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.

A View from the Archival Trenches

Following up on our interview with Jim Pickerell last month, we checked in with some veteran archival researchers to find out how all the changes in the footage industry have affected their work. Our conversation with Jodi Tripi, Lewanne Jones and Barbara Gregson finds them busier than ever and rising to the challenges, opportunities and frantic pace of their increasingly digital workflow. What big changes have you noticed in the footage business and how have they affected your work? 

Jodi Tripi, Archival Researcher

Jodi Tripi, Archival Researcher

Jodi Tripi: The changes are two fold: what is being asked for and what is available. In terms of what is being asked for, everybody on the planet thinks that YouTube is a search engine and that they are a footage researcher. So battling the misunderstanding of copyright, likeness, trademarks, is a prevailing aspect of footage research. Less and less we’re being asked for shots by description and criteria - “Hey, we’re looking for shots of x y z” - but more and more often is, “We got this on the internet and this what we are want to use.” 

Lewanne Jones, Archival Researcher

Lewanne Jones, Archival Researcher

Lewanne Jones: The main change is the increasingly electronic accessibility of imagery, which has been beneficial. Electronic communication has sped everything up. So we now have faster communication with reps at different companies. It also means there is an expectation of instantaneous compliance with requests on the part of our clients. Formerly we would have a longer cycle, now there is this pace. Like every aspect of life.

Barbara Gregson, Archival Researcher

Barbara Gregson, Archival Researcher

Barbara Gregson: The footage industry seems to be booming; new stock footage libraries and consolidation of others, which I don’t think would happen if there wasn’t some profits.  Since the recession more researchers and clearance people are back at work and many have jobs in sectors that were not as prevalent before.  Reality shows, games, Art departments, Internet shows all hire researchers.  It seems like I’ve also noticed an upturn in the number of archival documentaries and series being produced. The benefit is more productions mean more work for research and clearance people and in turn more sales for the libraries.  The biggest changes would be the move toward digital research and licensing which helps streamline the process.  Producers/directors want material now and the ability to research and purchase on-line helps with those immediate needs. In addition, Footage companies are more aware of the special needs and requirements of licensing agreements for studios, networks and major production companies so they work with us pretty well to accommodate those needs. 

Jodi Tripi: I work on feature films and opening titles sequences often with over 100 shots, pulled from YouTube, or the internet, which are then handed to me to “make this happen”. A portion of my job now is to explain the layers of aspects that need to be weighed when using footage. For example you can’t take a shot of a real tragedy like a close up of some mothers face in anguish because her child has died and then use it because it conveys are great emotion creatively for the project. Her permission is legally needed for a non-documentary commercial feature film I often need to replace at least 50% of the shots, sometimes 100%. The changes are that it’s often it’s a backwards research process now. The director has fallen in love with a shot from the internet, and there could be a myriad of reasons why it has to be replaced and we all hear over and over “but the director wants it!” 

The timelines we work under have changed as well. There is a sense of instantaneousness to YouTube, and smartphone society and their expectation is that all the clearance work will happen faster than is possible or realistic. Of course if it’s straight ahead stock footage from an online library the process is fast and efficient. 

In terms of what is available, the footage industry has grown but has consolidated a lot as well, which sometimes results in loss of some of the materials and lack of diversity. I feel like if you’re going to do news, do news. Some of the agencies are getting so vast and the one-stop-shopping is not always a big advantage for my niche of work.  I would rather just dig in at several smaller collections. It is probably very good for ad agencies, but for an archival and footage researcher working on feature films, it’s not quite as advantageous.

I want the most amount of footage available and my skills are to know where to research, locate and provide as many great options as possible. Lastly, the new technologies have also brought a lot of diversity of material, like access to libraries from other countries and small filmmakers around the world.  

FN: Generally speaking, have footage companies gotten better at supplying footage? Are they more user-friendly?

Barbara Gregson: Ease of research is key.  When we are looking for material, which can vary from a stock shot of a location to a very specific historical event, you hope that the key words that you use are in the description so that the items get pulled up.  The sites that let you put in a variety of key words to do “exact” searches, “any word” searches and combinations thereof are a very important tool.  Sub-categories to refine searches are an added boon.  

Jodi Tripi: I work with all of them, and try to always be very fair to the vendors. I’m aware it’s a business on both ends. Not just the studios but also for the vendors and I’m aware of the cost benefit of stock vs. shooting their own material. The search engines have definitely improved. I find some gaps with each of them, but overall they have gotten pretty good. Footage companies have done a good job of getting their collections up online.  Also important is the quality of the comps and screeners. Take ITN for example. Their thumbnails and comps were comparatively very small and low res. When I gather and present comps batches for productions to review & select, the lower quality comps often do not get selected even though the content and master quality is excellent. I believe Getty will load them up at higher res. Generally speaking, some RF places have a lot of the same footage, though Shutterstock really stands out in the RF arena.

Lewanne Jones: There is a tremendous amount more accessible, so my initial response is yes. The footage companies have seen the writing on the wall and made things available for viewing online, which is good. Some places not so much. There some retrogressive situations out there, but overall there has been more footage acquired, databased and made accessible, either on YouTube channels or internet sites.

Jodi Tripi: In terms of archival and news archives, there is room for improvement. They are not on par with the larger commercial stock footage libraries in terms of digitization and online tools. There are still lots of text records to sift through and shots that are not yet digitized. This can be especially challenging in the context of the YouTube mentality, where productions think everything is on line and the meta-data is readily available, but it really isn't.

Overall, the tech advances have been a huge benefit in being able to have access to material to review and license quickly. The footage companies have done a remarkably good job. And I hope their operations will grow as the needs for footage increase. An example is the advent of the viral video companies. I think it’s a brilliant business model. Now instead of sifting through thousands of viral cat videos on line trying to track down whomever from wherever,  
I can contact one of the companies to find something.  

FN: Generally speaking, is this a good time for archival researchers and other footage users? Why? Why not?

Lewanne Jones: Yes. I think there are a lot of interesting productions. Over the past twenty years the whole value of archives has increased tremendously. Everywhere you go there are people talking about archives, giving special recognition to the value of archives and the efforts people make to use the archives. So there is a greater sense of value. And there seems to be more material opening up, people giving access to things that were not accessible, and the internet has been an amazing tool for this. The tools were so much more limiting before. On the other hand, while there is a lot of production out there is not a lot of money. I was just contacted for a job that was perfect for my background, but I was considered over-qualified, or over-expensive. Often the producers are looking for someone who can learn on the job.

Barbara Gregson: It’s a good time for researchers because of online access to many sources around the world to find material.  The caveat is to always know what the source is and do you trust the source. Many non-pros have the mistaken belief that everything on the internet is Public Domain.  One of our new jobs is to educate producers and companies that this isn’t necessarily so. Just because someone posts a video online, they don’t necessarily own it. Going to trusted sources is beneficial because you’re not wasting your time pulling something from an unidentified source or owner. That doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t happen. We then have to spend additional time to source and track down the proper owner. 

Jodi Tripi: Yes and no. On one hand, there’s generally more demand for footage as the average viewer or consumer is now accustomed to “consuming” a lot of imagery throughout their day so projects are imagery rich. Then, the more productions and editors try to find footage themselves, the more they realize it is not straightforward and they need help from professional researchers. Just because you have Quickbooks does not mean you don't need an accountant. And they are using so much footage now to lend credibility, and a sense of realness so the current style of filmmaking incorporates a lot of real footage. On the other hand, when you are working with people who don’t understand the process, sometimes it is difficult because you just can’t get the clip they expect within the time or money allotted.  So In terms of access and creativity it is better. In terms of the “Selfie-Stick” society, I-Found-It-I-Want-It style of research, it is more complicated. Everyone in the business is complaining about that.

FN: I spoke with a group of independent archives back in November, and most seemed to think the demand for their footage was pretty strong, driven in large part by documentary filmmakers. Have you found that to be the case as well?

Jodi Tripi: It’s not just documentaries. The demand is very big in features, commercials and titles sequences. It’s just a very, very big time for footage. I work on many feature films that need footage of real events - The Big Short, Patriots Day, Deep Water Horizon, 13 Hours Benghazi, Money Monster. I worked on the Academy award nominated documentary  “The 13th”, and a huge percentage of the archival shots were cut from YouTube and other third party sources. There were something like 1200 shots and it took three professional researchers including myself to organize, find, clear or replace everything in a dizzyingly short period of time. 

Lewanne Jones: I would necessarily agree because that is the part of the world I see. I focus on docs and I rarely work on anything else. Maybe museum exhibits. Rarely on features, or advertising. It seems like everybody is using footage now. You go to these events, like ACSIL, and it seems like everyone is looking to put moving image material on their sites. There is a lot of production at the moment.

Barbara Gregson: There are many creative filmmakers who are always coming up with great ideas and topics to explore. Archival documentaries are very popular as well as documentaries about current events, but they can’t always shoot everything they need. That’s why we love stock footage libraries. It certainly keeps me busy.

FN: What are some of the major differences in how you do your work now as opposed to, say, five or ten years ago? What has improved for you? What has gotten worse? Generally speaking, has it become easier to find footage?

Lewanne Jones: The biggest difference is the amount of material online. I don't ever have to get out of my chair! So I miss going to the archives, like ABC, NBC. I can’t even think of the last time I did that. I kind of miss that. I like going places and handling the media. I do recognize that there is a certain efficiency in not having to go to a specific place. But you often got a lot of benefit from the people at the archives who were helping you, just by chatting, you got more immediate guidance.

Jodi Tripi: I think it is a societal difference. Maybe a neurological difference. Digital immediacy has taken things to a pace that is nearly maddening, and I hear this from a lot of people in this business. So managing expectations, educating about parameters and pitfalls of copyright & permissions are now a big part of the job. It might be easy to find footage, but the clearance level it is often more difficult. I miss anyone having the headspace for waiting, simple patience. I need to remind my clients that we are not the only clients requesting approvals or materials at any given vendor. As professionals we usually get our questions answered sooner than someone they’ve never dealt with, but it can’t always happen in five minutes. The pace is faster and faster in the smartphone  “face-tweet-chat” society where everything is instant. It can be almost undoable. Some productions are reasonable and wide open to options and replacements and others not as much. Clients inevitably wind up having to deal with the realities of the process. Nobody is going to release a feature film with uncleared footage. So at the end of the day it has to be legally signed and sealed, or it gets cut and everyone wants to avoid that. And with all the mega libraries, the editors sometimes just pull what they want, then call the footage researchers for the really hard to find stuff. So we have lost work on a lot of fluffy easy requests like time-lapse clouds. Oh, how I long to spend a day pulling clips of clouds and laughing babies! 

Barbara Gregson: I definitely now spend more time on the internet researching as opposed to being on the telephone or in the past actually going to an archive, pulling cards or files and then ordering up the film to screen. In some ways I miss the personal contact.  I still always talk to my reps at the various libraries or meet with them if possible. The ability to do online searches helps streamline the search process. Zap requests are great because you can reach out to multiple libraries at the same time. This has certainly made searching easier.

FN: A lot of footage companies are making their collections available online. I’m assuming this has benefited you. Are there downsides? Anything you really miss about the old, pre-internet days?

Jodi Tripi: I love being able to do my own research online and work on my own schedule.  But I miss the old workflow where as a researcher you presented what you found based on your clients needs and they could say yes or no or give new notes and directions. Technology has changed the process. When editors or clients provide their internet pulls it sometimes results in double the work load. I have to track down their shot and simultaneously try to find a replacement since there could be all kinds of restrictions or problems with the requested shot and deadlines. Technology has brought us interesting access to footage from around the world and history but we can’t always get the proper permissions in time or at all. 

Barbara Gregson: Again, having the collections online and being able to do the research is great. But it is always important to speak with the librarians because they know their collections really well. You must remember to utilize the personnel at the libraries because they want to help you find the best footage for your project. They are truly an asset.  

Lewanne Jones: It’s important to remember that film and video are time-based media and it takes time to look at it, incorporate it, etc. This is not a result of anything in the way footage companies are operating, but more about the way the speed of digital technology has affected production. It’s so easy to get stuff without figuring out what you’ve gotten, so it takes time to organize, catalog. At some point somebody has to do that work and figure out what is where. It is so easy to drag and drop and WeTransfer and you end up with these huge production libraries. We used to be the eyes of the project and we would only bring the best stuff into the project. The cost of transferring the stuff was so high, so there would be a smaller production library. I was just working on a big project and there was a database of 2,000 items in the project library! Anything from a 30-second Getty clip to a one-hour doc from NBC, and rather than a description, an entry would be an evaluation of the footage, like “great narration,” but nothing like a shot list which would be searchable for finding relevant visuals. So trying to find replacement footage, I didn’t have a way of knowing whether it was there or not. It goes back to where time and energy and money are spent for the purpose of utilizing archives. Not something the footage industry could do anything about, except more work on the databases.

FN: There are still many footage suppliers that have not made their clips available for search online. How does that affect your work? Does that make it more difficult or less appealing to work with these companies?

Lewanne Jones: It does make it inefficient and hard to compete with the places that do have their stuff online. It could mean that it will cost something to get a screener. It used to be standard to have a budget for screeners. Which was fair as making the screeners took work. If things are digitized it is so much faster and easier. One of the bigger changes is that even places that don't have stuff online do offer low-cost or no-cost screeners. There are still places that do charge and there is a waiting time for screeners. That is very off putting. If you are doing a big survey of sources and you want to bring in stuff very quickly, if a place does not have an online presence, it is going to go on the back burner, the end of the list.

Barbara Gregson: Libraries that don’t have their collections online can be at a disadvantage to those who have online collections. Researchers want immediate gratification to satisfy the needs of their producers. Waiting for someone else to do the research and then send you a list and then order takes a certain amount of time. That’s not to say there are some libraries that are very efficient and can provide material pretty quickly. There is a tradeoff, a connection with the library that provides this personal service where they will pull the footage for you and can come up with some interesting material that you might not have thought of to ask. That personal connection is very important. 

In my interview last month with Jim Pickerell, he said “[image] 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.” He was referring specifically to the stock photo industry. Do you find footage oversupply to be an issue?

Jodi Tripi: There can never be too much footage for me. I am always happy to find new vendor or source of footage.

Lewanne Jones: I guess what I would say that might be true in terms of stock clips, which is not an area that I explore very often. With historical material there is what there is and if you go back in time there is diminishing amounts. I do get a little overwhelmed on contemporary news -- there is so much, even personal collections and cell phone video. There is sort of an overwhelming amount of material at a certain point in history. And the idea that it is possible to bring in so much stuff and not know what you have. It’s a challenge. There is only so much stuff you can keep in your mind, and the editors, who rely on assistants, can forget what you have in the production library. 

Barbara Gregson: I think you have to have a clear idea of what you want, if you’re not sure and are looking at hundreds of images to be inspired, then yes that might be overwhelming. Sometimes there can be a lot of choices to wade through, but I’ve worked on projects where the Producer/Director wants lots of choices. Granted I do the first pass sending what I think they want based on our discussions.  I think I have a pretty good track record of finding what my Producers and Directors need and I’m happy to have many choices.

FN: Jim also said “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.” Is this true in your experience? How important these days is access to knowledgeable staff members? By which I mean people at the agencies and footage houses that really know their collections.

Barbara Gregson: Lower prices can be great and on many productions, the budgets for footage and stills are very tight. So lower priced libraries to fill a need. I usually do find someone that can help at the libraries that I work with.  That’s why I said earlier that it’s important to call the libraries, get a rep, make a connection. This is invaluable to what we do. It’s important to work with the reps and from my experience they want to help you find the perfect shot or locate that important historical picture or footage. I work with many of the large agencies and have found them to be very helpful. It’s important for the libraries and agencies to have experienced researchers and reps because they know their collections. That knowledge is priceless and is a very important asset to the libraries.  I’ve seen many layoffs over the years at some agencies and they’ve lost that knowledge which is a shame.

Jodi Tripi: In my niche I am rarely looking for something standard stock-ish, except maybe for a fake commercial within a film, so I am not concerned in features with the lowest cost, per se, I care mostly about content. I definitely don’t want to see low prices drag the business down - most especially not the smaller boutique libraries with small, dedicated staff. We need all the libraries to stay in business and keep as much material available as possible.

Lewanne Jones: Doing research online and having access to the material without talking to someone is both an advantage and disadvantage. It goes back to the discussion we were having about proximity. I don’t get much support from people at the archives, but maybe that is because I don’t ask for it. I do call some of my longstanding contacts at some of the networks – it feels like my personal privilege! It is really important, but at some of the bigger places the person who helps you is a sales rep, not a knowledgeable researcher. I am dealing with a place now that let their research staff go, and so I am not sure if there will be access to someone who really knows the collection. So it does feel like something has been lost. 

FN: Jim noted that “the [licensing] 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.” Have you found that there are fewer footage companies these days? How has consolidation affected your work?

Jodi Tripi: There are advantages for people on the editorial staff that can grab their own shots. If you’re a professional footage researcher, it is not always an advantage. Am I happy that all the news is going to stock libraries? A little. But mostly I’m bummed because I’ve seen what happens when they do. I’m still recovering from the loss of the BBC library after shutting down it’s own site  and getting shuffled around. It got ruined. I don’t think a news archive belongs in the same place as Royalty Free time-lapse shot of clouds. Not all content is a commercially developed or devised. Some material needs a different type of care-taking and overseeing than a commercial stock house. 

Barbara Gregson: There are so many libraries and companies. It always depends on what you’re looking for.  You can’t limit yourself to just the few large platforms. The world is my resource and I’ve found and licensed material all around the globe. Small boutique archives, regional libraries and historical societies, foreign networks, filmmakers, scientists, museums. The list is exhausting.  And people are very helpful.  I think the internet has actually made many more libraries and resources accessible. 

Lewanne Jones: Yes it has. I find that a lot of places that I used to deal with more or less directly are being swallowed up and becoming a system within a system at a larger company. There is a difference when the collections are repped and not fully absorbed. It adds layers. If they’ve bought it and own the rights as opposed to being the agent for it, it’s a whole different ballgame. I do enjoy dealing with places that sell their own stuff. It feels like a primary source, more authentic. Every time I hear a big company is buying something, my heart sinks.

FN: What changes/improvements would you like to see as the industry evolves? How could footage suppliers make things better for you as an archival researcher?

Jodi Tripi: Digitize as much footage as possible. I know they can’t do it all, but the more the better. And better and better metadata. The rest is up to me and my colleagues about educating the clients about the speed, process and legalities. I am a bit of philanthropist at heart. If I could save every piece of nitrate I would. I’d love to work full time on film preservation. I have a reverence for the materials, for the art form. I studied Art History in Italy, I’ve seen the attention to detail in their art restoration. Film is our American historical art. But what we do here is toss what does not make money. The 80s and 90s tend to be more sparse and difficult footage to find, I think mainly because the quick changes in  recording technology of the time, and  the changes from Beta to VHS to Digital, wound up not being treated like historical preservation materials. 

Lewanne Jones: The single most important thing would be better metadata, better text descriptions on records. Up till now you can only search dates and that sort of thing. The old CBS cards were so specific. You knew what you were going to see. There is really no way to search on images. You have to screen it. So more metadata. It would be nice to be able to export the data into a spreadsheet, as well. Maybe more standardization in the licensing terms and practices, how markets and terms are defined. I know that the industry knows this, and there were some efforts, but there were a lot divergent views. 

Barbara Gregson: I’d like to see more of the older footage digitized a made accessible online. I’d tell the libraries, don’t negate some of the collections that have been purchased or may be considered “too old” or make collections inaccessible or costly to access.  There is a wealth of material out there but if it’s shuttered away, no one will see it and it might be very useful to many filmmakers. I’ve seen this happen and it’s a shame because all of this material is our history.  Not just the news and sports footage but all of the nature shots, and location shots and creative footage. They all tell a story. They are just waiting for a filmmaker to access it. 

Any final thoughts?

Jodi Tripi: I want to give a shout out to my colleagues and vendors, who diligently keep up with often hilariously absurd requests, crazed deadlines and fast changing media landscape. Somehow we keep pulling it out of the hat like magicians.  

Barbara Gregson: Researchers and Libraries have a similar goal. We want to find that perfect shot or news footage or photo to help tell a story.  Libraries want to sell you their material and want to help you find what you’re looking for.  All of this is done to satisfy the needs of our Producers/Directors. I think it’s important that footage suppliers keep that door open and be accessible to their clients and help them when they can. It not only builds good will, it will build loyalty.  When we can depend on libraries to help us with our needs, everyone wins.

Lewanne Jones: More money for productions!

Archives Speak in Eight Days a Week

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, directed by Ron Howard, leverages the power of archival footage to take viewers back to the origins of Beatlemania, pulling the audience along with the Fab Four on their journey from local Liverpool band to global superstardom. The film’s producers took a remarkable journey as well, beginning their quest in 2003 with the idea that, given the growing ubiquity of handheld cameras in the early sixties, unseen archival footage documenting the Beatles touring years must surely exist in private collections and obscure archives around the world.

And they were right. Over a ten-year period, the original research team at One World One Voice (OVOM), headed by Matt White, Stuart Samuels and Bruce Higham, scoured the globe for these unseen films, tapping into an international network of Beatles collectors and historians and assembling a massive, crowd-sourced cache of rare, lost and amateur-shot Beatles footage. Throughout, they maintained the unconventional approach of building their production archive first, and letting the archival materials drive the story forward.

“We flipped the model,” said White at the London premiere. “What we were saying is we don’t know what’s out there, let’s just find as much as we can, let’s not limit ourselves to a story first. Let’s find that and see how the archives can speak, how they can do it. So then Ron Howard becomes the one who is listening to those archives. And he's going on and he’s finding these amazing stories and he’s starting to put that through.”

The effect is riveting. From the films first concert sequence at the ABC Cinema in Manchester in 1963, with the youthful Beatles performing “She Loves You” before a throng of screaming teenagers, the excitement still resonates, and not simply as nostalgia.

“If it allows people to feel what they felt back then, that’s what it’s all about,” said White.

The film captures the Beatles personal experience as they encounter global fame on an unprecedented scale.  No band had ever achieved this level of international popularity before, so they had no script to follow.  The scenes at Shea Stadium are remarkable not just for the collective madness of the crowd, but also for the vision of the Beatles performing on a bare-bones stage, their music barely audible over their modest amplifiers and the stadium’s in-house PA system against the backdrop of the screaming fans. The phenomenon of the stadium band was new, and the Beatles, with just three roadies on hand, were clearly making it up as they went along. 

“I thought that their idea of focusing on the touring years was really ingenious because the Beatles' story in total is epic and sprawling,” Ron Howard said in an interview with Fast Company. “But this has a narrative. As a director, I immediately identified it as sort of an adventure story. I felt like it was almost a survival story for these guys. They launched themselves into this, and the world reacted in a way that nobody could have predicted. It created all kinds of challenges for them. The way they navigated those challenges is revealing, moving, and impressive.”

Innovative Footage Search Process
While the interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and others provide context, the visceral impact of the film comes primarily from the archival clips and performance sequences, many which, like their last concert at Candlestick Park in 1966, had not been seen before. Unearthing that sort of footage required an extensive, global, multi-year effort.

The idea of telling the Beatles story through unseen archives was conceived by Matt White in 2003. While working at National Geographic archives, White discovered a clip in the Nat Geo vaults of the Beatles from 1966, making an unscheduled landing in Anchorage, Alaska while en route to Japan, filmed by a Nat Geo camera crew. He believed that more forgotten footage like this must be hidden around the world, and pitched the idea to Neil Aspinall, then CEO of Apple Corps, not as a film first but as a global search for undiscovered materials that could be used to tell the Beatles story in a new way. The idea intrigued Aspinall, and White kept at the search over the the next few years, eventually forming One Voice One World in 2007 with partners Samuels and Higham, to build out the project, resulting in an enormous trove of home movies, newsreel footage and other found archival materials. 

Based on that work, Apple commissioned OVOM to expand their search in 2012, allowing them to set up a global crew of 30 researchers and put out a more comprehensive call to fans on social media, including a short video on YouTube. Meanwhile, Apple brought in Nigel Sinclair and his team at White Horse Pictures to produce the film, and, with Ron Howard on board to direct, announced the start of production in 2014, whereupon White Horse relaunched the footage search campaign, setting up a dedicated website to draw in footage owners and reaching out to the Beatles 40 million Facebook fans. “The result was a massive outpouring of materials,” said White Horse’s Nick Ferrall, one of the film's producers, in an interview with Variety.

Archival Sources
There are over 100 archival sources listed in the credits, with many of the big archival providers listed, including ABCNEWS VideoSource, AP Archive, Framepool, Getty Images, Global ImageWorks, Historic Films, ITN Source, NBC Universal Archives and WPA Film Library. The film benefits from access to the archives of Apple Corps and the inclusion of archival gems gleaned from untraditional sources, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the Vancouver Police Museum, as well as many private collections. 

Audio Reengineering
The film is noteworthy for its sound quality, with audio engineering headed up by Giles Martin, son of the late Sir George Martin, the Beatles original producer. The challenge in restoring the audio was two-fold: separating the Beatles music from the noise of the fans, which often overwhelmed the band’s onstage sound systems; and working with what were often lo-fi recordings of the Beatle’s live performances. Martin used cutting-edge audio technology to re-master these recordings and bring the sound of the Beatles to the forefront, and it makes a huge difference, giving viewers the chance to actually hear the music. 

Strong Box Office
With big players like Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and White Horse Pictures involved, as well as the full participation of Apple, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr bringing the film to fruition, the release was a hit. According to the Los Angeles Times, “in the first three days after opening on 85 screens on Friday, Sept. 16, Eight Days a Week grossed $622,410, for a per-screen average of $7,322,” according to the film’s distributor, Abramorama. “Factoring in preview screenings on Thursday, the total gross through Sunday came to $771,154,” the LA Times reported. As of October 2, the film had grossed $2,088,918 in North America and $6,071,329 outside of North American for a worldwide total of $8,160,247, according the website Box Office Mojo. The film is being held over for a third week in some theaters and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 18, according to Billboard. The release strategy was also innovative, premiering simultaneously in theaters worldwide and on-demand on Hulu. 

A Post Network Hit
This film has all the characteristics the Post-Schedule Documentary economy described by Peter Hamilton both on his blog,, and in an interview we published in last month’s newsletter (Archives are Back!). It includes a big name director (Howard) and A-List production talent, brings with it a large affinity audience and has as its subject matter a group of major, global celebrities. It also includes previously unseen footage, a critical selling point for the networks. Hamilton’s Case Study on Eight Days a Week is a must read.

“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,” Hamilton said in our interview. “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.”

Documentaries like Eight Days a Week “attract passionate affinity audiences who promote their favorite docs across their own press and social media communities,” according to Hamilton.

And the significance of previously unseen footage in Eight Days a Week as well as other signature docs cannot be overstated. “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,” filmmaker Tom Jennings said in our interview. “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.”

The film also exploits an innovative Post Network release strategy, premiering in both theaters worldwide and on Hulu simultaneously.

Production Team
Eight Days a Week was produced by Nigel Sinclair (White Horse Pictures), Scott Pascucci (Concord Bicycle Music), Brian Grazer and Ron Howard (Imagine Entertainment) and Apple Corps. Coproduction credits went to Matt White, Stewart Samuels and Bruce Highman (One World One Voice). Clearance work was provided by the team at Global ImageWorks, headed up by Jessica Berman Bogdan and Cathy Carapella.  Eight Days a Week is running now on Hulu in select theaters worldwide. 

How to Clear Footage Like a Rockstar

To kick off our monthly series featuring expert advice from professionals in the footage/production community, we asked David Peck, President of Reelin' in the Years Productions (RITY), the world's largest library of music footage and the exclusive representative of all footage from the Merv Griffin Show, to walk us through the basic steps involved in licensing entertainment and performance related footage.
"Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when working with a company like Reelin' in the Years," said Peck, "is that while we control the copyright to the footage in our collections, we typically do not hold the underlying rights, such as the rights to the performer's image and likeness."  
Which means that before using a clip from Reelin' in the Years of the Rolling Stones performing "Satisfaction" from a 1965 appearance on German TV, users will need to obtain clearances from, and often pay licenses fees to, a variety of other entities, such as music publishers, record companies, unions and directors and, of course, the band members themselves.   
"I can't tell you how many times people ask us with a straight face if we control the image and likeness to the Stones or other huge bands," Peck says with a chuckle. "To which I respond 'If we had the rights to the image and likeness of The Rolling Stones, I wouldn't be answering the phone.'" 
And there are many critical nuances to consider as well, according to Peck. For example, if the song was lip-synced during the performance or if any part of the audio from the original recording was used in the performance, then a clearance from the record label would be necessary. Alternatively, if the song was performed live then the rights to the live recording would be owned by Reelin' as part of their rights to the footage.
Performers tend to maintain close control of their image and likeness, so clearing these rights generally means reaching out directly to the individual performer, the performer's management or the performer's estate if he/she has passed away. 
Some bands and performers pose special challenges, according to Peck. For example, when trying to license footage of the Beatles, producers will need to approach Apple Records, who will then seek permission directly from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono (John Lennon's widow) and Olivia Harrison (George Harrison's widow) who are all very protective of the Beatles legacy and how their image is used. 
And it's important to note that when you receive a license from RITY (or most other rights-managed footage houses) that you are 100% responsible for clearing all of these additional rights and will be required to hold the footage holder harmless from any and all legal issues that may arise from your failure to clear those rights, according to Peck. 
Sound complicated? It is. Consequently, Peck and his team at RITY always recommend working with an experienced clearance professional like Cathy Carapella (at Global ImageWorks) or Chris Robertson (at Diamond Time). "They are truly the best in the clearance business," said Peck. "I've used them for every single DVD I've released and not only are they the quickest I've seen but their decades of experience has allowed them to work through very difficult situations."  
"In the hands of a professional this work is not always difficult but it does take a lot of patience and experience to do it right," said Peck. "Artists and their representatives move at their own pace and are rarely concerned with a producer's deadline." 
Peck also takes pains to remind clients that while he has years of experience in the footage licensing and production business, he isn't a lawyer, and recommends that producers always seek the advice of a copyright or entertainment attorney when attempting to license entertainment and performance related footage.  
"In my experience, clearance is a very specialized field so don't try to do it yourself," said Peck. "If you only take one thing away from my comments then please pay the money and get it done right because you don't want clearance issues to bite you later."