Prelinger Archive

How did you digitize the films?
The Prelinger Archives films are held in original film form (35mm, 16mm, 8mm, Super 8mm, and various obsolete formats like 28mm and 9.5mm). Films were first transferred to Betacam SP videotape, a widely used analog broadcast video standard, on telecine machines manufactured by Rank Cintel or Bosch. The film-to-tape transfer process is not a real-time process: It requires inspection of the film, repair of any physical damage, and supervision by a skilled operator who manipulates color, contrast, speed, and video controls.   The videotape masters created in the film-to-tape transfer suite were digitized in 2001-2003 at Prelinger Archives in New York City using an encoding workstation built by Rod Hewitt. The workstation is a 550 MHz PC with a FutureTel NS320 MPEG encoder card. Custom software, also written by Rod Hewitt, drove the Betacam SP playback deck and managed the encoding process. The files were uploaded to hard disk through the courtesy of Flycode, Inc.   More recently, Prelinger films have been digitized and uploaded by Skip Elsheimer at AV Geeks. We are also digitizing home movies and other materials on Internet Archive’s ScanStation scanner.   The files were encoded at constant bitrates ranging from 2.75 Mbps to 3.5 Mbps. Most were encoded at 480 x 480 pixels (2/3 D1) or 368 x 480 (roughly 1/2 D1). The encoder drops horizontal pixels during the digitizing process, which during decoding are interpolated by the decoder to produce a 720 x 480 picture. (Rod Hewitt’s site Coolstf shows examples of an image before and after this process.) Picture quality is equal to or better than most direct broadcast satellite television. Audio was encoded at MPEG-1 Level 2, generally at 112 kbps. Both the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 movies have mono audio tracks.   To convert the MPEG-2 video to MPEG-4, we used a program called FlasK MPEG. This is an MPEG-1/2 to AVI conversion tool that reads the source MPEG-2 and outputs an AVI file containing the video in MPEG-4 format and audio in uncompressed PCM format. We then use a program called Virtual Dub that recompresses the audio using the MPEG-1 Level 3 (MP3) format. This process is automated by the software that runs the system.  

Do I need to inform the Internet Archive and/or Prelinger Archives when I reuse these movies?
No. However, we would very much like to know how you have used this material, and we’d be thrilled to see what you’ve made with it. This may well help us improve this site. Please consider sending us a copy of your production (postal mail only), and let us know whether we can call attention to it on the site. Our address is:   Rick Prelinger PO Box 590622 San Francisco, CA 94159 United States  

How can I get access to stock footage from these films?
Access to the movies stored on this site in videotape or film form is available to commercial users through Getty Images, representing Prelinger Archives for stock footage sales. Please contact Getty Images.   Please visit us at for more information on access to these and similar films. Prelinger Archives regrets that it cannot generally provide access to movies stored on this Web site in other ways than through the site itself. We recognize that circumstances may arise when such access should be granted, and we welcome email requests. Please address them to Rick Prelinger.   The Internet Archive does not provide access to these films other than through this site.  

An article on re-coding Prelinger Archive films to SVCD so you can watch them on your DVD player.
See archived version of

Do I need to credit the Internet Archive and Prelinger Archives when I reuse these movies?
We ask that you credit us as a source of archival material, in order to help make others aware of this site. We suggest the following forms of credit:   “Archival footage supplied by Internet Archive (at in association with Prelinger Archives”   “Archival footage supplied by Internet Archive (at”   “Archival footage supplied by”  

Are there restrictions on the use of the Prelinger Films?
The films are available for reuse according to the Creative Commons licenses, if any, that appear with on each film’s detail page. Pursuant to the Creative Commons license, you are warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free.   Any derivative works that you produce using these films are yours to perform, publish, reproduce, sell, or distribute in any way you wish without any limitations.   Descriptions, synopses, shotlists and other metadata provided by Prelinger Archives to this site are copyrighted jointly by Prelinger Archives and Getty Images. They may be quoted, excerpted or reproduced for educational, scholarly, nonprofit or archival purposes, but may not be reproduced for commercial purposes of any kind without permission.  

If you require a written license agreement or need access to stock footage in a physical format (such as videotape or a higher-quality digital file), please contact Getty Images. The Internet Archive does not furnish written license agreements, nor does it comment on the rights status of a given film above and beyond the Creative Commons license.

We would appreciate attribution or credit whenever possible, but do not require it.

Can you point me to resources on the history of ephemeral films?
See the bibliography and links to other resources at

Why are there very few post-1964 movies in the Prelinger collection?
Largely because of copyright law. While a high percentage of ephemeral films were never originally copyrighted or (if initially copyrighted) never had their copyrights properly renewed, copyright laws still protect most moving image works produced in the United States from 1964 to the present. Since the Prelinger collection on this site exists to supply material to users without most rights restrictions, every title has been checked for copyright status. Those titles that either are copyrighted or whose status is in question have not been made available. For information on recent changes in copyright law, see the circular Duration of Copyright (in PDF format) published by the Library of Congress

For more information check out our Prelinger Archives Forum