No matter what type of project you’re working on, there is going to come a time where you will need assets that are beyond your skill level, your budget or just isn’t feasible to create. This can range from music, photos, digital effects or video. Hiring a professional such as music composer is always going to get you the best results, but there’s a lot of time your budget or schedule doesn’t allow for a professional.
Royalty Free sites are a great place to get inexpensive and professional assets for your video work. Almost all of my projects have some asset I purchased. I have compiled a list of my favorite sites that I use regularly, but remember this is not a complete list. Make sure and do as much research as possible and compare the quality and price for each site, depending on what you need. And remember these sites need artists to create the work they sell, so there is a chance you could create content for them as oppose to using them solely as a customer. Some of these sites have a bit of everything and some are only for certain assets. More and more sites are becoming a one-stop-shop for everything royalty free, which makes it a lot easier if you need multiple assets. Let’s get started!
Envato is by far the largest video asset site I have found, and I use their various sites for a lot of my projects. The pricing is very fair, but this also means that there are quite a few duds to sift through. Let’s take a brief look at each site under their banner and what they offer.
A lot of my videos feature music from Audio Jungle. They have a huge library of music and sound effects. Music prices range $8-$20 with sound effects as cheap as $2 a pop. Their search filters are pretty robust featuring filters for keyword, mood, length and BPM. There are quite a few gems, and I am constantly amazed at some of the quality of their music. There is also a lot of “crap” that sounds like it’s royalty free, so be prepared to spend a lot of time searching. Thankfully they have a great way to favorite songs you like and create selections to compare them later on. They also allow you to download a preview version so you can bring it into your editing software and see how well it really fits.
Here are a few videos I have used Audio Jungle Sounds on.
Video Hive is a great place to not only get stock video but animated logos, visual effect templates and a lot more. Prices range from $10-$50 depending on what you’re getting. I have used Video Hive quite a few times for corporate clients who want a fancy logo intro. Since almost all the files are After Effects, you can change everything to fit your needs. Beware that you will have to have basic After Effects knowledge to use most of what is offered.
Here is a video that features assets from Video Hive.
When you need CG elements or other more detailed assets for animation this is the place to go. Most files are Cinema 4D, Maya, or Photoshop ready. And remember most of these assets can be brought into After Effects too. The prices have a huge range depending on hat you are looking for, but if you aren’t a CG artist this is a good place to go.
This is where you need to go when you need a stock photo or icon. There is quite a few different choices to fit whatever you may need and the prices are reasonable. Anywhere from $1-$8 depending on the size you need. Keep in mind that these are great for blog posts and online articles just as much as video production.
Envato has a few more sites that are more suited for Graphic designers and are beyond this post. Once you visit Envato you will see these other options listed next to the ones mentioned above.
Pond5 is very similar to Envato as it has a little bit of everything. They feature music, sound effects, video, photos and 3D assets. Just like Envato their quality ranges significantly, this means a lot of time searching for what you need. Their filters are easy to use since it has a bar on top where you can click the various filters and have it update on the fly.
I have not used Pond5 much, but I have begun to create some folders of favorites and look forward to using them on future projects.
I have used ShutterStock for pictures a few times, but realized they also offer video and music. Their prices are pretty high, and range much higher than most of the other sites listed. Their quality of music is maybe a step above Audio Blocks and I can’t see the prices justified when there are much better sites out there, but I have found them worth a look, they just aren’t first on my list.
Their video and photos are okay, but also overpriced. I have used them only when they have a sale, which I get updates on after signing up for their newsletter. I recommend giving them a shot if you have photo or video needs, but stay away if you are searching for music.
This is a recent find for me since I usually go to Envato, so I haven’t used any other their content on my projects. I have spent some time recently looking over their content and I am pleased with some of the assets I have found despite their cost.
These are listed together because they are essentially the same site, and run by the same company. These sites work on a subscription model as oppose to charging per download. If you see yourself having a constant need for Royalty Free content, buying a yearly membership and having unlimited downloads might be the way to go.
I used to have their service, but even though they do have a pretty robust library of content, most of it is garbage. The music quality makes some of the lesser songs on Audio Jungle sound like masterpieces and the video content is dull. But if you are working on a ton of videos where you just need a simple music bed or quick establishing shot, this might be the way to go. Make sure and try their 7 day FREE trial to make sure it’s right for you.
Here is a video featuring some of Audio Blocks content.
When you need something that sounds less “royalty free” and more professional and trendy, The Music Bed should be your first stop. Their post-rock and cinematic rock selections are pretty great. A lot of indie filmmakers tout about this site and for good reason. Their selection isn’t as large as some of the other sites, but that’s because of quality over quantity. Their prices range from $40-$500 and that all depends on what license you need. The higher prices are more for broadcast, so if your video is web only then the prices are quite affordable.
One added bonus of using The Music Bed is their dedication to helping indie filmmakers. They have some great articles and even have some contests that help fund projects!
Here are a few videos I have used The Music Bed for.
The music quality on Premium Beats is close to The Music Bed. Their library is pretty small, but they have a lot of quality tracks. Their prices around $50 for track and I usually pay them a visit when I need music. Simple and affordable.
They also have some really great blog articles for filmmakers covering everything under the sun. They also have a great selection of sound effects that you should check out.
When I need photos I usually go to Depositphotos first. They have a very large library and are quite affordable. Their site works on credit and the price per credit changes pretty often. I would suggest that you wait till they have a deal and buy a bunch up.
Just as with most photo sites they look like staged royalty free pictures. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in using them as many videos, articles and presentations use these pictures. They are simple and tell the right story, just don’t use them in a film since they detract from the uniqueness you most likely are going for.
Here is a sample of a video I used images from DepositPhotos for backgrounds.
This is the granddaddy of all image sites. You will see their logo on many news outlets and documentaries. This place is the real deal when you need the REAL photo of an event and not some model standing there. They also feature archival news and video footage that will help your projects seem more real.
If you aren’t using the image for commercial use then all you need to do is attribute Getty Images. This works on blog article of Documentary film. But if you are using it for commercial work be prepared to shell out some cash. An image can go for $600 and a video for $1,000’s, depending on what it is and where you plan to use it. Seriously only look here if you have the budget or you will find yourself very sad looking at their prices.
These are my favorite sites, but there are a lot more out there. Sites like Red Giant and Adobe Stock offer everything from photos to color grades. I will make a separate post on where to find some great filmmaking assets such as LUTS and plugins.
What sites do you use? Have you used some of the sites listed above? Let us know in the comments!
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