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The Ken Burns Effect

If you have watched any of award-winning Ken Burns’ documentaries — my two favorites are Baseball and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History — you might have noticed a technique Burns employs extensively to create the illusion of movement in a still image. It is aptly named “The Ken Burns Effect.”

By panning across — or zooming into or out of — an image, The Ken Burns effect “animates” pictures, making movies out of still pictures.

This fascinating technique isn’t reserved for elite filmmakers; you can do it too.

On an Apple computer, the technique is included in the editing portion of iMovie, a video making program that comes pre-installed in iMacs and MacBooks. In Windows computers, the technique is not specifically called the “Ken Burns Effect,” but the same “Pan and Zoom” options are in the “Animations” area of Windows Movie Maker, a program that is part of the Windows Live Essentials Suite.

If you are making a movie, experiment with the Ken Burns options. And look for the effect in professional documentaries; there is even a Ken Burns App if you want to see clips of the Effect.

You might be “moved.”