Beyond commercial uses – experimenting with stock footage

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The prevalence of stock footage may have stemmed from its low cost, but they are not just used for commercial purposes. In the 1920s, Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov assembled stock footage fragments together, as an experiment to illustrate the importance of editing in the creation of meaning in film. Known as the Kuleshov effect, the short film repeatedly intercut the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin with other stock footage, and created the misconception that Mozzhukhin had different expressions each time.

This concept of creating new meaning from assembling stock footage was further explored in "found footage films". A sub-genre of experimental cinema that integrates previously shot film into new productions, one of the earliest "found footage films" was created by American artist Joseph Cornell. The film "Rose Hobart" was assembled partly from footage of East of Borneo and was titled after its leading actress.

The recycling of footage to create new content has since then been widely experimented by numerous artists with varying agendas. Dara Birnbaum reconstructed television imagery from the television series Wonder Woman, to create her feminist work Technology/ Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978). Bryan Boyce on the other hand assembled news footage in Special Report (1999) to bring to light the sinister effect of electronic hypnosis.

Today, the use of stock footage is practiced more rampantly by the everyday man. The advent of video sharing websites, and cheap, layman-friendly editing softwares have spawned millions of home-made videos using recycled footage, most commonly in the forms of fanvids and mockumentary videos.

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ME Evangelist is a member of the MotionElements team. MotionElements is an online marketplace offering instantly downloadable royalty-free Asia stock video footage and animations.

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