The Internet Archive isn’t the only place you can go for royalty free footage, you know. The recently launched Public Domain Project by pond5 delivers 9,715 video clips for perusal, use in creative or commercial products and anything else you can think of.
It’s not all video (though that’s where we’ll be focusing today), with 473 sound files, 64,535 images and 121 3D models also included in the collection. With so much footage available, you should grab a decent video editor and set to work recycling that old footage.
Finding What You Need
With that many videos and other bits of media on offer, it can be overwhelming trying to find what you’re after. Head to the free video footage archive to get started, using search terms to narrow down the field. Some good examples of tags that will make your life easier include the decade or year you’re looking for, location, “no people” or “implied people” for shots that don’t directly feature others and the type of shot you’re looking for – e.g. “wide shot” or “medium shot” – all of which have been used liberally by the curators at pond5.
If you’re not sure if the videos you are browsing are from the collection, ensure the “Public Domain Only” box is checked in the menu on the left.
You can mouse-over a video to see a preview, and click the Add to Collection button to quickly add that video to your shortlist without losing your place. You can find these videos at the bottom of the screen, under Collection, and download them en-masse when you’re ready.
The collection comprises of mostly 1080p video (though 2K and 4K downloads are available too), much of which was captured on 8, 16 and 35mm film of various quality. Many of the video clips are devoid of sound, which is particularly frustrating for the many included speeches.
One thing you don’t need to do with any of these films is attribute them, such is the nature of items within the public domain. You’re free to do whatever you like with these films, and you’ve got nobody to answer to afterwards – even if you profit from your creation.
Tip: If you have found a clip you like and are looking for related footage, click through to that particular clip’s page and scroll to the bottom where you will find a Collections Containing this Video button. Click it and to see curated collections from the same reel, event or date.
What’s On Offer?
Here’s just a taste of what I found from looking through the collection, which contains thousands of usable clips.
Atlantis, Space & Apollo 11
NASA is particularly generous when it comes to public domain content, and so are the many keen photographers who turn out in droves to watch them hurl things into space. Here you can see Atlantis’ launch on the final space shuttle mission, and check out the whole collection for close-ups and other clips.
Clips like the completion of the very same mission, in which Atlantis lands safely at the Kennedy Space Center and signals the end of an era for manned space travel.
There’s also plenty of footage from the 1969 Apollo XI moon landing mission, starting with this remarkable clip of engineers working on the project prior to the launch, which looks like a scene out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Another eerie scene shows a spacecraft seemingly travelling toward the moon’s meteorite-scarred surface. It’s a piece of footage that wouldn’t look out of place in a Boards of Canada music video, shot on super 16mm and entirely devoid of organic matter.
Crowds of People
Some of the most interesting bits of footage in the collection show an entirely different, but somewhat recognisable, way of life. Footage like this minute of Lower Broadway, New York City in 1902.
Being a centre for trade and first-stop for many of America’s new arrivals, New York is particularly well-represented within the archives as the military parade below demonstrates.
From another reel shot in New York is the footage below of an unruly crowd attempting to get closer to General John J Pershing for a speech in 1919 following his successful American Expeditionary Force campaign in 1917-18 that helped the Allies put a stop to German advances.
Everything from famous speeches, to protests and street parties can be found within the Public Domain Project. See the crowds collection for more.
This moody shot of a B-17 Flying Fortress landing in a field, somewhere in England during World War II is just one of many incredible scenes from the conflict that have been preserved within the PD collection. For a lot more war footage check out British Pathé’s free-to-view collection, which was made available last year.
Among the iconic shots of planes that helped win wars are also a few lesser-known means of transportation, like the Avrocar – a flying-saucer prototype shot in 1960 in Toronto, Canada which looks incredibly tough to fly.
And in a slightly-more-common but still-fascinating minute or so of video, the New York subway from 14th St. to 42nd St. in 1905 makes for quite some viewing too.
What Will You Create?
With so much footage at your disposal, there’s enough here for just about any video need. Whether you’re looking for additional footage for a school project, creating a music video entirely from recycled clips or are simply a history buff trawling the archives for interesting clips – let us know what you think of the collection.
Have you used royalty-free public domain video for anything fun in the past?