How to Reverse Video Search: A Complete Guide
Have you ever found a funny clip online and wanted to find the original video, but weren’t sure how? Or maybe you watched a snippet of a movie and were gripped, but frustratingly couldn’t find out what that movie was called?
The solution is Reverse Video Searching – thanks to computer wizardry, there are now ways of finding what you’re looking for using video. It’s similar to searching for something on Google, but instead of typing in words or phrases, you submit a video file which the search engine then analyses and tries to match with content in its databases.
Reverse video searching is an interesting application of technology and feels one step closer to Blade Runner levels of futurism. The technology is still at a relatively early stage of development on a consumer level, so there aren’t tonnes of high-quality reverse video search platforms out there right now. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a guide to help you understand how to reverse video search, and how it can help you to find the source video from a clip.
Thankfully, it is possible to reverse video search. As mentioned previously, the technology is relatively new and won’t work perfectly every time. However, a little knowledge about reverse video searching can make for a useful skill.
There are several situations where reverse video searching can come in handy:
- Finding stolen material. If there are question marks over whether or not a video has been stolen and rebroadcast without a copyright license, reverse video searching can find the places these videos end up. This can be useful to find and remove copyright violations of video works.
- Finding the full original. Perhaps you found a short clip online, a snippet of an interesting documentary, or an epic scene in a film or TV show. Sometimes these clips might not leave any way of identifying the original content, which can be very frustrating. Video searching can use these clips to find the full and original videos, saving time wasted trawling through the depths of YouTube.
- Finding more information on the topic. Let’s say there is a clip that you want to re-use in your own video. The clip is downloaded but doesn’t have any information on the original publisher. Reverse video searching can be used here to find the original source, thus revealing the copyright owner or video producer. This makes it easy to find video owners to contact them for more information, or to agree a license to rebroadcast their video.
The process of reverse video searching is similar between platforms. Usually the video search engine requires a video file or URL link. Some platforms will require an account to be registered to use their search engine, and some sites charge a one-off or subscription fee.
How to reverse video search depends on where your video file is. If the video is already online, copy the website address and paste it into the search engine.
If the original video is a downloaded file, the standard reverse video search process is as follows:
- Open the video search website.
- Upload the video file to the search engine.
- Configure search parameters.
- Browse for matching results.
Sometimes the video search engine only takes image uploads, not video. If this is the case, open the video, pause it, take a screenshot, and then upload.
There are several reverse video search platforms out there:
- Berify – uses reverse searching to help discover stolen images and videos. The platform also offers a protection service which notifies users any time it discovers new appearances of work. This helps to locate any potential copyright breaches.
- Shutterstock – has a reverse image search function for video. You can upload images to reverse search for videos that contain them online.
- TinEye – a reverse image and video search engine. This platform reveals other websites where the image appears, including video results.
Due to the complexity of the task, reverse video searching results can often be inaccurate. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try using an image or screenshot of the video in a reverse image search.
Sometimes it's worth trimming the clip of video to speed up the process – the less data the search engine has to analyse, the quicker the process will be.
If you’re doing your video editing on the fly, check out our guide to the best mobile apps for video editing. Or, if you want to know more about screenshots and screen recording, have a look at our guide to the best software out there currently.
Unfortunately, Google don’t currently have a reverse video search function. There is, however, a rough workaround that effectively performs the same task.
Google can’t read videos yet, but by using the image search capabilities that it does have, you can get similar results.
How to use image search on Google to find a video:
- Take a screenshot of the video you want to reverse search (crop it so there is no extra stuff going on).
- Go to Google Images.
- Click the camera icon in the search bar.
- From the options “Paste image URL” or “Upload an image”, click upload image, then select the screenshot of the video you’re searching for.
- Click search. Google will return a list of images that it recognises to be similar to the original source image.
- Browse through the results for a source video.
Google reverse image search is powered by AI and machine learning, so it is not foolproof, but it usually comes close enough.
Note: The image must be in one of the following formats: .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .tif or .webp.
There are situations where it might be necessary to find the original source of a video.
- Rebroadcasting – credit to the original owner will be needed if you intend on reusing a video in a new work.
- Referencing – if a video is being mentioned in academic work, for example, full reference to the source file may be required.
- Remixing – found the ultimate meme video, but it’s covered in someone else’s tacky captions? Find the original source to start with the raw content to create new memes, and more.
These kinds of instances will be familiar to people across the media industry, including: journalists, vloggers, political commentators, podcasters, academics, artists, animators, documentary, and filmmakers.
We’ve outlined the process of reverse video searching to find an original source, but there are also other ways of finding what you’re looking for, depending on how much info you have available to you.
Try Googling what you see and hear in the video. This could mean words, phrases, or lyrics that the narrator or actors mention in the video, which could then link to an online script or music video lyrics page, revealing the full work. Or, in the case of news reports and coverage, maybe there’s some on screen information relating to the channel, time and date of the original broadcast.
Google Image search a frame of the video to see if there are related images online. This may reveal the original video, or other websites with more information about the source.
Here are some search engines that have video search features:
- Google Video – can be used to find videos on other platforms and websites, such as news channels, film trailers, live streams and more.
- Youtube – excellent search function which shows related videos and has filters for advanced search to find specific videos.
- Bing Video – doesn’t have reverse search, but it can show related videos, and searches through YouTube, Vimeo and others.
There are many websites that have an auto-play or related videos feature. These can be good places to find similar videos.
- Use YouTube’s suggested videos feature. If the video is hosted on YouTube it will show other videos that it has identified as being related. Playlists are also worth looking at.
- Google Advanced Video Search. The in-depth search filters allow you to view videos by author, year and more.
- Look at videos that are hosted in the same location as the original video. Often websites host themed collections of videos.
Reverse video searching technology is still quite new, so its full powers are yet to be made available to the everyday internet user. Nothing stands still in the world of technology for long however, and we can expect this area to evolve rapidly over the next few years.
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