January 27th 2020 – 5 minute read

What Is BlackBox? An Honest Review

Realistic view of stock footage industry

Since our previous article about stock footage received a lot of feedback, we decided to write a review for BlackBox in the good year of 2020, where we narrowly missed WW3, Corona virus rampaging and Brexit going it’s marry way. Anyway, after two years of actively selling video clips on stock footage sites, we can confirm that stock footage industry is booming and there is a lot of money to be made for video creators. What about BlackBox though?

We can say that the platform in question is working in a positive direction. One of the benefits of being a member of BlackBox is that they care about the well being of their users in principle and the community on their Facebook group is always ready to help with advice.

What is BlackBox?

Blackbox is a website where video creators can upload their videos through an FTP program such as Filezilla. The good side of this is that both solo creators (or one man bands) and video production companies can use and work on this site. The uploaded and edited (title, keywords) videos are then distributed to four major web services that sell stock footage: Shutterstock, Adobestock, Pond5 and Vimeo video.

When you sell a video, Blackbox takes it’s “fair” share of that sale that stands at 15%, and you get an automatic payment to PayPal every month. While there are programs that do the same, what BlackBox offers is the ability to write 1 clip that is then sent to 4 selling sites, cutting your time spend on writing keywords for clips. If you put clips on each of the selling sites yourself,  you had to upload videos and write keywords on a site-by-site basis. That process could be shortened with various tools such as Word where keywords are copied, but each site is a bit different from the other so you lose time there anyway. This is what the marketing angle of a niche BlackBox wanted to fill: it saves you time by distributing your videos (while also charging you for it, but nothing is truly free).

Why sell videos through BlackBox?

If you follow the stock footage market, then you probably know that it has become a very profitable industry that does not see an end to growth. BlackBox saw its niche here: Why not bring together creators under one name to get into a position where they can negotiate better sales conditions? What makes BlackBox truly different is that content creators can divide profits among themselves. For instance if 2 creators join forces and make a batch of 100 videos, they can set share options on those video so they automatically split profits if a clip is sold. Another cool thing with BlackBox are curators who write descriptions and keywords for you in return for sales revenue which you negotiate with them (for instance 20%). Although you earn less, you save a lot of time that you can spend on something more fun, like shooting videos.

What are the advantages of BlackBox?

First of all we can highlight the split sharing of profits for clips or writing keywords. If you are not good at writing, you can connect with curators on the BlackBox Facebook group. Curators specialize in writing tags or keywords for your clips and usually take between 20% and 40% share on a sold clip. It may seem like a high percentage, but it’s crucial that your keywords are written correctly and with the right buyer in mind. This will make you more money because it will make more sales and save you a lot of time that you can use to shoot new footage. Another big plus is a community where you can get all the information you need, and more experienced users will be happy to help.

Primer stock slike
  1. Better search hits

Given that Blackbox is community based and all videos appear under the same Blackbox profile, this will place your clips higher in search, which will mean more sales. Because the community is so large and has over a million recordings, stock footage sites automatically rank their videos higher. Which means an advantage for you too.

  1. One time upload for several sites

If you’ve ever worked with multiple agencies, then you know how long it takes to upload footage to each page individually, followed by writing tags for each clip. Although tools exist to help you with that, it still takes a lot of time to write keywords. Each web service is different and requires a slightly different placement of keywords. Adobe Stock prefers the first 10 words, while other services don’t have that requirement. It is welcome to add the recording location to Pond5 and what equipment the recording was made with.

  1. Sell more than you would going solo

You probably think you will sell more going solo. Of course this is possible, but considering that you will be alone for everything and if you are not skilled at writing keywords, it will cost you time and waste of sales. We think Shutterstock has a well-crafted keyword-writing assistance and if you sell solo then we recommend using it as much as possible.

  1. You get more time to shoot videos

This point might be decisive for some. Keyword writing takes a lot of time, and you can spend half an hour on one video if you’re looking for a really good word choice. Using curators on BlackBox will save you a lot of time, and you can spend that time recording more footage and thus increasing the number of active videos in total.

  1. All videos are shared on a common BlackBox account

Some see it as a bad thing but we think it is an advantage. If you are not a professional stock distributor, your personal account will not help you sell. On the other hand, being on a BlackBox makes you a part of the community and you have a slight edge over others.

  1. Other aspects of Blacbox

Blackbox also tried to expand it’s business model on Youtube. For now it is in its infancy and only time will tell how it will work. Other monetization methods are under construction, but BlackBox founder Pat McGowan is not disclosing this information yet.

Is it better to be a solo creator?

As the old saying goes, every stick has two ends. Of course, we can also find pros and cons with Blackbox. We’ll give you a few reasons, but of course, it’s up to you to decide. In case you do not want to sell through Blackbox service, we suggest you sell on these three websites: Pond5, Shutterstock and Adobestock. Each of the above has its advantages and disadvantages, but that’s a story for another time.

Or is it better selling through BlackBox?

After several years of experience with Stock footage market, we at Spartaq video production can say that Blacbox is more convenient for solo users in some aspects. If you shoot clips as a hobby then you may not care about a few percent less in profits in your sales, or building a portfolio of videos. Keep in mind that one short clip can net you $50 or more and if you consider that as an extra profit then Blackbox might be your jam. However, if you want to get serious in this business, building your portfolio on three services is a must: Shutterstock (UPDATE: Shutterstock isn’t a good choice anymore as you can read in our article bellow), Adobe stock and Pond5. There are also premium sites that sell stock footage that have an invitation only way of getting there. If you are thinking of taking a solo route, we also suggest that you do serious research (and by that we mean serious, not just reading a couple of articles) what you need to pay attention to and how to work your keywords, what content is selling, etc.

In any case, we encourage anyone who likes to shoot videos to try and make money in the stock footage market!

However, if you would like to sign up for BlackBox, just click on this text or the image below.

BlackBox Guild

1. Little or no sales with bad keywords

If you write keywords by yourself, make sure they are well written and meaningful. By no means do you want to add unrelated words as this will lead to video isolation by the search engine. But be careful! Once a video is online, you can no longer change words or titles. We see this as a huge weakness and we hope that will change in the future.

2. You aren’t building your brand
If you want to build your brand and portfolio, then you will need to go on the independent route. If you are shooting videos that are in a specific niche, then it is better for you to have videos on your account that customers will be looking for. With some services, you can become an exclusive stock video provider, but in our experience, it is not worth it and you only have problems when you want to get out. If you are a serious video production then this may make more sense to you.

3. Lack of oversight

You have no control over which site accepted or rejected your clips. Sometimes web services reject videos due to image noise, repeated and similar frames, poor image quality, over-processed images and so on. Shutterstock has a particular reputation for refusing otherwise good videos. Because you do not have feedback on who rejected it and why your video was rejected, you cannot learn on mistakes and improve the quality of your future videos.

4. Lack of statistics

Stock selling services provide insight that can help you make a sale, or give you statistics with various graphs of what was sold and how many times your clips/account was viewed. This is not the case with Blackbox and it is questionable whether they can obtain this information because of the sharing platform they use for clips.

5. You can’t select a thumbnail

Choosing the right thumbnail can have a dramatic effect on sales as this is the first contact a potential buyer has with your video. Some sites allow you to choose the thumbnail of your video, but when submitting through Blackbox, you don’t have control over that. We hope that will change in the future.

6. No benefits

A good example of this was the Adobe stock offer for premium cloud or full-year Adobe product subscriptions, provided you uploaded 300 accepted videos in 2019 to get a full-year Adobe Cloud subscription. However it should be noted that this specific example is mostly based on the fact Adobe wanted to promote it’s platform.

Shutterstock: rise and fall of microstock

Closing words

So what to choose in the end? Using BlackBox or going solo both have it’s cons and pros. Using BlackBox means you’re a part of larger stock provider (through their account) and that gives your clips more visibility and higher rankings. On the other hand, you won’t be able to work on your branding through your own account (if that is your goal). Another great advantage of BlackBox is that you do not have to upload clips to 4 different microstock sites since it distributes them to those sites using it’s own system, meaning your clips that are uploaded and approved through BlackBox, appear on their account called “BlackBoxGuild” on the 4 larger microstock sites.

No matter if you go through the route of BlackBox or solo, make sure you learn how to properly write tags before you take the leap of uploading to BlackBox. Once the clips are online, you can no longer edit them which can prove to be somewhat limiting, especially when you grow and gain more insight into how to write a winning title and keywords.

In the end, it all comes down to what your preference is: ease of use (BlackBox) or having your own brand and a bit more control over clips (meaning you go solo and upload clips to various microstock sites).

Whatever you choose, be ready to be proactive and upload as many high quality clips as you can!