Shutterstock, Archive Valley weigh in on COVID-era footage trends

With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting production — travel restrictions and production protocols both increasing costs — archive-led content is experiencing a surge of interest from producers, buyers and viewers ...
January 22, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting production — travel restrictions and production protocols both increasing costs — archive-led content is experiencing a surge of interest from producers, buyers and viewers alike. But what kind of archival programming is on the rise for the immediate future?

Two prominent companies dealing in archive and stock footage have weighed in on what’s hot now, and what trends are emerging in the footage space for the year ahead.

New York-headquartered Shutterstock has issued its 10th anniversary edition of its Creative Trends Report, tabulating data gleaned from keyword searches over the past year into five categories — graphics, photography, footage, music and the “trend to watch.”

From a footage perspective, Shutterstock says searches for “the sublime” — intense, captivating or intimidating scenes from nature — were markedly on the increase, with mountain aerials increasing by 1,396 searches and keyword searches for stormy beaches up by 480%. Other landscapes enjoying an uptick on interest for projects included cliff aerials, which saw an increase of 450%, and dunes by 394%.

Meanwhile, “eccentric animation,” incorporating playful animation styles and motion graphics, was also on the rise, with searches for “whimsical” clips up by a whopping 13,572%. Shutterstock attributes this rise to a desire from creatives to “steer away from the seriousness of 2020″ as well as providing content options that don’t require production crewing.

As for the “trend to watch,” Shutterstock is pointing towards “the unexplored,” which runs the gamut from clips and content dedicated to biodiversity (wildfires, natural disasters) to space, to wellness (yoga, meditation, mind-body connection).

“This year’s trends centered around individuality, imperfection, authenticity, and escapism — despite the obstacles we were forced to navigate, and the uncertainty we faced, there was no shortage of creativity and innovation,” said Flo Lao, creative director at Shutterstock, in a statement. “These trends, gleaned from billions of keyword searches by our users, lay the foundation for the content we can expect to see across creative outputs, B2B and B2C marketing in the year ahead.”

Also, late last year, Paris-headquartered archive industry platform Archive Valley collected data from queries run by major film and television creatives on its platform to identify trends in archive-driven documentaries.

Based on a sample of more than 400 projects between March and September of 2020, the company reported two major areas of interest as the decade of 1970s, and portraits of major figures in the 20th Century.

For the latter, producers were on the hunt for content related to artists, political figures, musicians, prominent women, sports figures, criminals and entrepreneurs. For the searches related to the Seventies, key areas included major historical events intertwined with personal stories, music, sports, war, crime, the environment and civil rights.

Archive Valley, used as a platform to locate footage and connect with archive researchers across the world by such projects as the ESPN/Netflix doc The Last Dance and Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali doc for PBS, also reported at that time that since March 2020, the company had noted a significant 25% increase in the number of films searching for archive content. The increase in demand for doc content across platforms as well as the ability to effectively produce archive-led content during lockdowns factor into this, according to the company.

(Image: Shutterstock)

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.