Make a Movie Without a Camcorder

Make a Movie Without a Camcorder

Even if you don't have a video camera, you can still make a movie by downloading video footage from the Internet. The Internet Archive web site provides free video you can use to create your next masterpiece.

Every once in a while, you might be in the mood to edit together a movie, but you don't have a video camera. The Internet Archive ( is a nonprofit organization, which was founded to build an "Internet Library." A vast array of media is available through the site, including audio and video files.

You can also use footage obtained from the Internet Archive for establishing shots and transitions within your movies.

Using the Archives

There are two good, free archives available through the Internet Archive site. The first of the two archives is the Open Source movies section (, which contains movies that have been contributed by the public. The second is the Prelinger Archive (, which dates back to 1983 and was founded by Rick Prelinger. The Prelinger archive contains close to 2,000 movies online.

Browsing the site

Both the Open Source and the Prelinger archives are part of the larger Moving Images collection. Within the collection of Moving Images are a variety of sections, including Independent News, Computer Chronicles, and Feature Films. Of particular interest is the Feature Films section, which contains genres ranging from Action to Western. Do you want to make a Mystery movie? Then browse the Mystery section, gather your footage, and edit to your heart's content.

All of the archive sections are set up the same. The homepage contains some quick links to the top movies, movies in the "spotlight," and most recently reviewed movies. Clicking on any of the links returns more information about the specific movie, as well as a way to download it. Figure shows a list of recently updated reviews and links to their respective movies within the Open Source section.

One movie that caught my attention while I was browsing was How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic, shown in Figure. So, I clicked the link and retrieved the details page. There I discovered it is a movie made from Night of the Living Dead and Amid the Dead footage, both of which are available on the site.

Taking an interest in "How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic"

On the details page, you will also find information about how long the movie is, which formats it is available in, and who was involved in the production of the movie. You can also surf to other movies that are listed under the same keywords as the movie you are looking at by clicking on one of the relevant links.

Finally, the license restrictions (a.k.a. what you are legally allowed to do with the footage) are listed just below the Keyword links. Make sure you understand the license and what you are allowed to use the footage for before you download and use it. Figure shows the details page about the movie How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic.

Evidence that Gabriel Koenig is a very busy man

In the upper-left corner of the details page you will see stills from the movie that play in succession. This will give you an idea of what the footage looks like: black and white, color, animation, and so on. If you click on the View movie scenes link, you will be shown images from each minute of the movie.

Downloading a Movie

After finding out more information, if you would like to download the video, simply click on the respective link listed under Download on the right side of the page. You will have the most success if you right-click (or Control-click on Mac) and choose to download the link as a file. Figure shows the pop-up menu selected to download the movie.

Downloading "How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic"

Downloading the link as a file will allow you to save the movie to your hard drive. After you have downloaded the entire video, you can import it into your editing system and get to work on your new movie.

Some of the videos you download from the Internet Archive might not be in the format you would like to use. If this is the case, you will need to convert the video [Hack #29] so you can use it.

Depending on your approach, you can mix and match footage from many movies, reedit a movie, or dream something up like Mystery Science Theater 3000. You might want to log your new footage [Hack #5] and write a script [Hack #7] before you start editing, through.

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