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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Web Site Operation

What is
Simply put, it is one of the largest collections of online royalty free stock footage clips anywhere on earth. At RetroFootage you can search thousands of clips in an instant, select and organize those you may be interested in, sign an electronic contract, pay by credit card and download them all in the time you might spend on hold on the telephone at a traditional stock footage library.

How do I find a clip on your site?
Simply enter a keyword or keywords into our search engine, or choose a category and subcategory from the category drop-down menus. Thumbnails of representative clips will be displayed. Pass over the thumbnails with your mouse and they will play back in Flash. Click on the clips to open the "Clip Detail" window and view them up close and read more about them, or to download a free watermarked preview comp of the clip.

How do I store and organize clips I might want to purchase later?
In the view clip window, click on "Add To My Bin". Just as in a non-linear editing program, you can store your clips in this bin, and then later review them, eliminating any you don't want, before proceeding to checkout. As a registered user, you can also email your bin to your clients for feedback.

How long will my clips be stored in "My Bin"?
If you set up an account with (just register - it's free), your clips will be stored in your bins indefinitely. You can return anytime to search more clips, add more clips to your project, or to purchase.

What is the difference between "My Bin" and "Shopping Cart"?
My bin acts just as a "bin" would act in a non linear editing program. It is a place where you store and review a variety of clips you might be interested in. Once you have determined the clips you want to purchase, you put them in your Shopping Cart and proceed to checkout.

Do you send out screener tapes for preview?
In general we don't send out screeners. Instead of having a large staff on hand to make customized demo tapes for clients, we decided instead to invest our overhead in making a very convenient website where you can preview, store clips in bins, email bins to colleagues, download watermarked low res sample clips to cut into your timeline, choose your footage, pay for it online, and download it directly. Easier for you - and easier for us too!

I want to see how a clip works in my program before I purchase it. Can I do this?
Yes, at RetroFootage, you can download a free "low resolution" version of your clip in the View Clip window by clicking on "Download Free Quicktime" below the Flash window. Use this watermarked clip to cut into your program (you may want to register with us and save a copy of it in your bin). If you like the look of the clip, return anytime to download the high resolution version. Please note: RetroFootage makes the free comp versions available for preview and assessment purposes - they are not, under any circumstances, allowed to be used in finished programs.

I'd like to get the watermark removed from the center of my free Quicktime comp.
Unfortunately, if we did that, we would be effectively be giving away low resolution versions of our library - and our content suppliers wouldn't appreciate that very much!  The centered watermark is there to protect our Supplier's copyright to the footage before it is licensed. It is possible to order a "clean" low resolution file of the clip for a nominal fee (usually less than $100). Most clips have clean low resolution versions of clips available in Quicktime, WMV and Flash versions. Check the Clip Detail page of the clip you are interested in for pricing and availability.

Can I use the Quicktime comp in my project with the watermark visible without paying a license fee in exchange for the promotional value of showing your logo?
Nice try! Please note that our Quicktime comps are there specifically for you to use to preview how our clip looks in your project. We do not permit the usage of our free Quicktime clips in finished projects, whether they are commercial or not.

What is the "Search Voyeur"?
The Search Voyeur allows you to see what other people are searching for in almost-real time on our website. Click on any thumbnail and it will take you to the same results as the person doing the search.

What are "Featured Collections"?
From time to time we make customized bins of footage we think you will find interesting. This is based on popular search criteria, contemporary issues, or just stuff we think is cool.

I saw a Featured Collection awhile ago on your site and now it has disappeared. How can I see it again?
We change our Featured Collections fairly often as our site receives materials. However, you can always click on "View All Collections" (right below the Featured Collections column on the left sidebar of the home page). This will take you to an archive page which features all the Featured Collections we have offered.

I know the clip ID# of the clip I wanted to buy. How do I find the clip again on your site?
Just enter the clip ID# into the Keyword Search box on any page. You will be taken to that individual clip result.

I entered a generic word to search and got a very large number of clip results. How do I sort or filter these clips?
RetroFootage offers several ways to sort and filter search results. On the far right had side any Clip Result page, you'll find a drop down menu allowing you to sort your results by "most relevant" (what our search engine thinks is best), "most popular" (what people have bought or viewed the most often), "recently added" (allowing you to see if anything has been added since your last search), "price" (from cheapest and most expensive), and "length" of the clip. If you want to Filter your results, drilling down beyond your current results, go to "Filter Results" in the left toolbar region. Here you can eliminate unwanted results by sorting by HD/SD, Commercial/Editorial, whether Talent has been released, Era, Speed and what the footage is originally sourced on.

I searched for a subject several months ago and was wondering if maybe new clips had been added since then. Is there a way to see only clips which have been added recently?
Perform your search entering your keywords in the search box. On the clip result page, sort your results by "recently added". You will find any clips which have been added since your last search will come up first in the results.

Why should I join RetroFootage?
Joining is a requirement if you purchase any clips. This is necessary to download any purchased clips and will happen automatically during checkout. You will have the option to come back and download your clips for 24 hours from the time they were purchased by logging in to your account. In addition to purchasing clips, joining will allow you to save clips in My Bin. With My Bin, you can save clips that while browsing and come back to review or purchase them later.

I've been saving clips into bins which appear as small thumbnails on the sidebar of the page. How do I see my bin full size?
Simply click on the "expand bin" button on the sidebar to see your saved clips on their own page.

Can I send a bin to my editor, producer or client for approval?
Yes, open a bin on it's own page and click on "email bin" to send it to someone else. You can also add comments for your client to see about the clips in question.

Does RetroFootage share my information with others?
At RetroFootage, your privacy is one of our top priorities. RetroFootage never sells or shares your information with anyone else. All account related transactions are fully encrypted using 128 bit encryption. We purchase our secure certificates from one of the leading certificate authorities. In addition to our secure transactions, your credit card numbers are not stored locally on any of our servers.

What security protection does your site offer?
All account related transactions are fully encrypted using 128 bit encryption. We purchase our secure certificates from one of the leading certificate authorities. In addition to our secure transactions, your credit card numbers are not stored locally on any of our servers.

Clip Formats

What formats are your clips offered on?
Our clips are usually shot on a variety of formats and are usually delivered to you on either DV or PhotoJpeg formats. If you wish to know what original format the clip was shot on, and is delivered on, consult the Clip Detail page. We also offer down-converted versions of our master clips in H264, Powerpoint Quicktime, Powerpoint WMV and Flash formats.

Why is your master HD footage delivered on Photo Jpeg format?
Even though the footage may have been originally shot on anything from HDCAM to HDV or XDCAM formats, we find it most convenient to deliver these clips to you on the universally recognized Photo Jpeg format. Photo Jpeg is a very high quality video codec and offers almost no noticeable difference from the HD codec the clip was originally shot on. You will probably need to re compress (render) the clip to the codec of your choice once you place it on your NLE timeline. We choose PhotoJpeg because it generally offers the fewest problems with compatibility with all the different NLE systems out there and seems to work well on PC's and Mac's alike. As soon as another universal HD format becomes available, we will be sure to look into offering it to you.

Can I get the clip in the original camera format it was shot on?
Usually not. Since we convert the original clip to PhotoJpeg with almost no compression added, the quality advantage of doing so will be minimal. 

Do you offer access to original camera negative if the original source was film?
We do not offer film negative access to any clips on RetroFootage. In some cases we can refer you on to a researcher at the National Archives or other sources to order the footage from original materials, a process which may take several weeks and cost significantly more than the clip offered. Please contact a researcher at for further assistance.

Do you have similar clips to the ones I see here?
We have usually chosen the "cream of the crop" from what our suppliers provide us with. However, in some cases, there may be additional footage available. Please contact us at if you want to inquire about additional clips. Also note that additional research fees and licensing fees may apply for clips not sold online at our site.

How do I know what format the clip I want was originally shot on?
Click on the clip's thumbnail and go to the Clip Detail page. Here you will see a lot of information about the clip, including what format it was originally shot on. Note: clips which say they were shot on "NTSC" or "PAL" will generally be 480i clips (DV quality).

Do you offer clips by the minute or second?
Our clips range from 10 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the action. 

Is sound available for your clips?
If the sound is available, it will be included with your clip. In some cases, ambient sound has been removed from the clip or was not available from our suppliers. In others, the sound is "as you hear it" and may be imperfect. We regret that we cannot offer any conversions or HQ masters of the sound which is heard on our clips.

Licenses and Clip Usage

How does your royalty free license work?
You may use RetroFootage royalty free use clips as much as you want in commercial or editorial projects over which you have direct responsibility or control, in perpetuity. This includes feature films, commercials, TV programs, documentaries, news, non-broadcast and most other applications in perpetuity. To read our Royalty Free Contract, please click here. Note: a different agreement applies to Editorial Use Only clips. You can find it here.

What is a Editorial Use Only clip?
Editorial usage is generally broadly interpreted as "documentary" or "newsworthy" usage. When we have identified a clip as "Editorial Use Only", it means that you can use RetroFootage editorial only clips as much as you want, but only in editorial projects over which you have direct responsibility or control, in perpetuity. This includes, news, non-fiction, non-commercial, non-profit, documentaries, factual reporting, criticism, parody, educational and historic programming. You may not use RetroFootage editorial only clips in advertising or purely commercial ventures, such as fictional programming, promotional programming, advertising or other for-profit ventures. To read our Editorial Use Only policy contract, please click here.

How can I tell a public domain clip from a royalty free use clip?
For public domain clips, you will see the purple PUBLIC DOMAIN USE box on the Clip Detail page:

For royalty free clips, you will see the green ROYALTY FREE  box on the Clip Detail page:

For editorial use only clips, you will see the orange EDITORIAL USE ONLY   box on the Clip Detail page:

How does your Public Domain arrangement work?
We have acquired a large amount of footage from various archival sources, including the United States National Archives, which we make available to you for downloading on RetroFootage. We have very good reason to believe that the footage is in public domain and that you can download it and use it freely in your projects, however we cannot offer you any absolute guarantees that every part of the footage is fully cleared for all usages. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of a clip and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with you - the end user.

How do you determine if a clip is in the public domain?
Films published in the U.S. before 1923, films first published in the U.S. from 1923-1963 whose copyrights were not renewed, films published before March 1, 1989 without a valid copyright symbol and all films created by U.S. government employees as part of their job are in the public domain. We check to see if any film we represent has had it's copyright registered or renewed using the Film Superlist: Motion Pictures in the Public Domain by Walter E. Hurst as our prime reference book on the subject. The compilers of the Superlist have gone through all the Copyright Office renewal records for films and noted which were renewed. This is effectively the public domain Bible. We also used the National Archives ARC system to reference information about films produced by the U.S. Government. Whenever possible, we include a link to the National Archives or other sources of information about the film for your convenience.

Why do you charge a handling fee when these clips are offered for free elsewhere?
Many stock libraries do not tell you that a clip is in the public domain and instead lead you to believe they own the clip and will try to license it to you, often for exorbitant "rights managed" rates. At RetroFootage, we feel that it is much more in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Public Domain to offer you these clips for only a modest handling fee to cover our effort to bring them to you in an easy to access and download DV format. There are certainly other places where you can get these clips "for free". However, they may be inferior in quality or difficult and time consuming to access, search and master. At RetroFootage, we have taken great pains to find the best copies of public domain materials, resize them to DV format for easy downloading, create flash files for you to preview on the site and keyword the clips in detail to make them easy for you to search and find. We feel that justifies the handling charge and hope you appreciate the convenience.

Do you issue a license for Public Domain materials?
No. We offer you our public domain materials without any license fee, for only a handling fee. Like the U.S. National Archives themselves, we leave it up to you to do any further research to determine whether you can use the clip in your production(s).

RetroFootage has taken reasonable steps to verify the copyright status of this work or clip and has determined that it is most likely in the public domain, and can be freely used and re-used in projects at your discretion. Even though this clip is believed to be created by the U.S. Government or by another party that has released it into the public domain, please note that RetroFootage cannot absolutely guarantee the exact copyright status of the clip or offer written assurance that every or any aspect of this clip is completely cleared for all usages. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of a clip and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the clip.

Any Trademarks used in this item listing are used for strictly descriptive purposes only. No association or endorsement is implied or inferred. No character or trademark ownership is given or implied. If you intend to use any trademarks in public domain clips in a commercial usage, you should obtain an independent legal opinion as to your intended usage.

If your intended use of this clip is for commercial purposes and not educational, documentary or editorial use, you may need to secure a release from individuals (talent or recognizable person) pictured, vocal talents or musicians so as not to violate or onfringe on their copyright or right of publicity. It is your responsibility to make an independent and accurate assessment, using legal counsel, as to the legality of your use of any persons pictured or heard in public domain materials and obtain their permission for commercial purposes, if necessary.

RetroFootage does not issue a rights managed or royalty free licensing agreement for this clip, or offer footage assurance, but makes the clip available to you for a free download for an administration/handling/prepping fee for each clip. Therefore, the fee charged is not a license fee for the clip and RetroFootage does not warrant to own any licensing interest in the clip. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless RetroFootage and it's successors, assignees and heirs from any legal action which results from your use of the clip, worldwide, in perpetuity.

If you are the owner of any aspect of this clip which you believe to be copyrighted, please contact us immediately at

What should I be careful of when I use Public Domain clips in my productions?
If your usage of public domain materials is in an editorial context (documentary, news, informational, entertainment, for-profit or not, etc.), it is very unlikely that you will face any repercussions for using public domain materials in almost any way in your work. However, if your use is for very overt commercial or purely promotional purposes, such as an advertising campaign, a dramatic feature film or another purely commercial usage, there are some special legal concerns you should take into consideration. Trademarks and logos appearing in the footage should be cleared with the owners of that trademark or logo to assure your use does not violate any state right of publicity or state and federal trademark laws. In addition, the usage of any actors or performers images for commercial endorsement or other commercial gain may violate state right of publicity laws. In rare cases, well known musical scores or compositions and prominent works of art pictured in the clip may present problems, although this is rare. It is your responsibility to determine, in consultation with legal counsel, whether your usage of the public domain clips we offer may violate any of the restrictions listed here or any other restrictions on a state or Federal level.

How do I get more information about a public domain clip, such as who produced it, what it's title is, and the distributor?
Please contact us at if you wish to obtain more information about the public domain clips we represent. We will be glad to share with you what we know about the clip or program and why we believe it to be in the public domain.

If you ever have any doubt about whether you can license a clip from us, please contact us at

Pricing and Discounts

I am a non-profit organization. Can I get your clips for free or for a drastically reduced price?
At RetroFootage, we have reduced the price of a clip drastically already to accommodate the needs of the non-broadcast and non-profit client, as well as the starving fillmmaker. After all, we have been starving filmmakers ourselves at times. (we also like to help support our starving filmmakers who send us such beautiful footage!) We feel our Royalty Free rates are exceptionally low for the high quality footage we offer. Try getting an all rights all media in perpetuity clip from a traditional stock library for $199! So we ask that you help us help you by respecting our low, fixed prices and not asking for footage at giveaway rates.

If I am ordering many clips, can I get a price break?
We offer price breaks on orders of multiple clips starting at 10 clips. Please contact us at for further information on bulk discounts.


How long will it take to download a clip after I order it?
As soon your credit card is processed, your clip is available for downloading. You will receive an email with a link to download your clip. Follow the link and click on the download button to begin your download. Most HD clips on RetroFootage are under 200Mb, however, on occasion they can be larger. With a normal cable modem or DSL line, you should be able to download most clips in 20 minutes or less, often much more quickly depending on the resolution you ordered. In the case of multiple clip orders, you will need more time to download. Once you have paid for your clip, you have 24 hours to perform your download.

I was unable to download my clip in the allotted 24 hour time period. What can I do?
Please contact us by email at We will renew your download period for you and send you an email letting you know we have done this.

I am unable to download my clip at my present location. Can I get the clip sent via ftp?
We are currently working to implement this feature. Please send us an email at to inquire further.


How do I submit my footage to the site?
If you have come across some unusual footage, old educational films, home movies or already have Quicktime files of rare or unusual materials, first visit our submissions page to learn how to become a content submitter. Please note that we will need the exact titles of any films you possess so that we can verify the film's copyright status. If you submit footage to us which we accept into the library, you will receive a commission on every sale we make.


Are you hiring?
We are always looking for a few good men and women. Please send you inquiries by email to

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