Ken Burns on the “Ken Burns Effect”

by |

Ken Burns’ name is eternally tied to the American historical documentary.  Ask anyone what they think of when you mention his name, and they’ll refer to the Ken Burns Effect, that technique he employs in all his films whereby the camera pans sideways over a photo and then zooms in.  Accompanied by a charming musical score and folksy narration, the photo unarguably comes to life.

I recently met with Burns since he was in town with his daughter Sarah and her husband David McMahon promoting their new film, The Central Park Five, which is having its New York premiere at DOC NYC this week. The following audio clip was taken from our conversation. In it Burns expresses, in no uncertain terms, his thoughts about the Ken Burns Effect.

Adam Schartoff
Adam Schartoff
Guest blogger Adam Schartoff is a freelance film journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. He's the founder and programmer of the Brooklyn-based film series Filmwax.