Education Blog

How to Find Free Media Resources on the Web

By Brandon Shenkman, Education Program Manager 05.21.20

How to Find Free Media Resources on the Web

Over the years at the Burns we have run many courses, the majority focused on filmmaking. While we try to create as much as we can in-house with our students, there are often situations where we need to include other artists' work to make our vision whole. For example, scoring a film can be a long and technical process, one we don't often have time to undertake with students, but we still need music to support our scenes. So where do we get it? The internet! Any time we use the green screen for background replacement we need to find a believable image to underscore our actors. Where do they come from? You guessed it, the internet.

Sounds easy enough, but when using other artists work we need to ask permission and give credit. Oftentimes you'll find an image or piece of music that you like, but there is no information about the author or how to contact them. Can we use that in our film? Honestly, probably not.

So, how do we reliably find images, video, and music that we can use legally in our projects? The answer is the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that offers licenses for creative and academic works. As a creator, you can tag your work with different types of CC licenses. Some licenses require attribution, some allow reproduction without modification, and others allow the user to do whatever they want. As a teacher and creator, I always look for works tagged CC0. CC0 effectively means "no rights reserved" and is the closest a work can get to being in the Public Domain.

OK, so now I know what I need, but how do I find it? Here are some tips, tricks, and resources to get you started:

1) CC Search. This is the Creative Commons image search engine, filter by license type, and subject matter.

2) Google Image Search. This is a far more effective tool than given credit for. Under the right side of the search bar, click 'Tools' for advanced options. Under 'Usage Rights,' filter to taste. Also, if you are looking for images to include in an HD video, make sure you set your search size to 'Large'. This will show you the largest relevant images and prevent quality loss later due to scaling.

3) Metropolitan Museum of Art - Open Access. The Met teamed up with Creative Commons to make all images it believes to be in the Public Domain readily accessible to artists and educators. This is an incredibly expansive resource focused around art and history.

4) Incompetech. Where would the internet be without Kevin MacLeod? Incompetech is a database of free music written by MacLeod, sorted by genre/emotion. You can find his music in a huge number of Youtube videos, so many in fact that his name has become synonymous with free internet music. Attribution required.

5) Free Music Archive. An aggregator of CC and PD music from across the internet.

6) Vimeo - Creative Commons/PD Dedication. Vimeo's own collection of CC0 and PD works, all downloadable and free to use. There are over a 100 thousand videos.