Shooting Stock Outside Your Comfort Zone


By Francois Arseneault, Contributor to the Artbeats FootageHub

I enjoy shooting stock, doesn’t really matter what it is, though some subjects are more interesting than others. Mostly I like the idea of the “road trip,” ah yes, loading up the SUV and hitting the road, all with preplanned locations, of course. I’ve taken dozens of road trips over the past 26 years, maybe even hundreds. Some just a short one day jaunt to the countryside where opportunities abound. Others, grueling 18-21 day trips over thousands of kilometers, with varying degrees of success. We’ve traveled across Canada and to Panama, South America, Cuba, Oregon, California, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and many other places. The camera has been over my shoulder nearly everywhere. A good travel insurance policy and some common sense go a long way, but so too does a friendly smile; it’s gotten me into more places than anything else.


Francois at Acropolis, Athens, Greece.

This past Fall, my wife and I decided to take a little bit more than a road trip (okay, a vacation): a two week cruise to some of civilization’s most important sites in the Mediterranean. Now, usually I’ll get approval for and permissions to shoot when necessary; however we’re talking about Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Italy. Not very likely as the rules and bureaucracy are endless. After a few inquiries I came to the conclusion that the cost and the time were not worth it. Time to go to plan B and go under the radar. Sure, it’s risky, but if you’re careful and respectful things usually work out. Or at least I thought so. I packed the Sony NEX FS700 after stripping it of the rykote equipped Sennheiser and brought along a beanbag as a tripod was not going to be suitable. It attracts way too much attention. No matte box, just the camera and a spare lens: a  Tamron 10-24mm for those sometimes surreal wide angle shots. Time to play tourist.

Rome is a wonderful city to visit with so many opportunities to get great shots in the public areas. I never shoot in museums or art galleries, just sling the camera over my shoulder and enjoy the history. However, being crowded and busy meant I employed the beanbag on whatever steady object I could use. Two thousand year-old architecture can be quite photogenic. The city is rich in stock shot opportunities.

Next stop – Egypt. Having never traveled here, meant all was new. Be safe and book the tour off the cruise ship, this way everything is guaranteed… maybe. I asked our guide about my camera, would I have any problems with it, and he assured me there would be no problems. A six hour bus ride later and we arrived at the pyramids. Amazing! But then the local souvenir salesmen arrived, flogging all sorts of cheap Chinese made trinkets. It didn’t matter what direction you went, they stood in front of you. We had a very limited amount of time on the schedule and I was getting frustrated. I was finally able to get a few shots. I didn’t give it much thought, but there were only DSLRs amongst the tourists, not a single video camera save a few older consumer HD cameras. Clearly, a few tourists were quietly shooting video with their 5Ds and D800s. Hmmmmm. It didn’t take long before a plainclothes police officer stopped me and demanded I pay a 900 Egyptian pound fee to take video. I politely stated that I wouldn’t pay, indicating I was told I could shoot video by my guide. He promptly escorted me out of the site. Seemed the rules could be interpreted differently. We were joined by two more uniformed officers, as they escorted me back to my tour bus my wife was more than a little concerned. It turns out, as my guide explained to me a little later, that the camera was too professional and since the revolution things have changed. The next day I had to pay “fees” elsewhere in Egypt just to have my camera with me. It seems they just didn’t like the look of it. Despite these issues, I still pulled off some establishing shots and decent b-roll.


One of Francois’s beautiful shots from the Artbeats FootageHub on

I ran into a similar problem in Istanbul a few days later, in fact, and had my camera seized for about five minutes before I assured the staff of the cultural site that I wouldn’t even turn on the camera. As I learned, the problem with a guided tour in some of these places is that even though you may not have any intention of shooting footage in a particular site, you have no choice but to take the camera with you lest it disappears from your vehicle. The authorities couldn’t care less that you’re on the tour and are simply passing through. As a tourist, it can become almost onerous to bring any camera on a tour. I did manage some shots though: architecture, skylines, people and anything that caught my eye. Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus and Venice were no problem at all and were wonderful places to get great footage.

Summing up, big cameras have always attracted attention, but now with certain less-than -democratic countries in turmoil, authorities are taking a dim view of pretty much any camera. Egypt, specifically, could become much riskier to do any camera work in the future as will nearly any Middle Eastern nation. The next time I travel to some of these countries, I’ll probably just take a DSLR and do the best I can with it.. It’s just not worth the hassle to use something larger. Lessons learned.

Francois Arseneault is a freelance shooter/editor, with over 25 years experience in the field and is based in British Columbia, Canada. His footage is featured in the Artbeats FootageHub.

View all of Francois Arseneault’s footage featured on Artbeats.

Merry Christmas from Artbeats


Filming Driving Plates: We’ve finally arrived!

We are happy to officially announce that the first of our Driving Plates footage is available for download on

We’ve captured some of the most amazing footage, and there’s still much more to come. Watch our Driving Plates Demo Reel and see how valuable this footage is, and get a sneak peek at what’s coming soon.

Image Above: Shot at an upward angle, this skyline image is called a reflection plate, a vital ingredient to making a driving scene realistic. The reflection plate is placed as a semi-opaque layer on the windshield and hood of the car, accurately depicting a mirrored reflection of the scenery overhead. The reflection plate is available in both the 5-Angle and 9-Angle Driving Plates sets. A 5-Angle set also consists of four panoramic (wide) views shot from the front, back and sides of the car. A 9-Angle set is filmed in two passes down the same section of road. With this type of set, you’ll not only get the front, back, sides and reflection plate, but also the three-quarter left and right views from the front and back of the car.


Image Above: LA’s Fashion District is just one of the many locations we captured in our Southern California shoot. In fact, we shot all over Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica during the day, evening and night to give you even more options. So you can put your characters on the same stretch of road at different times, depending on the storyline.

Image Above: Driving plates aren’t just for city dwellers. We braved the scorching desert heat so your actors can stay cool and comfortable in their “car”.

Image Above: Taking a break to move the cameras on this beautiful stretch of wooded highway. We’ve captured all different types of terrain during our travels through Oregon and California, as well as industrial areas, bridges, marinas and residential neighborhoods. Most can double as locations in your area.

Image Above: The Pacific Coast Highway makes the perfect backdrop for your drive along the coast. This footage, which is coming soon to our website, is featured in both northbound and southbound sets. So whether your characters are coming or going, the ocean will always be on the correct side!

Image Above: Whether your story calls for a leisurely Sunday drive through the mountains, a weekend camping trip in the woods, or the impending arrival at a haunted cabin, the Redwood Highway is a spectacular setting. This was one of our favorite locations to film.

You can purchase individual angles or an entire set of driving plates. Everything featured on our website is available for immediate download. Be sure to check back often for more driving plates sets.

What Driving Plates locations would be helpful for your productions?


Filming Driving Plates: Traversing the Speed Bumps

After months of testing, and even more months rigging the car, we were ready to hit the road for our first driving plates film shoots. As with every first-time venture, ours was not without its problems. In fact, it seemed that our first shoot in Portland, Oregon was the “Murphy’s Law” of film shoots. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong…from our GPS dying the minute we hit the city, to remote trigger problems, to card reader failures, to overheating, and everything in between. But as you know, “difficult to shoot subject matter” is our middle name. So we pressed on and got some terrific footage.

Our second shoot took us to Southern California and a multitude of incredible locations. This shoot was both a learning experience and an adventure. Some of the locations require that we arrange for police escort for the day. This poses a challenge when the focus of the shoot is to capture the scenery and traffic all around the car. What good are driving plates if every scene shows the car being tailed by the police?! We did get one great shot of the squad car “pulling us over”. No way were we going to pass up that opportunity! Of course it wasn’t quite so opportune the next day when we got pulled over for real because of the rig. Seems even if you have all of your permits in place, it doesn’t mean you won’t still have to jump through more hoops once you’re on location.

Heat was definitely a factor on this trip, as well. Turns out we chose one of the hottest weeks of the year to traipse around California. It’s not often we find ourselves playing nursemaid to the cameras with icepacks, but fortunately we were able to keep all of the equipment functioning properly by being proactive in dealing with the heat.

We had some peculiar experiences on the shoot as well. Our Caddy was quite often mistaken for the Google car. Go figure! And we were once stopped by a group of protestors who walked out into the street as we drove up, blocking our way and swarming the car while chanting and waving their signs. We’re still not sure what they were protesting!

So, what have we learned so far? Because of triggering problems, the RED One isn’t ideal for this type of shooting. Instead, the Scarlet is a much better choice. Running a car with five cameras and monitors takes a lot of power and creates a LOT of heat, so the car must be rigged with at least one extra battery. Bring more media storage than you think you’ll need, because there’s always one more shot you wish you could have gotten, if only you’d had the storage space. And, the best lesson we can pass on is to know the laws of the city and state you’re filming in before you set out.

All in all both shoots were very successful. The footage is spectacular and we were able to capture a wide variety of locations, at different times of day and night. It’s true we started out wondering how we would ever make it through all of the twists and turns and giant potholes in the road. But in the end it was definitely worth the effort.

Have you ever had a film shoot that got off to a rocky start and ended with amazing footage? We’d love to hear your experiences and how you overcame those speed bumps!

3D Morphing Superman Logo a tutorial by Maltaannon

Maltaannon created this new tutorial featuring Artbeats footage as the background cityscape with a cool morphing 3D Superman logo. He uses After Effects and ShapeShifter AE by Mettle.

Learn more and watch the tutorial on Mettle’s website.

Filming Driving Plates: Before the Cameras Roll

Artbeats is getting a new perspective on shooting POV footage. 

Artbeats is committed to bringing our customers footage that is difficult to shoot, and has high production value. Over the years we’ve received numerous requests for “driving plates”. We also recently spoke with the production staffs of several well-known network television studios and the consensus was the same; they need driving plates and they need them now!

So what are driving plates? A driving plate is the moving scenery seen through the windows of a vehicle when the actors of a television show or film are “driving” somewhere.

As we began researching driving plates footage, we discovered that very few companies sell footage that is shot simultaneously from every window of a car. In fact, those that do provide driving plates use only one or two cameras, making multiple passes down the road. Later, each view must be matched up by the production company and made to look as if shot during one single driving sequence. This can be a very difficult process because each pass will have different action, whether it’s traffic, pedestrians, or the location of the sun. Now that our research was done, we set out to tackle driving plates in true Artbeats fashion!

View from the inside of the car traveling down the interstate with the cameras rolling. 

Diane & Annette ready the Scarlet & Epic cameras on the custom mounting system for a drive through the streets of Portland, Oregon.

We started out by testing different cars, mounting systems and cameras. We needed a smooth ride, a car that rode lower to the ground to allow for realistic height when the cameras were mounted, a mounting system that wouldn’t jeopardize our stabilization, and low-profile cameras that offer a high enough resolution for editors to select and crop to fit a particular scene.

The round metal plate, attached to the rail system, allows the camera to be rotated at different angles without having to be detached each time.

Scarlets attached to the back of the car to shoot the three-quarter angles.

After months of testing, we settled on a 1996 Cadillac DeVille and had our own specially designed mounting system built. We chose an older car specifically for its heavier body, which had to be drilled through to attach the mounts. A monitor rail was built into the dash, and a heavy-duty specialty inverter was included to handle the extra electricity needed to run the five cameras, laptops, monitors, and switches. The electrical system also had to be totally waterproof, with cables and wires running through the body of the car and under the seats, rather than externally.

The control center for the cameras.

Phil uses the touch screen monitors to adjust camera settings from inside the car.

We also chose RED’s Epic and Scarlet cameras. Both are high quality, low-profile, and very light-weight. An entire 9-angle set of driving plates can be filmed in only two passes down the road, which greatly reduces the time needed for matching up the views in post production. The Epic and Scarlet also provide the wider resolution needed for those situations when a second pass isn’t possible.

Stay tuned as we take you along on our journey of shooting driving plates. You never know, you just might see the Artbeats camera car on the street in your city!

Artbeats Volunteers at Camp Millennium: Filming A Summer Camp for Kids Dealing with Cancer

By Diane Barrows, Artbeats Executive Assistant to Phil Bates

Artbeats has been privileged to be a part of a great industry for over 23 years. We’ve made a commitment to giving back to the community, not only through monetary donations, but also in sharing our time and resources. For the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to volunteer as the official film crew for Camp Millennium.

Camp Millennium is a camp for kids who are dealing with cancer in some way. The camp runs a full week and there is no cost to the camper, as it is entirely funded by donations. I’ve been privileged to join Artbeats president, Phil Bates, in capturing footage and creating a DVD that replays the fun the kids experience during their week-long escape.

At the beginning of this shoot, we accepted the realization that we could not control the place, time of day, lighting, or action taking place. We would not be able to say, “Take two” to much of anything except the kids’ personal introductions, and we would not have time to fiddle with camera settings, lenses or such. So, our first obvious choice was about equipment. We chose a Sony EX-1s, a lightweight tripod, and a FigRig to make hand-held acceptably stable. We took a reflector, a zillion cards,  batteries, and a drive on which to copy the precious footage.

Camp M is currently held in the mountains directly above the beautiful Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. A windy dirt road makes its way up to large terraces where a gym, pool, playground, and eventually cabins and cafeteria are nestled among giant fir trees – beautiful surroundings that make for exhausting shooting as you rush up and down hills so as not to miss any activities going on at each location. The 95+ kids participate in swimming, archery, horseback riding, a ropes course and giant zip line, judo, recreation games, art, skits, a day of water games, a dance, campfires and fun meals, and a whole day is devoted to a marathon field trip that includes a trip to the movies, McDonalds, a day of Olympic style games, bowling and pizza. The shooting day begins (after prep, that is) at 8:00 am and ends whenever the last activity for the older kids winds up, usually around 10:30 or 11:00 pm.

The trick was to change our mindset from shooting stock video to capturing not only participation in the events, but the anticipation, struggle, joy, trepidation, fun, frivolity, and precious, tender moments that flow out of a week centered on these kids’ camping experience. Being alert at every moment for the little scenarios going on makes you aware that there is a camaraderie among kids with a common problem. They encourage each other to get on a horse or swim across the pool, shout for joy when a timid jumper finally lowers himself off the platform to zip down the hill, and stop dancing to sit with their friend who needs a treatment. They routinely visit the nurses’ station for meds, sometimes with their counselors who are previous campers themselves. They hug, sing, and cry with empathy over the death of friends, relatives, or fellow campers; are enthusiastic, silly, and appreciative. They make kind and appropriate fun of their cool counselors who are always “on stage” and model a looking-for-the good attitude. And, imagine this: they act like, well, kids.

It’s these moments that you can’t “do over,” so whether it’s magic hour lighting or pouring down rain, these snippets in time must be captured for DVD posterity. Our first year at camp, the staff told us numerous stories of campers who have to spend time in the hospital, often in lengthy stays, and how they watch their Camp M DVDs over and over, reliving a time when they just had fun with their friends. The DVD serves not only as a chronicle of the year’s activities, but a reminder of a week of escape. That knowledge fuels our dedication to retelling the camping story – to give them something to remember, relive, and look forward to.

This year, we brought our RED Epic camera along, as well. We limited its use for all the reasons we stated, and daily rain further limited the plan because we just didn’t want to deal with keeping it safe and dry. But a savvy camper/budding film student spotted it, recognized what it was and drooled heavily, encouraging Phil to take advantage of a couple of fun opportunities to bring it out for some slow-motion trickery. One day a downpour brought rain overflowing the cabin gutters, and several older kids volunteered to let the streams of water hit their faces. He also caught a walloping belly-flop by a counselor who created an enormous splash in the pool, and brought the camera out again during the games for events like parachute launching and sack races (races in slow-motion? That’s an oxymoron.) Another day a young animal-lover begged Phil to film her “snail circus,” and recognizing this important gift from a child, he dutifully set up a camera and filmed her lovely snails, up close and personal, much to her delight. But the coups de gras was the short introduction to the Epic camera and some on-hands experience for that budding student, a moment he’ll never forget. And neither will Phil.

What Artbeats hopes to give the campers of Camp Millennium is a fun-filled, tender, hilarious DVD shot and edited by a professional cinematographer who adjusted his focus for a week and who truly cares about a bunch of campers he may never see again in this life.

Somehow the many adults who generously donate their time, effort, energy, and money to a worthy cause create a week of joyous escape for those to whom life has been unfair. What does Artbeats get from our donation? A new lens through which to appreciate the world, and you can’t put a dollar figure on that.

Learn more about Camp Millennium.

Licensing 101: Your guide to licensing royalty-free stock footage

Ever read the license agreement for a product and then thought, “Okay, so what does this mean? And how can I use the product?” We’ve taken the mystery out of the Artbeats license agreement for you. Following are seven of the most common questions about licensing our royalty-free stock footage, with plain, easy to understand answers.

1. What does royalty-free mean?

A. Let us start by saying royalty-free does not mean FREE. You will have to pay an up front fee to license our stock footage. However, once you pay that fee, you can use the footage in just about any broadcast or non-broadcast production, worldwide. Plus, you can use it over and over again, either in the same project or in a different project later without ever having to pay any other fees or royalties. (You’ll find this question covered in section “1. Definitions” of the Artbeats license agreement).

JFT-FH040-53 — image from Johner Motion

Want an example? You can buy a clip to use in a commercial spot that will be broadcast on television in Paris for one month. A year from now, you can use the same clip in a movie trailer that’s going to be broadcast on television and in theaters all over the world. You don’t have to tell Artbeats you’re using the clip again, and you don’t have to pay any additional fees. However, if you’d like to share your project with us, we’d enjoy seeing it.

2. How can I use the footage?

A. You can use Artbeats royalty-free footage in just about any broadcast or non-broadcast production including commercials, television shows, feature films, live events, music videos, corporate presentations, and so much more. You can change the color, crop the length, layer it with other footage and images, put it inside text, use it as a lower third, create a transition. Be creative! (Check out section “2. Grant of License” for more info on this topic).

Want an example? Just check out the cool video tutorials featured on our website.

3. You said I can use the footage in just about any production? What CAN’T I use the footage in?

A. Artbeats footage cannot be used in any production that is pornographic, defamatory, libelous, or illegal. (Section “4. Unauthorized Uses and Limitations, Paragraph 3” covers this topic in depth).

Want an example? If you’re making a movie, commercial, YouTube video or any other production that is going to make fun of or ridicule someone’s race or religion, don’t use stock footage to do it. Most stock footage companies are very strict about this.

4. Are there any limitations to how much footage I can use in my project?

A. That depends on your project. If you’re making a commercial or corporate presentation, there are no limits. However, if your final production is going to be sold, and you, your company, or your client is going to make money on it, then the Artbeats footage cannot comprise more than 25% of the total imagery used. (You’ll find more about this in section “4. Unauthorized Uses and Limitations, Paragraph 2”). A side note: In some cases, the Artbeats license agreement can be amended. Check out question #6 below for more info.

HUH? You need an example, right? You’re making a music video for your client that is 100 seconds long. The video is going to be sold on DVD, Blu-ray or as a digital download; only 25 seconds of that video can be Artbeats footage. The other 75 seconds must be footage or images from other sources.

5. Once I pay for the footage, do I own it? Can I sell it or let someone else use it?

A. What you’re paying for is the license to use the footage. You don’t own the rights to the footage. You can use the footage in your projects or your client’s projects, but you can’t sell it, give it away, auction it off on eBay, or share it with anyone else in any way. (Sections “3. Ownership” and “4. Unauthorized Uses and Limitations, Paragraph 1” will tell you all you need to know about this subject).

6. Can the Artbeats license agreement be changed or can I get special licensing?

A. In some cases, our royalty-free license can be amended to fit your company’s requirements. Not all sections can be changed, so you’ll need to contact our licensing department to discuss it. Please be aware that there is a fee for amending our license agreement, which will be charged in addition to the price of the footage. (Contact if you’d like to learn more about changing our license or getting special licensing).

7. Can my colleagues and I all have access to the same footage on multiple workstations?

A. Artbeats clips can only be used by one person at a time. If you want multiple people to have access to use the clip at the same time, you’ll need to purchase a multi-seat site license for the clip. The cost of this will vary depending on the number of site licenses you need. (See section “2. Grant of License, Single User License” for more info on this).

Have a question we didn’t answer? Still not clear on something we said? We’d like to hear from you. Post your questions/comments here on the blog, or email us direct at

A Guide to Permits for Filming in Difficult Locations

Over the years, the Artbeats film crews have learned that shooting can prove to be very difficult in many of the cities across the country. In fact, we recently shot in one of the most security-obsessed cities in our nation: Washington, DC. We’ve learned a few pointers along the way and thought we’d share them. Artbeats’ Location Manager, Diane Barrows has compiled this list for you.

1-A. Start early. Some park permits can take six weeks!
1. Research – what is worth shooting in the city/location of choice?

2. More research – where are the subjects located? Are they private or public? Are they going to be part of a street scene or panorama, or will they be the subject of the shot?

3. If your locations are privately owned, begin seeking permission and get releases from the property owners.

4. If they are public places, gather your addresses or cross streets, names of parks, etc. Then do a search for filming in that area and see whether or not permits are necessary.

-If they are, begin working with their film office to see whether your locations are within their jurisdiction.

-If they are not and your location is in a National Forest or Park, State Park, or other entitity such as the Bureau of Land Management, do a search to find out each entity’s requirements. If you shoot without a permit, you can be issued a citation or ticket.

-If you’re going solo, you won’t need parking, traffic directors, or special notification that you’re going to be using a particular area. But be sure to read the specific rules for every area you will be shooting because different rules apply to different situations, times of day, and even particular days. The size of your crew can also affect the cost of your permit.

-Most permit applications require you to list very specific locations as well as the time of day you’ll be in the area.

5. Know the boundaries of the area in which you are allowed to shoot. Sometimes you think you’re getting permission to be on a sidewalk, but you’re actually getting permission to be on the street and NOT the sidewalk (or vice versa). Washington DC is notorious for this. And the same street may have several entities governing shooting. You stand at X and are on area 1, walk a few feet and are on area 2, turn around and are on area 3. It can be very confusing – and they’ve often GOT YOU ON SECURITY CAMERAS. Violation of the rules can terminate/revoke your permit.

6. Permission for a particular day doesn’t carry over to the next day unless you specified that. Keep in mind that the city may be orchestrating multiple events and are trying to keep everything from overlapping in a bad way. We didn’t get permission to be on a particular street one day because there was an activity where thousands were expected to be there. But we DID get it for the next day.

7. Carry your permit with you as instructed on the permit. We have been asked to show our permit, and it’s quite gratifying to prove that you have permission to be where you are.

8. Have fun and happy shooting!

What kinds of experiences have you had trying to obtain filming permits?

Digital Production Buzz/Larry Jordan Interviews Phil Bates

Last nights Digital Production Buzz featured Artbeats’ President Phil Bates. Larry Jordan and Michael Horton chatted with Phil about the recent aerial footage Artbeats filmed in Washington, DC.

Listen Now