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Ken Burns effect

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The Ken Burns effect is the addition of an animated transition to a digital photograph in order to create the illusion of movement. Adding zoom, pan and fade transitions to still photographs is a technique commonly used by many filmmakers to maintain viewer interest. The effect, which was formerly known as animantics, is named after the award-winning documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. 

The application of animated transitions to still photographs has become so associated with the film maker personally, that it is even called the Ken Burns effect in video editing software suites. Burns was initially against having his name used in software, as it was contrary to his preference of not having his name associated with commercial products. Apple’s Steve jobs, however, offered to provide several thousands of dollars' worth of hardware and software in exchange for the use of his name. After accepting, Burns donated the computing tools to nonprofit organizations.

Today, the Ken Burns effect is a slideshow feature in many presentation apps.

This was last updated in March 2019

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