The De Agostini collection: Culture with a capital C | Available at age fotostock

For whatever story you need to tell, however you want, whomever to, wherever you are, whenever...

Remarkable collections of the widest variety and highest quality:

UNCONVENTIONAL - Images that break the rules

INSPIRATION - The simplicity of marvellous moments

PREMIUM - Refreshing and stimulating new images every day

SNAPMOBILE - Good mobile photography is good photography

VIDEO COLLECTIONS - Rolling with creative and dynamic possibilities

VECTOR COLLECTIONS - A world of design possibilities

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Inspired by sailors' clothing, Coco Chanel created her first nautical collection in 1917, with stripes and lines plentifully stamped on dresses and shirts. This elegant aesthetic, synonymous with casual chic Parisian style, continues to be popular in both catwalks and trend blogs today.

Spots became fashionable in the 40s and 50s due to the influence of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor, and the possession of a polka dot dress became a definite must as soon as Lucille Ball made it her staple in the hit television show I Love Lucy. Since then, dots have also taken an essential role in our wardrobe as well as in general fashion globally – just take a look at the rise in fame of artworks by Yayoi Kusama, "The Princess of Polka Dots".

Stripes and polka dots combine to create a look full of color, life and fun – an irresistible invitation that always rewards with a smile. Do you dare?

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Earlier this February, when age fotostock announced the opening of video for contributors in the Photographer’s blog, we were pleased to see a lively exchange of comments and opinions on one of our video requirements, that clips must be compressed in codec H.264.  We would like to follow up that debate with a little more information about video compression in general and specifically about the required codec and format for age fotostock.  We look forward to your continued comments, questions and feedback.

Why is video compressed?

The main challenge in the development of digital video was the amount of data required to represent a moving image. A digital photograph was only a few MB, but a sequence of 25 or 30 images was much more data to represent and process.  Too much, in fact…

The compression of the image in the video was absolutely necessary for the digital video work process. Without effective compression, the volume of information to process would make it impossible to do things like post video on the web.  The compression must reduce the flow of data from a video in the least destructive way possible. The goal is to compress as much as possible with a minimal loss of quality.

So digital video is compressed to economize on space, whether it's bandwidth or media, and a codec (compressor/decompressor) does the job of encoding and decoding. By improving the techniques upon which the codec is based, we're able to transmit higher quality video using the same bandwidth as before, in other words, more bang for your buck.  There are countless codec’s in use today, some of the most common ones are: MPEG4, Photo-JPG, DivX, MPEG-2 and H.264.

What is the advantage of codec H.264?

The H.264 codec reduces the amount of information required to reproduce the input video by recognizing the redundancies in the frames of a clip in a process generically called motion compensation. This process exploits the fact that between frames is the camera or the subject is what is moving therefore in reference to a video file that means that much of the information in one frame is repeated in the next frame, so by removing redundancies the video files reduces the size. A digital video clip compressed with codec H.264 only uses half the space of MPEG-2 to deliver the same quality video. This means you can enjoy HD video without sacrificing speed or performance. 

H.264 has become a new standard for high definition video and is set to supersede some of the formats that are commonplace today such as MPEG-2, the standard for DVD video and some types of cable TV and digital broadcast.  The proof is in the use of this codec by some of the giants within the technological and multimedia world such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Canon, etc (and age fotostock, of course!).

Are there any disadvantages to codec H.264?

As we’ve already explained, H.264 is a very efficient codec, able to reduce the bit rate and achieve an excellent quality and compression rates. These characteristics make the codec ideal for HD video which will be distributed on internet.  In addition, nowadays all video-editing programs include the codec, which produces good results during the editing process.

Nonetheless, if you are planning to edit your audiovisual material extensively, such as retouching, subtle color adjustments, or extracting a chroma-key, than you should try to work with the minimal compression possible.   In these cases, consider converting your H.264 compressed file to a codec with almost no compression, such as Apple Pro-Res.  Once you have finished your fine adjustments, you should encode with H.264 in order to send and handle the file. 

What is the difference between a codec and a format?

A video format is the type of file used to store the information of a video clip (AVI, MPEG, MOV, WMV, FLV, etc…)  This is comparable to the file formats in images, such as JPG, TIF, GIF; BMP, etc..  Video formats are considered multimedia “containers,” because the format stores all of the information for images, audio, subtitles, etc. for a clip. 

This information within the clip must be compressed so that the clip can be easily handled.  In video, the algorithm used to generate the compression is known as the codec (ex. Photo-JPEG, H.264, MPEG, DivX, etc).  For example, a Quicktime file (abbreviation .mov) is a container for information which might be compressed with any of the following codec’s (Photo-JPEG, H.264, etc...).  This differs somewhat from the world of digital imagery, where you can choose to use formats (such as TIFF) that have no compression.  A photo format such as JPEG, on the other hand, always has some level of compression included (you can determine the degree) so it more easily comparable to a digital video format. 

So what is Quicktime?

As we already mentioned, Quicktime is a type of “container” file which is capable of storing a high quantity of multimedia information.  Currently, it is the video format most commonly used for multimedia purposes because it is compact and easy to handle and edit.  It is also multi-platform, compatible with Mac, Windows and several version of Unix.  Quicktime allows for an easy synchronization between audio and video and lastly is versatile with a number of additional technologies (3D, Virtual Reality, video-conferencing, etc) that not all video formats can handle.

Since the version 7.0, Quicktime has been implementing the codec H.264, as a standard codec which allows for a good quality of HD file and with lower bit rates, as previously stated.  age fotostock has chosen to work with Quicktime for all of the above reasons, namely because it is a multimedia system which can reproduce and transmit high quality content online.

What should you do if your clips are not in Quicktime (with H.264 codec)?

As we explain in the Road Atlas, you can convert both the codec and the format in the same operation using a software conversion tool. There are numerous convertors; we recommend a free one called Mpeg-Streamclip that you might know of.

Please feel free to write us with any other questions about creating and processing video or about the video submission processes for age fotostock.  If you have a lot of extra time on your hands or you would like to make sure that we didn’t just make this up, check out these additional resources.

Additional Resources on H.264 and Quicktime

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

H.264 overview

Steve Jobs talking about H.264

H.264 vs MPEG-2 presentation

Quicktime features

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Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, and diver, reaching out for a physical contact

So you consider yourself environmental?!

Partner agency Specialist Stock has passed us this information on the Environmental Photographer of the Year contest, open now for both photos and video: “The Environmental Photographer of the Year is calling for entries that deal with some of the most important challenges of our time, and this year a new video category has been introduced to further raise awareness of environmental and social issues.”

The competition will run until 31st of July 2011, with judging taking place throughout August and September. Winners receive cash prizes and all winning entries are displayed in the Environmental Photographer of the Year exhibition, launched in London.  Click here for contest details.

If you find out about other photographer competitions and opportunities, please share and we’ll spread the word.  And if you are an age fotostock photographer who has won a photo or video award, please let us know.  We’d love to brag for you!

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Man portrait on his head dumb stupid

From the unstructured world of licensing visual content, generally called stock photography, due to the continued prevalence of photography stills, we are entering into another era of confusing descriptions of the products we license. Video, motion and footage are adding their doses of conceptual confusion.

In the history of stock photography, there have always been surreal definitions for the different types of licenses whose origins were simply “reproduction rights licensing.” Let’s review; we use Rights Managed, Royalty Free, Low Budget Royalty Free, Low Cost images, and even the most surreal of all “microstock”. Our industry has never been fortunate enough to clearly define what it actually licenses.

Imagine that we test the validity of the nomenclature for licensing types by asking the next door neighbor, maybe a used boats salesman, to give an example of someone who is quite removed from our industry. When he asks us what we do for a living, undoubtedly, we will need to enter into lengthy explanations describing that an image could be used for certain time, geographical area, etc. and others can be licensed and used as many times the buyer wants and even all possible intermediates. The funniest of all will be describing “microstock” because our boat seller will probably imagine that it refers to a smallish stock of something, completely opposite to the reality, in which microstock photography actually manages truly huge stocks of images.

For ages, something called “footage” has existed, which was defined as the raw, unedited material as it had been originally filmed. In those days of 35mm filming, a piece of film (with no sound) had 16 frames of 4 perforations in a foot of film (35 mm film had perforations on both sides of the frame) which formed 1 second of film. Footage was an obvious way of describing moving image material. Now in our stock photography world, some companies use the word “motion” to describe the licensing of moving images. To be precise in that case, the term to use should be “motion pictures” if we want to make sense, because the word “motion” is ambiguous enough to describe concepts of a legal nature, from football and even a song by Matthew West.

Nowadays, we license video which refers to the technology to electronically capture, process, store and transmit scenes in motion. Video, “I see” from the Latin verb “videre” refers to various formats for the storage of moving pictures that goes from analogue videotapes like Betacam and VHS to more modern digital video formats like QuickTime, MPEG-4, DVD, Blue-ray. However, most video we sell on the Internet today is in fact “video clips” which are short videos, no longer than a few minutes, if not only seconds each.

Furthermore, even YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share and view videos. If you have footage or motion pictures the point is that they will probably be digitized into video, so why not unify the names? I think it’s better to say “car” than “a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers”.

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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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