A brand almost synonymous with black-and-white film reel at least directly either side of the English Channel, the brand known as British Pathe are likely to have provided some sort of archived footage you have seen at some point in your life, but if anyone out there has not yet been reached indirectly, they can now know exactly where to find their content if they have access to YouTube.
In spite of the content on offer covering over 3,500 hours worth of content (146 days, if you wanted to watch the entire collection with no breaks) across over 85,000 video clips, the release on Sunday (13 April) was made to little fanfare other than their own press release, with major news outlets only picking up on the story (or 85,000 of them) near the tail-end of the week.
The collection of footage spans from 1896-1976 and covers almost all genres of everyday life, and is regarded by many as the best film archive for the period in the world for both quantity and quality, particularly for coverage of the two World Wars. While such clips were generally made for either news programmes, documentaries, or cinematic pre-film specials, the archive of British Pathe (self-owned since 2009 after going through a number of owners in its long history), has focused on preservation through more sustainable digital means since 2002, a culmination of the project seemingly in place now with backups of the film reels now contained within an official YouTube channel with content fully prepared to make viewers learn, laugh, and cry.
The YouTube effort comes with support from German company Mediakraft, who are noted in the press release as planning to create English and foreign-language content from the past footage, presumably doing it mainly by modern voice-overs to themed compilations.
British Pathe’s general manager Alastair White said of the release, which has been rolled out in ‘high resolution’ for the best possible footage: “Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them. This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that. Whether you’re looking for coverage of the Royal Family, the Titanic, the destruction of the Hindenburg, or quirky stories about British pastimes, it’ll be there on our channel. You can lose yourself for hours.”
Whatever it is you are looking for, said treasure trove can be found from the link provided, whilst sample footage can be found below to get you started, a nice way to lose a day/week/year if you like…
But all this nostalgia is not without forgetting that British Pathe had some rivals who could keep up in terms of quality back in their dominant era: