How to Remove Black (and White) Backgrounds from Stock Footage

How to Remove Black (and White) Backgrounds from Stock Footage

Stock Footage 101: Episode 1

As you'd expect, we get asked a lot of questions concerning VFX Stock Footage on a daily basis. Some of these questions are very advanced, but most of them are things that we think are pretty basic. In an effort to better help our users, we've decided to launch Stock Footage 101!

Stock Footage 101 is going to be a video segment on our YouTube channel where we address some of the popular questions we're asked regularly by our users. In this first episode, I'll go over the best ways to remove a black, or white, background from stock footage.

Most of the VFX elements we provide here at ActionVFX do have an Alpha Channel, but some of them only come on a black or white background. If you encounter such a clip, don't panic because keying the background is simple once you know which tools to use. Enjoy the video!

Video Summary:

  • Use Blending Modes in your editing software to remove backgrounds. Use "Screen" or "Add" for black backgrounds, and "Multiply" for white backgrounds.
  • To actually key out the background and create an Alpha Channel in your clip, use a plugin such as Demult (from HitFilm Ignite Express) or Unmult (from Red Giant Universe).
  • After Effects has a preset called "Alpha From Lightness (Unmult)" that can be used to key a background. Using that preset does shift the colors of the stock footage slightly, so take caution when using it.
  • Clips that don't have a perfectly black background require more advanced keying methods. To remove imperfections from your background, use the "Linear Color Key" effect in After Effects, or the "Hue & RGB Key" effect from HitFilm Ignite Express.


Download the effects used in this video
Download HitFilm Ignite Express (for Demult and Hue & RGB Key)
Get Red Giant Universe (for Unmult)
Download Free VFX Stock Footage from ActionVFX

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