How to Get Clips for Edits — Ways to Capture Footage Online Featured

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How to Get Clips for Edits — 4 Ways to Capture Footage Online

H ow do you get movie clips to use in editing projects? There are a few different reasons why you may need pre-existing movie footage brought into your editing program of choice. Perhaps you are putting together YouTube content such as video essays or movie reviews and you need clips of the source material, or maybe you need footage to learn how to edit or to practice with. Whatever your needs may be, there are a few different ways one can go about sourcing movie footage. We will run through each viable method.

Fair Use Explained  •  Clips to use for edits

YouTube video styles that would be protected by Fair Use copyright law include things like movie reviews and video essays . For more on video essays, be sure to watch our recap of StudioBinder’s best video essays of 2020.

The best video essays of 2020  •   Subscribe on YouTube

The first step is to figure out exactly what footage you need in order to carry out your desired edit. Determine which clips or scenes you will need or if you will need the entire film to edit with. Gathering individual clips may be slightly easier than pulling all of the footage from an entire film but both are possible.

Once you have decided on the specific footage that you need, you can move on to one of the four possible options for pulling movie clips detailed below.

Where To Find Clips For Video Edits

Option 1: youtube.

You will not likely be able to pull entire films from YouTube, but if you only need certain clips or scenes, there is a decent chance that the footage in question may already be uploaded to YouTube. The platform itself does not offer a feature to download videos from the site, but there are various methods with which this can be accomplished.

Websites like  and many others were built to download YouTube videos. Find your desired clip on YouTube, grab the share link, and paste it into one of these YouTube-downloader websites, and you will be presented with download links.

There are also browser extensions and plugins available that will enable you to download right from the video page on YouTube. And, lastly, there are also downloadable applications such as 4K Video Downloader that can be used to download YouTube videos.

This method involves installing the 4K Video Downloader onto your computer, then pasting links to whichever footage you need downloaded, and letting the application do the rest.

How To Get TV Show Clips For Edits

Option 2: screen capture.

Screen capture and screen recording methods can be used to acquire movie footage to edit with. You may encounter some difficulty using this method depending on where you go to source the desired footage. Some streaming platforms, such as Netflix, have measures in place to block screen recording efforts as an anti-piracy measure.

If you attempt to screen record on Netflix, your recording will appear to show nothing but a black screen. Not all streaming services have these measures in place, and some screen-recording programs attempt to bypass this type of blocking countermeasure.

There are many ways to go about the capturing process itself. One of the easiest methods, which is also completely free, is to use Quicktime. Depending on the type of device you have, Quicktime may already be pre-loaded onto your computer. Quicktime features a built-in screen recording option.

By default, the Quicktime screen recording only captures the visuals on your screen, with no internal audio input, however, internal audio can be added to the capture using the method described in the video below.

How to add audio to Quicktime screen recording  •  How to get movie clips for youtube videos

Outside of Quicktime, there are many alternative options for screen-recording programs. Many of the alternatives are free but others do charge one-time or monthly fees. Also, be aware that certain screen-recording programs have been suspected of being scams or viruses, so be sure to conduct research into any program before you download it.

A physical option also exists for screen-recording: a capture card . A capture card can be a great way to source the movie footage you need for editing projects and it has a number of alternative uses as well. Be sure to look through our purchasing guide for capture cards before making a decision.

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Where To Get Video Clips For Edits

Option 3: physical media ripping.

If you own the movie that you want footage from on DVD or Blu-ray, it is possible to rip the movie footage directly from the disc. Some physical media discs have built-in countermeasures against ripping for piracy prevention. But many DVD and Blu-ray ripping programs attempt to circumvent these countermeasures. The following video details the process of ripping a DVD onto your computer.

Howfinity explains how to rip a DVD  •  How to find movie clips for edits

To gather footage using this method, you will need a disc drive that reads either DVDs or Blu-rays, depending on which physical-media variety you have. The disc drive can be internal or external, it will not make a difference.

External disc drives made specifically for DVD ripping are available for purchase. But there are also ripper software programs that can carry out the task using any disc drive.

How to Find Videos for Edits

Option 4: direct file download.

If a direct file download is available for the film that you require footage from, this will likely be the easiest method and the one that will get you into the editing the quickest. A direct download of the movie file may be able to be brought directly into the video editing program of your choice, or it may require a conversion to a file type more easily readable by the editing software.

Adobe Media Encoder is a great tool for converting footage. The following video will tell you everything you need to know in order to get started with Media Encoder.

Adobe Media Encounter Guide  •  how to get tv show clips for edits

Whichever method you use to gather movie footage, always be sure that your use of copyrighted material is protected by Fair Use copyright law.

The Best Capture Cards on the Market

Those were a number of different ways to go about acquiring movie footage to use in your own editing projects. If the capture card method sounds appealing to you, then our rundown of the best capture cards available for purchase can help you make an informed decision when figuring out which capture card is best for your needs.

Up Next: Best Capture Cards →

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How to do a Video Essay: The Video Essay Process

  • Plan, Prepare & Create


  • Finding, Filming & Editing
  • References & Credits
  • The Video Essay Process

This section will give an introductory overview of the stages required to create a video essay.  Video essayers advice is to start simple and work through each stage of the video production process. Visit the Resources page of this guide for more.

Identify what is your argument? What is it that you want to communicate to the viewer? Write this down in a few sentences, refer and modify it as required.

Watch Video Essays

Watch a selection of video essays, read blogs and web pages from video essayers and decide what type of video essay you would like to create. Start simple.

A storyboard is a detailed outline (similar to an outline in a written essay) that helps you to organise and visualise the video essay as to what is on the screen, text, media, message and transitions between shots.

Storyboards assist in determining the length, message and meaning of the video essay and help save time with editing and post production processes.

  • Free Storyboard Templates

Collect & Edit

Collect video material as downloads, ripping DVDs, screen grabs, mobile phone footage and create voice-overs. Use research skills to find information and statements to support your argument. Maintain a standard of quality and manage your videos by naming conventions and storage.

Use editing software and experiment with available functionality to enhance and support your argument. Add a voice-over, sound effects, music and other aspects of multimodality. Be sure to include references and credits to all sources used in creating the video essay.

Revisit elements of your video essay and modify as required.

Visit the Resources page of this guide for more.

  • Where to find video and how to capture it
  • Video Editing Basics - iMovie
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References & Credits

References to cite sources used in the Video Essay. Referencing is a formal, systematic way of acknowledging sources that you have used in your video essay. It is imperative that you reference all sources used (including videos, stills, music, sfx) and apply the correct formatting so that references cited can be easily traced. The referencing style used at ECU is the APA style, 6th ed. 2010. Refer to the ECU Referencing Library Guide for accurate citation in APA style.

Production credits Individuals: acknowledgement of individuals and their role in the production. Purpose: A statement for internal use, e.g. “This video was produced for [course name] at [institution’s name] in [semester, year]”

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What it takes for video essayists to breakthrough on YouTube

Lindsay Ellis, Michael Tucker, T1J, Maggie Mae Fish, and Patrick Willems discuss the art of dissecting art

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Share All sharing options for: What it takes for video essayists to breakthrough on YouTube

In the last 10 years, YouTube video essays — on movies, on TV shows, on games, on pop culture, on everyday life — have entered a renaissance. But how do you make a video essay? What does it take to run a YouTube channel that can let a creator’s creativity thrive and serve a demanding audience? How much do algorithms control the pop conversation, and how is someone supposed to break through?

Knowing that dissecting art is an art in itself, Polygon asked some of the top video essayists working on YouTube today to come together in conversation at the 2020 New York Comic Con Metaverse. On Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT/ 6 p.m. PDT, Lindsay Ellis , Michael Tucker ( Lessons from the Screenplay ), Kevin Peterson ( T1J ), and Maggie Mae Fish join moderator, fellow creator, and occasional Polygon contributor Patrick Willems to talk through their career arcs and reflect on what it takes to make a career out of video essays.

Want a taste?

“YouTube really encourages you to fixate on numbers and the algorithm,” Ellis says during the roundtable. “And the way the backend is set up [...] it’s designed to play to your anxiety and it’s designed to, like, make you freak out if your video isn’t doing as well as the last 10. I would like to be emotionally liberated from that because I do think it creatively stifles you. You’re making content based not on what you’re interested in, but what you think will get clicks. I wish I could just be OK with the fact that I’m not going to get a million views a video anymore. That should be OK. I should be allowed to do that.”

Watch the full, 45-minute panel above for even more insight and anecdotes.

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Video Essays 101: Advice on Making Your Own Film Analysis Videos

The film industry isn't only the domain of filmmakers, but film analysts as well..


In recent years, we've seen a huge influx in video essays about film, which is not only giving students of film access to the kind of film analysis you tend to only get in film school, but it's also changing the way film analyses are produced and exhibited altogether. In fact, this surge of content is giving "amateur" film analysts a way to share their thoughts on different aspects of cinema , like how filmmakers use color as a psychological tool or the cultural, social, and political impact of different film movements.

For those who have always wanted to get into the video essay scene, film analyst Rob Ager offers a ton of helpful advice on how to do it in the video below.

Before I ever made a film, I analyzed a film. I broke down every minute, every camera move, every cinematic element in hopes of finding clues, patterns, and messages about the true meaning of a film. They're all up there—hidden in plain site on the big screen. Film analysis is about discovery. It's about reading between the lines (or looking between the frames) to find the grander message a filmmaker is trying to convey with their work. It's about revealing a new way of watching films to those who love to watch them, a way that can offer more enjoyment, more understanding, and more appreciation for the art form. 

Source: Collative Learning

How to Make a Bonkers Low Budget Sci-fi Gem With 'Tim Travers'

Filmmakers stimson snead, sam dunning, and felicia day discuss recycling props, investing in the right equipment, and mastered genre for their indie sci-fi masterpiece tim travers and the time traveler's paradox ..

What happens when an egotistical scientist filled with malaise decides to test the paradoxical theory of a time traveler traveling back in time one minute to kill the younger version of themself? I'm sure you've all been wondering. And, lucky for you, writer-director Stimson Snead's Tim Travers and the Time Traveler's Paradox exists in our current timeline and is seeking wider distribution.

It's also a ton of fun and a true testament to sci-fi filmmaking .

I caught Tim Travers (forgive the shorthand you get it) at its world premiere at Cinequest and had an absolute blast. Snead and his leading performance cohorts Sam Dunning and Felicia Day (along with the rest of the crew of course) craft a low budget sci-fi movie that is tonally pitch perfect. It's funny, goes off the rails in all the best ways, and has some killer bit parts that I can't wait to find a wider audience. Also, in a very No Film School friendly way, looks incredible for a low budget sci-fi piece of this caliber.

It's impressive! In fact, it won the jury prize for best comedy feature at Cinequest. Wow.

Below, writer-director Stimson Snead, Executive Producer and actor Felicia Day, as well as (one of very many) Tim Travers himself Sam Dunning discuss the process of making Tim Travers . They're charming and funny and have lots of great insight into indie filmmaking.

Please, please do enjoy the read.

Editors Note: The following interview is edited for length and clarity.

No Film School :Tell me a little bit about making a low budget sci-fi genre extravaganza.

Stimson Snead: I'm not sure it's that different from making any other low budget film. You don't want to feel the low budget. You want to make a good film. It's just that because we're doing sci-fi and stuff like that, we're having to deal with certain extra challenges. How do we make effects work? We don't want our effects to be jokey and silly, so we have to be really judicious about where we're going to apply it, so we can get the most bang for our very limited dollar. A lot of that stuff doing practicals, where it's actually going to be most financially reasonable.

Because a lot of the film takes place in one big room, it's a huge room. It's a warehouse. What we did was we did no CG in there. We built out everything we needed in this warehouse. We tried to make each corner of the room its own very specific vibe and area, so that it would feel like more locations, than it actually is.

The other thing we do is we recycled props like nobody's business. The production team that did it was the same guys who produced the show Z Nation , which was running for several years. We borrowed a bunch of old retired props from their folks on it. I had just done a short about a group of people trapped inside a human sized rat cage, with a hamster wheel. We took that entire set, which still existed, turned it inside out, made that into the radiation chamber, and reused the hamster wheel, because damn it, I've got a seven-foot tall, fully functioning human hamster wheel. I am going to get my money's worth out of it.

Sam Dunning: I need to throw Sam in it.

Stimson Snead: Yes. Sorry about that, because the thing is a death trap, absolute death trap. You get some speed going, it'll take your arm off.

Naturally, the entire crew was playing with it, whenever myself and the producers weren't looking.

NFS: How could you not?

Stimson Snead: I don't fault the impulse. I mean, if I saw a giant human hamster wheel, and I wasn't the one paying for the insurance, I would be in that thing so fast, just immediately.

NFS : How was working on Tim Travers different or similar to other, I guess, genre projects that you've been a part of?

Sam Dunning: Well, I mean that's an easy one, and a hard one, because it's incomparable to any other genre stuff I've done, because it's fucking insane.

Felicia Day: It's a hot fever dream.

Sam Dunning: Yeah. I mean, there was basically no time I was not on set. There was one of me everywhere at all times in this thing, and most of the time I'm acting against myself, or I'm acting against Babbitt, my wonderful body double, who's doing his best to keep up. But it's not totally his job, but he's still doing everything he can, or I'm acting against nothing. Our script supervisor doing his best, from 50 feet over there yelling, "What do you mean by that?" Me reacting to that as if I'm saying it to Felicia right now. It's just that... yeah, so very different from most things.

It was a lot of fun, but what I tried to make it most similar to in my head, as it's like when you're a little kid. I was an only child growing up, just making up playing by yourself, and so you're making up characters and situations, everything, and so it's akin to that feeling, in a weird way.

I don't think I was doing that intentionally. I wasn't like, "Ah, I'm going to be this." It was just like a, "Well, I have to imagine all this shit is happening around me, plus all the visual effects we don't have going on, so I'm fully in." Yeah. I imagine it's similar to what everybody goes through on big green screen productions where they're like, "The Dragons coming now."

Felicia Day: You're really prepped for a Marvel movie right now. You really have the skill.

Sam Dunning: Tell them.

Felicia Day: I will. We'll send a note.

I mean, it's crazy what he had to do, because he's acting with 20 different versions of himself, and it's just pretty phenomenal. I mean, again, I haven't seen it, but when I read the script I was like, "I don't know how this guy's going to pull this off." From all the other reviews, and the people who've seen it, I'm like, "It got pulled off," and I'm really excited.

Stimson Snead: Yeah. One of the things I have just found, especially on a project like this, it has really made me love the faith of actors. Because you guys basically, on 90% of this production, there's nothing beyond me just saying, "Trust me, it's going to work."

Sam Dunning: Well, I had the advantage of working with you in the short, so I knew it was going to work.

Felicia Day: Yeah, the short was great. You have a proof of concept.

Stimson Snead: Had you seen the short before we did?

Felicia Day: Yeah, I did. Oh, yeah. I wasn't just going to fly. No offense, but I mean, I'm from the world of red video. I've seen badly edited things. I've seen badly executed things. I've done badly executed things. You've got to be careful. But at the end of the day, yeah, it is a trust call, because you can make or break anybody's performance, good or bad in the moment, with editing, and you can... production value, CGI, everything. The director and the post team really have a lot of control in making actors look good or bad, and you just have to be like, "I think this person doesn't have a vendetta against me. I think they're going to make me look good."

NFS: Yeah, I like that. I've never really thought about that before, but that does make a ton of sense that actors really are just like, "Well, I hope this is good."

Felicia Day: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is a nice like, "Okay, I'm going to do my best. I can't control it." I know we've all seen movies where great actors were bad, or in our opinion bad, and we don't know. We don't if that was all these filmmakers making them look good, up until that point, or it's just that one filmmaker just didn't have the right instincts to tailor that performance. That's why a lot of actors do theater, because at least you have control over that. But you've got to show up physically multiple times in a row. That seems unappealing to me.

Sam Dunning: This is as close to theater as I've ever gotten, myself.

NFS: On a tight budget, what camera kit are you using? You're in a warehouse, and everything is pretty controlled?

Stimson Snead: I heard an expression on a short that I was AD-ing on years and years ago, "We are too poor to be cheap." There is a point where trying to save money will cost you more money in the long run, to do it wrong. When you're getting to something as major as literally the camera itself, that is the wrong place to save money. That is, you get the very best one you possibly can get your hands on, if the DPs... DPs are going to ask you for a lot of stuff you have to say no to, because they want everything. But get them the best camera you can, and the best lens package you can get.

With this one, we actually had to go with a fairly boring lens package for it, the Sigma series, which are great lenses, but they don't have a lot of character. We had to go with that specifically, because we knew of the just ridiculous amount of effects work that was going to be done on this project, because of all this. I think we clocked in somewhere around 540 something effect shots, and half of them are split screens of Sam. It's like, "All right, picking the right package for that."

But that's the wrong place to save money. What's the best camera you have access to? That one. Assuming you have a DP who knows how to operate it, because you can create a whole bunch of different problems for yourself.

Save money on the catering, not the camera.

Felicia Day: No, wrong, wrong. Use an iPhone, and get good burritos.

NFS: It sounds like you probably were in a lot of makeup and prosthetics, but was that for the practical effects? I don't know your characters, because I haven't seen it yet.

Sam Dunning: There is a point at which I do have, that's not... it was mostly contacts and a wig.

Stimson Snead: We went out of our way to not alter his look between the Tims more than we had to. Because we would have these scenes, where you'll have 9 to 10 him on camera. It's already a nightmare keeping track of whose who, as it is, and each one of them does have a name tag, which is not random. You can actually track each Tim throughout the film, if you're being eagle eyed about the name tags.

Felicia Day: Wow.

Stimson Snead: We labeled them. But it would've been... the closest we got to altering their appearance is we had Sam, depending on the Tim it was, he would make minor adjustments to how that particular Tim would wear his clothing. One Tim, for example, who is the most asshole-y, always has his collar popped and his sleeves rolled up. Later on, just as a nod to that, there's a bit where another Tim is starting to act like the asshole-y Tim, and Sam signified it with him rolling up his sleeves, in that moment.

Felicia Day: Oh, wow.

NFS: Are there also multiple Felicias, not just multiple Sams?

Felicia Day: I'm not going to spoil anything. I do get to scream really loud, which everybody was complimenting me after that, and it seemed like to be the height of my performance. I don't know if that really reflects on my abilities, but you take it where you can get it.

NFS: Yeah. That's cool. Danny Trejo is also in the film.

Stimson Snead: He is.

NFS: And Keith David, that's cool.

Stimson Snead: Oh, my god. Keith David's one of those people where when I met him, we gave him this tour around set. He actually has this very lovely soft speaking voice, and I was in the room when he switched into acting mode. I had to take a step back. He shook the foundations of the building with his voice.

I had a good 40 minutes to an hour of just talking to him, so it took me off guard when it happened. Holy shit.

Sam Dunning: The funniest was whenever you'd get him to laugh about anything. You'd say something to him, he was, "Ha, ha."

Felicia Day: It was. It was large.

NFS: I'd normally do this closer to the end, but I don't want to run out of time, and I want to give everyone a chance to say their take. But I always like to ask the question, "What's your advice to filmmakers?"

Sam Dunning: My advice to filmmakers, well, as someone who went to film school and got absolutely nothing out of it, don't do it. Just make a movie.

I'd say, I mean, I got into making things, because I was an actor and I wasn't getting the roles that I wanted. My advice usually goes to other actors who are feeling beholden to the industry, but I think it's the same for filmmakers, especially if somebody's waiting for a directorial project, or something like that. It's like, don't fucking wait. Just go fucking make something. It doesn't matter what it is, just do it.

Because the only reason I am on this movie, is because I made a short, because I was tired of waiting around for roles. This man saw it, at a tiny little first year festival that there was more people on our panel than there were in the fucking crowd. He was like, "This is the guy to play Tim in my short that I wrote," and now we're here. It's just like, that's my advice. It doesn't matter if you're neck, or doesn't matter what part of the field you're in, just make stuff, because you never know where it's going to launch you to.

Felicia Day: I mean, that's great advice. I mean, I'm here the same way. I wasn't getting the roles I wanted, and I started making web series back in the day, and it really was my excuse to make television, that no one else would let me make. Right? I guess given that is my background, I would say the best thing a filmmaker can do is to put themselves in everybody's shoes, like work on another short as Kraft service, work on another short as a DP, work on a short as an actor. That's going to give you a lot of empathy for the process, and be able to let you see everything from everybody's point of view, and make you a better leader. I think everything trickles down from the person who has that vision, and yeah, it's really important to get your vision out, but you have to be sympathetic to everybody in your filmmaking, but also in your writing.

As a woman, I have a lot of auditions that I turned down, because I'm just like, "This is trash. This guy obviously doesn't think of women as people." I think half the time it's just not putting themselves in somebody they consider, others', shoes. When you're writing, you're already creating roles. Put yourself in the mindset of the cashier, and the girlfriend. Is it fun? Is this a real person?

That empathy behind the camera, before it's even rolling, I think it really goes a long way, and it makes you understand yourself as an artist more, too.

Stimson Snead : Yeah, I love that you took that actually into writing advice as well with empathy, because honestly, I'm just going to be echoing the two of them for this. Don't wait for permission, because no one is going to give you permission, and unless you've got some insider connection, you're probably never going to get it. Just find a way to do it. One of the traps I would avoid, is don't wait for someone to tell you you're talented enough, or good enough, because a bad movie that exists is better than a perfect film that doesn't exist, and if you keep at it, you will get better. If you're kind to the people you work with, if you consider yourself lucky to have the opportunity to work with others, even when you're doing the little non-pay projects, people will want to continue working with you, and that can turn into something down the road. Just don't fall into the trap of waiting for outside approval, and definitely don't think you're upgrade, you're a diva.

Felicia Day: Don't be a diva. Yeah, it trickles down. It definitely... both of my assistants I ever had in my career are both executives now, and they've both gotten me jobs, because I'm nice to them. I was nice. I treated them like people. I'm like, "Woo, I passed the test." A lot of people probably wouldn't. You never know.

Stimson Snead: That actually has a lot to do with how we got Felicia on this, actually. One of the main reasons I was able to reach out to talent of her caliber, was I had this phenomenal casting director named Ronnie Yeskel, who did films like Pulp Fiction .

Felicia Day: She's amazing.

Stimson Snead: Oh my god, the woman's a legend. The only reason she was willing to help me out, I interned for her back in the day, as an unpaid intern.

Felicia Day: Oh, my gosh, I didn't know that. That's a great story.

Stimson Snead: We became friends, and eventually she had me stop interning. I just started being her script reader, to filter out bad projects that would come across her desk.

When I knew it was time to do this film, it's like part of one of the things of casting directors is they serve as a filter to make sure it's... so agents know that it's not a complete lunatic reaching out to their talent.

I was able to call Ronnie and say, "Hey, I'm ready to do this. Can you help me out?"

Felicia Day: Yeah, I mean, yeah, and that does come from a point of privilege, in that you have to be able to afford not to work, and I realize that too. When sometimes I give advice, I'm like, "Well, you just make what you want." I'm like, "Some people have... are barely paying rent." I get it. But you have to find what's in yourself, and what you can do for free, to give yourself the tools to at least take a step. Because every step will lead to something.

Stimson Snead: To touch on that note, I've got to say the biggest piece of advice, I would say, be rich.

Felicia Day: Yes. Absolutely. Independent wealth is the best.

Sam Dunning: I can't wait to be rich, so I can make all the stuff I want, or just not do that.

Stimson Snead: That's my number one piece of advice. Be rich, it will figure itself out.

Felicia Day: It really will. That's the best advice ever.

Sam Dunning: Akin to Paris Hilton's just be hot.

Felicia Day: Be hot and rich. If you can be hot and rich, why are you reading this website?

Stimson Snead: Are you getting it kids?

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  • The Video Essay

So you want to make a video essay...

The video essay: how-to, featured video essays.

  • Copyright & Fair Use
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Additional Resources

Academic Journals

  • in[Transition] : The first open access, peer-reviewed journal on videographic criticism
  • AUDIOVISUALCY: Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies : An online forum for video essays or works of audovisual screen studies that have an analytical, critical, reflexive or scholarly purpose; fully attribute all sources used; are made according to Fair Use principles; are non-commercial in nature.

Video Essay Channels

  • Every Frame a Painting  
  • Indietrix Film Reviews
  • 100 Years of Cinema  
  • Channel Criswell  
  • Lindsay Ellis

Library Guides

  • Tufts University Library: Multimedia Production
  • Edith Cowan University Library: The Video Essay
  • Pace University Library: Film Criticism

What is a video essay ?

Christian Keathley, a Professor of Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College & co-founder of in[Transition], defines video essays as

“short critical essays on a given film or filmmaker, typically read in voice-over by the author and supplemented with carefully chosen and organized film clips”

Video essays have found incresased popularity in recent years on digital content sharing platforms like YouTube & Vimeo. Despite their scholarly-focused and argument-driven nature, video essays have since been associated with (and mistaken for) other popular forms of commentary (e.g. movie commentaries, reaction videos, online fan-edits, etc.) shared on the same platforms. The two do have similarities in their accessibility and utilize the same set of creative tools and texhniques. However, the video essay in its academic form does follow certain conventions (a written critical component from the author, scholarly research, and peer review), as opposed to popular commentaries. 

Video essays as a medium are an important audivisual form of scholarship, particularly in terms of expression, creation, and accessibility. Traditional essays may not always lend themselves to the fullest expression of film and how we interpret/analyze visual images. As students of film and media studies, it is important to both understand the medium from a critical point of view, as well as from a creative point of view. 

  • Planning & Preparation
  • Gathering Materials & Filming
  • Editing & Sharing
  • Understanding File Formats

So you've been assigned a video essay for class, or you want to make one on your own...

Where do you start? Like any other form of traditional essay, you will begin by Developing A Topic , whether it's a persuasive argument, a narrative story, or a research question. If you’re telling a story, think about good elements of narrative. If you’re making an argument in your video essay, think about the elements of making an effective argument. If you're drafting a research question, make sure to be specific and answer the following: who?, what?, where?, when?, why?, and how?

For more information about developing a topic or researcj question, please check out the following resources: 

  • Pace Library Guide: The Research Process, Step-By-Step
  • Pace Library Guide: Getting Started with Research

Once you have a well-developed topic and/or research question, then you can Create an Outline and Write a Script for your video essay. Utilizing your background research, evidence from whichever piece(s) of media you are analyzing/discussing, and your own arguments/interpretations of that media, you can build an outline and write a basic script to refer to when filmming and/or recording your video essay. This script will especially be important if you plan to record a voiceover. 

For more information about how to write a script/create an outline, please check out the following resources: 

  • Excelsior Online Writing Lab: Video Essays
  • How To Make A Video Essay: Writing   by  Indietrix Film Reviews

Now, you've got your script and you're ready to start gathering materials (scenes, images, audio, etc.) to edit into your video essay.  The best place to capture images is always  from a high-resolution DVD, Blue-ray, or video file. 

There are a couple of different places you can acquire these files. Of course, you can always invest in your own copies of the physical media. This is the best (and most ethical ) way to get high quality images, video, and footage.

Should you wish to do a screen capture, you can use platforms like Camtasia or Clip Converter to record images or footage directly from your screen. These aren't always the most ethical means to record footage, so if you choose to do so, be sure to consult Fair Use Guidelines before doing so. For this process, you will also likely need a DVD Drive, whether external or internal. Having one that can read DVDs and Blu-rays is a plus! Resoruces for how to do these technical processes are included below. 

Before you actually aquire any footage or media for your video essay, it's important to weigh the ethical considerations (i.e. Fair Use & Copyright Law) no matter what the media is or your intention to use it. 


  • How To Make A Video Essay: Footage and Voiceover   from  Indietrix Film Reviews  
  • How To Make Video Essays:  This video is especially helpful in terms of the technology of filming and recording voiceovers for video essays, less so the other aspects of video essay production. 
  • Camtasia: Screen Capture & Recording Tutorials

As for finding stock photos or images to use that are in the Public Domain , check out this well-curated list of public domain image libraries, websites, and archives at the Tufts University Library Multimedia Production Resource Guide . 

Use editing software and experiment with available functionality to enhance and support your argument. Add a voice-over, sound effects, music and other aspects of multimodality. Be sure to include references and credits to all sources used in creating the video essay. 

For more information on editing video essays, please check out the following resources: 

  • How to Make a Video Essay: Editing by  Indietrix Film Reviews
  • Vimeo: Editing Basics

When creating, saving, uploading, and sharing video essays, it's important to have a basic understanding of digitail file formats, for videos, audio, and images. 

Linked below are some resources (websites, videos, & infographics) to help you learn how to navigate each file format and learn their best uses. It's likely you'll become aware of and proficient at most of this as you move through your Film & Screen Studies coursework, so think of these resources as a brief introduction to the topic and/or as little reminders for you to refer to in the future. 


  • Portable Moving Images: A Media History of Storage  Formats  by Ricardo Cedeño Montaña
  • Images on the Move: Materiality - Networks -  Formats   Editor: Olga Moskatova

Blog Posts: 

  • Understanding Video File Formats, Codecs and Containers by Andy Owen at TechSmith
  • Video Formats – Meaning, types and everything you should know   by  Akeem Okunola at InEvent
  • Image file formats: When to Use Each File Type   by Samual Lundquist at 99Designs

Other Resources: 

  • Introduction to Digital Format Preservation, The Library of Congress

how to get movie footage for video essay

Image Credit: WonderShare, "Top 9 Video Formats You May Want to Know In 2023." 

The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism from Ian Garwood on Vimeo .

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Visual Rhetoric

Video essay resource guide.

PAR 102 (M-Th, 9 AM- 5 PM) Fine Arts Library Media Lab (same hours as FAL) PCL Media Lab (same hours as PCL)

About video essays

What are they.

“The video essay is often described as a form of new media, but the basic principles are as old as rhetoric: the author makes an assertion, then presents evidence to back up his claim. Of course it was always possible for film critics to do this in print, and they’ve been doing it for over 100 years, following more or less the same template that one would use while writing about any art form: state your thesis or opinion, then back it with examples. In college, I was assured that in its heart, all written criticism was essentially the same – that in terms of rhetorical construction, book reviews, music reviews, dance reviews and film reviews were cut from the same cloth, but tailored to suit the specific properties of the medium being described, with greater emphasis given to form or content depending on the author’s goals and the reader’s presumed interest.”

Matt Zoller Seitz on the video essay .

what makes a good video essay? 

Tony Zhou on how to structure a video essay

Kevin B. Lee on what makes a video essay “ great “

why should we use them? what are their limits?

Kevin B. Lee’s  experimental/artistic pitch for video essays

Kevin B. Lee’s mainstream pitch for video essay

“Of all the many developments in the short history of film criticism and scholarship, the video essay has the greatest potential to challenge the now historically located text-based dominance of the appraisal and interpretation of film and its contextual cultures…”

Andrew McWhirter argues that t he video essay has significant academic potential in the Fall 2015 issue of  Screen

“Importantly, the [new] media stylo does not replace traditional scholarship. This is a new practice beyond traditional scholarship. So how does critical media differ from traditional scholarship and what advantages does it offer? First, as you will see with the works in this issue, critical media demonstrates a shift in rhetorical mode. The traditional essay is argumentative-thesis, evidence, conclusion. Traditional scholarship aspires to exhaustion, to be the definitive, end-all-be-all, last word on a particular subject. The media stylo, by contrast, suggests possibilities-it is not the end of scholarly inquiry; it is the beginning. It explores and experiments and is designed just as much to inspire as to convince…”

Eric Fadden’s “ A Manifesto for Critical Media “

the web video problem

Adam Westbrook’s “ The Web-Video Problem: Why It’s Time to Rethinking Visual Storytelling from the Bottom Up “

Video essayists and venues

Matt Zoller Seitz (various venues) A writer and director by trade, Zoller Seitz is nonetheless probably best known as a prominent American cultural critic.  He’s made over 1000 hours of video essays and is generally recognized as a founder of the video essay movement in high-brow periodicals.  A recognized expert on Wes Anderson, Zoller Seitz is also notable because he often mixes other cinematic media (especially television) into his analysis, as in the above example, which doubles as an experiment in the absence of voiceover.

carol glance

Various contributors, Press Play Co-founded by Matt Zoller Seitz and Ken Cancelosi,  Press Play  (published by Indiewire)   is one of the oldest high-brow venues for video essays about television, cinema, and other aspects of popular culture.

Various contributors, Keyframe   (A Fandor online publication) Fandor’s video essay department publishes work from many editors (what many video essayists call themselves) on and in a range of topics and styles.  Check it out to get an idea of all that things a video essay can do!

fantastic mr fox

Various contributors, Moving Image Source A high-brow publication for video essays.

Tony Zhou, Every Frame a Painting The master of video essays on filmic form, Tony’s arguments are clean, simple, and well-evidenced.  Look to Tony as an example of aggressive and precise editing and arrangement.  He’s also an excellent sound editor–pay attention to his choices and try out some of his sound-mixing techniques in your essay.

Adam Johnston, Your Movie Sucks (YMS) Although an excellent example of epideictic film rhetoric, this channel is a great example of what  not  to do in this assignment (write a movie review, gush about how good/bad you think a movie is, focus on motifs or narrative content instead of  film form  as the center of your argument).  What you  can  learn from Adam is a lot about style.  Adam’s delivery, pacing, and editing all work together to promote a mildly-disinterested-and-therefore-credible ethos through a near-monotone, which I’ll affectionately dub the “Daria” narratorial ethos.

Adam Westbrook, Adam Westbrook is part of an emerging group of professional video essayists and is his version of a visual podcast.  Using the video essay form, Adam has developed a professional public intellectual ethos for himself through skillful overlay of explanation/interpretation and concept.  Check out Westbrook’s work as a really good example of presenting and representing visual concepts crucial to an argument.  He’s a master at making an argument in the form of storytelling, and he uses the video essay as a vehicle for that enterprise.

:: kogonada (various venues) If you found yourself wondering what the auteur video essay might look like, :: kogonada is it.  I like to call this “expressionist” video essay style.  Kogonada is the ultimate minimalist when it comes to voiceover/text over–its message impossibly and almost excessively efficient.  Half of the videos in his library are simple, expertly-executed supercuts , highlighting how heavily video essays rely on the “supercut” technique to make an argument.  Crafting an essay in this style really limits your audience and may not be a very good fit for the constraints of assignment (very “cutting edge,” as we talked about it in class), but you will probably draw inspiration from ::kogonada’s distinct, recognizable style, as well as an idea of what a video essay can do at the outer limits of its form.

Lewis Bond,  Channel Criswell Narrating in brogue-y Northern English, Bond takes his time, releasing a very carefully-edited, high-production video essay once every couple of months.  He’s a decent editor, but I feel his essays tend to run long, and I feel rushed by his narration at times.  Bond also makes a useful distinction between video essays and analysis/reviews on his channel–and while most of his analysis/reviews focus on film content (what you don’t want to imitate), his video essays stay pretty focused on film technique (what you do).  Hearing the same author consciously engage in two different modes of analysis might help you better understand the distinction between the two, as well.

Jack Nugent,  Now You See It Nugent’s brisk, formal analysis is both insightful and accessible–a good example of what it takes to secure a significant following in the highly-competitive Youtube marketplace.  [That’s my way of slyly calling him commercial.] Nugent is especially good at pairing his narration with his images.  Concentrate and reflect upon his simple pairings as you watch–how does Nugent help you process both sets of information at the pacing he sets?

Evan Puschak, The Nerdwriter Nerdwriter  is a great example the diversity of topics a video essay can be used to craft an argument about.  Every week, Puschak publishes an episode on science, art, and culture.  Look at all the different things Puschak considers visual rhetoric and think about how he’s using the video essay form to make honed, precisely-executed arguments about popular culture.

Dennis Hartwig and John P. Hess,  FilmmakerIQ Hartwig and Hess use video essays to explain filmmaking technique to aspiring filmmakers.  I’ve included the channel here as another example of what  not  to do in your argument, although perhaps some of the technical explanations that Hartwig and Hess have produced might help you as secondary sources.  Your target audience (someone familiar on basic film theory trying to better understand film form) is likely to find the highly technical, prescriptive arguments on FilmIQ boring or alienating. Don’t focus on technical production in your essay (how the film accomplishes a particular visual technique using a camera); rather, focus on how the audience interprets the end result in the film itself; in other words, focus on choices the audience can notice and interpret–how is the audience interpreting the product of production?  How often is the audience thinking about/noticing production in that process?

Kevin B. Lee (various venues) A good example of the older, high-brow generation of video essayists, Kevin’s collection of work hosted on his Vimeo channel offers slow, deliberate, lecture-inspired readings of film techniques and form.  Note the distinct stylistic difference between Kevin’s pacing and someone like Zhou or Lewis.  How does delivery affect reception?

Software Guides

How to access Lynda tutorials (these will change your life)

Handbrake and MakeMKV  (file converters)

Adobe Premiere  (video editing)

Camtasia  (screen capture)

File management

Use your free UTBox account to upload and manage your files.  Make sure you’ve got some sort of system for tracking and assembling everything into your video editing software.   UTBox has a 2 terabyte limit (much higher than Google Drive) and is an excellent file management resource for all sorts of academic work.

Adobe Premiere saves versions with links to your video files, so it’s imperative that you keep your video files folder in the same place on every machine you open it up on.  That’s why I keep all my video files in a big folder on box that I drop on the desktop of any machine I’m working on before I open my premiere files.  The Adobe Premiere project walkthrough  has more details on this.

Where to find video and how to capture it

About fair use . Make sure your composition complies with the Fair Use doctrine and familiarize yourself with the four criteria.

The best place to capture images is always from a high-resolution DVD or video file .  The first place you should go to get the film is the library– see instructions for searching here .

To import the video and audio from your DVD or video file into your video editing software (like Premiere), you will first need to use a software to convert it to an .mkv.  See instructions on how to do that here .

Camtasia tutorials .  Camtasia is a program that allows you to capture anything that’s going on on your screen .  This is a critical tool for this assignment as you decide what kind of interface you want to present to your reader in your video essay.  Camtasia also allows you to capture any high-quality video playing on your desktop without licensing restrictions.

You can also use Clip Converter to capture images and sound from pre-existing YouTube videos , and it may be a little faster and easier than Camtasia.   I suggest converting things into .mkv before putting them into your video editor, regardless of where you get the material from.

Film theory and criticism

  • /r/truefilm’s reading and viewing guide

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Scripting Video Essays: How to Write a Great Narrative

There are many ways in which you can write video essays. Some have argued that video essays are a new trend in the world of creative writing. There is so much emphasis on developing a story from visuals, photographs, videos, and music to tell an enduring tale or lesson in this day and age. 

So, if you want to join the video essay bandwagon as an artist, expert, researcher, or student, you must know how to write them first before creating them.

Writing a narrative video essay is a great way to share your ideas with the world. Narrative essays let you not only say something meaningful but also show it. A good narrative video essay is also about the art of visual storytelling.

But first, if you are wondering what exactly is a video essay. Let’s address it first.

What is a Video Essay?

A video essay is a form of a documentary-like video narrative film using film footage, video clips, and graphics to discuss an issue or topic. Academics and artists can typically use video essays to discuss their research. 

In addition to blog posts and magazine articles, video essays are a new type of storytelling in the digital world. They take one idea and meticulously construct a narrative on how it came to be, how it’s been used/applied, or what it means.

video essay script

In its most popular form (one person talking head), a video essay is made up of between 3-7 minutes in length and usually presents one concept or topic.

It often looks at a film and demonstrates how it is engaging in meaning or does not. The video essay can also emphasize the acts performed by actors or directors, such as performance, staging, and editing techniques.

But today, it is not fixated to film subjects only.  You can also expand your visual stories about anything under the sun like history, politics, science, technology, etc. Just choose an idea and proceed with your essay writing.

Here is an excellent example of the best video essays –  Example: Best Video Essays by Vox

How do you Create a Narrative in your Video Essay?

To create a compelling video essay, you must know how to write an essay with a video component to produce a compelling story. A good video essay should have the following qualities:

  • It should be insightful, thought-provoking, or informative.
  • It should be argumentative and practice critical thinking
  • It should be visual, formal, and well-structured.
  • It should help the viewer understand and appreciate a topic/situation from various angles.
  • It should inspire viewers through findings, vocabulary, and plot.

The best video essays also use candid footage and demonstrate the use of nonfiction or documentary filmmaking techniques . And the main reason why people gravitate towards narrative essays is that they let you show your ideas visually to your viewers.

How to Write a Video Essay Script?

Many people are starting to make video essays as a way of presenting their own thoughts and experiences. The problem is that these videos do not have any actual narration, leaving the viewer lost trying to understand what’s happening.

But to write a grand narrative, you must follow the following stages:

how to come up with short film ideas

Brainstorming ideas is the first stage. At this stage, you should list a few interesting concepts in an organized way. You may want to use the topic form like: “A Case for Video Essays” or “How to Create a Story Using Text and Images?” So, while ideating, follow these:

  • Begin by picking a topic ( mostly what you are passionate about).
  • Think about your point of view and audience. 
  • Set up the background and context for your essay or story (the “what”). 
  • Reveal the turning point in your story (the “why”). 
  • Provide evidence to support your account of events (the “where”) 
  • Discuss how the incident relates to broader social concerns (the “what now?”).

Research is the next stage of writing a video essay. The moment you decide to make a video essay, you should have enough information about the topic. The more information and research you do in the ideation stage, the easier it will be for you as a writer and speaker to share your knowledge with the audience. Research may include:

  • Finding out facts from books, interviews, or research papers.
  • Finding out relevant video footage of the person, place, or event.
  • Getting access to the video footage of a particular event (e.g., presidential speeches).
  • Find audio or video files on the Internet and transcribe them into text format (e.g., podcasts, interviews).

Because the video essay is still relatively new, there are no definitive rules about structure and genre for these films.  But still, we should adhere to some basic rules while constructing the script structure. Your structure is the most crucial stage for a crackling narrative. 

how to come up with short film ideas

The essentials of a great narrative essay structure are as follows :

  • First, create a rough outline from your research material.
  • Think about a compelling opening line with a single line answer to the question of the essay
  • Begin with questions, then answer in a way to create an argument.
  • The Argument then leads to the next question.
  • The emotion and Tone of the script should be formal, thought-provoking, insightful, and informative, supported by relevant visual reference.
  • The essay must represent a single point of view.
  • But it should be a well-reasoned perspective.
  • It must have the writer or creator’s personal touch.
  • Good writing is about the economy of words articulated to the point.
  • Don’t forget to mention the What is the Takeaway for the audience.
  • Don’t make it lengthy. Video essays are also about documenting or reviewing videos. So the script should not eat it all.
  • Once you have structured the script, go back to the beginning and review your work.

Once you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, read it out loud and find the rhythm in the story. Is it telling the theme visually?  Rewrite and get the tone right. Your first few scripts may not be satisfactory. Don’t worry about that. It is a learning process.


Now, once you have gotten all the ideas into a script, you will be eager to write the final draft. At this stage, make sure to follow the following tips:

  • Make sure every line is comprehensible so that viewers can easily understand your point of view without missing anything important in it.
  • Proofread and make sure that you don’t leave any unfinished work or broken sentences in the video essay structure.
  • Check the length of the video essay and make sure to follow the minimum requirements.
  • Once you are done with the script, check for the formatting of your work.
  • Spend extra time on a great narration that helps explain your content effectively and concisely.
  • Get a clear idea about what you want to say so that you know what kind of images to use in the final draft of your essay and how they should be arranged.
  • Conclude the essay by providing the audience with everything they need to know about your subject.

For a compelling narrative, the first thing to do is identify what makes the story you are trying to tell unique and why an audience wants to learn about it.

Related Question:

Are Video Essays Popular Today?

Though the concept was coined in the mid-1990s, it has only become popular in the last five years or so. As of now, a considerable amount of video essays and short films are uploaded on Youtube. Some have even garnered millions of views.  The prominent mentions are the Nerdwriter, and Every Frame is a Painting.

check out – Best Video Essays of last year

How Long Does a Video Essay Take to Write?

If you are writing a long video essay, it can take you a considerable amount of time. However, if you aim to create a short film covering one event, it can be done in a day or two. 

But, you may take time if you don’t have the research material in your hand. 

Final words:

The video essay became popular because it is a way to engage with the writer rather than just “watching” them talk about something. But, to make a great narrative, you have to research a lot and put in your best efforts. 

We hope this write-up has helped you create a great video essay. Happy writing!

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The Audiovisual Essay

The Audiovisual Essay

Practice and Theory in Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies

HOW-TO VIDEO ESSAYS by Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross

how to get movie footage for video essay


By Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross

If you have never done any video work before it may seem intimidating at first but you will find it easier than you think if you work through the following steps. Seek help if you get stuck (Google is often a quick solution).

Getting started

  • Ideally just one sentence;
  • Write this down, keep referring to it and don’t be afraid of modifying it as you go through the whole process.
  • voice-over ( )?
  • text+image ( )?
  • supercut ( )?
  • Don’t try to create something too complicated. Start with simple ideas and gather limited material at the beginning until you are confident that you can add more.

Collecting material

  • Remember not to go overboard at the beginning as it is easy to download multiple files. Think about what you need to start the project and add more later.
  • There are some online guides to ripping DVDs using readily available software: ;
  • This can be a tricky area, particularly as some DVDs with greater level of encryption might be harder to rip than others. If you are not confident in this area stick to the other options for gathering material.
  • Try to cut down ripped files into sections that you will need. If not you will be working with very big files that may overload your editing software.
  • If you can play a film on your computer then you can grab still images from it.
  • On a PC. Press PrtScn and then find somewhere you want to paste the image (ie. image editing software). Press Ctrl+V. If you have captured the whole computer screen you may need to crop the image.
  • On a Mac. Press Command+Shift+3. This will save the image to your desktop. If you have captured the whole computer screen you may need to crop the image.
  • If you don’t have a microphone available, look at your phones and your computer to see if they have a voice/sound recording option.
  • Think about who will provide the voice. Make sure whoever does so is comfortable with their voice being used in this way.
  • One DIY solution is to use your phone to film material when it plays on a TV or other device. This will create low quality images but is an option if all else fails.
  • Use your academic skills to find quotes, factual statements and citations you might incorporate
  • Although the footage and images you are working with don’t have to be HD, they should be clearly visible when blown up to full screen size
  • When working in groups decide who is gathering what material and make sure this workload is distributed evenly.
  • Some of this material will take up a lot of space. Make sure you have designated folders available, that you label your material carefully so you know what it is and that you have a plan for backing-up this work.

Editing material

  • If you have not used this editing software before, familiarise yourself with it and do a short practice run.
  • If you are familiar with other editing software you can use it.
  • Feel free to experiment with split screens, diagrams and text but don’t over do it.
  • If you are including a voice over you will need to decide if you do the voice over first and edit the visual material to match the voice over or if you organise the visual material first and then create a voice-over to match it. Neither way is better than the other and there will be some to and fro between the two options.
  • Include a bibliography/filmography of sources used at the end of the video
  • If this is an academic piece that will be assessed in an academic context aim for a formal rather than colloquial/funny style.

Post-first draft

  • Add colour filters
  • Swap a voice-over for text screens and vice-versa
  • Return to your original argument. Have you made a clear and obvious argument in the video essay?
  • Test playback. Check the video will play okay on different computers/television screens.

The How-to Guides as PDFs

  • GUIDE A: Downloading Audiovisual Content
  • GUIDE B: Editing your Own Content
  • GUIDE C: Creating a Mash Up
  • GUIDE D: Sharing your Work
  • GUIDE E: Extra Software
  • How-to Video Essays [as PDF]

Copyright information

The above and linked to information, where it pertains to the use of copyright material, is shared under the understanding that  Fair Use or Fair Dealing  legal exceptions are generally established—for educational, critical and private research purposes—in many, if not all, national jurisdictions. These exceptions have also been supported and successfully defended by a number of prominent professional academic associations including the Society for Cinema and Media Studies . Readers or users of this information will need to ensure for themselves that they obey the laws of the legal territories in which they live. Neither the authors nor REFRAME , University of Sussex, will accept any liability for actions readers or users freely choose to take.

The authors and copyright holders of the above text and linked PDFs— Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross —have shared their work under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence.  CC BY-SA. February 2015.

  • TEXT: Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross
  • GUIDE Design: Greer Fyfe

Biographical Note

Miriam Ross is Senior Lecturer in the Film Programme at Victoria University of Wellington. She is the author of South American Cinematic Culture: Policy, Production, Distribution and Exhibition (2010) and 3D Cinema: Optical Illusions and Tactile Experiences (2015).

Greer Fyfe is a Research Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington.

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The Video Essay As Art: 11 Ways to Make a Video Essay

Part one in a series of commissioned pieces on video essay form, originally published at Fandor Keyframe.

how to get movie footage for video essay

This feature piece, the first in an ongoing series, was originally published by Fandor Keyframe in May 2016. You can read the other pieces in this series here .

When you think of the video essay, you might imagine someone expressing their love of a movie over a selection of clips, a compilation of a famous director’s signature shots, or a voice that says: “Hi, my name is Tony.” But these are just a few of a remarkable variety of approaches to making videos exploring film and media, a diversity of forms that is continually evolving and expanding. Here’s an attempt to account for some of the more recognizable modes of video essay, with key examples for each.

Supercut . A collection of images or sounds arranged under a category (i.e. Jacob T. Swinney’s wonderful The Dutch Angle ) or used to break down a film to a set of elements (i.e. Zackery Ramos-Taylor’s recent Hearing Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Joel Bocko’s The Colors of Daisies ). The supercut is usually very short and lacks text so as to maximize its impact on a visual level. This brevity of form emphasizes a central concept more than a narrative argument. If a supercut has an argument to make, it is typically in the order in which items are sequenced.

Personal Review . This broad category of video essay hinges on a strongly personalized account of a film. Scout Tafoya’s recurring series The Unloved is a prominent example of this, wherein he makes the claim that each film he focuses on is underappreciated and then asserts their qualities through visual analysis. The best of these, in my opinion, is his video on Michael Mann’s Public Enemies :

Vlog . While similar to the personal review, the vlog differs strongly in mode of presentation. There is a greater focus on direct address of the viewers, and on delivering opinion rather than analysis. They’re often played up for comedic entertainment value and feature a lot of voiceover or footage of the editor themselves. Chez Lindsay’s video on Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera is a sprawling, informative, funny journey through theater and cinema history that in many respects encompasses elements of the video essay but first and foremost is grounded in a personal perspective. Outside of film, the work Jon Bois does at SB Nation in his series Pretty Good would also fall under this category (his latest, on character types in 24 , is very much worth the watch). The popular YouTube series CinemaSins would also fall under this category, which relies moreso on personal nit-picking than film analysis.

Scene Breakdown . A visually-driven close reading of a scene (or many scenes in one film) that leans heavily on explaining film form and technique. Tony Zhou is especially skilled at this, and his scene breakdowns often come nestled in a video about many scenes, like his look at ensemble staging in Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder or the approach to staging a fight scene in his video Jackie Chan—How to Do Action Comedy :

Shot Analysis . A cousin of the supercut and scene breakdown, though more analytical in nature than the former, the shot analysis dissects a shot or a repeated type of shot. Josh Forrest’s engaging video on the insert shot in David Fincher’s Zodiac is not shot analysis in and of itself; it’s more of a supercut. David Chen’s Edgar Wright and the Art of Close-Ups , on the other hand, is definitely a shot analysis, turning its compilation structure into a video essay by virtue of its director’s commentary track (which we might call the DVD-era ancestor of the video essay):

Structural Analysis . To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, these videos look at a film’s story shape, seeking to uncover hidden meaning or a subtextual emphasis by viewing the film as a collection of scenes rather than necessarily a plot or narrative. Kevin B. Lee’s Between the Lines: THE DAY HE ARRIVES is one of the best videos in this field, comparing repeated scenes in Hong Sang-soo’s film to reveal the film’s playful interpretation of time passing. One of my video essays for Fandor last year, Containing the Madness: George A. Romero’s THE CRAZIES , was an attempt to engage with this mode of video essay:

Side-by-side Analysis . Not a supercut, not yet a shot analysis. The side-by-side is a fascinating form of the video essay pushed by essayists like Cristina Álvarez Lopez, Catherine Grant ( All That Pastiche Allows ) and, in recent months, Davide Rapp, which finds meaning through visual comparison of two or more film clips in real-time. In What is Neorealism? , kogonada brilliantly employs the side-by-side comparison to reflect on the ideological and creative differences between Vittorio de Sica and David O. Selznick in the cutting of the same picture.

Side-by-sides with voiceover narration are relatively rare. Álvarez, Grant and Rapp tend to let viewers interpret the footage on their own. Rapp’s series of videos under the Seeing Double and Seeing Triple moniker place sequences from films and their various remakes side-by-side and implicitly address not only specific but generational aesthetic and narrative priorities. A particularly illuminating video in this collection is his look at Michael Haneke’s two versions of Funny Games :

Recut . The line between video essay and video art is blurred when we look at the imaginative re-purposing of texts. Filmscalpel’s 12 Silent Men is a good example of this, which was shared as a video essay despite being very similar in form to Vicki Bennett’s work of video art, 4:33: The Movie . Davide Rapp’s enchanting SECRET GATEWAYS (below), where he maps the space of a house in a Buster Keaton short and then moves his virtual camera between each of these rooms, is a more visually-focused re-purposing. I’d count my video essay, The Secret Video Essays of Jenni Olson , as also being a part of this form. It’s worth noting that an imaginative recut does not need to be visual, it can also be conceptual, as in Jeremy Ratzlaff’s Paul Thomas Anderson: A Chronological Timeline . This recut concept also extends to re-purposed marketing materials or film trailers, as seen in The Maze of Susan Lowell by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin, which suggests an alternate cut of The Big Combo with Susan as the protagonist. The very popular YouTube series Honest Trailers would also fall into the category of the recut, as they mimic and parody film trailer form, though their comedic narration-as-criticism does blur the line even more.

Subject Essay . These videos typically tell a story to explore a filmmaker’s (or actor’s, cinematographer’s, etc.) body of work, an era of filmmaking or a recurring motif in a lot of films, incorporating elements of scene, shot and thematic analysis. For the most part, the better videos in this field seek to educate or inform the viewer about a relatively unknown body of work or period of time. In this vein they teeter on the edge of conventional documentary cinema, like Kevin B. Lee’s Bruce Lee, Before and After the Dragon , and are reminiscent of some of the essay films of Mark Rappaport (whose body of work in and of itself defies easy genre labels). An unconventional example of this, and one of the best video essays of 2015, is Tony Zhou’s Vancouver Never Plays Itself . Another unconventional example, and one which straddles the modes of supercut and shot analysis, is Rishi Kaneria’s brilliant Why Props Matter .

Academic Supplement . When Kevin B. Lee made his refractive video essay What Makes a Video Essay Great? back in 2014, he used an excerpt from Thomas van den Berg’s Reliable Unreliability vs Unreliable Reliability or, Perceptual Subversions of the Continuity Editing System , a chiefly academic piece of video criticism that runs for over half an hour, features lecture-like narration and is grounded in academic and theoretical concepts of cinema. While this video does stand on its own as analysis, when I say supplement I mean that it is supplemental to the academic form. Some of the video works from David Bordwell, which he has termed video lectures, are examples of this form, in spite of what they have in common with shot analysis and filmic survey (in particular, his Constructive Editing in Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket ). Catherine Grant, another academic working in the realm of video essays, has managed to often subvert this expectation that academics making video essays will make supplementary works, turning in some wonderfully imaginative and non-academic videos like her brilliant UN/CONTAINED .

Desktop Video . A recent mode of video arguably born from the metatextual work of Harun Farocki ( Interface in particular), this seeks to present an argument about film within the confines of a computer screen. It’s worth noting that while the visual experience is tethered to a screen, like the recent horror flick Unfriended, it’s often not actually a real-time one-take desktop journey. The defining film in this field (arguably moving beyond the video essay label to become an experimental documentary in its own right) is Kevin B. Lee’s Transformers: The Premake :

As you can see from the various definitions above, the problem with all of these videos standing under the umbrella category of the video essay is that they’re all trying to do different things and aiming for different audiences. Because of this, when any two practitioners talk about what they like in video essays, they may be talking about very different things, not just in terms of content but in what they think the purposes of these videos are. Earlier this month Filmmaker Magazine posted a series of responses to the question What is a Video Essay? and answers ranged from a tool to stimulate better film viewing to a new form of essay filmmaking; and from a means of expressing cinephile obsession to a means of critiquing that same obsession.

On the other hand, what’s certain is that these videos, in their multitude of forms, have become very popular online over the last few years. There are many communities forming in the world of video essays, not just within publishing sites like the one you’re visiting now, but also in the “schools” of approaches taken by like-minded video makers. The mostly straightforward film-analysis approach is a favorite among very popular YouTubers. The academic-minded teaching aide is championed by the online journal [in]Transition. The personal love letter to cinema arises in supercuts and most single-film videos. The miniature essay film floats in and out of categorization, making it one of the most interesting forms of video essay.

Here at Keyframe I’ll be writing about various approaches to the video essay, looking at a wide variety of videos and video essayists and speaking to curators and editors to try to understand just how we got to where we are now. I’ll explore questions such as: why do some supercuts work better than others; when and when not to use voiceover and much more. Join us, won’t you?


Communications: Video Essay

  • Ask for Help
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  • Media Research
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  • General works
  • Methodologies
  • Media analysis
  • Visual methods
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  • CMS/PL 331: Media in the Arab World
  • COM 210: Introduction to Cinema
  • COM 220: Media, Culture and Society
  • COM 221: Writing Across the Media
  • DJRN 221: Introduction to News Reporting and Writing
  • CMS 333: TV After TV
  • CW/DJRN 346: Creative Writing Workshop: Travel Writing

What is a video essay?

A video essay is a short video that illustrates a topic, expresses an opinion and develops a thesis statement based on research through editing video, sound and image.

What is a video essay assignment?

(Source: Morrissey, K. (2015, September). Stop Teaching Software, Start Teaching Software Literacy. Flowjournal . )

It is made of three main elements:

  • Image (filmed footage and found footage)
  • Sound (music and audio)
  • Words (spoken and written)

All of them are linked to your own voice and argument. It is a way to write with video.

  • Guidelines for Video Essay Best Practices Official technical guidelines by Prof. Antonio Lopez.

Video essays about video essays

Why Video Essays are just plain AWESOME by This Guy Edits  on YouTube .

Elements of the Essay Film from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo .

F for Fake (1973) – How to Structure a Video Essay from Tony Zhou on Vimeo .

Sample Video Essays

  • If Educational Videos Were Filmed Like Music Videos by Tom Scott
  • How to Use Color in Film A blog post with multiple video essays about the use of color palettes by multiple great directors.
  • Seed, Image, Ground by Abelardo Gil-Fournier & Jussi Parikka.
  • Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same
  • Top Video Essayists some videos on this page are set to private
  • VideoEssay: A subreddit for analytic videos and supercuts
  • ISIL videos imitate Hollywood and video games to win converts
  • Best Video Essays of 2023
  • Best Video Essays of 2022 by British Film Institute
  • Best Video Essays of 2020 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2019 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2018 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2017 by British Film Institute.
  • Video Essays (Historical) A YouTube playlist of historically important films that helped define the concept of video essays.
  • What Is Neorealism by kogonada.
  • Analyzing Isis' propaganda - Mujatweets by Azza el Masri and Catherine Otayek.
  • Oh dear! by Adam Curtis.
  • Fembot in a Red Dress by Alison De Fren.
  • WHY IS CINEMA: Women Filmmakers? NOT SEXIST, BUT LET'S BE REAL??? by Cameron Carpenter.
  • Women as Reward - Tropes vs Women in Video Games by feministfrequency.
  • Il corpo delle donne (sub eng) by Lorella Zanardo.

Video essays beyond COM

Video essays can be a valuable form of academic production, and they can be brilliant and insightful in many other fields apart from Communications and media studies. Here are some examples that cover all the JCU departments:

  • Lady of Shalott | Art Analysis A look at John William Waterhouse's Pre-Raphaelite painting "The Lady of Shalott".
  • How to ace your MBA video essay The 60-second online video essay is a recent addition to the MBA application process for some business schools.
  • The Last Jedi - Forcing Change An analysis of Finn's and Kylo's narrative arc in Episode VIII of the Star Wars franchise.
  • How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio A simple but not simplistic and easy to follow 30 minute animated video that answers the question.
  • Evolution of the Hero in British Literature This video essay discusses the literary heroes throughout the Anglo-Saxon Period, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Era in British Literature.
  • Fast Math Tricks - How to multiply 2 digit numbers up to 100 - the fast way! An easy video tutorial unveiling some math tricks.
  • Here's why we need to rethink veganism A brief climate change video essay on the environmental impacts of veganism, and how we can reframe going vegan less as a lifestyle and more as an aspiration.
  • Italy on the edge of crisis: Should Europe be worried? Channel 4 discussing the delicate political juncture in Italy (May 2018).
  • International Relations: An Introduction An overview by the London School of Economics and Social Science.

A video is basically a series of still images- each one is called a frame- that play back at a specific  rate . The frame rate (often abbreviated FPS for "frames per second") differs depending on where you are in the world and what you're shooting on.

If you're shooting a movie on celluloid (actual film that needs to be developed) then you are probably shooting at 24fps.

If you are shooting video in Europe then you are probably shooting at 25fps...

...unless you are shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 50fps.

If you're shooting video in the US or Canada then you are probably shooting at 30(29.98)fps...

...unless you're shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 60(59.98)fps...

...or unless you're shooting "cinematic video" at a frame rate of 23.976fps.

***The weird numbers for shooting in the US and Canada stem from the fact that while Europe's 50Hz electrical system operates at 50Hz, the 60Hz electrical system of the US actually operates at 59.98 Hz.***

If you're shooting at a higher frame rate (like 120fps or 250fps) it is probably because you want to play it back at one of these frame rates in order to achieve a slow motion effect.

Video sizes are measured in pixels. Resolution   refers to Width x Height. Here are some common resolutions:

  • FullHD (1080p): 1920 x 1080
  • HD (720p): 1280 x 720
  • 4K (2160p): 3840 x 2160
  • 4K Cinema: 4096 x 2160
  • Standard Defintion (NTSC- US/Canada): 720 x 480
  • Standard Definition (PAL- Europe): 720 x 576
  • VGA: 640 x 360

Types of video essays

1. Supercut

A supercut is a compilation of a large number of (short) film clips, focusing on a common characteristic these clips have. That commonality can be anything: a formal or stylistic aspect, a shared theme or subject matter... 

Supercuts are a staple of fandom, but they can also be used as a form of audiovisual critique: to reveal cinematic tropes, to trace thematic or stylistic constants in a filmmaker’s work and so on.

Examples: ROYGBIV: A Pixar Supercut  or Microsoft Sam's  Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same  or Chloé Barreau's  NON UNA DI MENO - l'8 MARZO sta arrivando!

2. Voiceover based

In this form, analysis is done by combining clips and images with a narrator’s voice that guides the process. This could be done for a variety of video essays styles: scene breakdowns, shot analyses, structural analyses, vlogs, etc. What is common is the integral role of the creator’s voice in advancing the argument.

Example: Tony Zhou’s Jackie Chan—How to Do Action Comedy or David Chen’s Edgar Wright and the Art of Close-Ups .

3. Text/Image/Sound-Based

In this form, analysis is done by combining text, images and sounds without a narrator’s voice to guide the process. Again, this could be done for a variety of video essays styles, but relies much more on editing to advance the argument.

Example: Kevin B. Lee’s Elements of the Essay Film or Catherine Grant’s All That Pastiche Allows Redux .

4. Desktop Films

A desktop film uses the screen of a computer or gadget to serve as the camera and canvas for all of the content of an audiovisual narrative. It can include content from videos, apps, and programs that would be viewable on a screen. It is a screen-based experience that uses the desktop as its primary medium.

Example: Katja Jansen’s Desktop Films ; Kevin B. Lee’s Reading // Binging // Benning .

Descriptions adapted from  Filmscalpel

Resources: background and fundamentals

Best Practices

  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education Also downloadable as a PDF file
  • Streaming: film criticism you can watch by Guy Lodge
  • What is a Video Essay? Creators Grapple with a Definition Paula Bernstein from Filmmaker journal .
  • The Video Essay As Art: 11 Ways to Make a Video Essay by Norman Bateman.
  • Video essay: The essay film – some thoughts of discontent by Kevin B. Lee.
  • Deep Focus - The Essay Film by British Film Institute and Sight & Sound .

Scholarly Websites about Video Essays

  • The Videographic Essay: Practice and Pedagogy
  • Audiovisualcy Video Essays on Vimeo.
  • [In]Transition Journal of Videographic Films and Moving Image Studies.
  • Introductory guide to video essay From the British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council.

Resources: software and how-to

  • How-to video essays by Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross.
  • Media Production Guide by Tisch Library, Tufts University.
  • Video Reactions with OBS (Open Broadcast Software) Part 01 Setting up your scenes
  • Video Reactions with OBS (Open Broadcast Software) Part 02 Recording with OBS


  • Planning and Storyboarding from Royal Roads University Library.
  • Video Essay Script Template


  • Quicktime (cross-platform)
  • Screencast-O-Matic
  • OBS Studio (open source, cross-platform) Open Broadcaster Software
  • Flashback Express (PC only)
  • 5 Free Tools for Creating a Screencast from Mashable.

Downloading and ripping

  • Pasty Software for downloading.
  • Savefrom allows up to 720p downloads of full video, 1080p downloads of video only (no audio). Select “download video in browser” on the site.
  • Y2mate allows up to 1080p video downloads.
  • Jdownloader Software for downloading
  • Handbrake Software for ripping and converting
  • DMA Basics: OBS for Video Essays A tutorial on how to use OBS for Netflix.

Note: Try to to ensure that you download in 720p resolution or higher. Your minimum level of quality should be 480p. If searching on YouTube, you can filter the search results to only show HD or 4K results. Check also the  Find Video   tab of this guide.

Free editing software options

  • DaVinci Resolve (cross-platform) A color grading and non-linear video editing (NLE) application for macOS, Windows, and Linux, incorporating tools from Fairlight (audio production) and Fusion (motion graphics and visual effects that throw shade on After Effects).
  • iMovie (Mac only)
  • Videopad (cross-plaftorm)
  • OpenShot (open source, cross-platform)
  • Shortcut (open source, cross-platform)
  • HitFilm Express (cross-platform)
  • Free Music Archive An interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by the radio station WFMU.
  • SoundCloud SoundCloud is one of the world’s largest music and audio platform and you can search for creative commons music.
  • YouTube Audio Library A library of free music and sound effects by YouTube. Each track is accompanied by information on the use.
  • Sound Image Free music (and more) for your Projects by Eric Matyas. Only requires crediting the author for legal use (see "attribution info" page).
  • Audacity A free and open-source digital audio editor and recording application software. Very useful to trim audio, convert a sample rate, apply a little compression, chop & screw, etc.
  • REAPER A digital audio workstation and MIDI sequencer software. Technically a paid-for platform, its free-trial never ends.

Check also the  Find  Audio Resources  tab of this guide.

Creating credits, copyright and fair use

  • Creating credits for video essays From Digital Design Studio at Tisch Library
  • Fair Use Evaluator
  • YouTube Fair Use Channel
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies Statement on Fair Use
  • Blender A free and open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, motion graphics, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, and computer games.
  • GIMP A free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image manipulation (retouching) and image editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between different image file formats, and more specialized tasks.
  • Inkscape A free and open-source vector graphics editor used to create vector images, primarily in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format.
  • Krita A free and open-source raster graphics editor designed primarily for digital painting and 2D animation. Good for sketching and conceptual art.

Stock footage

For stock footage, please check under the  Find video tab of this guide.

  • Final Cut Pro X Tutorial by JCU Digital Media Lab.
  • Final Cut Pro X Tutorial (PDF)
  • Final Cut Pro X Full Tutorial by David A. Cox
  • Audio Recording Tutorial by JCU Digital Media Lab.
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  • Next: Find Images >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 26, 2024 9:37 AM
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What Is a Video Essay? Definition & Examples Of Video Essays

how to get movie footage for video essay

A video essay consists of a series of videos that collectively, present an in-depth analysis or interpretation of a given subject or topic.

In this way, a video essay can be thought of as a condensed version of a lengthy written article.


What is a video essay.

A video essay is an audio-visual presentation of your thoughts on a topic or text that usually lasts between 5 and 10 minutes long.

It can take the form of any type of media such as film, animation, or even PowerPoint presentations.

The most important thing to remember when creating a video essay is to include voiceover narration throughout the whole project so that viewers feel they are listening in on your thoughts and ideas rather than watching passively.

Video essays are typically created by content creators’ critics to make arguments about cinema, television, art history, and culture more broadly.

Ever wondered how ideas unfold in the dynamic world of video?

That’s where video essays come in.

They’re a compelling blend of documentary and personal reflection, packed into a visually engaging package.

We’ll dive deep into the art of the video essay, a form that’s taken the internet by storm.

In this article, we’ll explore how video essays have revolutionized storytelling and education.

They’re not just a person talking to a camera; they’re a meticulously crafted narrative, often weaving together film footage, voiceover, text, and music to argue and inform.

how to get movie footage for video essay

Stick with us as we unpack the nuances that make video essays a unique and powerful medium for expression and learning.

Components Of A Video Essay

As storytellers and educators, we recognize the intricate elements that comprise a video essay.

Each component is vital for communicating the essay’s message and maintaining the audience’s engagement.

Narrative Structure serves as the backbone of a video essay.

Our crafting of this structure relies on a cinematic approach where the beginning, middle, and end serve to introduce, argue, and explore our ideas.

Film Footage then breathes life into our words.

We handpick scenes from various sources, be it iconic or obscure, to visually accentuate our narrative.

The Voiceover we provide acts as a guide for our viewers.

It delivers our analysis and commentary, ensuring our perspective is heard.

Paired with this is the Text and Graphics segment, offering another layer of interpretation.

We animate bullet points, overlay subtitles, and incorporate infographics to highlight key points.

Our sound design, specifically the Music and Sound Effects , creates the video essay’s atmosphere.

It underscores the emotions we wish to evoke and punctuates the points we make.

This auditory component is as crucial as the visual, as it can completely change the viewer’s experience.

We also pay close attention to the Editing and Pacing .

This ensures our video essays are not only informative but also engaging.

The rhythm of the cuts and transitions keeps viewers invested from start to finish.

In essence, a strong video essay is a tapestry woven with:

  • Narrative Structure – the story’s framework,
  • Film Footage – visual evidence supporting our claims,
  • Voiceover – our distinctive voice that narrates the essay,
  • Text and Graphics – the clarity of our arguments through visual aids,
  • Music and Sound Effects – the emotive undercurrent of our piece,
  • Editing and Pacing – the flow that maintains engagement.

Each element works Along with the others, making our video essays not just informative, but also a cinematic experience.

Through these components, we offer a comprehensive yet compelling way of storytelling that captivates and educates our audience.

The Power Of Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling harnesses the innate human attraction to imagery and narrative.

At its core, a video essay is a compelling form of visual storytelling that combines the rich tradition of oral narrative with the dynamic appeal of cinema.

The impact of visual storytelling in video essays can be profound.

how to get movie footage for video essay

When crafted effectively, they engage viewers on multiple sensory levels – not just audibly but visually, leading to a more immersive and memorable experience.

Imagery in visual storytelling isn’t merely decorative.

It’s a crucial carrier of thematic content, enhancing the narrative and supporting the overarching message.

By incorporating film footage and stills, video essays create a tapestry of visuals that resonate with viewers.

  • Film Footage – Brings concepts to life with cinematic flair,
  • Stills and Graphics – Emphasize key points and add depth to the narrative.

Through the deliberate choice of images and juxtaposition, video essays are able to articulate complex ideas.

They elicit emotions and evoke reactions that pure text or speech cannot match.

From documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth to educational content on platforms like TED-Ed, video essays have proven their capacity to inform and inspire.

Sound design in video essays goes beyond mere accompaniment; it’s an integral component of storytelling.

Music and sound effects set the tone, heighten tension, and can even alter the audience’s perception of the visuals.

It’s this synergy that elevates the story, giving it texture and nuance.

  • Music – Sets the emotional tone,
  • Sound Effects – Enhances the realism of the visuals.

Crafting a narrative in this medium isn’t just about what’s on screen.

It requires an understanding of how each element – from script to sound – works in concert.

This unity forms an intricate dance of auditory and visual elements that can transform a simple message into a powerful narrative experience.

The Influence Of Video Essays In Education

Video essays have become a dynamic tool in academic settings, transcending traditional teaching methods.

By blending entertainment with education, they engage students in ways that lectures and textbooks alone cannot.

how to get movie footage for video essay

How To Create A Powerful Video Essay

Creating a compelling video essay isn’t just about stitching clips together.

It requires a blend of critical thinking, storytelling, and technical skill.

Choose a Central Thesis that resonates with your intended audience.

Like any persuasive essay, your video should have a clear argument or point of view that you aim to get across.

Research Thoroughly to support your thesis with factual data and thought-provoking insights.

Whether you’re dissecting themes in The Great Gatsby or examining the cinematography of Citizen Kane , your analysis must be thorough and well-founded.

Plan Your Narrative Structure before jumping into the editing process.

Decide the flow of your argument and how each segment supports your central message.

Typically, you’d include:

  • An intriguing introduction – set the stage for what’s coming,
  • A body that elaborates your thesis – present your evidence and arguments,
  • Clearly separated sections – these act as paragraphs would in written essays.

Visuals Are Key in a video essay.

We opt for high-quality footage that not only illustrates but also enhances our narrative.

Think of visuals as examples that will bring your argument to life.

Audio selection Should Never Be an Afterthought.

Pair your visuals with a soundtrack that complements the mood you’re aiming to create.

Voice-overs should be clear and paced in a way that’s easy for the audience to follow.

Editing Is Where It All Comes Together.

Here, timing and rhythm are crucial to maintain viewer engagement.

We ensure our cuts are clean and purposeful, and transition effects are used judiciously.

Interactive Elements like on-screen text or graphics can add a layer of depth to your video essay.

Use such elements to highlight important points or data without disrupting the flow of your narrative.

Feedback Is Invaluable before finalizing your video essay.

We often share our drafts with a trusted group to gain insights that we might have missed.

It’s a part of refining our work to make sure it’s as impactful as it can be.

Remember, creating a video essay is about more than compiling clips and sound – it’s a form of expression that combines film criticism with visual storytelling.

It’s about crafting an experience that informs and intrigues, compelling the viewer to see a subject through a new lens.

With the right approach, we’re not just delivering information; we’re creating an immersive narrative experience.

What Is A Video Essay – Wrap Up

We’ve explored the intricate craft of video essays, shedding light on their ability to captivate and inform.

By weaving together compelling visuals and sound with a strong narrative, we can create immersive experiences that resonate with our audience.

Let’s harness these tools and share our stories, knowing that with the right approach, our video essays can truly make an impact.

Remember, it’s our unique perspective and creative vision that will set our work apart in the ever-evolving landscape of digital storytelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is visual storytelling in video essays.

Visual storytelling in video essays is the craft of using visual elements to narrate a story or present an argument, engaging viewers on a sensory level beyond just text or speech.

Why Is Visual Storytelling Important In Video Essays?

Visual storytelling is important because it captures attention and immerses the audience, making the content more memorable and impactful through the integration of visuals, sound, and narrative.

What Are The Key Elements Of A Powerful Video Essay?

The key elements include a central thesis, thorough research, a well-planned narrative structure, high-quality visuals, fitting audio, effective editing, interactive components, and a compelling immersive narrative experience.

How Do I Choose A Central Thesis For My Video Essay?

Choose a central thesis that is focused, debatable, and thought-provoking to anchor your video essay and give it a clear direction.

What Should I Focus On During The Research Phase?

Focus on gathering varied and credible information that supports your thesis and enriches the narrative with compelling facts and insights.

What Role Does Audio Play In Video Essays?

Audio enhances the visual experience by adding depth to the narrative, providing emotional cues, and aiding in information retention.

How Can Interactive Elements Improve My Video Essay?

Interactive elements can enhance engagement by allowing viewers to participate actively, often leading to a deeper understanding and connection with the content.

Why Is Feedback Important In Creating A Video Essay?

Feedback is crucial as it provides insights into how your video essay is perceived, allowing you to make adjustments to improve clarity, impact, and viewer experience.

Buying Electronics Online - How to Not Get Scammed

What Is a Prime Lens? Learn About This Crucial Lens

how to get movie footage for video essay

Matt Crawford

Related posts, what is un certain regard at cannes history, impact & winners, the best of filmmaking & video production august 2017, what is a fine cut in film: polishing the narrative to perfection, what is a second unit director definition, roles & responsibilities, what is follow focus in film: a cinematic essential, sharegrid review [ultimate guide] – is it worth using.

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A video essay is a type of video that is used to present a single, cohesive argument or idea. They can be used to communicate a complex idea in a way that is easy to understand. They can also be used to show how a

how to get movie footage for video essay

It is indeed.

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Absolutely, Greg.

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Great post! I found the definition of video essays to be particularly insightful.

As someone who is new to the world of video essays, it’s helpful to understand the different forms and purposes of this medium. The examples you provided were also enlightening, particularly the one on the First Amendment.

I’m looking forward to exploring more video essays in the future!

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I found this post to be incredibly informative and helpful in understanding the concept of video essays.

As a budding filmmaker, I’m intrigued by the idea of blending traditional essay structure with visual storytelling. The examples provided in the post were particularly insightful, showcasing the versatility of video essays in capturing complex ideas and emotions. I can’t wait to explore this medium further and see where it takes me!

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I found this post really fascinating, especially the section on the different types of video essays. I never knew there were so many variations!

As a student, I’m definitely going to start experimenting with video essays as a way to express myself and communicate my ideas. Thanks for sharing!

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Interesting read! I’m curious to explore more video essays and see how they can be used to convey complex ideas in an engaging way.

Appreciate the comment

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What is a Video Essay? Creators Grapple with a Definition

how to get movie footage for video essay

by Paula Bernstein in Filmmaking on May 3, 2016

Chantal Akerman , Kevin B. Lee , No Home Movie , Video Essay

Perhaps video essays are like pornography in that, as the saying goes, you know it when you see it. But what distinguishes a video essay from a short film and what are the ground rules for this relatively new form? Finally, how much creative leeway can a video essayist take with a filmmaker’s work without being disrespectful or misrepresentative?

These questions arose last month when we published a  video essay  from Kevin B. Lee, chief video essayist at Fandor, about the spaces in Chantal Akerman’s final documentary,  No Home Movie . Initially, Lee edited the video to music. But after receiving some complaints, including from the distributors of the film, Lee reassessed the music in his video essay and decided to create a new version without the music.

“I watched the essay and I was surprised because there was no commentary on it. It was five minutes of Chantal’s film put in a different order with this very sentimental music laid over it,” said Jonathan Miller , president of Icarus Films,  No Home Movie ‘s U.S. distributor. “I wasn’t sure what made it an essay. It was as if he (Lee) cut Chantal’s footage to make another film entirely.”

Lee understood Miller’s concern and opted to leave  both versions online  in order to show how a piece of music can define the same footage in two separate videos.

As the video essay continues to emerge as an entirely new form of commentary, this particular issue raises questions about authorship and intention. What makes something a video essay and not an entirely new film created from re-editing the same footage? Is it okay to add music to a film without any?

As a relatively new media form, video essays have yet to conform to any structural guidelines, although they’ve been around long enough for define patterns to emerge: the supercut and the fan tribute, for example.

We can all agree that a video essay is a short online video which cuts together footage from one or more films in order to reveal new insights about them. But are there any ground rules? And how much (if at all) should video essayist concern themselves with the original filmmaker’s intent?

Filmmaker Magazine reached out to a select group of video essayists to weigh in on the question. Below is a selection of their responses.

Arielle Bernstein :  I’m primarily an essayist and cultural critic, so I’ve never thought of the video essays I’ve collaborated on as films in their own right. The video essays I’ve worked on are thesis-driven and images are used along with text in order to persuade the viewer to  read and interpret these images in a certain way. For me, a video essay is distinct from a film because the work that is being done is about creating this kind of analytic framework for the viewer and reader to re-interpret or re-imagine original images.

Agnes Varda’s Search for Meaning from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo .

Kevin B. Lee, Founding editor and chief video essayist for Fandor’s Keyframe :  I don’t think one can so neatly separate “a video essay from a reworked version of a film” – nearly all video essays qualify as reworked versions as a film. I don’t see it as a black and white issue of  “what is or isn’t a video essay,” but more of a spectrum measured by the degree of thought put into the reworking of the film. I see video essays as one strain of the essay film whose defining characteristic is the articulation of thought in audiovisual form. By that logic, the more thinking on a subject that can be discerned in a video, the more it can qualify as a video essay.

However, that thinking isn’t measured simply by how much talking or commentary is put into the video, otherwise we should just stick to writing articles and essays in text form. We also have to take into consideration how much thoughtfulness can be found in the reworking of the material through the use of editing, sound and music. That’s what makes the video essay such an exciting new form, because now we have to combine the criteria by which we measure good critical thinking with good filmmaking as well.

Watch Lee’s video essay on video essays, What Makes a Video Essay Great? below:

What Makes a Video Essay Great? from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo .

Max Winter, Editor-in-Chief, Press Play:  One of the most interesting things about this particular form is that there aren’t any rules, or rather that there is no firm set of such rules. The video essayists tend to make up the rules as they go along. The one thing that binds all of them of course, is a love of film itself. That holds everything together: anything the essayist might say in a piece has that in its backdrop, that, in the range of experiences available to connoisseurs of culture, the experience they most wish to examine, and probe, and on whose examination they will spend hours and hours of meticulous work, is film. Another rule, possibly contradictory, is that something of the essayist has to come forward in the piece.

The most memorable video essays I’ve seen bring an element to the fore —  symmetry in Wes Anderson , first shots vs. last shots  –that is such an area of obsession for the essayist that the piece itself becomes something they have to express –and that feeling of urgency communicates itself in the drive of the piece. Another ground rule, or perhaps we’re talking about cornerstones of “success,” is that the piece remind you of something crucially true about the filmmaker addressed, that it drop anchor, in a sense–that you watch it, and you think, yes exactly, I’d never quite thought about that, but–how true.

Another “goal” these pieces could be said to have is explosiveness: instant immersion in the work of a filmmaker. This immersion is obviously literally explosive when the subject is someone like Tarantino or Godard, but just as much, in a quieter way, if the piece is about mirrors in Bergman , or the geometrical framing of Ada.

Video essays have, in my experience, what could be called a boiling point. Many of them simmer, and are no less remarkable for simmering, but some of them boil. It’s ultimately about the essayist’s mastery of the material, the degree to which that person absorbs and can re-express the idea he or she has, i.e. framing in Kurosawa, or what watching Breathless might have meant to a young film student, or what it takes to become a “cinephile.”

Boiling is the goal, but I like to think that there’s a little boil in all of them, and that all of these pieces are transformative, in both the legal and the intellectual sense. They make us watch more carefully–and what higher goal of any form of criticism could there be? The knee-jerk response to these pieces is, in the more resistant viewer, “why don’t you make your own film?” That question, unfortunately, is wholly beside the point. Most video essayists could  make their own films, but the simple fact is that they didn’t. And to find out why not, you have to watch their work.

V. Renee, NoFilmSchool :  What defines a video essay and when does it become its own film? I think it’s a little difficult to answer, because the film essay has only just started gaining popularity in the last year or so, so there aren’t really any defined rules or archetypes yet. However, I’ve found that there’s a huge difference between the ones with accompanying narration and/or text and the ones without. The ones with them are exactly what they advertise themselves to be, video essays, while the ones without, I think, are the ones that force us to question the definition of a video essay.

You’ve got, for example, Lewis Bond of Channel Criswell who narrates these insanely in-depth pieces on topics like the cinematic techniques of Miyazaki , and then you’ve got kogonada who does these supercuts sans voiceover or text, like the one on the use of eyes in Hitchcock films .

Both teach us something about the subject of their videos, but while one has an overt lesson with evidence and research and bullet points, the other simply has a series of images and leaves it up to the viewer to take from it what they will.

The question is do we hold these video essays up to the same standards of written academic essays? If we do, then a supercut set to classical music without any narration probably wouldn’t qualify. I mean, imagine turning in the written equivalent of that essay to a professor…you’d flunk. If we don’t, then the video essay could take whichever form it wants to, unless it starts veering away from being a teaching or observational piece, transforming from a critique into a film with its own story…I think that’s when it’s no longer a video essay.

But I don’t think it’s an either/or thing…there are plenty of video essays that celebrate the work of a director by editing together a bunch of their shots set to emotional music. All of a sudden you’re like, “My god! I just love Jeff Cronenweth and his beautiful work.” The video works more as a tribute piece than a video essay or supercut; I think that’s where creative leeway comes in. If you’re truly making a video essay, I’m not sure how much creative leeway you need, to be honest.

It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially because this might be one of the first times where the line between a critique and the piece in which it is critiquing has been blurred.

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The 15 Best Video Essays of 2021

This article is part of our 2021 Rewind .  Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year.   In this entry, we explore the best video essays of 2021.

Another bizarre, pandemic-riddled year is in the can. Once again, video essays have provided a welcome distraction with sharp perspectives on all things film, from technical curios to tried-and-true aspects of visual storytelling. Some of 2021’s best video essays shed light on new, under-discussed sides of beloved classics. Others invited us to finally hit play on titles that have been languishing deep in a long-forgotten watchlist. And some attempted to make sense of the stickier corners of filmmaking, untangling knotty subjects with precision and putting intuitions into words.

I have had another wildly fun year of hosting The Queue , a thrice-weekly column dedicated to highlighting short-form video content about films, television, and the craft of storytelling. The following 15 essays are some of my favorites. Choosing just 15 was a difficult task, and I want to sincerely thank all of the video essayists I’ve covered this year for their hard work. Thank you for keeping us edutained for another year. I look forward, as ever, to seeing y’all pop up in my feed in 2022.

But, for now, let’s take a look back on the best video essays of 2021:

Why 4:3 Looks So Good

For a significant period of both film and television history, the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio wasn’t an artistic choice; it was the only way to present footage. While 4:3 fell out of favor with the advent of new technologies, this aspect ratio is making a comeback. And while it’s easy to dismiss the recent revival as a pretentious visual trend, this video essay does a fantastic job of unpacking the ways in which directors deploy it intentionally.

This video on the visual appeal of the 4:3 aspect ratio is by  Karsten Runquist , a Chicago-based video essayist. You can check out Runquist’s back catalog and subscribe to his channel on YouTube  here . You can follow Runquist on Twitter  here .

How Jackie Chan Takes a Hit

A part of what makes Jackie Chan such a compelling action star is his willingness to get hurt. Rather than protecting his ego and presenting himself as a human-sized action figure, he is willing to serve the character, the story, and the stakes of a fight by putting himself on the receiving end of a hard-hitting wallop. Not only that, but as this super entertaining and informative video essay underlines, the actor/director/stuntman repeatedly demonstrates that taking hits is just as much of an art as dolling them out.

This 2021 video essay was created by Accented Cinema , a Canadian-based YouTube series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here . You can follow them on Twitter  here .

Return to Oz is an Absolute Nightmare

Not only is  Return to Oz   one of the darkest Disney movies ever made, but it’s also one of the most faithful adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s work. Surprise, surprise, those two facts aren’t totally unrelated. If you’ve only ever heard whispers of this infamous “kids” movie or if you’re looking to confront long-repressed childhood trauma, this video essay is a great way to get familiar with the project’s troubled production and its success as an adaptation.

This video essay is by In Praise of Shadows , a channel run by Zane Whitener  and based in Asheville, North Carolina. They focus on horror, history, and retrospectives. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here  And you can follow them on Twitter  here .

Paul Thomas Anderson and The Long Goodbye

With Licorice Pizza hitting theaters at the end of 2021, now is as good a time as any to recommend this fantastic video essay on the influence of director Robert Altman on the work of Paul Thomas Anderson . For Anderson fans unfamiliar with Altman’s work, the video is an enticing carrot to dig deeper into one of the biggest names of the 1970s.

This 2021 video essay is by Philip Brubaker , a nonfiction filmmaker based in Gainesville, Florida. He has made a heck of a lot of video essays for Fandor, Vague Visages, and MUBI, in addition to short documentaries. You can browse Brubaker’s video content on his Vimeo page and follow him on Twitter .

Disney’s Robin Hood and the Death of Color

I’m a huge sucker for big-scoped retrospectives, so when this video essay on the cinematic trajectory of Robin Hood hit my subscription queue, I couldn’t hit play fast enough. The essay devotes a good deal of time to Disney’s  Robin Hood and why it’s great, focussing in the back half with the ways that gritty reboots neutralize the power of the mirth-filled myth.

This video on Disney’s Robin Hood is by Jace, a.k.a   BREADSWORD,  an LA-based video essayist who specializes in long-form nostalgia-heavy love letters. Impeccably edited and smoother than butter, BREADSWORD essays boast an unparalleled relaxed fit and an expressive narrative tone. Long essays like this take a lot of time to put together, and somehow BREADSWORD makes it all look effortless. You can subscribe to them on YouTube  here . And you can follow them on Twitter  here .

Related Topics: 2021 Rewind , The Queue

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Photos, video show collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge after cargo ship collision

how to get movie footage for video essay

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland collapsed Tuesday into the Patapsco River after it was struck by a large cargo ship.

The bridge's collapse has prompted huge emergency response, with the Baltimore City Fire Department describing the collapse as a mass-casualty incident, and rescue crews searching for seven people in the river. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has declared a state of emergency.

Baltimore  Mayor Brendon Scott  said on X that he was aware of the incident and was en route to the bridge. "Emergency personnel are on scene, and efforts are underway," he said.

The 1.6 mile, 4-lane bridge named for the author of the "Star-Spangled Banner," was the second-longest continuous-truss bridge span in the United States and third in the world.

Follow here for live updates → Baltimore's Key Bridge collapses after ship collision; rescue effort underway

Photos show collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore

Videos show francis scott key bridge's collapse.

The bridge's collapse, which came after it was struck by a container ship, was distributed on social media.

What did the Francis Scott Key Bridge look like before it was hit?

Contributing: Charles Ventura, Thao Nguyen and Susan Miller, USA TODAY .

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The Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore collapses, 6 feared dead

Headshot of Jonathan Franklin

Jonathan Franklin

Jason Breslow

Rachel Treisman

Ayana Archie

how to get movie footage for video essay

In an aerial view, the cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images hide caption

In an aerial view, the cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday.

At least six people are presumed dead following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday morning, officials said.

The bridge fell into the Patapsco River after it was struck by a nearly 1,000-foot-long container ship, sending several people plunging into the frigid waters below.

During a news update Tuesday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard told reporters they are ending an active search and rescue operation for the six people left unaccounted for at 7:30 p.m. local time.

More from WYPR in Baltimore:

  • Construction worker says friends, colleagues missing in bridge collapse
  • Federal government pledges full support to rebuild FSK bridge, reopen port

For the latest from member station WYPR in Baltimore head to

Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said that based on the length of time since the bridge collapsed and the water temperatures, they don't believe that search teams are going to find any of these individuals still alive.

Gilreath told reporters that the Coast Guard is not leaving, but is going to "transition to a different phase."

The recovery phase will begin at 6 a.m. local time Wednesday when divers will begin searching for remains of all missing victims , Gilreath said.

Col. Roland L. Butler, Jr., Secretary of Maryland State Police, told reporters the conditions have changed and made it dangerous for first responders and divers to be in the water.

He emphasized that police will still have surface ships out in the water overnight.

"We're hoping to put those divers in the water and begin a more detailed search to do our very best to recover those six missing people," Butler said.

The collision set off a rapid search-and-rescue operation. Eight people from a construction crew that was working to repair potholes on the bridge are thought to have fallen into the water, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld told reporters.

Authorities did not believe any drivers were submerged in their cars, Wiedefeld said.

The bridge collapsed instantly


The bridge, which is part of Interstate 695, collapsed around 1:30 a.m. when it was struck by a massive cargo vessel named the Dali. Dramatic video of the collision shows the hulking ship–the length of more than three football fields– slamming into one of the bridge's pillars, and then an expanse of the bridge falling into the water instantly.

The Dali, a Singapore-flagged ship, had left Baltimore at 1 a.m. and was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka, according to Marine Traffic , a maritime data site.

Photos: Baltimore's Key Bridge collapses; search and rescue efforts continue

The Picture Show

Photos: baltimore's key bridge collapses; search and rescue efforts continue.

Synergy Marine Group, the company that manages the ship, said in a statement that all 22 crew members are accounted for and that there were no injuries resulting from the crash. The company also said there was no pollution to the water.

In a briefing for the media, Moore said the crew of the container ship had notified authorities about a power outage onboard shortly before the collision. The crew notified authorities of "a power issue," Moore said, confirming earlier reports that they had lost power on the ship.

The ship was traveling at approximately 8 knots when it hit the bridge, Moore said. In the immediate aftermath of the collision, officials feared motorists might be submerged in the river, but Moore said that a mayday signal was issued with enough time for authorities to stop the flow of traffic coming over the bridge.

how to get movie footage for video essay

A collapsed section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is seen in the waters of the Patapsco River. The bridge collapsed early Tuesday after it was struck by a 984-foot-long cargo ship. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

A collapsed section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is seen in the waters of the Patapsco River. The bridge collapsed early Tuesday after it was struck by a 984-foot-long cargo ship.

"I have to say I'm thankful for the folks who once the warning came up, and once notification came up that there was a mayday, who literally by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge, these people are heroes. They saved lives," Moore said.

FBI and state officials said the preliminary investigation points to an accident and that there was no credible evidence of any terrorist attack. Moore said the Francis Scott Key Bridge was fully up to code and there was no structural issue with the bridge.

"In fact, the bridge was actually fully up to code," Moore said.

The ship has had at least one previous accident

Vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore, one of the busiest on the East Coast, was suspended "until further notice," port officials announced, as search-and-rescue operations continued and the preliminary investigation into the crash was getting underway.

"This does not mean the Port of Baltimore is closed," port officials said in a statement. "Trucks are being processed within our marine terminals."

Gov. Moore declared a state of emergency and said his office was in close communication with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The secretary was due to arrive in Baltimore to visit the crash site and receive updates on the investigation.

how to get movie footage for video essay

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, speaks during a news conference as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) looks on near the scene where a container ship collided with a support on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Steve Ruark/AP hide caption

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, speaks during a news conference as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) looks on near the scene where a container ship collided with a support on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it will investigate what happened, announcing on X (formerly Twitter) that it was launching a "go team" to Baltimore.

Prior to the crash, the ship had completed 27 inspections, according to a database by the maritime safety site Equasis. In one inspection at a port in Chile last year, the ship was determined to have a deficiency related to "propulsion and auxiliary machinery," according to Equasis.

In 2016, an inspection found "hull damage impairing sea worthiness" after the ship hit a dock on its way out of the port of Antwerp. Video of the incident shows the stern of the ship scraping against the quay as it attempted to exit the North Sea container terminal.

The bridge is an important travel route with a deep history

how to get movie footage for video essay

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board listen to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy speak during a news conference near the scene where a container ship collided with a support on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Dundalk, Md., Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board listen to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy speak during a news conference near the scene where a container ship collided with a support on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Dundalk, Md., Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

The bridge's collapse leaves Baltimore and travelers along the East Coast without a vital transit corridor for the foreseeable future. The four-lane, 1.6-mile-long bridge carries some 11.3 million vehicles each year, according to state data, and is one of three ways to get through Baltimore on the interstate.

Reconstructing the bridge will be a "long-term build," Moore told reporters.

Speaking from the White House, President Biden said he intends for the federal government to "pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge."

"We're gonna get it up and running again as soon as possible," Biden said. "Fifteen thousand jobs depend on that port, and we're gonna do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers."

The bridge isn't just a vital transportation route. It also has a special historical significance.

It opened to the public in March 1977, but its history goes much deeper than that. Scholars believe it stood within 100 yards of the site where its namesake, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the failed British bombardment of Fort McHenry in September 1814.

Key, an American lawyer, watched the battle from the British warship he had boarded to negotiate the release of a detained American civilian. The awe he felt at seeing the flag rise the next morning inspired him to write "Defense of Fort McHenry," which was later renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and became the U.S. national anthem in 1931.

Shippers are scrambling to re-route their cargo

Roughly $80 billion worth of cargo passes through the Port of Baltimore each year. But with the port's shipping channels now closed indefinitely due to the accident, shippers have been left scrambling to find alternate routes to transport their goods to and from the East Coast.

Some vessels have already been diverted to Norfolk, Va., Margie Shapiro, who runs a freight handling business in Baltimore, told NPR . Other traffic could be re-routed through New York or Philadelphia.

The Dali was being chartered by Maersk and carrying cargo for Maersk customers, the shipping giant said in a statement . The company said it would be omitting Baltimore from its services "until it is deemed safe for passage through this area."

Cargo already at the Port of Baltimore will have to travel overland, but truck traffic will also be snarled by the loss of the bridge.

"The whole ecosystem is going to be a little bit off," Shapiro said. "When the ecosystem gets messy, things get messy. Freight rates go up. The world gets a little bit chaotic."

NPR's Dave Mistich and Scott Horsley contributed to this report.

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March 26, 2024 - Baltimore Key Bridge collapses after ship collision

By Helen Regan , Kathleen Magramo , Antoinette Radford, Alisha Ebrahimji , Maureen Chowdhury , Rachel Ramirez , Elise Hammond , Aditi Sangal , Tori B. Powell , Piper Hudspeth Blackburn and Kathleen Magramo , CNN

Our live coverage of the Baltimore bridge collapse has moved here .

Crew member on DALI said everyone on board was safe hours after bridge collapse, official says

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

A crew member on the DALI cargo ship sent a message hours after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed Tuesday saying everybody on board was safe, according to Apostleship of the Sea director Andy Middleton.

Middleton, who spent time with the captain of the DALI Monday, told CNN’s Laura Coates he reached out to a crew member after hearing about the incident Tuesday morning. 

He said there were 22 members aboard the ship from India who were setting sail earlier Tuesday morning and were heading toward Sri Lanka.

“I was able to reach out to a crew member very early this morning around 5:30 (a.m. ET) or 6 (a.m. ET) and get a message to them asking if they were OK,” he said. “That crew member responded within just a few minutes advising that the crew was safe, and everybody that [was] on board was safe.”

Middleton was told by the ship's captain Monday that the vessel was going to take a longer route to avoid risks along the Yemen coast.

“When I was out with the captain yesterday, we were talking while we were driving, and he advised that they were sailing down and around the tip of South Africa in order to avoid the incidents that are going on off the Yemen coast, and it was a safer way to go,” he said.

Middleton said the  Apostleship of the Sea  is a ministry to seafarers with members that spend time in the port and on the vessels as a friendly face to the seafarers that visit the Port of Baltimore, “taking care of their needs to make sure that they're reminded of their God-given human dignity when they're here in Baltimore.”

Search operation ends in "heartbreaking conclusion," Maryland governor says. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

The Dali container vessel after striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed into the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday, March 26.

Six people, who were believed to be part of a road construction crew, are presumed dead after Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday morning. The collapse came after a 984-foot cargo ship hit the bridge's pillar.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore told reporters Tuesday evening it's a "really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day."

Late Tuesday, it was discovered that two of the construction workers who went missing after the bridge collapsed were from Guatemala , the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Tuesday.

Here's what you should know to get up to speed:

  • The victims: Eight people were on the bridge  when it fell, according to officials. At least two people were rescued — one was taken to the hospital and was later  discharged , fire official and the medical center said.
  • The incident: Video shows the moment the entire bridge structure falls into the water, as the ship hits one of the bridge's pillars. CNN analysis shows that the  ships lights flickered  and it veered off course before it hit the bridge. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the crew on the ship were able to issue a "mayday" before colliding into the bridge, which allowed the authorities to stop incoming traffic from going onto the bridge.
  • Response efforts: Earlier, dive teams from various state and local agencies were brought in to assist in search-and-rescue operations, according to Maryland State Police Secretary Col. Roland L. Butler Jr.. The mission started with 50 personnel and continued to grow before the Coast Guard announced Tuesday evening that it was suspending its active search-and-rescue operation and transitioning to a "different phase."
  • The investigation: Authorities are still working to establish exactly how the crash occurred. The National Transportation Safety Board will look into  how the bridge was built  and investigate the structure itself. It will "take time to dig through" whether the bridge had ever been  flagged for any safety deficiencies , NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said.
  • Rebuilding the bridge: US Sen. Chris Van Hollen said the path to rebuilding the bridge will be "long and expensive." Senior White House adviser Tom Perez told reporters Tuesday “it’s too early” to tell how long it will take to rebuild the bridge. President Joe Biden said Tuesday he wants the federal government to bear the full cost of rebuilding the collapsed bridge, noting that it will not wait for the company who owns the container ship DALI to shoulder the costs. Funding could come from the Federal Highway Administration as well as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but it may require additional funding from Congress.

2 of the missing construction workers from bridge collapse were from Guatemala, foreign ministry says

From CNN’s Allison Gordon, Flora Charner and Amy Simonson

Two of the construction workers missing from the bridge collapse in Baltimore were from Guatemala, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Tuesday.

Those missing included a 26-year-old originally from San Luis, Petén. The other is a 35-year-old from Camotán, Chiquimula, the statement said.

The ministry said both were part of a work team “repairing the asphalt on the bridge at the time of the accident.”

The statement did not name the two people missing, but it said the country’s consul general in Maryland “went to the area where the families of those affected are located,” where he hopes to be able to meet with the brothers of both missing people.

The consulate   also issued a statement Tuesday saying its consul general in Maryland "remains in contact with local authorities," and also confirmed that two of those missing "were of Guatemalan origin.”

Six people, who were believed to be part of a road construction crew, are presumed dead after Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday morning when a cargo ship hit the bridge's pillar.

State and federal officials have not released information about the identities of any of the six missing workers.

Underwater mapping of bridge collapse area to begin Wednesday, Baltimore fire chief says

From CNN's Jennifer Henderson

Search operations near the Key Bridge collapse have shut down for the night due to dangerous conditions, but the process of underwater mapping with many local, state and federal dive teams will begin Wednesday, Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday night.

Wallace said the portion of the Patapsco River is “tidal influenced, so it goes through tide cycles just like the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay does.”

The water depths in the area under the bridge vary from 40 feet to more than 60 feet, Wallace said. The deeper the divers go, the colder the temperatures they encounter, and the visibility is zero, he added.

 Wallace said when crews arrived Tuesday morning, the surface water temperatures of the Patapsco River were about 47 degrees with an air temperature of 44-45 degrees.

Here's what you should know about the historic Francis Scott Key Bridge

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday after a massive container ship lost power and crashed into the iconic Baltimore bridge, sending people and vehicles into the frigid Patapsco River.

Six people, believed to be part of a road construction crew, are presumed dead and the Coast Guard has ended its active search and rescue mission.

Here's what you should know about the historic bridge:

  • How old?: The Francis Scott Key Bridge, also referred to as just the Key Bridge, opened to traffic in March 1977 and is the final link in the Baltimore Beltway, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA.) It crosses over the 50-foot-deep Patapsco River, where former US attorney Francis Scott Key found inspiration to write the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, the MDTA says.
  • How long?: The bridge was 1.6 miles long when standing, MDTA reports.
  • Traffic volume: More than 30,000 people commuted daily on the bridge, according to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.
  • How much did it cost?: The bridge cost $60.3 million to build, MDTA says. Since its collapse, President Joe Biden said he’s committed to helping rebuild the bridge as soon as possible.
  • About the port: Baltimore ranks as the ninth biggest US port for international cargo. It handled a record 52.3 million tons, valued at $80.8 billion, in 2023. According to the Maryland state government, the port supports 15,330 direct jobs and 139,180 jobs in related services.
  • About the ship: The bridge collapsed after a container vessel called Dali collided with one of its supports. Dali is operated by Singapore-based Synergy Group but had been chartered to carry cargo by Danish shipping giant Maersk . The ship is about 984 feet long , according to MarineTraffic data. That’s the length of almost three football fields.

Baltimore woman says bridge collapse was "like a piece of family dissolved"

From CNN's Kit Maher

For longtime Baltimore resident, Ceely, who opted not to share her last name, seeing footage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse  Tuesday was deeply personal.

“I was very heavy-hearted,” Ceely told CNN. “Very tearful, thinking about the families whose loved ones may be in the water and just remembering when the bridge was constructed, and it was just like a piece of family dissolved.”

Ceely was at a prayer group Tuesday morning when she saw the news. She recalled being afraid when she first crossed the bridge while in Ford Maverick in 1975, but grew to like it because it saved time on the road.

“It was a main artery just like a blood line. It was a main artery to the other side of town. It was awesome. It beat going through the city all the time,” she said.

Elder Rashad A. Singletary , a senior pastor who led Tuesday night’s vigil at Mt. Olive Baptist Church told CNN that many church members watched the bridge's construction.

"It’s a part of the community. A lot of our individuals in our congregation drive that bridge to go to work, and so now it’s really a life changing moment,” he said.

"Heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day," Maryland governor says as Coast Guard ended search operation

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

People look out toward the Francis Scott Key Bridge following its collapse in Baltimore, Maryland on March 26.

More than 18 hours after the collapse of the Baltimore bridge, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said it was a heartbreaking conclusion after the Coast Guard ended the search-and-rescue operation for the six people who were on the bridge when it collapsed.

It's a "really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day," he said.

"We put every single asset possible — air, land and sea" to find the missing people, he told reporters on Tuesday evening. "While even though we're moving on now to a recovery mission, we're still fully committed to making sure that we're going to use every single asset to now bring a sense of closure to the families," the governor added.

6 people presumed dead after Baltimore bridge collapse, Coast Guard says. Here's what we know

As the sun sets in Baltimore, six people are presumed dead after a major bridge collapsed overnight Tuesday, according to the Coast Guard. The Francis Scott Key Bridge came down around 1:30 a.m. ET after a cargo ship collided with it.

The Coast Guard said it has ended its active search-and-rescue operation for the missing construction workers who were on the bridge when it collapsed.

  • What we know: Eight people were on the bridge when it fell, according to officials. At least two people were rescued — one was taken to the hospital and has been discharged . The Coast Guard has been searching for six other people. But, around 7:30 p.m. ET, the Coast Guard said it has transitioned to a “different phase” of operation, now it did “not believe we are going to find any of these individuals alive,” Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.
  • About the ship: The bridge collapsed after a container vessel called Dali collided with one of its supports. The vessel is operated by Singapore-based Synergy Group but had been chartered to carry cargo by Danish shipping giant Maersk . The US Embassy in Singapore has been in contact with the country’s Maritime and Port Authority, a State Department spokesperson said.
  • The investigation: The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the collapse. A team of 24 experts will dig into nautical operations, vessel operations, safety history records, owners, operators, company policy and any safety management systems or programs, said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. A voyage data recorder will be critical to the investigation, she added. 
  • Vehicles on the bridge: Officials are also working to verify the numbers of how many cars and people were on the bridge, Homendy said. Gov. Wes Moore said the quick work of authorities in closing the bridge had saved lives . Radio traffic captured how authorities stopped traffic and worked to clear the bridge seconds before the impact . Maryland State Police Secretary Col. Roland L. Butler Jr. said there is a “ distinct possibility ” more vehicles were on the bridge, but authorities have not found any evidence to support that.
  • Looking ahead: NTSB will look into how the bridge was built and investigate the structure itself, including if it was flagged for any safety deficiencies , Homendy said. The federal government has also directed its resources to help with search and rescue, to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge, Vice President Kamala Harris said . Earlier, President Joe Biden said t he federal government will pay to fix the bridge.
  • The economy: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned the collapse will have a serious impact on supply chains . Until the channel is reopened, ships will likely already be changing course for other East Coast ports. Ocean carriers are already being diverted from the Port of Baltimore, where the bridge collapsed, to the Port of Virginia to “keep trade moving."

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    Once you have the actual movie (or whatever file has the footage you need), then open up. Handbrake, an open source free conversion program. This one is a little bit more complicated, were you'll need to set the resolution and a couple of other settings - but you shouldn't need to change too much. The process should be easy enough to figure out.

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