FN: If more photo companies are adding footage, where is the footage coming from? 

JP: More still photographers are turning to producing footage. The revenue per clip licensed is higher and there is less competition in the marketplace. It makes more sense to spend one’s time producing video rather than stills because the chances of making a return on the time invested is greater. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that either will be profitable. And the learning curve and cost of equipment is greater. Additionally, more amateurs are starting to produce video. Companies like Shutterstock are certainly encouraging amateurs to submit their video clips.

FN: Does diversifying into footage help traditional stills shooters earn a living or become more competitive?

JP: It may, but there is a big learning curve and there can be significant expense. It is not the same as shooting stills. Prices for video clips seem to have fallen so low, that it is hard to understand how a videographer can earn enough from sales to cover the cost of production.

FN: Have you spoken with any stills shooters who have successfully made the jump to producing footage? 

JP: Sure. Recently, I talked to Jesse Hughes, sales manager for Jim Erickson, and asked what kind of prices per clip they are able to get when a customer is buying a series of clips for an ad. Erickson makes most sales direct, so they keep 100% of the fee charged. 
Jim Erickson has been a leading commercial photographer in the U.S. for over 30 years and is known for his ability to capture spontaneous and unexpectedly telling moments that connect with the viewer in a way that makes you want to be there. Initially, Erickson was a still shooter, but in recent years he is spending more and more of his time on video production.  

Hughes said that he prices all videos as RM and very similar to what he has been charging for RM stills. i.e. $1250 per clip for a homepage video, $800 per clip for a secondary page video. Facebook/YouTube would be extra - $500-$750 per clip. Hughes said that most times people license multiple clips… so they get a 10% discount for 2-4 clips, 15% for 5+ and 20% for 10+ video clips licensed.  

If the customer wants to go for broadcast usage, Hughes reminds them that they need to consider contacting talent if their (the buyer) agency or client was a SAG signatory, or if they decide they want to cover their butts in case a talent decided to complain to SAG regardless of status. They pay talent direct for broadcast usage. Erickson’s usage fees, as an example, for a small regional/local spot for 13 weeks is $2000 per clip, and then consider the discounts on that.

Now, compare those prices with what Shutterstock, iStock and others get for clips (in the neighborhood of $79 or less) and it is easy to see how most shooters are going to have a tough time selling enough volume to justify continued production of clips.

According to Hughes, video revenue at Erickson as a percent of sales was 7% in 2013, 11% in 2014, 7% in 2015 and up to 17% in 2016.  While they are licensing more videos, a big factor in the variance in these stats is the fluctuation and decline in stills licensing revenue, especially given that 2014 was Erickson’s best year in history. All content has been licensed as RM until mid 2016 when they split off a collection subset of stills to an RF model.

FN: What are some of the specific challenges for photographers looking to begin shooting video? Did you get any insights from your conversation with Jesse Hughes at Erickson?

JP: Given that many still photographers are turning to video as a way to offset their losses in still revenue I asked Jesse to outline some of the issues that need to be considered when planning a video shoot compared to a still shoot.

He pointed out that first and foremost, video is not just about capturing decisive, standalone moments; the videographer needs to understand how to craft a narrative and put together a series of shots that result in footage that supports the goal of the story being told. The mindset is around leading the viewer to the narrative/story/idea. 

Talent direction is a bigger factor for video than for stills. Video is more literal and less forgiving than stills. Over-actors who may look great for stills often smile over-the-top to where it looks cheesy on video. Video demands more natural, introspective, subtle, relaxed and restrained talent.

As far as equipment is concerned, technology changes so fast that it is hard to know what you might need. A drone? A 360VR? Sony 4K? A Canon? There are decent camera bodies under $1000. Who’s to judge that that 1080p/4K is better/worse than the footage coming out of a Canon 1DC if its only going on the web? Or do you shoot everything with a mind for broadcast?

Videographers may also need a follow focus rig, a glide/steady cam rig or a jib. If sound or dialogue are involved that adds a whole additional level of equipment and complexity. 

The crew for a video shoot involves a slightly different mix than for a still shoot. For example, best results are achieved when one guy is handling the camera and another guy is pulling focus. A 2nd AD crew is great to manage the timing/shots and when to transition from shot to shot.

The still photographer may be accustomed to using strobes. With video they will need continuous lighting. Many may rely on all natural light. In such cases time of day becomes more important.

Video editing is much more time consuming than a still shoot. Ideally, hire a freelance professional who knows your style and cuts for the story you have in mind. Being well prepared on set can save a lot of time and grief in the editing room. Ideally, the shooter will storyboard in advance so they can be efficient and get all the shots needed in the available time/light, and position their cameras so that everything makes sense and cuts well in post. 

When shooting for general stock it is important to have an idea of what sells and how long the clips should be. Customers like to have more than just the final two seconds for a given clip. They want to see and find that middle sweet spot within the clip. Watching existing TV and web spots is key to see how much footage from any particular scene is used. It tends to be a series of 1-3 second bits that make the final pieces.

When it comes to keywording it is not only important to provide a literal and emotional description of the content, but to also include words that talk about how the footage was shot such as VR360, Drone, wide angle vs tight, aerial, underwater, GoPro, Canon, 4k, 720p, 1080p, 24 or 60FPS.

FN: Ultimately, do you foresee the industry consolidating to a point where there are just a handful of stock image providers/platforms, which control both the stills and footage market?

JP: The industry has already consolidated to the point where there are really only a few platforms for professional producers to consider. A number of mom and pop platforms that have access to specialist material may survive. In addition, there will be an increasing number of platforms aimed at the amateur that will muddy the waters. For the platform operator it is an intriguing business. You get all your content at no cost and take the lion’s share of any sales. If you can keep the cost of platform operation low, you can make a profit even with relatively few sales. The image providers won’t earn enough to make it worth their while, but there will be a steady stream of new providers to replace those who give up and move on to something more interesting.

FN: Will increased consolidation benefit the customers?

JP: No. But, most of the agencies aren’t worried about doing something that really benefits customers. They are simply interested in earning as much as they can for as long as they can. The hell with suppliers or customers.

Indie Archives Going Strong!

The rise of large, online footage platforms has disrupted the stock footage industry, offering footage users immediate online access to huge troves of low-cost clips and putting pressure on smaller, independent footage archives to keep pace. So how are the independent providers faring in this new licensing ecosystem? To find out, we spoke with a group of independent footage industry leaders, who very generously shared their insights and experience. The upshot is that while they are feeling competitive pressure from the larger platform sites, especially on pricing and digital delivery, they have rallied by investing in technology and focusing on their core strengths, which include deep experience in the footage business, a commitment to customer service and the cultivation of specialized footage collections that are often difficult for the larger companies to duplicate. And their hard work, tenacity and operational upgrades are paying off, enabling them to capitalize on the current uptick in demand for footage from both traditional and online channels. 

State of the Footage Market

How would you describe the state of the current footage market? Is this a good moment for independent footage archives? Has the market become more challenging?

Layne murphy, president, budget films

Layne murphy, president, budget films

Layne Murphy, president of Budget Films: “It’s the best of times, as ratcheted up production has generated a much greater need for archival footage. It is the worst of times, as the big corporate companies undercut smaller libraries and have the capacity to fully license materials without any human interaction whatsoever. It’s not just our industry but the entire economy has shifted. But despite the proliferation of cut-rate behemoths like Walmart, some folks prefer the quality and personal service of a ‘mom and pop’ concern.”

Edward Whitley, North American president of Bridgeman Images: “Broadly speaking, the current market in archive for documentary is strong. Archive-driven docs are very much in vogue, as producers turn to historic footage and away from reenactments and recreations.”

mark trost, president, film archives

mark trost, president, film archives

Mark Trost, president, FILM Archives: “The state of the current market has improved over the past two to three years due to the influx of pay streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc) adding to the number of programs with good budgets and need for footage (both vintage and current). So, it is a good moment for us. I can't speak for other independent firms, but I do hear there has been improvement all around. The biggest challenge has been the rise of royalty free collections driving down pricing. Price always drives the market since so many libraries have similar material. So, it is a challenge to maintain a decent price on footage.”

StormStock's Martin Lisius filming Hurricane Katrina

StormStock's Martin Lisius filming Hurricane Katrina

Martin Lisius, president, StormStock/Prairie Pictures:  “The stock footage market is the most competitive it has ever been in terms of numbers. When I created StormStock in 1993, there were only a handful of stock footage brands. They tended to be small and focused on quality product and quality customer service.  Now, there are many, with some being huge image distribution factories, while others remain small and focused. That said, it has not become more challenging for me. I work as hard as I ever have to turn out an excellent product and provide human-based customer service. Nothing has changed for me in that way.”

dominic dare, co-founder, lola clips

dominic dare, co-founder, lola clips

Dominic Dare, LOLA Clips: “It’s not a good time in terms of the last 20 years of video and archive. I’ve witnessed several smaller companies either sell out or go bust and that’s the tough reality for smaller independents. However, there is opportunity outside of traditional revenue streams finally. Tech apps and online opportunities do finally have the ability to pay for content. The market has definitely changed. I left the footage world for a number of years after 2008 and it’s a different world. The driving shift without doubt is technology. It has enabled non-traditional companies to create video platforms that are fully automated and require a server and some management but their sales are completely online. This along with cheaper cameras and microstock, as well as increased competition, have absolutely changed the paradigm.”

Joe Lauro, President, Historic Films

Joe Lauro, President, Historic Films

Joe Lauro, president, Historic Films: “We are a specialty archive focusing on pop culture and music performance footage and do not really compete with the general run of stock footage archives. Our business is determined by the number of projects out there that need the type of footage we specialize in.  As most of the larger companies offer what we have, and we do not attempt to sell royalty free type material we typically have a good year if there are a healthy amount of music and history based projects in production – it changes from year to year – this year has been good as was last year. The primary challenge used to be on the technical end. The expense of digitizing and offering our own platform for making footage available. Now that we have achieved that, it is a matter of keeping up with the technology shifts and adapting our platform to fit into the current trends.”

jeff goodman, president, producers library

jeff goodman, president, producers library

Jeff Goodman, president, Producers Library: For Producers Library I’d say this is a good period in time for us and many other independents. The current market is a mixed bag.  On the one hand increased production from all genres means more demand for both current location shots and high-end feature / TV out-takes as well as archival material.  On the other hand, there are new archives popping up every year to compete with and they often discount heavily.  Ubiquitous inexpensive cameras shooting HD & up have made this happen.  The new production standards for HD, 2K and 4K mean you can only provide older standard definition video footage if the content is highly valued, even though up-conversion is sometimes an option. However, besides having the desired content, those with film-backed archives are now in the catbird’s seat in that 16mm and 35mm can be scanned to 2K and 4K DPX files.”

Ben Jones, Science Photo Library

Ben Jones, Science Photo Library

Ben Jones, Head of Motion, Science Photo Library: "It’s hard to speak for other companies but we are still seeing good growth in revenue from our footage product. I would say that the increased use of video across the media has provided a new market to access, for instance book publishers now producing online or electronic products featuring video. Increased mobile bandwidth has also driven huge growth in online and especially social media use of video, which helps drive demand for unique viewing experiences. These new clients can be tricky to reach as the web is so vast, but there are opportunities there. There are many companies exploiting these new markets who have a great hunger for unique footage. The more traditional TV and film markets are still important also.

"The constant pace of change of technology certainly keeps us on our toes. One minute it’s 4K and the next it’s HDR, H264 gives way to H265, suddenly petabyte is not a dirty word… keeping up while not buying everything requires understanding of the issues and careful spending. Web-based marketing (eg AdWords) is expensive for small companies, and it is hard to compete with the search engine presence of the big generalist archives. Maintaining distinctiveness in the face of a sudden explosion of video production, both professional and amateur, is also a challenge. 

"The rise in technology-based stock video platforms presents both an opportunity and a threat to Science Photo Library. Such platforms are reaching new customers and introducing them to licensing stock video, but average fees are under extreme pressure, especially in the royalty free space. Thus, part of the battle for a small specialist library is trying to maintain a healthy price without the technological solutions and economies of scale available to the larger players." 

michael goldberg, president, Celebrity footage

michael goldberg, president, Celebrity footage

Michael Goldberg, president of Celebrity Footage: “In the traditional TV market, people are looking to squeeze minimums and pay lower fees. So the challenge is convince them that the quality of our footage is worth paying a somewhat higher price. Monetization of video online is growing, and digital outlets are willing to spend more to get better quality footage, at least on some pieces, to produce a better overall product.”

Responding to Market Shifts What unique factors about your business have enabled you to overcome these market shifts and challenges? 

Ed Whitley, President, North America, Bridgeman Images

Ed Whitley, President, North America, Bridgeman Images

Ed Whitley: “While the market leaders certainly still dominate, independents like Bridgeman Images can offer a point of difference to the giant libraries. We offer a collection of tightly curated content that is fresh and relevant and, in recent years, major calendar anniversaries have afforded opportunities for researchers to turn to footage libraries for inspiration and information to make content. The market is currently big enough for major libraries and independents to coexist together, complementing each other by offering a diverse service to filmmakers and researchers on all types of budget and project requirements.” 

Michael Goldberg: It never stops. I have to act as assignment editor, videographer, rights & clearance supervisor and company president. And the events don’t stop so there is always more to cover. Because of the launch of new website, where clients can download high-res files, we’ve been able to add new subscriptions clients, mainly web based news outlets, who pay a monthly fee and can use what they want. When the news broke of Brad and Angelina’s divorce, subscription clients reached out to us, and the footage was immediately available.  Typically, these clients care about the quality of the footage, so it is worth it to them to use us. Our shooting style is different, we have a great position on the red carpet, and will typically take longer shots. When a story breaks, we send out an e-blast alert letting our clients know what we have on the subject. When quality is an issue, we get more orders. 

Mark Trost: “We have stressed to our clients, particularly on the pay streaming, cable and network side, the fact that most royalty free services give them no formal copyright or any other type of indemnity. This leaves them liable to third party copyright claims, legit or otherwise. We make it a point to note to the client that we do indemnify on copyright and will give full rights to clips if desired.”

Dominic Dare: “We’ve taken a very careful look at the entire industry and decided that we need to have a curated repository of content that is shot on great quality and/or hasn’t been seen as clips. We don’t need or want to compete at $200 a clip. There’s no value there. We also have developed new ways of working with stock and shoot bespoke stock footage with our aerial drone partners. We take a qualified risk when doing this to provide our clients exactly what they want but at stock prices. Additionally we think getting the content out in other ways is key and we have an archive-based production company as well as several online channels.”

Layne: “We have experienced, professional researchers and provide individualized service.  We ask the right questions and insure that our materials fit with the client’s vision and budget. The area of licensing and rights has grown much more complicated and it is very important to us to stay on top of legal trends and create licenses that meet distribution requirements. Furthermore, we've evolved from providing masters on 3/4” tape to creating 2K or 4K digital files from our enormous collection of physical prints.”

Jeff Goodman: “Since Producers Library has a wide and varied set of collections of different subject matter we can cater to a broad customer base.  And, as I mentioned above, having quality 16mm & 35mm film shot in previous decades is a boon for us. So many TV shows and features are set in the past that the obvious response was to start scanning.  We jumped into the fray a little late but started sub-contracting to have select footage scanned over three years ago and a year and a half ago purchased a LaserGraphics scanner. As they say, we haven’t looked back.

Joe Lauro: We’re investing in technology and broadening the scope of our library.  We are also continuing to offer the services of an extremely knowledgeable sales team and researchers to all of our clients. We still answer the phones here and try to encourage people to ask questions. It is a service industry and we are fighting to keep it that way by offering the assistance of knowledgeable human beings to all of our clients.

Ben Jones: Science Photo Library (SPL) is a paradoxical company: our greatest strength also presents a challenge.  We specialize in difficult-to-source, challenging-to-shoot content in science, medicine and technology subject areas. Whilst this gives SPL a unique niche in which to operate, having a specialized niche is limiting in breadth.  However, we love what we do and we have tried to focus on our strengths rather than get caught trying to chase the next big thing, or spreading ourselves thinly with content that’s available elsewhere. This means a focus on searching for and creating unique and relevant material, working with experts and people with a unique vision, and listening to our clients when they ask for things we don’t have. We have a lot of specialist knowledge in-house and we leverage this expertise to give us an advantage when clients are looking for media in our area.

Unique Footage Collections How important to your success is your collection itself? Would you say that your collection is unique? Does this make it hard for larger companies to duplicate? How important is it to develop your collection to fill a specific market niche?

Ed Whitley: “Bridgeman Footage has not necessarily carved itself a niche collection; rather it has built on the mantra of ‘Art, Culture, History’ that has made Bridgeman one of the foremost independent image libraries in the world. Using these tenets, the Bridgeman Footage collection has evolved to reflect and supplement the image collection so that filmmakers and producers can use the Bridgeman name for stills and footage.  As a traditionally stills-based archive, the biggest hurdle has been making the market aware of all the incredible footage we now offer. That perception is changing, thankfully, as we continue to add more collections whilst archive researchers and filmmakers realize we can offer a different, cross-platform, bespoke service to suit their project’s needs.” 

Martin Lisius: “StormStock is a very niche product. We specialize in weather footage, and have been doing it for nearly 25 years. There’s an old saying that goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none.” I think to become really good at something, you have to focus. But when I established my company in 1993, I didn’t do it to create a stock footage collection. I filmed lots of severe weather footage for documentaries I produced. Other producers came to me to license my work. I created StormStock as a means to serve that need. It was the egg before the chicken, so to speak. I think that’s the best way to start any business. Keep in mind that StormStock is not a company. It’s a collection and brand of Prairie Pictures, a film production company. We are production people. We actually understand the three phases of making movies and know how cameras work down to the physics of optics.”

Mark Trost: “The collection is the cornerstone of our success. Our niche is vintage footage of all genres 1890s-1990s and news video (1986 to present). That is what we are known for. We have many vintage titles that are virtually impossible to find elsewhere. We also have a large library of 1980s era footage. This appears to be the lost footage era, as local TV stations, networks and film producers simply threw out their prints as they switched to tape and then threw that away when they went to digital. So, there is a lot of 80s era material that is hard to find. We have made an effort to find industrial films, news footage, home movie lifestyle material, and other genres to fill this gap. We also represent the local New York cable news service NEWS 12 LONG ISLAND whose footage goes back to 1986. So, that attracts a lot of documentary filmmakers and series to our library.” 

Dominic Dare: “Yes and No. Filling a specific market niche is hugely important and as a young company we’ve been lucky enough to find that out organically. We do find ourselves being known for our drone and viral video, but interestingly that’s a much smaller element of our content and we do compete on content that is not ultimately unique, especially with the Studios here in LA. We now have 16 media partners and a lot of material from news to sports, as well as a wonderful new home movie collections from the 1920’s to the 80’s.  Our viral video collections are by nature unique, but even then there are other options if you want a clip of someone doing something stupid at Christmas, for example. I think if you have the rare opportunity to own a one-off music performance or exclusive access to a news event, then you can legitimately claim a higher price and the collection becomes valuable. But nowadays there’s pressure on budgets and there’s always an alternative through stills or simply a different creative approach, which means the collection is part of the equation but by no means all. The vast majority of our revenue is based around proactive sales, relationships and ultimately whether the client wants the footage or not. Ultimately Sandra [Coelho] and myself are the unique element for LOLA. As someone who has always loved this industry, I find intrinsic interest in archive footage but from a commercial standpoint it’s actually more about our clients and finding them what they want.”

Layne Murphy: “Our collection has been, and continues to be, amassed with an eye towards servicing documentaries and providing materials for on-the-set playback.  That said, we also represent a number of filmmakers and have a good collection of HD materials, strong particularly on the subjects of food, cooking and dining. We have the sophistication and historical knowledge to have mastered our collection, which is primarily archival. Most of our library is backed up with film.”

Jeff Goodman: We are located in Hollywood and gravitate towards Hollywood and entertainment history and the archival footage it portrays has led us to collect some very unique footage.  Hollywood history has been our forte for years.  While viewer interest in classic movie history has waned somewhat in the States, it is still going strong in France, the U.K. and Germany. Having tons of 1950’s through the 1990’s 35mm moving point of view process plates along with location shots has served us well. Right now, Seventies and Eighties footage is quite popular.

Ben Jones: I would say it’s critical to our success. While some of our clips are general stock, many of them are unique, and have either been commissioned or created by us, or sourced from hard-to-access archives. These are generally quite specific topics, and require a level of expertise to conceive and create, and hard work to locate. Even the clips that we haven’t created, we have actively pursued the creators and brought them into our collection based in a large part on our expertise. Our experience with our market niche in stills, and the knowledge that these clients were moving into using clips, certainly helped guide the development of our collection. As an independent archive, I am assuming that you and your team have a very deep knowledge and understanding of your collection. How important is this to your success?

Ed Whitely: “Because Bridgeman Footage is still growing and is relatively modest in volume (still some 20,000 clips), as requests flood in, it is a joy to search through our archival collections and find content that connects with the project; from early 20th Century home movies to WWII footage, arts documentaries and experimental animation, the Bridgeman Footage collection is a resource to fit many of the most fascinating projects. From the independent perspective, we can delve that bit further on research requests than some of the major libraries, going into extra detail and connecting with partner institutions and private collectors who may have that unique slice of archival gold that fits the brief.” 

Martin Lisius: “We know our collection intimately. It’s one of the things that separate the pros from the amateurs. I was at the Dallas Cowboys store at Wal-Mart across from AT&T Stadium last week and asked a nice employee if they had any Ezekiel Elliott jerseys (currently the #1 best selling NFL jersey). She said she had never heard of him. At a sporting goods store they could tell you yes or no immediately, and tell you when the next order will be in if they were out of stock. That’s a good comparison.”

Mark Trost: “Yes, it has been vital to our success. Any team member can answer an email inquiry or phone call with total knowledge of our library and how clients use it. There are no salespeople who have no idea what they are selling or how the client will be using the footage. Our clients do compliment us on our ability to ‘get’ what they are looking for.” 

Dominic Dare: “It’s massive. The issue for us is that we don’t necessarily even have time ourselves and that’s why metadata and online search is so important. As a small company, we outsource our post-production, keywording and metadata generation – I wish it wasn’t that way. I think if I had the luxury of viewing everything I would. One of the saddest things that has happened with footage over the last ten to fifteen years is the loss of our brain trust. We value it highly and research for us is more than a cursory glance on Google.” 

Layne Murphy: “This is enormously important.  The most junior member of our research staff has been with our firm for twenty years.”

Joe Lauro: “Extremely – we deal in history and if our researchers were not familiar with our constantly growing archive and the historical significance of the footage we would not be very effective in licensing our brand of material.”

Ben Jones: We have a dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate sales, marketing and production teams. All content is rigorously edited and checked for accuracy, relevance and authenticity. We have an in-house team of science caption writers who ensure that each clip and image is what it says it is. Even though all our media are available online, many clients still prefer to use our in-house research service, and the people involved in that do have a deep knowledge beyond that which a search engine can offer. These clients are very happy with the service.” I am also assuming that you have a passion for your collection that may be missing in some of the larger, less personal companies. Would you agree with this assumption? Is it important?

Ed Whitley: “Definitely, most of us stem from history or art history degrees and utilize this specialized knowledge every day. As searching has become more and more about the metrics, it’s the intangibles that now get better recognized from the crowd. Where once personalized research by staff members was the norm, now it’s the exception. At Bridgeman we still hold this to be a crucial part of our service, fortunately that’s part of our passion too.”

Martin Lisius: “That’s totally true. I have had a passion for storms since I was a kid and shot my first lightning image when I was just 12 years old. If you have a passion for your subject, you will know it better than most. Companies that have billions of images can’t possibly know them as well as they should.”

Mark Trost: “Yes, this is a passion. I started out as a 16mm Film collector in the 1970s and the business grew from my love of film collecting (nothing arty mind you, mostly cartoons, serials, b-movies, campy educational and industrial films). So, enthusiasm and knowledge is appreciated by the client. We recently supplied footage to a documentary on the man (Bill Finger) who co-created and ghost wrote all the early Batman comic book stories. As both a fan and collector I was able to guide them to photographic and film sources to the point that the researcher said that we should have come on board as historical consultants! A great compliment.”

Dominic Dare: “I’ve been lucky enough to work in London, New York and Los Angeles and worked with some of the biggest collections and more recently with LOLA to find and unearth newer material. So I’ve worked in archives where you will never ever have a deep knowledge of everything and also smaller collections where there are only a few real nuggets that you have to find in order to make money. Personally I have a deep passion for news and current affairs and it’s role in our various societies, but for some reason I know more about dwarf tossing or the latest prank video on YouTube! Ultimately I love moving image and that’s why I do this as I get to see how it simply the single most engaging form of media for immediacy of interaction. 

Layne Murphy: “The library began in 1963 as a non-theatrical film distributor and repurposed as a footage library when videotape boded to make non-theatrical film rental obsolete.  The company has been in Hollywood for over fifty years and is a woman owned business, operated now by the founder’s daughter.”

Joe Lauro: We are historians and music fanatics here. That makes going to work fun.

Ben Jones: I feel that we do, although whether it’s missing from larger companies I couldn’t say. We do provide free access to our specialist researchers to help clients with their requests, which is a popular service and an increasingly rare one in these days of web search and automatic purchasing. As we host images and clips of arcane and complicated material, this helps to give our customers the confidence that they are selecting the correct image for their project. 

Serving Customers Are you able to provide more personalized service? Is that important? For your clients, does having access to you personally or to other long-standing members of your team make a difference? Does this add value for your clients?

Martin Lisius: “Yes, we are able to provide more personal service than the large image superstores. I have quite a few clients I know well. They know they can depend on us to help them succeed. The giant collections could hire more people to interact with the client, but people are more expensive than computer servers and it would cut into their profit margin.”

Mark Trost: “The clients do appreciate that there is always someone available to speak to or email with who actually knows the library and how what we have that could help them. Consequently, we do get a lot of researchers and producers returning to us as new projects come up.”

Dominic Dare: “Along with knowing where to find the right content, either from within our exclusive agreements or through our industry relationships the lifeblood of LOLA Clips is our clients. We are more knowledgeable and have decades of experience in providing productions with content. It’s the single most important asset for LOLA. We know how to negotiate on a complex license agreement, we know how to find the actual original specs for a piece of footage and what it was shot on, we know how clients will come back again if you know where to get their material and then give that info to help simply because you can. I cannot tell you how much knowing contacts at an obscure Italian TV network or being able to find someone a contact at the NFL helps your business. That is simply our biggest asset.”

Layne Murphy: “We do an enormous amount of repeat business and our service emphasizes the personal.  Our license is vetted by all of the major production entities.”

Joe Lauro: We like to think it does. Many of our clients look to us for suggestions on footage and do take advantage of our expertise and suggestions.

Ben: I think this goes back to the research service mentioned above. When clients ask us for media we really do try to help them, contacting potential contributors and even commissioning work on occasion. They certainly appreciate this level of care and have mentioned it several times. As a veteran in this business, I am assuming that you have developed some very close relationships with buyers over the years. Is that important to your success? Further to that point, I am assuming that you have developed a deep knowledge of the footage business and buyers. How much does that matter?

Ed Whitley: “Of course, relationships are everything, in this sector possibly more than most. As individuals move between productions and production companies, it’s their personal experiences of working with an individual that’s most likely to bring them back for their next project.”

Martin Lisius: “Yes, it is. Trust is pretty important.”

Mark Trost: “Yes, the fact that the researcher community knows we are a knowledgeable resource has allowed us to build a substantial client base who will come back to us project after project. A client can sense when you really don't know what you are talking about and, conversely, when they know you can lead them in the right direction and not waste their time, they are more inclined to review your material and ultimately utilize it in their productions.” 

Dominic Dare: “Yes, as I mentioned above, for me and Sandra, my business partner in London, this is the currency that is most valuable. At LOLA, we focus our footage sales divisions on Film and TV, therefore relationships are important because London is close knit community as is LA. Sneeze something about one archive or buyer and it’ll give the whole of the industry a cold. It’s a small community but one that we love.”

Layne Murphy: “We have many clients who have done business with us for thirty years or more.  Our relationships are enormously important and we strive to continue insuring customer confidence and satisfaction. “

Joe Lauro: Of course, we work with all of the independent researchers and most of the companies producing steady slates of documentaries. They know what to expect when working with us and our long-term relationships allow us to make it easier for them. It is important to understand the business you are in. Know who your competitors are, what they offer and do not offer, which allows you an edge when acquiring new material so you can estimate if the costs might turn into profits. If you pay $100,000 for a collection of material that everyone is offering it could be a mistake. If you listen to your clients and are able to focus in on material they often ask for and have difficulty finding, well then it might be a good investment. So, yes, you need to pay attention to what your competitors offer and do not offer.

Jeff Goodman: Knowing your content well means faster response time in presenting clip-bins or links and that means happier editors who are pressured to find the just right shot or shots.  

Ben Jones: I’d say yes, and they have come to expect a level of service from us, as well as help on specifics when required. We are always looking to build new relationships as well. We’ve certainly learnt that it is a very different business from licencing photos, although there are increasingly overlaps between the two. I think that understanding the needs of footage buyers is important, in the information they need about the clips themselves, the language and terminology they use when discussing rights and metadata, the need for per second billing as well as the more photo-relevant per clip, the need for access to clips for comping purposes and more. 

Investments, Infrastructure & Technology Developing and maintaining an archive is expensive. Without going into too much proprietary detail, where have you focused your investments?

Martin Lisius: “Everything has become more technology driven. But, for our company, it comes down to quality of product and customer service. We’ve focused our time on production and creating more content. That’s what matters most. Digitization is a term used by stock footage marketers and accountants. What is there to digitize? Clients rarely want standard-def anymore which leaves just a few years of HD on tape. We converted that to digital files years ago and what we acquire now is already digitized.”

Mark Trost: “All spare time is devoted to getting more material digitized and on line as that is the way the material is now seen. So the more they can see, they more of a chance you have to license. We have totally redone our website earlier this year so every clip is viewable on virtually every platform, including desktop, mobile, etc.”

Dominic Dare: “Yes absolutely, we are like all smaller companies working out the way forward but as a company that’s not even two years into trading we have been lucky enough to build a cloud-based online only portal and infrastructure that hopefully is nimble enough to work for us for the next 10 years. At the moment we are focused on development of an app and newer forms of video. Lots to be announced…”

Layne Murphy: “We do the best we can but we know we'll never keep up with the platform sites so we have to emphasize our many other strengths towards serving our clientele. This is our order of priorities-- family friendly wages and benefits; basic operations/media preservation; technology; advertising and promotion; and film acquisition.

Joe Lauro: Over the years Historic Films has paid close attention to how, when and from where people are accessing our content. We have responded by giving users the right tools to do their jobs efficiently.  We have re-designed our website to be 100% responsive across all desktop and mobile platforms.  In doing so, we have simplified and streamlined the research process, giving our users quick access to the footage they need 24 hours a day.  In addition, we have made a concerted effort over the last five years, in large part due to hardware affordability, to bring vast amounts of archival content online.

Ben Jones: It was evident from the outset that handling video would require much more storage and processing power than stills, so hardware was one of the first large investments. We also hired experienced video editors and systems builders to integrate editing systems with our own databases. We tried to avoid non-digital video initially as we were aware of the cost of digitization, and although we have digitized tape and film over the years, the majority of our archive remains born digital. We have to keep abreast of new developments on the technical side, including new codecs, color spaces, cameras, displays and standards. Our contributors and clients ask us about these aspects all the time so it is important to be aware of them. On many of the “platform sites” you can transact a complete order online and download production-ready clips without speaking to a human. Do you feel pressure to provide that level of online service, or does the human-based model work for you and your clients?

Ed Whitley: “In this age of often faceless communications and automated customer service, I think we are slowly seeing a reaction from the independent sector. People now appreciate personal communications more than ever before as a means to answering research queries or any specialist tech-requirements they may have for their footage. As an independent, we can offer services which major libraries cannot so easily; like transcoding clips into bespoke formats, collating time-coded edits into curated playlists, or returning to analogue masters for perfect HD transfers. However, while Bridgeman tries to give the client real human interaction, we understand that today’s archive researcher wants clips quickly and efficiently. Independents can do this by giving immediate download, high-res production ready clips at the click of a few buttons; delivered not through vast (often slow), server-intensive FTPs, but agile online download portals like the one we employ at Bridgeman.”

Martin Lisius: “I feel no pressure from the image superstores. They are quite different from us. We do have an on-line storefront. I made it for clients that have a tight deadline and need something immediately, any time of day. It accounts for about 5% of our sales. The rest come to us directly and we interact with them. Yes, we even talk to them! Phone, e-mail, and sometimes text.”

Mark Trost: “As much as the turnkey do it yourself approach does work, we find the types of projects we get involved in, like cable TV documentaries, commercials, scripted TV and features, requires a lot of back and forth with the client to get them what they need. There are also constant variations in rights needed all which affect price. So, the menu-driven on line version might work for a lot of projects, but far from all.”

Dominic Dare: “I think it’s crazy if you don’t where possible. We buy so much online and if you think otherwise personally I think you are wrong. We don’t as we have complex rights management issues but we will be rolling that out and whilst I know of very large archives who don’t see more than a handful of sales this way per month you have to think globally and how you are realistically going to sell in Korea or Australia or Slovakia without it.”

Layne Murphy: “The platform model is fine for certain projects but others have more complicated licensing requirements, need more esoteric materials and/or need to work from film elements.  We feel that if we continue to emphasize our many strengths, little companies like Budget, will be able to co-exist with the big guns.” 

Jeff Goodman: Producers Library has always steered clear of Royalty Free and e-commerce models.  We enjoy speaking to customers as you gain more knowledge of their needs.  Even the experienced researchers often have questions and we’re here to answer them.

Joe Lauro: Historic Films, being a long form stock footage archive, cannot solely be one or the other.  We must service both, and we do.  Every project and every client is unique. Our clients make it very clear to us every day that they need efficiency and speed but they also need our knowledge and our expertise to find them what they are looking for.  Stock Footage is very different than Stock Shots.  Not all projects are coming to us with a keen vision of the ‘perfect’ shot.  More and more researchers are coming to us with ‘concepts’ and they rely on our people in house, who have deep knowledge of our archive, to get the right material in front of them.

Ben Jones: We did feel this pressure and we launched a fully automated e-commerce function on our site four years ago. Revenue from e-commerce sales has practically doubled each year over the last three years. That said, the majority of our sales are still made through our sales team, with researchers coming to us for advice and shot selections. Has technology become more affordable, allowing you to shift toward a more digital workflow?

Martin Lisius: “Yes, technology is more affordable, as it is in any industry. We are all digital. However, it’s the quality of our team that matters most. That hasn’t changed.”

Mark Trost: “Yes, the major expense is now in time rather than equipment.”  

Dominic Dare: “Yes. Storage for us is simply how much do we want? It’s not a big cost. We can integrate our CRM system into our digital platform with a small amount of development, but we built our business to not have to work with all the legacy issues we’ve seen first hand from working at other companies who just are dealing with insurmountable issues. I feel very lucky. The issue for us is value vs. potential revenue. We can keyword inexpensively but delivery of masters does cost for us and that’s something that we tend to keep paying.” 

Layne Murphy: “Our workflow is entirely digital.”

Jeff Goodman: Only when the price of scanners became affordable did we really shift the workflow, balancing between as-need customer sales and choosing promising footage.

Joe Lauro: Absolutely! We couldn’t have made near the progress we have made in the last seven or eight years without technology becoming more and more affordable.  Every year it becomes more affordable and every year that has enabled us to expand or better secure what we have.

Ben Jones: To some extent, and especially with storage, but the processing and delivery aspects are still quite expensive, and bandwidth has not really kept pace with file sizes. I think it would have been significantly more expensive to set up a non-digital archive though. Has technology made operating an independent archive more cost-effective and manageable? If so, how?

Martin Lisius: “I would say generally yes, like a word processor versus a typewriter. It’s a more efficient tool.”

Mark Trost: “Yes, since we have 10,000 or more clip reels available for instant on line viewing, we can send clients screeners to review in minutes of receiving a request. Just a few years ago, you had to put together a tape or DVD. So, it does cut down on time and staff needed.”

Layne Murphy: “More manageable—absolutely.  Cost-effect is still a question mark.  We need less manpower than we did twenty years ago but the demands of keeping up technologically largely offset this.”  

Joe Lauro: In some ways.  Not in all.  Technology has streamlined our workflow and allowed us to do a lot more in a lot less time.  We subsequently require fewer people to match the same output we may have had 5+ years ago.  That said, technology needs constant maintenance, constant upgrades and support. What we have lost in perhaps marketing we have gained in IT.  We believe, however, that in the big picture over-all, a small independent archive like ours with manageable overhead and fiscal control over what we do and when we do it, that the answer is yes, with the right people in the right jobs it has made our business more cost effective and manageable.  Another important point to note, however, is that what technology has also done is to keep us viable in a shrinking market.  So although embracing the technology has been very good for us, it was also essential.  

Ben Jones: Yes, and for the reasons above – although there are many digital formats they can (usually) be read by any digital edit system. To set up a non-digital archive would have meant buying or hiring separate decks for Betacam, SP, VHS, 16mm, 35mm… The only other thing I can think of is the difficulty of distributing such large quantities of data around the world. Although digital files are portable, they quickly get to a size where internet-based distribution is not feasible, so transferring master files to agents and clients can be a headache. It is still easier than doing the same with tape and film though!

Marketing How do you keep your company in front of customers? Is it primarily about having a long-standing reputation? Word-of-mouth? Online marketing?

Ed Whitley: “All of the above, and more! One of the key things Bridgeman focuses on is having close relationships with our clients, where we are able to combine their needs and feedback with the data from each marketing channel we use in order to continuously communicate and deliver relevant content and information about our growing archive. As Bridgeman has long-standing relationships and a reputation for high quality and exclusive content, our role with marketing is to ensure a consistent delivery across many channels for our clients to understand what is in our archive, both new and existing. This combines a close relationship internally with our collections, cataloguing and IT departments to provide accurate and relevant information as well as tools to provide our clients with a seamless experience in accessing the best content for their projects. Bridgeman's marketing covers a variety of channels that include tradeshows, client events, emails, advertising, social media and a heavy focus on content creation for our website that provides the clients with a wealth of ideas, case studies, tips, tools and anniversaries that they may be focusing on now or in the future. As Bridgeman supplies stills and footage to a variety of industries the content created by the marketing department gives clients the ability to plan and react to whatever needs they may have on any project.”

Martin Lisius: “Most of our business is word of mouth. We have visibility through and social media. But, a lot of our clients know me personally and spread the word to others. Some people still like working with humans rather than machines, and they prefer working with experts more than anything.”

Mark Trost: “We are part of and FOCAL and garner projects from those affiliations. We also do on line marketing. We send out tweets and post a clip of the day on our Facebook and Twitter accounts every day. Also, we find when researchers and production people move from project to project, they do remember us and tell others in their new posts about us.”

Layne Murphy: “We use social media with some degree of success.  Most of our business comes from professional researchers we've dealt with for years and referrals from these loyal customers.” 

Jeff Goodman: Word of mouth, having been around since 1957, a solid reputation and of course the stock footage portal

Joe Lauro: All of the above.

Ben Jones: We have a reputation on which we have built with stills clients moving into video (for instance in publishing). We try to keep our website easily findable online with SEO techniques too. We attend industry events (such as Footage Marketplace and FotoFringe) as well as events related our speciality (such as the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, and the SMASH16 Awards). We are active members of trade bodies including FOCAL International and BAPLA, who have access to researcher organizations, production companies and publishers. We use social media and direct marketing to maintain brand awareness amongst our registered users, and to try to reach out across the wider world. 

FOCAL's Footage Awards 2017 Now Open for Submissions and Sponsorship

FOCAL International has opened the submissions phase of their annual FOCAL International Awards, to be presented on 25 May, 2017, with a call for creative professionals worldwide to submit their work for consideration in one of 15 award categories. Now in its 14th year, the FOCAL International Awards showcase the creative use of stock, library and archival footage by producers, directors and production companies worldwide, as well as contributions made to the global production community by archives, film libraries, researchers and technicians, as well as the work done to restore and preserve these irreplaceable assets. The deadline for all productions premiered in 2016 is set for 1st December but productions premiered later in the year can request a late entry.

The FOCAL International Awards celebrate achievement in the use of footage in all variety of genres, across all media platforms plus its restoration. Recent winners for their Best use of Footage in a documentary include many prominent, critically-acclaimed films such as Amy, Senna and Night Will Fall. Lifetime Achievement winners have included Rick Prelinger, Grover Crisp and Raye Farr. FOCAL International were also honored to have Martin Scorsese personally collect the prize for the Best Restoration of the Red Shoes. 

Producers, filmmakers and other creative professionals who have used library footage in a documentary, feature film or any other form of production over the last year are encouraged to submit their work for consideration. There are also Awards for best archive researcher, library and restoration work. 

FOCAL International has enjoyed support from all areas of the industry over the past 14 years and would welcome inquiries from new sponsors at all levels – main sponsorship and category sponsorship. For a brief overview of the Awards, check out FOCAL’s Awards Ceremony Promo video.

Stock, library and archival footage play a central role in many of today’s most critically acclaimed films, and, for over a decade, FOCAL International has worked to recognize and celebrate the skill and artistry with which leading filmmakers source and implement this indispensable creative asset. The world renowned FOCAL International Awards Ceremony is a magnet for all leaders of the global footage community and will take place on 25th May 2017 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, UK.

The 2017 FOCAL International Award Categories are follows:
•    Best Use of Footage in a History Production
•    Best Use of Footage in a History Feature
•    Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production
•    Best Use of Footage in an Entertainment Production
•    Best Use of Footage in an Arts Production
•    Best Use of Footage in a Music Production
•    Best Use of Sports Footage
•    Best use of Footage about the Natural World
•    Best Use of Footage on Other Platforms
•    Best Use of Footage in a Cinema Release
•    Best Archive Restoration & Preservation Project
•    The Jane Mercer Footage Researcher of the Year Award
•    Footage Employee of the Year
•    Footage Library of the Year
•    Lifetime Achievement Award

The qualifying period is productions premiered in 2016 and entry is via the FOCAL website until the closing date 1st December.  Any productions being premiered during December can make a late submission, by prior arrangement.

In all the production title categories the submission fee is £75. For other categories there is no fee.

Click here for full details and the submissions entry form.  Those interested in sponsorship opportunities should contact FOCAL International, or Tel: +44 (0) 20 3178 3535.




Archives Are Back!

An Interview with Documentary Guru Peter Hamilton and Filmmaker Tom Jennings on the return of the Signature Archival Doc to the Cable Network Schedules and SVOD Channels.

With decades of experience in the documentary business, Peter Hamilton is a keen observer of trends in unscripted programming. We spoke with both Peter and renowned documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings about the return of “signature” archive-based docs to both the cable and SVOD schedules. In a recent edition of your newsletter, you noted that “History channel’s recent advice was: ‘Forget about the archive!’ Now, all the major channels and platforms are competing for stories that involve access to unique archival footage. What is driving this shift?

Peter Hamilton: There definitely has been a huge swing of the pendulum back to the archive. The drivers are four-fold:  the biggest is the profound structural change in viewing from broadcast and cable/satellite channels to online platforms. The other drivers are Financial, Editorial and Technical.

Let’s look at the shift in industry structure first. We are entering the “Post Schedule Documentary Economy.” US channel viewing has dropped around 20% in recent years, and more among the most desirable younger demo. Channels are being challenged by SVOD platforms, particularly Netflix and Amazon. 

The SVOD (subscription video on-demand) platforms developed a programming strategy of acquiring and then commissioning original docs. A good example is Netflix’s wonderful Nina Simone bio-doc, which was picked up after Sundance. The SVODs are expanding this strategy and commissioning more original docs, including series like Amazon’s Hugh Hefner series. Another example is the September Hulu launch of its documentary SVOD originals with The Beatles Eight Days a Week, which we are covering in a detailed Case Study in

Peter Hamilton directs Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc. where he helps his clients to successfully develop, produce and market video content. 

Peter Hamilton directs Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc. where he helps his clients to successfully develop, produce and market video content. 

Documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings's  many archive-based documentaries cover subjects from the Challenger Disaster to OJ Simpson to the JFK assassination.

Documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings's  many archive-based documentaries cover subjects from the Challenger Disaster to OJ Simpson to the JFK assassination.

Meanwhile, the channels like Nat Geo, Discovery and History had relied for many years on a schedule based heavily on Reality series.  But Reality lost the leading-edge following it had earned when shows like Ice Road Truckers, Jersey Shore and Pawn Stars dominated the conversation around the office water cooler.

The Reality TV era left another challenge for the networks: their programs had become commodified, and all-too-often interchangeable. Their once distinct brands had become diluted in the quest for a hit, character-based series. For example, Duck Dynasty could have been scheduled on several channels, and it muddied the A&E brand. There wasn’t much history on History. Nat Geo strayed from the promise of the famous Yellow Border brand. Now, in the “Post Schedule” economy led by Netflix and Amazon, channels that rely on factual programs need to return to their brands if they want to stand out, and the signature, event documentary is one of the keys to this process.

FN: How are financial considerations driving this trend?
PH: The SVOD era is dominated by big, scripted, multi-season series like House of Cards. It’s the binge-watching era!  The platforms can only afford so many scripted series with A-List talent like Kevin Spacey, and documentaries are relatively affordable in comparison. 

A typical doc is much less expensive than a scripted series involving even B-List stars, but brings along the passionate audience that B-Listers don’t.

Documentaries also attract A-Listers as executive producers rather than as performers. Beginning with Netflix’s Virunga, Leonardo Dicaprio now seems to have his name on a half-dozen projects including The Ivory Game and Nat Geo’s climate change doc.  These films are part of the zeitgeist, so A-Listers are really motivated to become involved. 

Another financial factor is that documentaries attract passionate affinity audiences who promote their favorite docs across their own press and social media communities. To sum up, docs are financially efficient because they are relatively affordable to produce or acquire, and they bring along their own audiences.

FN: Moving on to editorial factors: Are archival docs an important part of the signature programming mix?
Absolutely. First, archive based ‘event’ docs are nearly always about celebrities and historical figures with huge name recognition, and therefore the film is presold to the audience. This is important in a universe where there are thousands of channels, and networks can’t afford to market a concept from a standing start.

FN: Are there some other good examples of recent archive based projects that illustrate this trend?
PH: Of a recent sample of productions announced by National Geographic Channel, Amazon and Netflix, four involve extensive use of archive:  the Hugh Hefner mini-series from Amazon; an Amanda Knox film and The 13th from Netflix; and a Katie Couric led project on the Gender Revolution from National Geographic. Nat Geo earlier announced projects that will lean heavily on archives. These are about Jane Goodall, the global water crisis and the Los Angeles Riots.  

FN: Does this mean that you have to have a big name associated with your film?
PH: Unfortunately, in terms of big signature docs, there seems to be little room here for revealing and compelling but untold stories about unheralded people and obscure situations. 

FN: This is a very positive development for the big signature quarterly shows, but what about programming the rest of the schedule?
PH: It can’t be all about the tent poles. There has to be a tent, too! There are increasing opportunities for archive-based films in the regular 24x7 schedule because the archive can be affordable, carries name recognition and is readily promotable.  And this creates opportunities for the skilled journeyman production companies.

FN: How are archive-based stories evolving? 
PH: Archive based story telling has improved. Tom Jennings’ Peabody Award winning MLK The Assassination Tapes tells its tragic story cinematically in which a complicated buffet of archival elements including television reports, stills, Super8 film, 911 calls and so on are all skillfully edited to create this compelling story that plays out like a movie. Another example from Jennings that we covered in my newsletter is The Challenger Disaster

Many networks and SVOD platforms are pursuing this ‘Tom Jennings style’ of storytelling, usually for events that are associated with anniversaries, like the upcoming 2017 Princess Di anniversary. The media buzz of an anniversary gives a huge lift to a network’s relatively limited promotion budget.

FN: Have you seen any new editorial formats?
PH: Amazon just announced a big plunge with its 13-part series on Hugh Hefner based on the Hefner archive. SVOD is the home of binge scripted viewing: no doubt that there will be further commitments to multi-episode documentary series. Other recent examples are Netflix’s Making a Murderer and the clip-based series The Sixties and The Seventies

There are also ‘Eighties-style hosted and voice-of-God narrative docs in the mix. The Beatles film is a good example, where incredible Beatles found footage was supplemented by fascinating contemporary interviews with Paul and Ringo, with additional context provided by talking-heads including Malcolm Gladwell and Whoopi Goldberg.  

FN: Are there any tech breakthroughs behind the return of archive production?
PH: Yes. The first is the use of 4K conversions to capture in Matt White’s words “the gorgeous detail” of the Beatles archive. The richness of 4K allows directors to tell extended stories out of relatively small pieces of footage by creating movement, for example by zooming in and panning across the frame, and so on. A great example is Every Face Has A Name. SVT Sweden prized its footage of the first refugees from Nazi concentration camps as they disembarked in Malmo in 1945. A 4K conversion unlocked the power and value of this precious archive. 

A second technical factor is that social media allows a massive escalation of the power and reach of the search process. For example, the producers of the Beatles film invested in a social media campaign to uncover tens of thousands of archive items that were captured or saved by Beatles’ fans in the 1960s. These discoveries were integrated with the Beatles’ own archive plus other professional sources to create an absorbing, fresh look at the Beatlemania phenomenon.

Major archive libraries like ITN Source are using increasingly sophisticated customer interfaces with search and download tools to support their clients. Also, new players have entered the market to facilitate access to public domain footage. And, of course, aggregators like and even YouTube make footage research exponentially more efficient.

Third, colorization is a big factor. Radical improvements in colorization processes – plus a commitment to excellence -- helped create the most successful archive-based programming brand in recent years. Beginning with Apocalypse World War 1 (2009), CC&C’s “Apocalypse” franchise has dominated unscripted ratings in France for two decades and has been sold around the world.  CC&C set a new standard for colorization. 

FN: Are producers who are newcomers welcome to pitch the channels with their archive-based projects? 
PH: There’s little room for newbie and mid-scale doc creatives, unless the film has broken through at a major festival, or unless you control access to a stunning archive. The big signature productions are typically packaged by agents, include A-List talent, and are sold to the nets in advance. That is definitely a trend. 

Peter followed up with Tom Jennings about the swing back to the archive.

Peter Hamilton: It’s all well and good to say that the pendulum is swinging back to the archive. But it’s never that easy for producers. What are the challenges for archive-specialist producers who work with the networks? 

Tom Jennings: It’s great to find unseen archival material, but getting the rights can often be a nightmare.  Networks want all media, worldwide, in perpetuity, but archive vendors have gotten wise to the explosion in archive shows.  The more rights you want, the more they are going to charge.  So producers get stuck in the middle: networks want all rights and won’t accept a show (usually) without them.  Vendors charge premium rates for those rights.  Producers are often squeezed in an untenable position.

Just about every network we are working with will not accept archive-based shows unless we can say the images have never before been seen. There is tremendous pressure to do this.  Obviously, the image and sounds have been seen at least once if they were broadcast.  We have to look far beyond the usual images that an audience remembers to try and find the moments that live outside our collective consciousness.  If we can’t say “unseen” many times we lose the sale.

Despite the resurgence of archive shows, the networks are still deathly afraid of black and white.  There’s still that “Hitler Channel” concept attached to anything black and white.  Even when we are doing a program that features mostly black and white images because of the time when the event occurred, they always ask if there is anything in color.  Or can we at least lead the program with some kind of color.

PH: What’s the secret to the “No Narration” style of story-telling?

TJ: The no-narration, no-interview approach is by far the hardest and is not often done.  But when this style works it really pops because instead of having talking heads telling viewers what they are seeing, the audience just lives it.  It’s as if they are watching a movie, but all the images are real.  It’s as if we went out to shoot an historic event like a feature film director, but our Directors of Photography and sound recordists were dozens, if not hundreds of people, who we never met.  We rely on their work from decades ago to not only rediscover their work, but fashion it in a way they would never have dreamed of.  I mention this because our style has very good resonance with young people, because they don’t feel like their watching a doc, but a straight-up film.  Our Challenger show for Nat Geo earlier this year is a good example.  People called it “seamless.” In closing, do you expect this trend to continue and potentially pull in younger viewers? 
PH:  I do. The editorial and technical developments that we described allow archive-based films to satisfy young viewers’ preference for compelling story-telling. The shift to online viewing means that they can learn about and view these programs whenever they want. But we’re in the early days of a historic shift in the viewing experience. Radically different and unexpected formats will emerge. And there will be an increasing if niche role for the archive in tomorrow’s mix.

Footage Award Winners Honored at FOCAL’s 13th Annual Gala Awards

The 13th annual FOCAL International Awards in association with AP Archive took place last Thursday night at The Lancaster London Hotel, honoring producers, filmmakers and other creative professionals who have used library footage in a documentary, feature film or any other form of production released in 2015.  The BBC’s Kate Adie hosted the gala ceremony, which also served as an occasion to bid farewell to event organizer Julie Lewis, who is retiring from FOCAL this year. Under Lewis’s leadership, the FOCAL Awards have evolved over the last decade into a major event in the archival production community.

“The success of the awards over the last thirteen years has been due in large part to the energy, drive and commitment of Julie Lewis,” said Sue Malden, Chair of FOCAL International. “It is both a highly polished event and a major annual destination among the global production community. Her contribution to the event and to FOCAL itself has been indispensable and will be greatly missed.”

Awards in sixteen categories, including Lifetime Achievement, were handed out and several high-profile documentaries took home top honors. Academy Award Winner Amy, about the life of Amy Winehouse, won the Award for Best Use of Footage in both the Music Production and Cinema Release categories, edging out Cobain: Montage of Heck in both categories. Archive Producer Paul Bell was there to collect both awards.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution directed by Stanley Nelson won for Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production, and Best of Enemies featuring the acerbic public debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr, which was short listed twice, prevailed in the Entertainment category. The BBC's Imagine strand saw off Arena: Night and Day, celebrating 40 years of the their longest running Arts series, with The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson directed by Julien Temple.

Twenty-five European films were shortlisted for this year’s FOCAL International Awards. Among them, Every Face Has a Name, from Swedish production company Auto Images, won for the Best Use of Footage in a History Production, beating A German Youth from Local Films (France) and Red Gold from Vivement Lundi (France) whilst the Award for Best use of Sports Footage was collected by Yuzu Productions (France) for Free To Run.

The FOCAL Awards also honour the work of archival researchers, footage archivists and film preservationists, with this year’s Lifetime achievement award going to legendary film preservationist Robert Gitt. In a career spanning more than fifty years, Robert Gitt has gained an international reputation as one of the foremost experts in the preservation and restoration of motion pictures.

And while Cobain: Montage of Heck and the team at End of Movie LLC went home empty handed, Jessica Berman-Bogdan snagged the Jane Mercer Footage Researcher of the Year Award, primarily for her outstanding work on that film. 

Historic Films won the Library of the Year Award, and Tim Emblem-English formerly of BBC Studios and Post Production won for Footage Employee of the Year.

The Best Archive Restoration/Preservation Award went to The Memory of Justice and was collected by The Film Foundation's, Margaret Bodde.

Julie Lewis thanked her colleagues, the sponsors, competitors and the 80 plus jurors who had worked so hard to deliver the results and for bringing the event to where it is today. 

Please see below for a full list of all 2016 FOCAL International Awards winners.

Best Use of Footage in a History Production  - Sponsored by Getty Images / BBC Motion Gallery
•    Every Face Has a Name - Auto Images (Sweden) 

Best Use of Footage in a Current Affairs Production – Sponsored by Bloomberg Content Service
•    The Queen of Ireland - Blinder Films (Ireland)

Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production - Sponsored by Bridgeman Footage 
•    The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution - Firelight Films, Inc (USA)

Best Use of Footage in an Entertainment Production  - Sponsored by FremantleMedia Archive
•    Best of Enemies - Tremolo Productions / Magnolia Pictures (USA)

Best Use of Footage in an Arts Production - Sponsored by Film London & London's Screen Archives
•    Imagine: The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson - Essential Arts Entertainment/Nitrate Film//BBC (UK) 

Best Use of Footage in a Music Production - Sponsored by Shutterstock 
•    Amy - On The Corner (UK)

Best Use of Sports Footage - Sponsored by ITV Sport Archive
•    Free to Run - Yuzu Productions (France) Point Prod (Switzerland) and Eklektik Productions (Belgium)

Best Use of Footage in an Advert or Short Production - Sponsored by Broadcast Tech
•    Lenor 'Odes to Clothes: Marvellous Scarf' - The Director Studio for Grey Düsseldorf (UK/Germany)

Best use of Footage about the Natural World - Sponsored by Global ImageWorks
•    The Nature of Things: Jellyfish Rule! - CBC (Canada)

Best Use of Footage on non-Television Platforms - Sponsored by Visual Data 
•    The Beatles 1+ Video Collection - Apple Corps Limited (UK)

Best Use of Footage in a Cinema Release - Sponsored by British Pathé
•    Amy - On The Corner (UK)

Best Archive Restoration / Preservation Project or Title - Sponsored by Prasad Corp
•    The Memory of Justice - The Film Foundation / Academy Film Archive (USA)

The Jane Mercer Footage Researcher of the Year Award  - Sponsored by AP Archive 
•    Jessica Berman-Bogdan (USA) for  Cobain: Montage of Heck and Narcos 

Footage Employee of the Year - Sponsored by Creative Skillset
•    Tim Emblem English (BBC Studios and Post Production)

Footage Library of the Year - Sponsored by Bonded Services
•    Historic Films Archive

Lifetime Achievement Award - A gift of the FOCAL International Executive
•    Robert Gitt


ACSIL to Host Second Annual Footage Expo in NYC on June 9, 2016


The Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors (ACSIL), a not-for-profit trade association representing the interests of the stock footage industry, is holding its second annual Footage Expo at New York City’s stately Prince George Ballroom on Thursday, June 9, 2016.  

Many of the world’s leading providers of stock and archival footage will exhibit at this year’s Expo, which will also include panels on a variety of topics pertinent to the footage business featuring senior leaders in media, production and the archive industry.

There has been significant growth in the footage business in the last five years, as well as changing business models.  A new customer base empowered by digital technologies is pushing demand for stock and archival imagery, including new customers in the areas of corporate non-broadcast, internet video and educational publishing.

ACSIL expects attendance from media executives, film and movie producers, educational administrators, archival researchers, digital publishers, corporate and advertising agencies, and others involved in communicating with video.

Further information about exhibitor and attendee registration and panel sessions is available at: