Film Research

Nuclear Archive: Getting a Bang for your Buck

Today I thought I’d share a bit about an explosive topic.  My daytime job involves sourcing all kinds of film and photographs for use in television documentaries.  One of my current projects recently gave me an excuse to re-visit a fantastic archive – the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Testing Archive in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out their list of films here or check out their YouTube channel.

I was looking for footage of a specific test and the good folks in Nevada have coverage of most of them.  That is, most American tests. You’ll have to look elsewhere if you want footage of nuclear tests from the U.K., France, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea (good luck) and whoever may or may not have nuked fish in the South Atlantic.

Ferreting through nuclear test archives can make even the most serious of researchers feel just a bit like James Bond, albeit a slightly geekier version.  Three or four decades ago spies would’ve killed to get their hands on records which are now declassified and available to anyone.  Some film makers are happy to fork out money to stock agencies for nuclear test footage but it is cheaper and much more fun to go straight to the source.  The Nevada Nuclear Testing Archive is one of a number of collections that you can get nuclear test footage from.

They also have some neat photos of things that go bang in the night…

Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

…and of course things that go bang during the day.

Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

If you’d rather just have some explosion packed media to throw straight at your blue-ray then I highly recommend ‘Trinity and Beyond’ which includes lovingly restored film footage transferred to high-definition.  It is by far the best documentary on the subject.  Here is an excerpt showing a nuclear artillery shell being fired.

Also please remember that if there is a real explosion near you do NOT turn around to look at it.  The flash could cause irreparable damage to your retina and even more importantly, cool guys don’t look at explosions

© Lemuel Lyes

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