Looking for stock video footage?

Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

I’ve talked about archive.org before. I revisited it this evening. As usual, another hundred or so films have been added. A handful of selections from another library, owned by the University of South Carolina, have trickled in.
But most importantly, many of the films in the Prelinger collection, which currently numbers 1,255 films, now have descriptions and the ability to view with RealPlayer in streaming format. So if you need a clip showing New York City, you can do a search and view the films to see if the clip is suitable before you spend a lot of time downloading a monster MPEG-2 file.

And since the copyright on these films has long since lapsed (if ever it was copyrighted in the first place), you can use it.

Some of the films are interesting to watch in their own right. The film The Challenge of Ideas shows just how much we’ve changed in 40 years. Some of the changes are good–virtually all of the narrators held lit cigarettes in their right hand as they spoke.

But as I watched, I couldn’t help but think the ACLU would never permit this film to be made by the U.S. Government today. For one thing, it showed churches and used the now-controversial phrase “Nation under God.”

The film talked about winning to Cold War in people’s minds. But the film’s description of the Soviets sounds an awful lot like today’s United States. Meanwhile, our values infiltrated the former Soviet Union. So who really did win the Cold War?

There’s also a lot of footage that shows the flip-side of the fifties. I remember in my 20th Century U.S. History class in college, my professor drove home the thought that Happy Days was a myth–there was a darker side. The films in this archive certainly show that–the beginnings of the demolition of historic neighborhoods to build pre-fab buildings, drug addiction, oppression. And of course there was the ever-present threat of war. I don’t know that the Fabulous Fifties were actually any darker than the decades that followed it. But they don’t seem to have been much better.

This stuff almost makes me want to be a history teacher.

But I’ll probably just abuse it as stock footage instead. I don’t have to go back to school to do that.

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One thought on “Looking for stock video footage?

  • September 25, 2002 at 12:26 pm

    Born in 1950, so I caught the late part of it (and the early sixties); here are a coupla’ tidbits:

    Rock and Roll coming onto the scene. Some parents were cool about it.

    Heroin addiction in neighborhood kids (the “Black Leather Jacket” crowd) as we moved into junior high school.

    Big Daddy Ed Roth and his dragstrip artwork.

    “Duck and Cover” drills in elementary school, and the background presence of atomic annihilation (interestingly enough, a concept *not* shared by my parents when the subject came up years later).

    “Mad” magazine.

    Teen pregnancies that removed kids from mainstream schools. …and girls dying from back alley abortions.

    Jet fighters were new and cool; Korea was a fresh memory.

    You could easily ride your bike or walk miles to school and no one worried about it.

    Facsimile machines were new and used a wet, multi-stage process.

    Single car families.

    A few memories as I kick back for a moment…

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