07 Aug 2015 Dissolve Review
While all the big microstock agencies now license video footage in addition to still images, they didn’t reach the market quickly enough to lock out agencies that specialize in video. Relative newcomer Dissolve is proving that there’s still space there, having gained a respectable amount of traction in their two short years online.
What is Dissolve?
Launched in May 2013 and based in Calgary, Canada, Dissolve is a stock footage agency focussed on the high end of the market. They’re primarily interested in high quality footage and target premium customers.
More than half of the 900+ contributors are exclusive contributors, who receive some very serious exclusivity benefits. There are 35 staff working from HQ with more working remotely from around the world.
The company has done extremely well for just two years of operation. They’ve gained an enviable amount of press and received no less than four Vimeo staff picks.
But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Dissolve. Read on.
Who’s Behind It?
The company was created by a who’s who of Canadian stock photo industry leaders. The CEO is none other than Patrick Lor, co-founder of iStockphoto and 500px board member, who also had a brief stint at Fotolia. The rest of the team are mostly Veer alumni, including Sheldon Popiel, Jon Parker, and Rupa Sandhu.
Dissolve was funded with $5M in capital raised by its own founders with the participation of venture firm iNovia Capital, where Lor was the Entrepreneur in Residence at the time, exploring new opportunities after concluding his role at Fotolia. It was there that he developed the concept for Dissolve and built his team.
The site primarily uses a simple RF model for commercial and editorial content, but they offer extended licenses and RM as well.
Prices start at $49, increasing with content quality.
Exclusive contributors earn a 35% royalty, while non-exclusives earn 30%.
The $5 Footage Controversy
Soon after launch Dissolve partnered with another stock agency to populate their library with footage clips, for which they negotiated a deal to license the clips at $5 each. They assumed the original contributors of those clips were aware of the deal, so were surprised to hear from angry contributors about the severely discounted pricing. Many of the same clips were selling at Getty Images for $450.
Not keen to upset the supply side of their market, and not impressed with the results of the pricing experiment anyway, Dissolve cut the partnership and cut the discount pricing strategy altogether.
Today almost all files come from direct contributors.
Dissolve takes exclusivity serious. The royalty rate is a mere 5% above the non-exclusive rate of 30%, but the real benefits are elsewhere.
First is the “Liftoff” program where, for footage that meets certain guidelines, they take exclusives’ raw files, usually delivered unsorted and unedited on a hard drive, and do all editing, color-correction, processing and metadata creation. This is a key strategy that helps the filmmakers who are not dedicated to stock get value from the footage they don’t have time to process themselves.
Second is loan equipment, which includes a RED Epic, that exclusive contributors can borrow for free. While it’s only available in the Calgary area, it has been used by both locals and people from other countries who drop in.
Other benefits include featured placement on the site and advertising, priority in the upload queue, access to guidelines, a list of content types that the site is looking for, and content requests made by customers.
The exclusivity agreements are by contributor, not content. They currently have 110,000 exclusive clips – not huge in comparison to some of the big video agencies, but great for such a young agency.
It’s All About the Customer
On the buyer side, Dissolve focuses on delivering an excellent user experience, and they’re very proud of their user interface and their personalized customer service. One of their marketing strategies is to produce and display sample advertising videos using content from their catalog to show the potential of their clips.
However, the company says their biggest challenge right now is penetrating the small business market. They want to sell small business owners on the benefits of investing more time, effort and money in video production and convert them into Dissolve customers.
Mocking the Generic
All stock imagery has its detractors and stock footage is not above the mockery. The main criticism is that it leads filmmakers to produce more and more generic content, using stock videos that were designed to fit in multiple contexts and not their specific need.
Dissolve has an innovative response to this, as previously seen. They join in the mockery, showing how stocky footage is, and how it’s used, but then contrast that with some great footage used well. Last year, they produced a video directly inspired by the online viral poem “This is a Generic Brand Video” by Kendra Eash. More recently, they made a mockup of intro sequences for fake new TV shows. Both videos were well received by audiences.
Dissolve recently announced an initiative to lower the price of clips that were available at lower prices from competitors. The contributors they spoke with about this directly were understanding, but there were some unhappy contributors who reacted to the change. Dissolve says this was a direct response to customers telling them that they shop around. Some even showed them how they find the same files on multiple sites, enabling them to choose the cheapest.
This initiative obviously doesn’t affect exclusive files, and not all non-exclusive contributors sell at cheaper prices, so Dissolve claim it’s only affecting a relatively small portion of the collection. Critical contributors say the cutting of $79 clips to $49 is to match the pricing at Videoblocks, even though the Videoblocks membership model enables them to pay a 100% royalty.
The Price of Premium
Dissolve invests heavily in sales and marketing. They target a range of clients with emphasis on the top-end, produce a lot of marketing material, and even have a large customer research team who send lightboxes to customers who submit briefs, specifications or even vague ideas of what they’re seeking.
This helps position them as a premium agency and obviously drives a lot of sales, but it comes at the cost of royalties. The low-but-not-too-low 30% royalty leaves a lot for reinvestment and promotion of the business.
How To Sell With Dissolve
Dissolve is always interested in new contributors. But before you sign up, keep a few things in mind: They want high value content. They prefer 4K and 1080p clips (although they can accept 720p for files resulting from slow motion or time-lapse shooting) from 5 to 20 seconds long, but they will accept longer clips if the length adds value. They advise only basic color correction, and with few exceptions, footage must not contain audio.
The contributor information is available here.
Do you have experience with Dissolve? Tell us about it in the comments.