Searching for just the right file can be a daunting task when it comes to
video. With so much choice it can be hard to settle on the shots that perfectly fit your project. Looking for a single image is easier, because your eyes can scan a whole page of search results in a couple of seconds, and the brain resolves pretty quickly when it recognizes what it wants. With video, even after entering well chosen search terms, we still have to watch each one through to check the pace, the action, or that one defining moment. Of course, if you are searching in a category that is well represented, there may be many pages of search results, and dozens of files might fit the needs of the project. 

Sometimes, I think we give up too soon. We tire out, we have seen too much, and we just want to finish the job and wrap up. iStock’s search tools default to giving you a broad search experience. That’s a great place to begin, but narrowing it down is equally important. There are a lot of powerful ways to modify a search using the tools designed for this, and you can learn a lot by starting here. But I wanted to discuss another little trick to use when trying to find the perfect expression, or an alternative angle in that footage. 

Continuity is important to designers, and especially so to video editors. Files must not only reinforce concepts, but also keep the viewer in a certain “space and time” throughout the piece. One of the best ways to find files that fit with continuity in mind, is to find those files that were shot at the same time. 

We will do a sample search to check this out. Your results may not exactly match the ones here, since your preferences may not align with mine, and through time the collection changes, but you should be able to see where I am going with this. 

I started with a simple search for “Family Vacation” and limiting my search to video only (by default, this is set to All Files). This returned more than 2700 files, and they all look pretty much like various versions of family vacations. So I scanned the first few pages of results (I have my browser set to return 100 files per page). I find beaches vacations, ski vacations, river rafting adventures, but the thing that catches my eye is this funky looking car with a family inside. Opening that file in a new tab or browser window makes sure I don’t loose my search while I investigate further. The file looks promising, but what really draws my attention is the link to more holiday videos in the description. The reason I say that this is an easy case, is that not all shooters create a pre-filled lightbox like the one on this page. But we are lucky today, because by clicking on the graphic in the description we are led to a sweet collection featuring close-ups, cutaways, reverse angles, reaction shots, POVs, wide shots – indeed, complete coverage of a charming production that suggests the simple pleasures of being a family on vacation. By scanning through just this lightbox, I can make up several story paths without breaking continuity – a great find indeed! 

I mentioned that not all artists create lightboxes and post them on their file close up pages like the family vacation example above. But we can still get a similar result by searching within a portfolio. Let’s assume that I made the same decision to check out the funky looking car in my original search and the artist had not made a handy link to the entire shoot. In this case, curiosity would have led me to click on the little “view portfolio” link that is located at the top of Stock video details, just above the listed keywords. That gets me more files than I want, because it lists all the artist’s video work, but it is easy to narrow down. Once I am viewing the portfolio, I can simply add the word “vacation” into the little search bar in the left hand column (Narrow Your Results). This way, I am searching only within this artist’s portfolio to see if he has anything similar. And as I suspected, there they are, just waiting to be dropped into your project. 

Ok, really, I have not done anything special. I have just searched within a portfolio. But the reality is that not many people take the time to do this, and miss out on the perfect moment. Editing video is all about guiding the viewer around chosen moments. When you are searching video and something catches your eye, take the extra minute to find out if the artist has provided a take with the moment that you need. 

This is equally true when you are searching for elements to a story that is staged like the example above, or simply to find matching aesthetics for your project. Many contributors have developed styles that separate them from others. Perhaps it is a camera or lens family that they use, or a directing style that sets them apart. It is almost always worth the effort to search within a portfolio just to see if there is one more shot that you missed – it could be the perfect finish to your project.