Note: Once you read this comprehensive guide on stock footage, be sure to check our ‘Budget 4K Cameras for Stock Footage‘ guide where we investigate a delightful budget version for beginner content creators, a mid-range model for individuals looking for more range and features, as well as a high-end camera for seasoned filmmakers interested in building their own gear.
This guide will explore how you can make money using stock footage. In particular, it will examine BlackBox – a stock footage distribution platform and community – how it works, how to get started, and the potential workload and gains to expect.
What is stock footage?
Stock footage (stock video or B-roll) is pre-filmed video content that can be purchased and used in various video projects, marketing campaigns, and films. Typically, stock footage clips are under a minute long and do not include cuts or multiple angles.
Stock footage allows creators to license their videos over the internet marketplace and earn passive income while customers save time and money from shooting original material.
Creators can shoot stock footage for extensive categories ranging from outdoors, lifestyle, travel, sport, nature, food, slow-motion, transportation, medical, culture, aerial drone footage, etc.
BlackBox is one of the services available for creators to upload their stock footage. It automatically distributes your clips to several largest stock footage platforms like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, VimeoStock, DepositPhotos, and Envato (VideoHive and Elements) simultaneously.
Recommended video: Beginner’s guide to selling stock footage.
What is BlackBox?
In particular, BlackBox handles the tedious tasks of submitting stock footage over various stock agency sites and does it on the creator’s behalf. Joining the platform and uploading clips is free, but BlackBox takes its fair and very reasonable share of 15% commission once you make a sale on any of these sites.
Without a platform like BlackBox, you would have to upload your footage and metadata several times, with differing guides and specifications on each site. However, with BlackBox, you can upload once, get several times the opportunity to sell your content, and get one streamlined monthly payout via PayPal.
Importantly, BlackBox is more than just distribution. It’s a guild for creators and encourages a collaborative partnership approach, whereby creators can make content alone or in teams. For instance, you can connect with other members and outsource your color grading or team up with local partners and model for one another for a cut of the revenue.
Additionally, creators can cooperate with metadata specialists (curators) who will name, tag, and categorize their footage to give it the best odds of being discovered by potential buyers.
Since BlackBox allows for all the tasks to be outsourced, there is no reason anyone with curating, editing skills, etc., couldn’t get started. And the best part is that no money changes hands because, with BlackBox, you coown (owner allocation can be selected on the platform) the content and share in the profits. As a result, creators have the choice to do it all by themselves or distribute tasks between teams and save time and energy.
BlackBox currently deals with Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, VimeoStock, DepositPhotos, and Envato (VideoHive and Elements). Your clips that are accepted by these agencies will appear on their site under the name “BlackBoxGuild” and not your personal brand/name. However, you keep the full copyright/ownership of your footage.
As of June 8th, 2022, BlackBox has reached 50,000 creators worldwide.
Who can join BlackBox?
BlackBox is for video and film creators serious about making high-quality content. BlackBox does not expect its creators to be professionals in the film/tv/video industry; however, they must be capable of delivering professional-quality footage that meets the standard technical requirements of both BlackBox and the agencies.
BlackBox isn’t limited to only “production people.” Instead, anyone or any entity part of the content creation process can be a contributor. This allows members to make content in teams and share the revenue.
Types of members include:
- Production (shooters/editors);
- Post-production, including metadata curators;
- Studio and location owners;
- Gear rental houses;
What kind of footage sells?
Any well-crafted footage has the potential to sell if it fits BlackBox specifications (not including amateur quality or sub-standard footage). So shoot what you love and only upload your best work. Go for something unique and think beyond the footage typically seen on the front page of a stock footage site. Creativity is key!
High quality and diversity are the basic requirements for stock footage to sell, followed by aesthetic dimensions (e.g., novelty, rarity, surprise, humor, calmness, etc.), which will make a massive difference in terms of chances for sales and repeat sales.
Tips for successful footage
Success is entirely dependent on content quality and marketability. The only way to succeed on BlackBox is to make unique, high-quality content, upload, submit, and then go out and create more.
Follow these guidelines to make the most out of your content:
- Continuity: Shots need to be fluent from beginning to end. Make sure to trim out any unwanted camera moves, shakes, poor framing, or focus sections;
- Noise reduction: Footage can not be noisy. If your camera is not well-suited for shooting in low light, consider applying denoising filters as part of your editing process;
- Color grading: Color grade your footage so it pops as a thumbnail, but do not overdo it. Ungraded or raw footage is not encouraged;
- Clip duration: 5-59 seconds. Blackbox recommends durations in the 10-20 second range (ideally 15 seconds). Remember that most stock shots are used to fill short holes in edits;
- Various POVs and shot styles: While encouraged, try not to upload more than a few variations of a subject matter and don’t upload the same basic shot repeatedly;
- No audio: Export your clips without audio by de-selecting audio in your export settings;
- Be unique: Think about what might be missing from the market and consider filling that gap;
- Footage of people: There is high demand for well-produced, authentic, and diverse footage of people. Remember to follow all guidelines, including releases. Additionally, note that you can add your actors/models as sharers, and they can get a cut of future profits;
- Follow trends: An excellent way to find and ride a trend wave is to follow news cycles and themes in the media. For instance, climate change footage tends to become more prevalent during a global conference or weather event, just like political footage, during an election cycle. You can go to any agency site and search for popular footage (e.g., POND5). However, trends can only take you so far, and the best is to still focus on quality, diversity, and rarity;
- Diversified portfolio: It is recommended to have a well-diversified portfolio with at least 500 videos uploaded. Assuming your content follows BlackBox quality guidelines, this is the starting point where SEO, market dynamics, and the law of averages can start to work their magic. Remember that it is usual for clips to be online for 1-3 months or longer before witnessing the first sale.
Sharing and collaboration on BlackBox
Blackbox offers creators the ability to collaborate and share in content ownership. This way, every collaborator gets paid automatically when the content sells.
What is a Sharer?
A Sharer is a collaborator who shares the workload or brings something of value to the work and gets a share of the revenue rights. For example, sharers could be videographers, editors, metadata curators, models, property owners, etc.
The share function in BlackBox assigns a percentage of earnings to collaborators and ensures that everybody involved gets paid. Moreover, BlackBox takes care of paying every contributor their revenue allocation each time a clip sells, in perpetuity, so you never have to worry about taking care of finances.
This interface allows members to start on a budget or with low capital. For instance, imagine you want to hire a model for the day but can’t afford to pay them. Fortunately, with Blackbox, you won’t need to because long as your model has a Paypal account, you can pay them with a cut of your potential profits and avoid putting cash down up front.
What is a curator?
A curator is another BlackBox member who can collaborate with you to offer editing, metadata curation, or full curation.
When working with a curator, you can ask for:
- Partial curation: Can be editing & uploading only, Metadata only, or a combination of the two; 20% is the recommended share;
- Full curation: One collaborator will do editing, uploading, and Metadata; 40% is the recommended cut.
A good editor or Metadata curator can help you take your performance to the next level. In addition to the work, they are valuable sources of feedback and advice. Crucially, all editors and Metadata curators are tasked with applying the BlackBox Quality Standards, so you can be sure only the best content gets to market.
What video resolutions are accepted?
- 4K videos (4096 X 2160 & 4096 X 2304);
- UHD videos (3840 X 2160);
- HD videos (1920 X 1080 & 1280 X 720).
Note: 4K is preferred, so your footage is future-proofed. However, HD footage is still very popular (over 95% of stock footage sales are HD), so don’t shy away from uploading HD
BlackBox recommends Adobe CC Premiere Pro as your editing software.
BlackBox will accept the following export types:
- H.264 as .MP4 files;
- H.264 as . MOV files;
- Apple Quicktime PRORES 422 as .MOV files;
- HEVC is NOT accepted.
Recommended video: Watch this tutorial on how to get started with selling stock footage on BlackBox
How to upload clips to your BlackBox account?
BlackBox currently has an upload limit of 70 clips per week per member account, including clips uploaded on a member’s behalf as a Curation Project. The upload counter is reset every MONDAY morning at 00:00 AM UTC.
- Download and install an FTP client software; Filezilla is recommended;
- Launch Filezilla and make sure you have the latest version installed;
- In the “General” tab, enter the following: host (always portal.BlackBox.global), username, and password, and “Quickconnect”.
Once you have logged in, go to “Filename” and select the folder you want to upload, depending on the process you are following:
- If you upload clips not part of a “Project,” either footage you plan to curate yourself or footage you plan to assign for Metadata Only Curation, choose the “stock_footage” folder;
- If you are dropping footage as a curator (it does not belong to you, but you are collaborating on a clip with a member), choose the “For_collaborative_projects_content_only” folder.
Drag your edited clips into the folder and wait for them to upload. Fully uploaded clips will be visible in the “successful transfers” folder.”
Once you have uploaded your files using the FTP software, you will find them on your BlackBox account under the My BlackBox “Contribute” tab.
Watch the video: How to upload to Blackbox via FTP – By Elliot VBR
Metadata is hidden data that is not part of the video file. Metadata makes a massive difference in whether or not an agency accepts your footage and can make all the difference in how well potential buyers might find it.
There are two ways to add Metadata:
- Find your uploaded clips;
- Click the “Edit” button;
- Fill in a description, add up to 49 keywords, select a category, attach model/property releases (or select editorial), select sharer(s), add editorial information if applicable, and use the “apply to batch” function (if you have clips, you have grouped together under the same batch name);
- Click the “Save” button to save any new metadata;
- Click the “Submit” button when you’re finished and ready for BlackBox to deliver your content to agencies.
When you use this method, you should fill in all the required information before you try to apply the data to a clip or a batch of clips in BlackBox. BlackBox templates are MS Excel friendly, so you can use Google Sheets (Apple Numbers is not recommended).
- Download the correct BlackBox .CSV/.XLS template on the “Help > Forms & Templates” page. There are two template options: “.XLS Template for FOOTAGE” is for adding metadata to your own clips; “.XLS Template for CURATOR” is for collaborations where you are a Metadata Curator collaborating with the clip owner;
- Open the spreadsheet and fill out the required fields;
- Leave the header row (1st Row) precisely as it is in the template. You’ll get an upload error if you change or delete this row;
- Copy and paste the clip filenames (including the .mov suffix) into the first column of the .CSV/.XLS sheet;
- Make sure these entries match the filenames perfectly, or the process will not work.
Keywords are the target words you think a potential buyer might put into a search engine when they want to find a clip like yours. So while having quality footage is critical, you also need to focus on the metadata that goes with the video so potential buyers can find your clips.
Remember, a great clip with substandard metadata will have less chance of generating revenue than a more inferior clip with better keywords, categories, and descriptions.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
These search engines use SEO to ensure buyers see clips they are actually interested in. For example, if buyers find your clip in a search and at least preview it, that teaches the engine that your clip is relevant and captivating for that specific keyword combination, raising your SEO performance.
Conversely, if they find your clip in a search and skip right over it, the engine learns that your clip is not applicable or exciting, pushing it further down the list in future searches.
For each keyword, ask yourself, “Would somebody who searches specifically for this keyword be likely to at least preview my clip?”
Five tips for better keywording
- Keyword for buyer expectations;
- Avoid inaccurate or misleading keywords: Only use keywords that your footage accurately contains or represents;
- Tag keywords that describe: Who, what, when, where, and how (the clip is shot). E.g., woman, young, swimming, daytime, beach, close-up;
- Tag conceptual keywords: What mood and emotion do the clip capture. E.g., joy, happiness, smiling;
- Customize your keywords and descriptions for every clip separately.
Note: We highly recommend joining an extremely active BlackBox Members Facebook Group to find more keywording tips and tricks and feedback on your work.
A must-see video for advice on keywords and Metadata: 5 tips to earn more money with stock footage – By Jeven Dovey
Commercial and editorial content
Commercially licensed content has many more restrictions than content licensed for editorial purposes since it’s used for advertising and promotional purposes. It requires permission from property owners, artists, and recognizable people in the footage.
Commercial content can commercialize, monetize, sell, promote, and advertise a product, business, or service. For example, it could be used on a billboard, a website, a blog, a travel brochure, a Facebook Ad, or even a TV commercial.
In comparison to commercial content, editorial content is used for the public good via news outlets (or educational purposes) and thus cannot be utilized to promote, monetize or sell a business or a service. As such, it can contain logos, business names, and recognizable people without release forms.
Appropriate model and property release forms are required for a clip to be sold as commercial. They are categorized as:
- Model Release Form;
- Minor Model Release Form;
- Property Release Form.
This applies to clips that contain:
- Recognizable People: Clips including recognizable people must have a Model Release (Minor Model Release in the case of a minor) attached. Even if you film yourself or your family, you still need a Model Release. Silhouettes, backs of heads, and long shots of people may require releases if the person in the image is recognizable by them or others. Additionally, BlackBox does not recommend blurring faces;
- Private places and locations: Property owners or legal tenants may sign the release. However, generic non-recognizable private spaces might not necessarily need one;
- Restricted events or venues: i.e. when admission is charged;
- Trademarks or Logos: Clips, including registered trade names, logos, brands, artwork, tattoos, etc.;
- Registration numbers: License plates for any vehicle must have a Property Release attached;
- Famous animals: If an animal is prized or publicly recognizable (Grumpy Cat, award-winning horses, certain zoo animals, etc.).
You can upload these clips as editorial if you do not have a release.
Submitting your clips
Once you have finished adding metadata, release forms, and sharers, it is time to submit your clips to BlackBox, which will then deliver your content to the stock agencies. It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for footage to be reviewed by BlackBox and then sent to the agencies to be reviewed, accepted, or rejected for sale.
You will be able to check the status of “My Assets” (footage you have personally uploaded to your account) and “My Shared Assets” (clips where you are selected as a curator or sharer) in your “Submitted Content” tab.
Different agencies have different review times. As a result, it can take anywhere from a day to a month for your clips to be accepted by at least one agency. Please be patient and use your time to make and upload more footage clips. Note that there is no guarantee that any agencies will accept your clips.
Note: You do not need to set a price for your clips. Agencies do that according to their standard pricing.
When and if a clip sells, you will be notified by a BlackBox email, and the sale will be reflected in your BlackBox account. All payments are made through PayPal on the 20th of the month following the month in which the clip sells.
Important: There is a $2 monthly threshold for payments and a 2% PayPal transaction fee.
How are profits calculated?
STEP 1: Agency sale price – Agency commission = Net sale to BlackBox
STEP 2: Net Sale – 15% BlackBox commission = Sum That Goes to You and Your Collaborators
For example: If your clip sells for $80 retail, the stock agency will take $48 (60%), leaving $32 (40%) for the contributor commission. BlackBox then gets $4.80, making your total revenue $27.20.
Pros of BlackBox
- Helps to streamline the uploading process: Blackbox submits stock footage over various stock agency sites on the creator’s behalf;
- Outsourcing tasks: Creators can contract editing, uploading, and Metadata curation and spend the extra time recording more footage;
- Compensating your contributors: BlackBox takes care of paying your team members (models, curators, etc.) according to the share percentage you have assigned them;
- Community: BlackBox is a guild for creators, where you can find a plethora of resources and guidance from more experienced users;
- Variety of creators: Not only filmmakers and content creators can join Blackbox. The platform is also available for post-production specialists like Metadata curators as well as models, studio owners, and gear rental entities, to name a few.
Cons of BlackBox
- Loss of revenue: BlackBox takes a 15% cut from net sales;
- Disappointing sales with inadequately written Metadata: Great footage can only get you so far, and poorly thought out keywords can exponentially hurt your SEO performance and potential sales. Additionally, remember that you cannot edit your Metadata once it’s online;
- Loss of personal visibility and branding: As you represent BlackBox, you must follow its aesthetic and technical parameters, losing out on the chance to promote your own niche;
- You can’t select your thumbnail: Choosing the right thumbnail can dramatically affect sales as this is the first introduction to your video;
- Rejection: You have no control over which site accepted or rejected your clips. And because you do not receive feedback, you cannot learn from mistakes and improve your future videos’ quality.
All in all, BlackBox is a great way to earn passive income with stock footage and skip the monotonous work of uploading clips to multiple agency sites separately, saving you a good deal of time and effort.
In addition, the platform allows you to outsource tasks like uploading, editing and keywording to proficients in the field, so you can focus more on what you truly love.
Finally, using BlackBox means you’re a part of a larger stock provider, giving your clips more visibility and higher rankings. On the other hand, if your goal is to build on your own brand and portfolio, BlackBox probably isn’t the best facilitator for your ambitions.
FAQs about stock footage
What is BlackBox?
BlackBox is a platform that submits stock footage over various stock agency sites on the creator’s behalf. Joining the platform and uploading clips is free, but BlackBox takes a share of 15% commission on your net sales on any of these sites. Additionally, it’s a community for creators and encourages a collaborative partnership approach, whereby creators can make content alone or in teams.
Who is BlackBox for?
BlackBox is for video and film creators capable of delivering professional-quality footage that meets the standard technical requirements of both BlackBox and the agencies. But it isn’t limited to only “production people.” Instead, anyone or any entity part of the content creation process can be a contributor, allowing members to outsource tasks and make content in teams.
What type of footage sells best?
High quality and diversity are the basic requirements for stock footage to sell, followed by aesthetic dimensions (e.g., novelty, rarity, surprise, humor, calmness, etc.), which will make a massive difference in terms of chances for sales and repeat sales. Additionally, there is high demand for well-produced, authentic (can not look staged), and diverse footage of people. Remember, too, that solid Metadata and expert keywording can really boost your SEO performance and drastically drive up sales.
Do I keep my copyright?
You retain 100% ownership and control over your intellectual property, except for collaborative projects.