What is the Difference Between Basic Stock Footage and Archive Footage

The difference between stock footage and archive footage is insignificant and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, there is a slight difference between the two terms.

Understanding Stock Footage

Stock footage is any film or video footage used in a production for which it was not initially filmed. This can be clips from motion pictures, interviews, news or any other footage. Motion pictures often use stock footage to reference other films or periods in time. Documentaries often use stock footage for this purpose. In order to more accurately depict the time or subject discussed in the documentary, they will use footage or news segments from the period dealing with the subject matter.

Likewise, stock footage can be used to lower costs. This is often the case in television shows, as it can be expensive to repeatedly film certain common shots. One example of this is the popular television show, "Friends." In order to combine scenes and make the show run more smoothly for viewers, producers of the show inserted images of exteriors and interiors which had been recorded during previous episodes. The most notable were the images of the outside of the apartment or the coffee shop, Central Perk.

One of the largest producers and distributors of stock footage is the United States government. Much of the stock footage with historical significance is available to the public and can be used by producers free of charge. In other instances, such as using footage from another motion picture or a newscast, producers must purchase the rights to each individual clip from the archive in which they are stored.

Understanding Archive Footage

Archive footage can be applied to any footage retrieved from an archive, public or private. It is more frequently used to describe older, classical or historical footage, such as a video of the Vietnam War or the events from September 11th. Many producers feel that the term archive footage gives the illusion of a more serious or historical content. For this reason, the term is often used in news productions and documentaries as opposed to television shows. Archive footage follows many of the same rules as stock footage. They are owned by an archive and the rights of these clips can be requested, in the case of the Library of Congress archive, or purchased, in the case of most private video archives.

Is There a Difference?

The answer to this is yes and no. Technically, there is a difference. Archive footage must be footage that is kept in an archive and the rights are granted to the user by the archive manager and are available to the public under certain terms of use. Stock footage can be owned by the producer of the motion picture, documentary, newscast, or television show and is not necessarily available to others for use, but can be. However, in everyday usage, there is typically not much distinction made between the two. When a reference is made to either stock footage or archive footage, either term could typically be used in that instance.