Trove of free, public domain HD video

Rick Prelinger sez,

I'm delighted to let everyone know about our newest Internet Archive collection which, for want of a cooler title, we're calling 35mm Stock Footage. Digitized from 35mm original negatives and release prints dating back to the first decade of the 20th century, these unedited sequences were shot for feature films but never used. Studio librarians saved them for use in future productions, and now you can download and use them yourself in a variety of formats, including 720p HD, absolutely free. As far as I know, this is Internet Archive's first all-HD collection.

In the first wave of materials: a trip across the George Washington Bridge in the late 1940s, a snake slithering on rainy ground, aerials of Hollywood studios, 1940s Southern California hotrodders, stunt flying, miniature airplanes crashing, the Staten Island Ferry in the 1930s, and much more. Much of the footage is "process plates" -- film shot for the rear-projection screens you see out of car, taxi and train windows in old movies.

We've also digitized HD versions of newsreels and short subjects from the 1920s and 1930s, and there are even French "primitive-era" silent films dating back as far as 1905. Please get lost in this collection, make your own movies with it (please upload them to Internet Archive if you can!), and keep watching for more.

Welcome to 35mm Stock Footage


  1. Wow. Having made a few short films using public domain images and my own narration I’ve often wondered if there was a trove of stock film footage I could put to similar use.

    Wish granted. Even if I never put any of this to use it still looks like a treasure trove of awesomeness, and bless the people who have put this much work into making it.

  2. What great news! I love making music videos out of stuff from the Prelinger archives. Like this one :

    Now, off to make more videos…

  3. The post title says “Public Domain” but the archive says “Creative Commons Attribution.” 

    There is a huge difference between the two. Please advise. 

    1. Also, they are “Licensing” higher resolution stills and movies through Getty. 

      If this is PD content, what legal right do they have to require that attribution? 

      1. I think the fact that they made the digitized copy. The films themselves are PD but the digitized version is considered an original work. So they’re reserving the rights to sell the higher res versions and making the lower res versions available for free under a CC attribution license.  

        1. US Public Domain is not always so clear when you’re outside the USA, but I’d doubt that these are in the Public Domain. Published now, it’s under current rules. 70 years after the death of the author probably doesn’t apply as they’d be corporate works, so it would be 120 years after creation.

          CC Attribution is a pretty good deal, I reckon.

        2. Digitization isn’t a creative process. Under US copyright law, as I understand it, it would be considered sweat of the brow work, and uncopyrightable. In the same way, a faithful reproduction of a work of art that is in the public domain (ie a photograph), is also normally considered to be in the public domain. 

          I’m having a hard time remembering how long unpublished works remain under copyright before passing into the public domain. If these works are still under copyright and were given to the Archive, and the Archive is releasing them, that is one matter. If they are, in fact, public domain, then it is in rather bad taste for the archive to claim ownership of them. 

          1. Just to clarify, the unedited stock footage materials are actually unpublished works and copyright is owned by Internet Archive. The archival films (that’s to say, edited films with continuity) are in public domain. 

            “Public domain” in the post title was inserted by Cory, not by us. 

  4. While these archives are black-and-white shorts of scenes and artefacts and are virtually useless for any but the most ardent histophilic cinematographer, I find it remarkable that any of it managed to escape from the clutches of the greedy studios.

    But I bet I will manage to find solarized stills excerpted from these shorts and used in manga and animé versions of new stories coming out of Japan.

    1. Great stabilization!  I was thinking the same thing while watching some of those videos.  After stabilization, the shot becomes a pretty good candidate for slitscan effects, which I think would be interesting.

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