The iLife Series, #4: the Ken Burns effect

First of all, what IS the Ken Burns effect? The first time I heard the name, it reminded me of high-school physics and chemistry. But that is not it at all, unless you confuse a presentation and archival technique with laboratory science.

Named after the documentary film maker Kenneth Lauren  “Ken” Burns, the Ken Burns effect can be used in iPhoto and iMovie to pan and zoom across stills or videos. This technique is mostly applied to still photographs, allowing the camera to move, engaging the eyes while a narrative voice engages the ears. The most common use of the Ken Burns effect is in slideshows and screen savers, followed by films which incorporate large amounts of still photographs.

Apple has offered the Ken Burns effect as a display option in iPhoto and iMovie. While the basics of the effect stay the same, the implementation differs a good deal due to the completely different natures of iPhoto and iMovie.

Ken Burns Effect in iPhoto

Here is how you apply the Ken Burns effect to an iPhoto slideshow:

  1. Create an iPhoto slideshow(stuff for a separate blog post)
  2. Go to the slideshow from the iPhoto sidebar, and press the “Themes” button on the bottom center. From the popup/dropdown menu, select “Ken Burns”.
  3. iPhoto slideshow editor

  4. At this point, you have a slideshow which uses the Ken Burns effect. However, the point of using Ken Burns is to highlight specific parts of photos, rather than to pan and zoom randomly across everything.
  5. Click on the picture you want to set Ken Burns settings for from the list on top. This list contains all the photos in your slideshow, and no more.
  6. Click the “Settings” button – the one with the gear on it. Check the “Ken Burns” checkbox.

  7. iPhoto kenburns1

  8. Make sure that the knob on the slider is in the “start” position. Now, you can adjust the level of zoom and the point to focus on when the slide first appears in view. Adjust the zoom from the slider on the bottom right corner. Next, click on the slide; your pointer will change to a hand icon. Click and drag until the image is centered exactly as you want it.
  9. Move the knob on the “settings > ken burns” slider to the “end” position. Then repeat the last step to adjust the zoom and pan for the “end” point. When the slideshow is being played, the photos will gradually move from the “start” position to the “end” position in one flow. [TIP: To include movement in more than one direction, use the same slide multiple times, with the “end” of one slide becoming the “start” of the next.]
  10. Repeat steps 4 to 7 for all the slides you want to adjust.

Ken Burns Effect in iMovie

For iMovie, applying Ken burns is slightly different. Here’s what you do:

  1. Hover your pointer over the frame you want to apply the Ken Burns effect to. Click on the blue gear that appears.

  2. iMovie Ken1

  3. From the popup menu, click “Cropping, Rotation and Ken Burns”. The frame will open up for editing, and you will be able to set “start” and “end” points(highlighted by blue rectangles) by moving around the green and red rectangles respectively. The iMovie editor also shows the path taken, which is an advantage compared to iPhoto.

Screen shot 2010-01-24 at 11.55.31 AM

That’s it! You’re done.