The Beginner's Guide to Selecting the Best Video Format for Stock Footage

If you decided to focus on submitting stock footage to stock libraries, you may soon face a problem. Stock video files can take up a lot of hard drive space. So, how do you find the right video format that provides the best results while using the least amount of storage? We will dive into that in our short guide for beginning videographers keen on making money from stock videos.

First you'd like to consider your camera and subject matter. For instance, if you're shooting with a high-end 4K digital camera, you'll want to choose a codec that will keep the visual details intact. On the other hand, if you're using a smartphone, you don't need to waste storage space on the highest quality codecs.

H.264 remains one of the most popular codecs for stock video. Videos exported with this codec have become a reliable standard for video uploads over the last few years.  

H.264  is an excellent choice for videographers who want to start a side business with stock video since it offers more manageable file sizes than the high-end codecs. Unfortunately, H.264 does compromise video quality a bit. The extra compression makes it more CPU intensive when editing in a NLE (non-linear video editing software like Premiere Pro or Final Cut).

If you are working on footage to submit to premium stock video sites like Filmsupply, you need professional video equipment. You video output with be with the ProRes codec family. The file sizes are much larger than H.264, but that's because you're getting a much richer colorspace and support for the highest bitrates. Each each video frame is compressed separately. ProRes versions offer different levels of compression, and you'll need to buy special conversion software to create ProRes files.

And guess what? ProRes is now part of the iPhone video making experience.

PhotoJPEG is another codec that offers a balance between H.264's practicality and ProRes' outstanding resolution, with a medium amount of video compression. It's an excellent choice for aspiring professionals and prosumers since all stock agencies support it. The codec's color space is also excellent for most applications, with support for 4:4:4 and below. At the same time, PhotoJPEG files are still larger than H.264, which can be problematic when dealing with a huge video archive.

It's important to note that there is no perfect video format, but if you consider your camera setup and resolution needs, you'll find a codec that does the job. There are also other factors to consider when selecting a video format, such as frame rate, resolution, and bit depth. These factors can impact the quality of your footage. So choose the best combination of video format and settings for your specific project.

You also want to keep in mind that storage space is not the only factor to consider when selecting a video format for your stock video site. The video format you choose can impact the quality of your footage and how it will look to your audience. So, take your time and do your research to ensure that you're selecting the best video format for your project.

There are also several factors to consider for the stock video that you submit to video libraries. Think about how the footage will be used by the prospective buyer.

Before selecting a video format, consider how the footage will be used. For example, if the footage is for social media or online streaming, H.264 may be the best option for the person licensing your footage. If the footage is intended for a feature film or broadcast television, ProRes or another high-quality codec may be the better choice. In one word, it will depend on the focus of the stock video library: are they for any buyer or are they just focused on premium use cases like films and TV broadcasts.

While the video quality is essential, it's also important to consider the audio that will be used with your footage. Make sure the codec you choose supports high-quality audio to ensure a perfect match. 

Another factor to consider is the editing workflow with your stock footage in the mix. Some codecs need more processing power, while others may be more straightforward to edit. Before choosing a codec for your stock footage, think about how it will impact the user's editing process. For example, the buyer of your stock footage is using Final Cut Pro, ProRes is a good option as FCP is optimized for using such videos.

You can always use external cloud services to host your stock video library that you submit to different stock video libraries. Here is our pick of popular file hosting sites.

  • Dropbox is a trusted storage provider for secure hosting and collaboration. 
  • Google Drive offers free storage and syncs with Google accounts. 
  • Adobe Creative Cloud offers online storage for videos and collaborations. 
  • pCloud helps people store their files securely and access them easily. 
  • IDrive provides personal and professional cloud storage with emphasis on security. 
  • Box specializes in aiding team collaborations and automated workflows. 
  • Apple iCloud is accessible and comes standard with every Apple device. 
  • Sync provides secure video storage solutions with original resolution maintenance. 
  • Microsoft OneDrive is an alternative to Apple iCloud for file storage and sharing. 

When choosing a video format for stock footage, consider your camera setup and resolution needs. H.264 is still a solid option for budget and mid-range equipment, while ProRes is the ideal choice for shooting stock video with professional equipment. PhotoJPEG offers a balance between practicality and outstanding resolution.