Name: Akbar Allana
Bio: Akbar Allana has been part of the media and television industry in Pakistan since 1996. He has created television commercials, corporate programing, documentaries and has been behind some of Pakistan’s most popular television programs. In addition he has also helped launch a number of independent TV channels in Pakistan. Currently he is running GrayScale, a Television & Film Production Company. Grayscales stock footage archives include footage from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, South East and Central Asia.
Link to Akbar's Portfolio
Subjects: Editorial, Animation, Regional and more...
StockVideoSeller:You have an extensive history in video production. What got you interested in selling stock video?
Akbar Allana: Well, I happened upon this particular part of the business purely by chance.
I had some B-roll
footage of refugee camps in the Swat area of Pakistan, which I
realised had some kind of market potential – particularly given
that Pakistan had, for better or worse, become the epicentre of world
terrorism. So I did some research on ways to sell the footage and
came across a site called Pond5 to which I uploaded about 20 clips
from this series.
was in November of 2009. Within a couple of months I had sold 3
of the clips and so, obviously, I started uploading the remainder of
the footage from the camps as well as some other old footage I had.
Through my discussions in stock footage forums, I came across other
viable sites to upload to - which I did - and as the sales started
coming in - so my interest grew in being a part of this unique and
StockVideoSeller: Do you think it's possible to make your efforts in stock footage sales pay off? Any advice for newcomers?
Akbar Allana: There are, as with any business venture, a number of opportunities for success in this industry. I think what’s important is to find one’s own unique place in this business by focusing on what you can offer that others can’t so easily. In my case being from a Third World Islamic country puts me in a unique position to offer certain subjects and scenes that the average stock footage producer has little or no access to. This is not to suggest that to be successful you have to be from a country thats making headline news everyday! Perhaps what I’m trying to get across is that one needs to find a niche for themselves and then build on that. Sure one can experiment and try new things, which is also very important in this business; however, I believe the quicker one learns to capitalise on their uniqueness the better it is for them as the market for generalists is probably shrinking.
StockVideoSeller: How to you choose your subjects? Research or targets of opportunity? Do you find you are developing a sense or what sells and what doesn't?
Akbar Allana: A bit of both I guess. Like most people involved in film/television production I almost always have a camera with me wherever I go. One really never knows where inspiration may strike or when someone may come across something so out of the ordinary that one just has to film it!
On the other hand I also
sometimes choose subjects/events to film that would require some
background work and research. I guess it just depends. As for
developing a sense of what sells, well yes and no! Of course certain
types of clips and subjects sell well on some sites and not so well
on others. In my experience editorial clips sell extremely well on
Pond5 but not on others, whilst animations and time lapses sell
really well on Catooh. I guess its all about finding which sites work
best for you and what you can offer on them.
StockVideoSeller: Do you upload your work in multiple formats?
Akbar Allana: No, currently I’m only uploading files in their native formats. Like I mentioned earlier selling stock footage is something I do on the side and, although I see some benefit to uploading in multiple formats, this is not something I am currently able to do due to time constraints
StockVideoSeller: Looking at your portfolio, I can see your work focused on editorial style footage. Lots of this is “hard to get” footage. Is there a market for editorial footage?
Akbar Allana: Certainly, in my case I’ve found that there is a pretty good market for editorial clips. I guess it was a conscious attempt on my part to offer such types of footage because I knew I was uniquely positioned to offer such clips.
StockVideoSeller: What equipment to you use? Do you have any Gizmos which you find essential to your work?
Akbar Allana: Well, currently I’m filming almost exclusively on my Canon EOS 550D (T2i) DSLR
camera. I’ve recently gotten an Intervalometer so I can take Time Lapse shots without tiring my fingers!
Good pieces of glass are
absolutely a must if using a camera with interchangeable lenses.
I currently use an 18-55mm
Canon lens(that came with the camera kit), a Canon 50mm F1.8 II (the
best cheap lens available) and a Tamron 70-300mm Macro lens. I'm now
focused on saving up to buy some more prime lenses. I mainly use an
old Libec DV tripod, although its a bit bulky for a DSLR as it was
made for a DV Camera - but it does the job and quite well too. I also
have a Slik Mini Pro-V tripod which is not too bad either and quite
convenient to cart around.
StockVideoSeller: What programs do you edit
Akbar Allana: Mainly I use MPEG Streamclip for converting from native camera footage to a format thats acceptable to stock tootage sites. I use Adobe After Effects for grading and time lapses.
StockVideoSeller: Your portfolio contains lots of animated graphics. Do you find they sell well? Competition between animators on the stock agengies looks very fierce! How do you choose you themes?
Akbar Allana: Animations and graphics certainly sell well despite the fierce competition!
What I’ve found is that very basic animations,
such as motion backgrounds, loops, sea/cloud/sky simulations, etc.,
sell really well on most sites.
StockVideoSeller: You sell your footage or multiple sites. Would you recommend this for everyone starting out? Which sites do you sell on? Which do you recommend?
Akbar Allana: I have varying numbers of clips on most sites although my most sales come from, in order of revenues earned each month, Pond5, Catooh and Shutterstock. I get odd sales on other sites too but these are my top three earners. I’d certainly recommend, at least initially, to upload wherever one can and then based on results continue or discontinue with them. However, if I was to recommend just one site it would most certainly be Pond5 – they rock!
StockVideoSeller: What direction are you moving towards in stock video? Are you still finding your niche or do you want to be a generalist?
Akbar Allana: Well, I was lucky to find my niche in this industry pretty early on – so this has given me an opportunity to experiment with styles/subjects/techniques etc. As for being a generalist, well like I’ve already mentioned I think the market for generalists is shrinking rapidly – although this is not to say general and generic shots don’t sell well. It’s just, I believe, a harder sell if there are a thousand similar shots to compete with! The direction I’d like to move in terms of stock footage is to perhaps institutionalise some of what I've been doing, perhaps setup a small dedicated team of animators who focus exclusively on producing for this market; or even perhaps expanding into providing "breaking news" on a larger scale by utilising my company’s countrywide and regional network. I have tons of ideas on where I could go next with this, lets see..
Your stock footage travels take you lots of places inside and outside
Pakistan. Like me, I think you have found some of the people and
places you shoot can very moving. Are there any particular places or
people which have affected you?
Akbar Allana: I was particularly moved by some of the people I came across whilst covering the floods that hit Pakistan this last summer.
I think it takes a particularly hardened type of person to not be affected by scenes of distress and dismay; but I guess that's a part of filming editorial and news type footage. Obviously one learns to blank out emotions whilst filming, but invariably the feelings of sadness and the introspection that accompanies those emotions do return. I often find myself wondering about the people I've filmed and whether or not their lives have improved from when our paths crossed.
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