Is stock footage beyond your reach? Maybe not.

Stock historical footage. We’ve all seen it used in the movies and on TV. Thanks to early documentary film makers and newsreel cameramen, long ago events, from the major to the mundane, still live on in grainy, black and white moving images. Most of those clips are owned by stock footage libraries. These companies license the rights to various clips to video and film producers – and the rights can be very expensive. We’re talking hundreds and thousands of dollars for a few seconds to a few minutes of video, way more than most family video biographers can afford. But what if you really want to include some historical clips in your family video, both to bring a particular era to life and to give your video that History Channel look? Do you have any low cost options? Actually, you do.

Some of our taxes do go to support worthy government institutions, and one of them is the Library of Congress. In addition to print materials, the Library of Congress houses some great early film collections in its American Memory Collection. Some of the films are in the public domain, which means you don’t have to pay to use them (however you may be required to credit the Library of Congress on screen). You have the option of downloading clips or of having them copied to tape and shipped to you. If the clips you want are public domain, all you have to pay for is shipping and duplication. I recently purchased a copy of some early Ellis Island footage (stills from the footage are at left and at the top of the newsletter). I was very happy with the service and the quality of the copy. Several video formats are offered, but most home video biographers will need to opt for VHS.

Another option is an online resource called the Internet Archive. The site contains a variety of films and videos available for download. Some of the material is free to use in your video and some of it isn’t. Downloads can take a while and, once you have the clip, you’ll most probably need to convert it to a file your editing software will accept. I used Blaze Media Pro to convert some clips to avi files. The software worked just fine.

So, take heart. With a little online detective work, you may be able to find some free and low cost stock footage to add some pizzazz to your next video biography.