Stock footage agencies useless video codec selection

The stock footage industry has the most thoughtless demands for video codecs they support. Most of them are very old, some are very editing unfriendly for buyers, some don’t support 4K and one codec is only available only on Apple computers. Even between the agencies, the support differs very much. Few agencies support a bit more video codec standards, but if you upload to more agencies you need to choose the ones in common. Otherwise, it is a double/triple rendering time to make appropriate video files for different imports. Until latest Adobe Creative Cloud update the Quicktime PhotoJPEG was the best all-round video codec for rendering stock footage. Now it is not supported anymore.

We contacted our two biggest stock agencies about this matter (Pond5 and Shutterstock). What we got was a complete mock and ignorance about the matter. They actually don’t care about buyers of stock footage. We could export to least preferable for editing projects and they wouldn’t care. And we wonder, do buyers care?

Here are the main preferable video codecs that most agencies support:
PhotoJPEG (Not supported anymore by Adobe Creative Cloud media export)
MotionJPEG (Not supported anymore by Adobe Creative Cloud media export)
DVCPro (Only up to HD video size)
ProRes 422 / 422 HQ / 4444 (Only available on Apple computers)
H.264 (Very compressed and editing unfriendly codec)
PNG (Only for chroma animations)

While Pond5 has at least a DNxHD and DNxHR support, the Shutterstock doesn’t and converting every stock footage would be necessary.

H264 the only common video codec on stock agencies?

H264 is the most used video standard for many applications. The most common standard for serving finished product to any clients in HD or 4K. It is very compressed and good quality video codec, which does need more computing power to compress it, but it also needs a lot of computing power to play or edit it. That way it isn’t really editors friendly video codec to work with. Maybe it won’t affect the workflow quality if you have just a few such clips on the timeline. But when you are editing a longer video product with added effects and layers, any computer will struggle to decode in real-time. On the other hand, we had numerous PhotoJPEG clips on the timeline and it works great even over a gigabit LAN connection.

Why do stock footage agencies support a video codec that isn’t professional editor friendly? We can only come up with several reasons. Lack of knowledge implementing a better video codec, not giving a f**** what buyers need or they didn’t yet consider updating their import systems. And lastly, maybe buyers don’t really care about the video format. That makes us question, how much of the buyers is really in a professional industry. This is solely based on our experience of complicated requirements for sending raw footage to televisions and similar. Because there are some standards that a television accepts, also video productions don’t want a compressed footage you can’t color grade properly.

Proper and proffesional video codec for future?

The Apple systems have a Prores video codec which is a lot better than PhotoJPEG. It is supported on all stock agencies and great for any editing workflow. The problem is that is only supported on Apple computers. So, if you have an Apple iMac or Macbook, you can export to Prores with Adobe tools. Windows users don’t have such an option. We don’t understand why Adobe corporation doesn’t include such a codec to their list of export settings. Is the license so expensive that is not worth it? If so, why is Apple being such a duch*ag and offer a reasonable licensing price making their video codec used more often? We pay $70 a month for a professional tool which is expected to support as many mainstream codecs as it can. It is like buying a car without a steering wheel. Even Apple computers after many decades of ignoring the NTFS disk format they finally recognize it. They are making equipment for users, not themselves.

There is an expensive plugin called Aescripts Aftercodecs which adds the option of Prores to Adobe export. But the question is if it’s compliant with agencies import filter. We are afraid even to ask the stock agency’s support, which already doesn’t even have a clue answering more specific questions about codecs they support.

Any better alternative?

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