The Best High End Stock Video Footage Sites Compared
There has never been a better time to make use of royalty free stock video footage in your edit.
This is because there are (finally!) some truly excellent, beautifully crafted stock footage libraries to download from, at very affordable prices.
In some cases you can even download the original ungraded camera files. What a time to be alive.
In this post I will be comparing some of the best ‘high-end’ (as in high quality and not necessarily expensive!) stock footage sites I’ve seen online and giving you my honest appraisal of the quality of their sites, prices and footage.
The first part of the post will include a short summary of each site and downloadable comparison chart, while the second section will give you a more detailed review of each site.
Here is my shortlist of the best royalty free high-end stock footage sites:
- ArtGrid.io – Insane value for money, high quality stock footage
- FilmPac.com – Stunning, affordable footage, expensive subscription
- raw.film – Beautifully photographed 4K+ RED RAW at a reasonable price
- FilmSupply.com – The most iconic shots, premium prices, complicated licensing
- FilmHERO.com – Cheaper, less-cinematic but Euro/UK centric content
Before we dive in I’ll quickly layout the things I’m looking for in a stock footage library, as a freelance film editor, working for a variety of clients with a wide range of budgets and requirements.
This is a real mix of creative, technical and economic considerations such as, how easy is it to work with watermarked preview files (pre-client sign off), how accurate can I be with the costing I pass on to the client and how simple is it to re-connect to the full quality files at the end?
Here are some of the considerations in this comparison of stock footage sites:
Range of stock footage – How big is the library, how useful will it be to have a subscription and how often is new content added?
Quality of stock footage – From a creative perspective how good does it look and technically what are the downloads delivered as, for example 4K R3D RAW files or Pro Res encodes?
Shot Sequences – Does the footage come as a sequence or collection of similar shots to build a scene around?
Search quality and filtering – How relevant are the search results and how easy is it to find what you’re looking for?
Useful site management features – Are there easy to use favourites, project collections, invoices and download lists etc?
Quality of the preview files – How well do the match the final files in terms of resolution, file-naming etc?
Pricing – How affordable is the per clip/collection pricing and how reasonable is the subscription cost?
License Limits – Can you use the license in all domains, or do you have to pay extra for different usage? And does the license last beyond the subscription?
Unlimited downloads – Does the site offer an unlimited download option for complete access to the entire archive?
It’s probably worth mentioning the kind of sites that I’m not including in this comparison, such as Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, Pond5, VideoHive etc.
These sites are typically vast repositories of millions of creative assets, with a far less curated content library.
The chances are if you need a really specific shot with a very narrow set of requirements you’ll eventually find it on one of those sites somewhere, but the quality of the content won’t be as consistent as some of these high-end sites.
I’m also not comparing free sites either – there are some large collections of free footage, especially under Creative Commons licenses, available online if you know where to look.
One question I’ll leave you to ponder is: how do you charge a client for stock shots from a site with an unlimited license fee?
Do you charge them a nominal fee based on a portion of the annual fee? Do you charge each client the complete annual or monthly cost? Or create some kind of per clip price?
Cinematic 4K Stock Video Sites Compared
In doing the research to put this post together it was really encouraging to see the very high quality of stock footage you can download today, at very reasonable prices.
Regardless of which site you might choose to frequent after reading this post, the ease of use of all of them was very high, and many of them have very granular filtering functionality – such as by shot size (medium, close up, long-shot), film speed (slow motion, timelapse) as well as the ethnic diversity of the actors in the shots, their age and even group size.
The level of competition within the stock footage industry is surely only a good thing for editors, producers and end-clients who make use of them, as well as the freelance cinematographers who create the shots.
I personally enjoyed browsing the sites that let you search by the filmmaker involved, much in the way that you can search by artist on royalty free music sites like ArtList.io.
For fun, I put together this random little trailer (video above) to give you a tiny taster of what is available from each site, and just to quickly cut something together from the free downloadable preview files. Each shot is watermarked so you can see where it is from.
The music track is Hypnotize by Loya on Artlist.io.
Click on the image above to more clearly see a summary comparison table of the key elements for each site.
Update – April 2020: raw.film have updated their pricing to $299/month or $1068 for an unlimited annual subscription. You can save 15% on these with this special link.
I think all of the terms should be self-explanatory (hit the comments below if not!), but to clarify the ‘Graded’ and ‘License Limits’ columns with a quick explanation.
Graded just means are the clips available in an ungraded form, making it easier to blend into your cut, or is the grade baked in?
For most sites there was a higher tier or price bump to access the Log/RAW files in their ungraded form, while for a site like filmpac, it was a mixed bag of graded and flat clips.
The ‘License Limits’ refers to whether there are any limits to the usage of the final clips, such as paying extra for TV, Film or Video Game use. None means that the license is universal for any end distribution medium, but always check the terms to be sure.
What was my final conclusion?
ArtGrid, following in the footsteps of the sister royalty free music site Artlist.io, provides a superior combination of high quality footage, unlimited downloads, a really easy to use site and the added bonus of not having to switch out preview files for high quality approved clips.
Plus it was one of the most affordable options in this list, at only $599 annually for the top tier subscription.
That said, the footage on raw.film and filmpac was excellent, visually interesting and really well produced. I loved that on filmpac you could search by model, meaning it would be easy to build a diverse sequence of shots featuring the same character.
filmpac was also the only site to offer a free trial with over 100 free clips to download, and it’s worth mentioning that you can save 10% on FilmPac single packs with the discount code: ‘jonnyelwyn’
The fact that everything you can download on raw.film is available in the original camera format, is also a huge benefit, especially if you’re having to slot it around other RED footage.
FilmSupply was relatively expensive on a per clip basis and required navigating a more complex pricing structure, but offers some incredibly iconic looking shots and was the only site to offer footage actually shot on film (35mm, 16mm, 8mm). Within the trailer I cut, some of the FilmSupply shots were definitely my favourites.
Thanks to their generosity though, you can save 20% on FilmSupply stock content with the discount code “jonnyelwyn“
The quality of the entire catalogue is very high, so if you’re after that specific shot, it might be worth the extra money.
The Best Royalty Free Stock Footage Sites Reviewed
TL/DR: Unlimited 4K downloads for $299-$599/year with no license limits and perpetual use.
Hard to beat for the quality and the price, check it out for yourself at ArtGrid.io
ArtGrid.io, the creators of Artlist.io – my go-to royalty free music site, have managed to offer the same high quality content and unparalleled licensing terms to royalty free stock footage, and at a very reasonable price.
ArtGrid offers unlimited downloads for $299 a year for HD clips, or $599 if you want access to the RAW/LOG files in 4K.
Not only can you use the clips for pretty much any end use such as digital, TV, film, advertising etc., but you also get lifetime use of any clips you download, even after your subscription has lapsed. Crazy.
A huge advantage of working with ArtGrid is there are no watermarked preview files to swap out, as you always download the full res version.
This means you don’t need to return to locate and download client approved shots and re-cut them in. Which saves you a ton of time and hassle!
As pretty much no stock footage site will give you a refund, it’s great to have unlimited downloads as it won’t cost you anything extra if a client changes their mind about a shot at the last minute.
One of the notable benefits of the ArtGrid site was the really well thought through filtering options, which was one of the best of the sites I’m comparing in this post.
The functionality of favourites, storing clips in collections and having handy share links (useful for sending to directors/producers) was also very intuitive.
Its also nice that each clip can be downloaded in a variety of formats and resolutions, which includes DNxHR as an option.
I also appreciated that you can search by filmmaker and find out who created the shots, favouriting them for future reference or looking them up so you can hire them!
Subscription only, so no per clip pricing if you happen to see just one shot you need.
Scope of the catalogue: searching for ‘medicine’ gave me a mix of goofy looking ‘doctors’ at microscopes, some really nice and gritty surgical shots and a huge range of ‘alternative therapies’ footage.
So depending on your requirements, as ArtGrid has only just launched, you might not find everything you need, just yet.
TL/DR: 4K Clips grouped into pacs at $99 each, or $199/month. A great selection of cinematic footage available at filmpac.com
Save 10% on an individual pac with the coupon code: ‘jonnyelwyn’
The demo video above will give you a solid overview of what filmpac has to offer, in under 4 minutes.
Update 2021 – FilmPac has just launched a new royalty free music catalogue too.
The premise of filmpac is to offer you stock footage together that always comes in a pac of at least 3 or more clips, with an average of 9 clips per pac across the catalogue. Although it’s worth pointing out that some pacs contained dozens of shots.
This way you’ll always have multiple shots to cut together into a sequence, for a more believable result.
filmpac.com is a really well designed and responsive site with useful hover and play trailers of each pac, or you can click in to see each individual clip. It’s also very easy to download the preview clips, even without signing up for an account.
It was also the only site to offer a 30 day free trial giving you access to over 100 clips to download.
Like ArtGrid the site delivers really comprehensive search and filtering, including by actor ethnicity and age, the number of people, time and location (indoors/outdoors) etc.
Filmpac also overs a unique search and recommendation feature in that you can search by model/actor featured in any one clip, which is really useful for finding stock clips that match with the same character, delivering a consistent feel across multiple scenes.
The range of content is also really impressive and they seemed to have every random thing I typed in, apparently searching through 4851 pacs, all with really stunning cinematography.
Although their subscription pricing is more expensive compared to other sites, if you’re set on using filmpac and will be using multiple stock shots every month, then the subscription will deliver substantial savings over their ‘a la carte’ per pac pricing.
It has all the management features you’d expect such as favourites, add to projects etc. You can also download a whole pac in single zip and the download speeds seem very quick.
One thing I liked was that the preview files were also delivered in 4K, which means they will match the framing and any post-moves seamlessly when you replace them with the full quality clips, which are delivered in ProRes 422.
Limited license in that you have to pay extra for national or international TV broadcast or commercials, feature films or big budget online shows.
I searched for ‘medicine’ and the site mostly came up with athletes crunching medicine balls and a plethora of medical marijuana shots, so not quite what I was expecting.
TL/DR: raw.film offers really stunning 4K-8K R3D RAW clips for $299 month/$1068 a year with an unlimited license.
Save 15% on annual ($160 off!) and monthly subscriptions with this special link.
Of all the stock footage sites on this list, raw.film seemed, to my eye, to provide the consistently best looking shots across their entire library. And I mean all of it is stunning.
Everything is available at resolutions ranging from 4K to 8K as original R3D files as well as ProRes LT and H.264 files, all delivered as flat ungraded footage.
The majority of the collections contain over 100 individual shots, some with over 200, so you’ll be spoilt for choice in that regard.
Given that there are so many clips to choose from there are a few really great features on the site to make your life easier:
- Download All Previews – will deliver a zip of all the shots in a collection. One 105 shot collection was only 335mb.
- The large extended trailer preview at the top of each collection
- The preview grid gives you a good sense of each image
Another really nice feature of the site is the LUT on/off toggle to see all the shots in their ungraded form, if you wish.
In terms of search and filters the options are not as comprehensive as some other sites but it is nice that they have selection for camera speed – slow mo, realtime, time-lapse.
raw.film are currently offering a few clips of 8K and 5K stock footage that you can download for free.
If you love what you see but can’t find the clip you need, you can request for raw.film to produce custom content for you. And given how great the footage looks, that might not be a bad idea!
You are limited to 20 clips a month, or unlimited clips a year on the annual subscription, although your unused downloads do roll over for the duration of your subscription.
The license limits you to one use a download clip in only one project at a time. If you wish to use it in multiple projects you’ll need to re-download it with a new license.
One annoyance is that the preview files are not in the same resolution as the final files, as they are typically a quarter of the full res. This means you’ll need to scale up the preview files in your offline and fix that when you later replace the shots.
Obviously the R3D files can get fairly large, for example 3.6 GB for 21 second 8K clip, so be sure to factor that in when you’re racing to meet the deadline and having to download and replace all your stock assets.
TL/DR: Iconic stock footage trusted by big brands, with premium prices and a more complicated licensing set up to match.
Save 20% on Film Supply content with the discount code: “jonnyelwyn”
FilmSupply is a far more established name in the stock footage world than some of these other sites, which are acting in a far more disruptive fashion, especially when it comes to pricing.
The site offers as equally good, or even marginally better filtering, than ArtGrid, with even more details such as whether it was shot in anamorphic etc. It is also the only site to offer real film assets shot on 8mm, 16mm and 35mm but it also includes footage shot at 8K and above.
FilmSupply also offer free clip research to help you find the perfect clip, just drop them an email and they’ll send you several suggestions that match your criteria.
Although FilmSupply has some striking footage it’s troublesome pricing and licensing terms means that the other sites in this list offer better value for money and simpler ease of use.
But if you really want that singularly amazing shot, sometimes you can only get what you pay for.
This trailer is for Film Supply’s ‘year in review’ from 2018, which showcases some of their most arresting footage.
One thing that is special about FilmSupply is their commitment to the filmmaking community who creates their stock.
If you follow them on Instagram or other social media channels, you’ll soon see how frequently they promote the personal passion projects of their creators.
They also do this by showcasing specific films on their FilmSupply Presents page, which is well worth checking out, to see some award-winning and inspiring talent at work!
Even though Film Supply’s stock library is more expensive, I think that you can kind of tell from the distinctive high quality that it’s been created by filmmakers for filmmakers, rather than run-and-gun stock shooters cutting corners to make a fast buck.
It’s a subtle thing, but it does make it browsing the site worth while.
FilmSupply currently operates with far more complicated licensing terms, which hinge on four factors:
- Type of organisation (nice that there are discounts for churches, non-profits, schools etc),
- Distribution spectrum (Internal/Digital/TV/Netflix/Video Games etc)
- Size of the client (1-500/500-5000/5000+ employees)
- Resolution of the file (HD Pro Res, Highest Resolution Pro Res, LOG Pro Res HQ)
What you select for each of these will dramatically alter the price of the clip.
For example one 9 second aerial shot of New York could be $149 for commercial, internal use for a small (1-500) client in 6K, or the same clip could be $300 more for a company with 5000+ employees.
I managed to crank that clip up to $1099 for Commercial, Internal/External/Digital & Web, LOG ProRes HQ and 5000+ employees. $1099 for one clip! (How much was that Apple display stand again?)
The system also bumps you to request a bespoke quote if your licensing options don’t fit the Internal/External/Digital & Web remits, which increases the time-consuming nature of sourcing stock from FilmSupply.
The licensing really needs refining because its difficult to navigate accurately, and potentially painful to budget for. What happens if your client loves their internal video so much that they want to put it online? You’ll need to go back and re-license the footage at a significant price increase.
TL/DR: FilmHERO is the cheapest site in this list, offering 4K multi-clip packs for just $29. Go unlimited for $180/year!
If you can find what you need and you like what you see, why pay more?
The FilmHERO archive boasts over 12,000 clips, all shot on RED or PhantomFlex cameras, and delivered as graded 4K H.264 or ungraded DNxHQ and Pro Res files.
It’s tough to argue with their low pricing at $29 a pack or $15 a month for an annual subscription. For example, where else can you download 13 4K aerials of London at night for $29!
They also have a similar universal license to ArtGrid but you can’t use the clip in new projects if your subscription expires – unlike Art Grid which you can once you download it, it’s yours to use forever.
All the other sites on this list are very US centric in their content, where as FilmHERO seems to be more UK and Euro centric, which might prove extremely useful, depending on what you’re cutting and where your clients are based.
Overall, FilmHERO looks and feels more like traditional stock sites, but it’s too affordable to ignore.
Overall I wouldn’t say the quality of the cinematography is as good or striking as the other sites. There’s just something about it that doesn’t look as expensive or as textured.
It’s possible that the grade which has been applied to the preview clips makes it look that way, or it could be down to the production design and direction. Either way it doesn’t look as cinematic as the others.
FilmHERO also offers no filtering within it’s search parameters and the groupings are just by ‘genre’ e.g. science, fitness, lifestyle, technology etc.
What am I missing?
So there you have it, these are my favourite stock video sites for high-end royalty free footage, but what am I missing?
Hit the comments and let me know…