Ken Burns effect
The name derives from extensive use of the technique by American documentarian Ken Burns. The technique predates his use of it, but his name has become associated with the effect in much the same way as Alfred Hitchcock is associated with the dolly zoom.
The feature enables a widely used technique of embedding still photographs in motion pictures, displayed with slow zooming and panning effects, and fading transitions between frames.
The technique is principally used in historical documentaries where film or video material is not available. Action is given to still photographs by slowly zooming in on subjects of interest and panning from one subject to another. For example, in a photograph of a baseball team, one might slowly pan across the faces of the players and come to a rest on the player the narrator is discussing. By employing simulated parallax, a two-dimensional image can appear as 3D, with the viewpoint seeming to enter the picture and move among the figures.
The effect can be used as a transition between clips as well. For example, to segue from one person in the story to another, a clip might open with a close-up of one person in a photo, then zoom out so that another person in the photo becomes visible. The zooming and panning across photographs gives the feeling of motion, and keeps the viewer visually engaged.
Origins of the technique
Burns has credited documentary filmmaker Jerome Liebling for teaching him how still photographs could be incorporated into documentary films. He has also cited the 1957 National Film Board of Canada documentary City of Gold, co-directed by Colin Low and Wolf Koenig, as a source of inspiration for this technique. Winner of the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award, City of Gold used animation camera techniques to slowly pan and zoom across archival still pictures of Canada's Klondike Gold Rush.
In film editing, the technique may be achieved through the use of a rostrum camera, although today it is more common to use software. Non-linear editing systems such as iMovie and Openshot for Linux include an effect or transition called Ken Burns Effect, with which a still image may be incorporated into a film using this kind of slow pan and zoom. Final Cut Pro, Apple TV and Apple's iMovie video editing program include a photo slideshow option labeled "Ken Burns Effect".
On the Windows platform, 4K Slideshow Maker by 4KDownload, AVS Video Editor, Windows Movie Maker, Pinnacle Studio, Serif MoviePlus, Sony Vegas Studio (and Movie), Ulead VideoStudio, Adobe Premiere, PicturesToExe also have pan and zoom features built in or available through third party extensions which may be used to achieve the effect.
Microsoft Photo Story is a free application that creates videos with both random and customiseable Ken Burns Effects automatically from selected images. ProShow Gold/Producer from Photodex is a favorite application by still photographers that uses this effect to great measure. Another free multiplatform Ken Burns effect application is PhotoFilmStrip.
On the Mac platform, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, iMovie, Adobe Premiere, and others also have the ability. Particularly, Adobe and Apple products (excluding iMovie) allow the user to set keyframes to further customize the process.
The effect is found in a great number of screensavers and slideshows. Apple uses it in their screensavers. Windows PCs can use Greg Stitt's "MotionPicture" and Gregg Tavares's "Nostalgic", among others. The effect can also be seen in the N73 smartphone by Nokia, applied to the slideshows the phone creates from the pictures stored in it. Many seventh-generation video game consoles also feature versions of this effect, including Nintendo's Wii Photo Channel, Sony's PlayStation 3 and within the Last.fm app for Xbox360.
Outside of screensavers and slide shows, the effect is also found in some video games.
Ken Burns on the "Ken Burns Effect"
Steve Jobs contacted Burns to obtain the filmmaker's permission to use the term "Ken Burns Effect" for Apple's video production software. (The description had been Apple's internal working title while the feature was in development.) Burns initially declined, saying that he didn't allow his name to be used for commercial purposes. Instead, Burns had Jobs give him "some equipment which we give to nonprofits" in exchange for permission to use the term in Apple products.
In February 2014, Burns stated in his AMA on Reddit that Steve Jobs "asked my permission. I said yes. And six billion saved wedding, bar mitzvahs, vacation slideshows later, it's still going. But our attempt to wake the dead relies on a much more nuanced and complicated relationship to the photograph (the DNA of storytelling), as well as the soundtrack."
Burns says that on occasion, strangers will stop him on the street to enthusiastically describe how they use the Ken Burns Effect on their Apple software or ask him questions. Burns, who writes his speeches longhand and calls himself a Luddite, claims he doesn't really understand what these Apple users are telling him (despite the inherent technical sophistication required in modern documentary film making) and tries his best to make a quick escape.
- The Story about Ping, 1955, Weston Woods Prod Co.
- Georgie, 1956
- Night of the Living Dead, 1968, Directed by George Romero
- Comic Book Confidential, 1988, Directed by Ron Mann
- The Civil War, 1990, Directed by Ken Burns
- The Old Negro Space Program, 2005
- Green, Tom; Dias, Tiago (2010). "The parallax effect:traveling through space". Foundation Flash CS5 For Designers. New York: Springer. p. 512. ISBN 9781430229940.
- Kennedy, Randy (2006-10-19). "The Still-Life Mentor to a Filmmaking Generation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
In fact, spend any time watching the films of Ken Burns, or those of the legions of documentary makers he has inspired, and you will see Mr. Liebling’s work, in a sense, even if you have never laid eyes on one of his photographs.
- Vause, Mikel (Fall 2006). "Capturing the American Experience: A Conversation with Ken Burns". Weber Studies 23 (1). ISSN 0891-8899. OCLC 11872924. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- Williams, Charles (1997). "Historical Photographs and Multimedia Storytelling". Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- Tibbetts, John C. (c. 1997). "All That Glitters: City of Gold Revisited" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- "City of Gold (Capitale de l'or)". tiff.net. Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
- Glassman, Marc (1 December 1999). "Filmmaker of vision". The Free Library. Retrieved 24 December 2013. Take one's interview with Colin Low, part 2
- Kobler, Helmut; Fahs, Chad (2003). Final Cut Pro 4 Dummies. For Dummies. Wiley. pp. 73, 311. ISBN 0-7645-3753-9.
- "Nokia N73 Data Sheet" (PDF). Nokia. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- Dave Gilson (24 August 2007). "Ken Burns On "The Worst War Ever"" (interview). Mother Jones. Retrieved 24 December 2013. Filmaker Ken Burns discusses The War, a different kind of World War II documentary
- "Ken Burns, 2005-2006 season". De Anza College, Cupertino, CA: Celebrity Forum Speaker Series. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- The National Geographic (specials and series)
- Using Stills in Motion Picture Media: Keep the Show Moving, or Bring it to a Halt?
- MotionPicture Slideshow Screensaver for Windows