Pond5, 4K, and ShutterStock: My Humble Opinion July 6, 2014

So, here we all are: at the two-month mark with our Panasonic GH4s, shooting and submitting pixel-packed 4K stock footage clips. I’m very happy with 4K, and love the flexibility it gives me as an editor, and as a contributor, the higher price points at which it sells.

Of course, Pond5 was among the first, if not THE first agency to graciously accept 4K clips from producers. And I appreciate how Pond5 is so “contributor-friendly.” However, I feel that they are SERIOUSLY missing the boat with one aspect as we charge full steam ahead into the world of Ultra-HD 4K: downsampling (automatically offering buyers lower resolution versions of higher resolution clips).

I know it’s only been a few months since the GH4 came out (and even less for other 4K cameras like the Sony AX100), but I see a troubling trend on the horizon as the portfolios of stock footage producers begin to grow with 4K clips.

I want to be downsized

As we all know, ShutterStock is also now accepting and offering 4K. And to be honest, I feel their predetermined price point of $299 is a bit steep, but that’s beyond my control. However, they have one important feature that Pond5 currently does not: customers are able to choose HD versions of my 4K clips without any additional work on my part. And it is because of that all-important on demand downsampling option that I think they will prevail in the long run as a growing number of producers are shooting and submitting more and more 4K clips.

That is, unless, Pond5 follows suit and does the same.

Of course, we’ve gone through this in the past with HD and SD. And some Pond5 stock footage producers still submit manually-converted SD versions along side of HD clips (useless and wasteful these days in my opinion, but I digress). And now, we are facing this same issue with 4K.

Learn how to make $1,000 or more per week shooting stock footage …

I started submitting 4K clips on Pond5 without the desire to also submit HD versions. I feel the price point I chose for my 4K clips was high enough to justify 4K, yet not totally out of the reach for the buyer who just needs HD. But as I look at the past two months, I see that Pond5 is trending down, while ShutterStock is headed up.

Sales data from first half of 2014 for Pond5 and ShutterStock

Sales data from first half of 2014 for Pond5 and ShutterStock

Take a look at this chart. It represents sales from Pond5 and ShutterStock for the first half of 2014. As you can see, when I started to predominantly shoot and submit 4K in May, Pond5 sales slipped, while ShutterStock gained. I should also note that June of 2014 was not only my best month ever on ShutterStock, but I generated more income from ShutterStock in that month than I ever did in the past from ANY other single agency.

Is this due to downsampling, or just a fluke? I realize the two months in question are summer months, which are typically low-earners (July is looking exceptionally grim). But, don’t you think it’s odd that a summer month (June) was such a great earner for me at ShutterStock, even at their lower commission rates?

Now, truth be told, I’ve sold more 4K clips on Pond5 than I have so far on ShutterStock. But that just may be because up to this point, I’ve ONLY submitted 4K versions of my clips to Pond5, while ShutterStock is offering HD (and lower, much to my disappointment) resolutions of those same clips.

So, I’ve decided to manually downconvert HD versions and submit them along side of my Pond5 4K uploads to see if that changes anything. But, as I’ve said many times in the past, having TWO versions of the SAME clip in search results only clutters these results. It’s redundant, and also increases Pond5’s storage needs, since we are not only sending them a huge 4K QuickTime, but also another HD file of the exact same thing. And, of course, it doubles MY workload, which was something I was trying to avoid.

I realize that I need to keep looking at these trends, as two months is NOT enough time to come to a conclusion. But I really think that regardless of what happens with me, Pond5 really needs to consider automatic downsampling of 4K to HD (but no further). Practically every other stock footage agency offers alternate clip resolutions for buyers. Why does Pond5 refuse to offer it as well? It would not only be a great timesaver for contributors, but will also most likely be appreciated by customers since it gives them more buying choices.

And it’s the customers who are the ones we all need to keep happy.

As of February, 2015, Pond5 now offers 4K-to-HD down conversion for the customer, and I no longer submit HD versions of my 4K clips.

James Orlowski

James Orlowski is the owner of Orlowski Designs, LLC. He is an accomplished videographer and producer with nearly 20 years of video production.

A graduate from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, he has years of experience shooting and selling stock footage on many of the major Internet-based microstock footage agencies.

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Orlowski Designs, LLC
4K Stock Footage and Media Production