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How Stock Imagery Can Play an Inexpensive Role in Making Films [Sponsored Post]

23 March 2013 | Industry Insights | by David Zou

You may be a professional, a student, or a hobbyist filmmaker and, regardless of your status, you know very well how time-consuming and expensive filmmaking can be.  Investing in the right software and cameras will monopolize the majority of your big expenses. However, finding creative ways to take inexpensive shortcuts can save you thousands and time. This article will investigate a way in which filmmakers can utilize stock photos to fill green screens with background imagery, or to use as direct subjects in the film.

stock imagery


The background

The days of paying for a location scout and the travel expenses required to utilize that desert scenery for your film are long gone. These days, big and small moviemakers alike are utilizing technology to cut the costs. Just look at superstar filmmaker George Lucas—in making the 1977 ‘Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope’ film crews worked in Tunisia, California and Guatemala. In his prequels made more than twenty years later, almost all locations and backgrounds utilized green screen technology with image modification from computers. You may not be able to pay a studio to design these images, but you can find a much cheaper alternative that will still serve your purpose—utilizing non-copy written stock images.

Basically, since you don’t have the millions to back your project as James Cameron did when shooting ‘Avatar’, you can still take this general concept and rip it off on the cheap. This film utilized a combination of live-action filming and photography including computer-generated imagery. In fact, 60 percent of the film was all computer generated. Cameron used a “virtual camera system” in which an actor is placed in a digital surrounding in real time. This allows filmmakers to make modifications as if they are shooting live.


Cameron then used a camera called a simulcam that amalgamates a virtual camera with 3D fusion. This camera type can overlay superimposed virtual imagery over live action. Not only can this offer some visually stunning results, but also it permits the filmmaker to orchestrate how actors behave with virtual images and animated backgrounds.


On the cheap

There are several software packages on the market that allow filmmakers to utilize this same concept of filmmaking. First you need your images, and without a motion picture studio backing you with funding, you probably don’t have studio access to professional imagists. This is where stock imagery will be your best friend.

Go online and Google “stock imagery companies”. Try avoiding companies that lock you into contracts with monthly charges. There are some great companies out there with massive libraries of images that can be downloaded for mere cents, as little or as often as you like.


What to look for

Make sure the stock image company offers images that aren’t protected by copywriting laws. For example, Getty Images are notorious for suing people for utilizing their photos. Even small-time bloggers get cease and desist letters from this image provider. Make sure you are not in danger of violating copywriting laws by checking ownership specs with the image company’s inventory. Also, make sure the images are HD quality. Finally, make sure they have an expansive library with multiple categories.

Remember, you can take any image into Photoshop and altar it to meet your needs before running it through your camera and computer film editing software. And who knows, if you move on in the world of film you may be at the Oscars one day holding up a statue and thanking stock imagery for launching your first hit.


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