Have you ever scoured the internet for a free stock image or video, found the perfect one, then tried to download it only to discover that it’s not free?
That frustration is now a thing of the past thanks to the University of Illinois’ new Storyblocks subscription, which gives faculty and staff across campus unlimited access to the company’s huge collection of high-quality video, audio, and image files.
“It’s a huge repository, the applications are endless, and you don’t have to be a media pro to use” it, said Bob Dignan, associate director of Instructional Media Resources (IMR) at the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL).
The subscription will be a game-changer for the university when it comes to producing creative content, according to Todd Wilson, director of special projects for Public Affairs.
“We think Storyblocks will save money for the campus, raise the quality of videos made in the units, and increase the number of videos that promote Illinois and its programs,” Wilson said. “We’re really grateful to Chancellor Jones for seeing the value of it and supporting us with funding through the Office of Strategic Marketing and Branding. They’ve been great supporters of the campus-wide license, as well, because it will contribute to the consistency in look, feel, and messaging that they’re trying to build.”
Storyblocks is the first and largest subscription-based stock video service that offers unlimited access to more than 1.5 million photo, audio, and video files for commercial or personal use. Because all of the content is royalty-free, you can use any downloaded material in perpetuity, even if your subscription expires.
National Geographic, NBC, History Channel, A&E, and MTV are among the 150,000-plus businesses worldwide that use and contribute content to Storyblocks.
And if you need videos of the University of Illinois, Wilson said Public Affairs is rolling out the Illinois Video Database this month. Faculty and staff can find high-quality stock video of campus taken by Video Services’ award-winning videographers and producers and download them for free.
Links to the Illinois Video Database and Storyblocks will be available on the Public Affairs’ Video Services and Resources webpages.
The Office of the Chancellor approved purchasing an enterprise subscription for faculty and staff this summer. The application is now integrated with the campus single sign-on (Shibboleth), so users can access the platform by going to Storyblocks.com and entering their @illinois.edu email address.
“If you’re a staff or faculty member, you’re passed through to our campus enterprise subscription and can begin to download resources,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the subscription does not include students at this time. While student employees can use resources for projects related to their campus job, he said they can’t download materials themselves or use the resources for class or personal projects.
Training for different user groups will be offered throughout the 2021-22 year. Dignan said CITL is creating asynchronous instructional videos for faculty, teaching assistants, and eLearning professionals and plans to host several events “to help prime the pump (for instructions) and show them how they might use these resources in their teaching.”
Wilson said Public Affairs will introduce the service to the Campus Videographers group this month.
We’ll “record the trainings we do there and then send the video to our campus communicator lists,” he said, adding communicators will also have access to CITL’s video archive.
“You’ll be hearing more about it,” Wilson assured. “I hope a lot of folks will find that Storyblocks gives them a chance to do some really creative marketing or to create truly engaging instructional materials.”
CITL has been using Storyblocks resources to create instructional materials for a number of years. IMR staff use short videos to illustrate a complex concept in a PowerPoint presentation, sound clips to emphasize a key word in a lesson, and music to introduce a lecture series, among other things.
As demand for these services grew, so did the need for more individual user licenses. When Dignan talked to the vendor about increasing licenses, he realized the cost would be similar to that of an enterprise-level subscription, which the entire campus could leverage.
That’s when he reached out to Wilson at Public Affairs. Seeing the potential benefits, Wilson surveyed campus units to see if there might be a broader interest or need.
The survey showed a lot of money was being spent on stock materials to numerous subscription services, and there were even duplicative subscriptions.
“Units were spending anywhere from $10 to hundreds of dollars, and when you add it all up, the campus was spending much more than our Storyblocks enterprise license costs—and many units were still left without access to any resources,” Wilson said, explaining that some units didn’t have any funding for a subscription, while others had contracts that didn’t allow them to share resources with other non-license holders in their department.
“The communicators we surveyed were very enthusiastic about Storyblocks, rating their offerings better than average to excellent for both quantity and quality,” he continued. “We got a lot of comments back along the lines of ‘This is going to be a godsend for us!’
Dignan said the university’s enterprise license allows for broad usage without any tiers or hidden fees.
“Once you’re in, it’s carte blanche access,” he said. “You’re covered to use it any way you need to for your work. We can send raw assets to others who are working on the same project. Under the individual license agreement, we weren’t able to do that.”
Dignan added people don’t have to rely on grabbing something from Google and worrying about copyright infringement.
“Using these resources gives you peace of mind while you’re searching that library. Anything you find in there you can use for any of your work needs,” he said, adding you just can’t hoard materials to recreate your own stock materials database.
Not tech-savvy? Dignan said Storyblocks has a user-friendly interface, making it easy for anyone to learn.
Once you log in, you can search the three libraries. While they’re vast, filters allow you to search for whatever you’re looking for easily and efficiently.
Once you find a file that you want, you select a format, then download it to a folder, and it’s ready to use.
Other features include:
- Easy-to-use video templates, which you can customize.
- An After Effects tool that allows you to add visual effects and motion graphics in the post-production process.
- A Maker tool, which allows you to edit video.
"You can change out a few elements, add your own text, add your own pictures, and you have a beautiful video,” Dignan said. “This can be a pretty powerful tool to greatly reduce the time it takes to make something.”
“Units across campus know that videos are an important vehicle for promoting their programs to new students, donors, and really, every stakeholder group,” Wilson added. “But there aren’t very many people across campus whose entire jobs are creating videos. Sometimes it’s an advancement person or faculty member who is tasked with producing a video. Sometimes it’s an office administrator. To give them a single, easy-to-use source for these components, including a Maker tool (for editing), with which to compile and edit them, is going to be really empowering.”
Now that campus has the subscription, Wilson and Dignan encouraged faculty and staff to make it their go-to resource for stock materials and, if they can, end their other subscriptions when they run out. That’s when the university, as a whole, will realize a cost-savings.
“It’s on us to prove that it’s worthwhile and that we use it,” Dignan said. “That’s why getting the word out is really important. The idea is to get the most mileage out of it as we can.”
For more information on Storyblocks and how it can be used to enhance instruction, visit CITL’s Teaching Technologies webpage.