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Royalty Free Footage - Do your research, get the samples

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : Royalty Free Footage - Do your research, get the samples

We're working on a corporate documentary type of project that involves teenagers who lived through Hurricane Katrina. The project is all shot in high definition and of course, the producer was in the market for some news footage of the hurricane and its aftermath to help craft the story.

Looking around the web we found with the most reasonably priced footage, about $450 for 19 minutes of the aftermath rescues and such. The description of the reel describes pretty much exactly what we were looking for with military personnel helping people, flooded streets, the mayor walking around, etc.... It's available on BetaSP so we naturally assumed it would all be clean, good quality footage. Being on a quick turnaround schedule, we simply ordered the master without getting the sample DVD.

That was a bad decision. When we received the tape, a lot of the footage looked like it had been captured at a very low resolution or it had been through about 5 or 6 generations of dubs. Most of it is very soft, again, like bad transfers along the way.

So I called and it was explained to me that all of the footage is from the Department of Defense and it was all dubbed from the original sources at an Air Force Base.As there's no way to know what types of cameras the various folks were shooting with, the quality varies from very good to really really poor. That fact is not mentioned in the synopsis.

Synopsis: The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a category 3 storm, which made landfall on the morning of August 29, 2005. Aerial views of the flooding in New Orleans and helicopter rescue of people trapped by the floodwaters.

Scenes of people being removed from a freeway overpass by helicopter, and aerial view of the Super Dome. People waiting at the airport. Short scene of President Bush and Mayor Ray Nagin walking toward camera. Shows devastation of homes along the Gulf Coast.

In fact I was told I was the first one to complain about the quality of the footage and that there are "DV folks" and then there are "video connoisseurs." I guess I fall into the later and the DV folks don't know the difference in quality? Regardless, approx. 80% of the footage is far below what I could consider full quality video and really should not be sold to anyone without an explicit note in the description along the lines of "This footage was shot by Department of Defense personnel using consumer and professional cameras. Video quality varies widely."

The person on the phone told me I really should have ordered the DVD Sample disc (for $35) before ordering the footage. Yes, we will definitely do that in the future. To be absolutely fair here, the folks at buyout footage were very pleasant to speak to the phone and they did do a makegood offer so that we will have enough images to make this project work.

So for those of you seeking out royalty free and low cost footage, especially of major events, be sure to:

1 - Ask how the footage was obtained.

2 - Ask what the quality of the footage is. (Is it first generation? What cameras / format was it shot on?)

3 - Order the preview DVD where available.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:35:58 pmComments (1) editing, documentaries, indie film


good advice
by Joe Garcia
Thnx for posting this story. I am forced to think that if some company is even charging for a sample DVD,, I am out of there.


Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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