The basic element of our site is a page describing an individual animation or related set of animations. In most cases, our animations are created in HD resolution, 1920x1080 or 1280x720 at 30 or 60 frames per second. Some of our old content is available as NTSC video resolution, 720 pixels wide and 480 pixels high at 29.97 frames per second (more details below).

The SVS does not fulfill requests for copies of the tapes in our library. On some of our animation pages, there is a direct link to a video distribution service from which tapes including some of our animations may be ordered. General information on this service can be found here.

View our tutorial for teachers!

High Definition Animations (MPEG-4s and MPEG-2s)

Almost all of our recent animations include a high definition MPEG-4 format. MPEG-4 movie files can be viewed using:

Some of our older animations also include a high definition MPEG-2 format. As a rule, these animations are either 1920 x 1080 x 30 frames/sec or 1280 x 720 x 30 frames/sec, and cannot be played without specialized hardware decoders. These animations are provided for specialized uses, such as museum displays or live presentations. To play movies of this format, try using MPlayer or Quicktime, linked above, as well as VideoLAN (Windows, MacOS X, Linux).

Old Animation Format

Older animation pages contain the entire animation in reduced resolution MPEG-1 format. Why MPEG-1? We needed to use a format with common viewers available for UNIX, Mac, and Windows systems. This format had to have a high level of compression and still have enough resolution to show the animation clearly. MPEG-1 satisfies these requirements.

There are two types of MPEG-1 formats used. Many of these older animations are digitized from the original video tapes at a resolution of 352 pixels wide by 240 pixels high by 29.97 frames per second. These pixels are not square, and the animations should be viewed at a 4 to 3 aspect, or 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high. A compliant MPEG viewer should handle this aspect change transparently. Some of our other older animations are digitized from the original animation frames and use square pixels at a resolution of 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high by 29.97 frames per second.

In addition to using Quicktime and MPlayer as MPEG-1 viewers, you can also use Windows Media Player (Windows or Mac). Some animation pages also have QuickTime preview versions, which can be viewed with the QuickTime viewer linked above.


Frames are accessible through the frames link on each animation detail page. We provide links to each file individually to allow for the greatest amount of flexibility for our users. Understandably, it is desirable to fetch more than one frame at a time.

There are currently three recommended tools for downloading multiple frames from our site:


Our animation pages usually display one or more small images in JPEG or PNG format that illustrate the content of the animation. Larger images are called print resolution images and are provided in TIFF format for downloading. Print resolution stills often have a size of 2560 pixels wide by 1920 pixels high, which is about 8.5 inches by 6.5 inches when printed at 300 dots per inch.

Digital Videos (DV) Files

DV is a standard format created for consumer digital camcorders, and the DV files on our website appear as a special form of QuickTime file. We offer these files for our older material for which the original frames are not available. DV files can be edited on a frame accurate basis, but are much larger and more inefficient than MPEG files (which can be hard to edit accurately).

If you want to simply play a movie, download one of the MPEG formats. If you want a high-quality, editable version of a movie, download the DV format version if it is available and the original frames are not offered.

You can find more information regarding digital video formats from Google.

ProRes Movies

To view this MPEG-4 movie, you must use QuickTime. Simply open QuickTime, and under Open/URL put in the full URL to the movie file.

Using Firefox's DownThemAll

You need to use Mozilla's Firefox browser (Windows, Mac, Linux) in order to use this add-on.

  1. Download Mozilla's DownThemAll add-on.
  2. Install the program by clicking on the "Download Now" button.
  3. Go to the page listing the frames you want to download. Click here for an example.
  4. Right click and choose "DownThemAll!" from the pop-up menu.
  5. A new dialog box will appear and if not already chosen, click "Links" in the upper left corner.
  6. You should now be presented with a list of all the frames available from this Web page. To select the frames you want to download, you can:
    • manually check (and uncheck) the circles next to the URLs, or
    • use the filters near the bottom of the dialog box, or
    • highlight a URL, then using a combination of the <SHIFT> key and arrow keys, you can select URLs sequentially. (Likewise, you can use the <CTRL> key to select non-sequentially.)
      Then HOLD the key down and right-click with the mouse to get the action menu.
      Finally, select "Check Selected Items" from the pop-up menu.
  7. Under "Save files in", choose a place on your hard drive where the images should be saved.
  8. Click on "Start!" to download.

Using curl on the command line

If you do not already have curl installed on your system, download it here.

Basic command usage:

              prompt> curl [options] url
  • url - the url you want to download. You can specify a numeric sequence using a range of numbers between brackets (see the example below).
  • [options] - a variety of option flags. We suggest using the options '-LO' which will follow links and will store your downloaded frames in the current directory as their original file names.

For example, suppose we wish to download a frame sequence from animation ID 3032 which is located at The frame files have the form cld_f.nnnn.png, where nnnn are the frame numbers ranging from 0060 to 0119. In the directory where you wish to place the frames, execute the following command:

              prompt> curl -LO "[0060-0119].png"

This command will download each specified file in the given sequence if it exists.

Using WebDAV

According to the WebDAV site, WebDAV stands for "Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning". It is a set of extensions to the HTTP/1.1 protocol which allows users to download multiple files easily, using tools native to the operating system. The WebDAV protocol is specified by RFC 2518.0.

  1. Follow the instructions to connect to our WebDAV server based on your operating system:
  2. Once you are connected, determine the animation ID of the frames you want to download. You can determine the animation ID by:
    • checking the web page title (located in the tab of your web browser) of the animation detail web page. For example, the title for animation ID 3475 would read "SVS: Detail Page (id 3475)", or
    • checking the top of the web page listing the frames you want to download. For example, the top of the frames listing for animation ID 3475 would read "Index of Frames Files for ID 3475"
  3. In your WebDAV window, you need to drill down to the frame set you want to download using it's animation ID. First, round the animation ID down to the previous ten thousand and click into that corresponding directory. For example, 3475 rounds down to 000000 so you would click into directory "a000000>", and 30175 rounds down to 30000 so you would click into directory "a030000".
  4. Round the animation id number to the previous hundred and click into that corresponding directory. For example, 3475 rounds down to 3400 so you would click into the "a003400" directory.
  5. Click on the directory for that animation number. For example, for animation ID 3475 you would click into the "a003475" directory.
  6. Inside this directory should be movie files and stills. If you want the individual frames, go into the "frames" directory and choose the subset you want to download.

Animations, Images, Videos

Some multimedia products on this site are produced in collaboration with partners and have distinct copyrights and use policies. For those instances, the copyright notices and use limitations are noted on the page where you can download the product.

If there are no copyright and use limitations listed on the corresponding web page, these multimedia products are in the public domain and are free for use. When you use our products, please give credit according to the credit statement on the specific multimedia’s web page.

Additional information on the correct use and crediting of NASA's multimedia can be found at

Science Stories

The science stories published on this site are produced in collaboration with other Goddard labs, other external science labs (Federal and non-Federal), and the Goddard Office of Communications. All science story credits are noted at the end of each science story.

Our Distinct Copyright and Credit Notices

American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Carolina Floods Survey (USGS)
Drought/National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency
Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter (MOLA)
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
Radarsat/Canadian Space Agency
Sea-viewing Wide Field of View Sensor (SeaWiFS)/ORBIMAGE
Stratospheric Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE)