Ken Burns

From Academic Kids

Ken L. Burns (born July 29, 1953) is an American documentary filmmaker.

Burns is particularly well known for his style in documentary material, making use of original prints and photographs, and has produced several acclaimed historical and biographical documentaries for TV and film. Among his most notable productions were miniseries on the American Civil War (The Civil War, 1990), baseball (Baseball, 1994), and jazz (Jazz, 2001).

For his documentaries, Burns has been nominated for two Academy Awards and seven Emmy Awards. He won two Emmy Awards for The Civil War and one for Baseball.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College.

Ken Burns' brother, Ric, is also a noted documentary filmaker, whose work has appeared on national public television for nearly two decades, earning significant recognition. Ric Burns is perhaps best known for his epic PBS series, New York: A Documentary Film.


Ken Burns Effect

In his documentaries, Ken Burns often gives life 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, he might slowly pan across the faces of the players and come to a rest on the player the narrator is discussing.

The effect can be used as a transition between clips as well. For example, to segue from one person in the story to another, he might open a clip with a close-up of one person in a photo, then zoom out so that another person in the photo becomes visible.

This technique came to be known as the Ken Burns Effect and has become a staple of documentaries, slide shows, presentations, and even screen savers. In film editing, non-linear editing systems such as iMovie (from Apple Computer) and Photo Story (from Microsoft) often 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. It is also seen in screensavers that slowly pan and zoom through a slide show of digital photographs on a computer's hard disk.

The Civil War, a Masterpiece

Ken Burn's film series, The Civil War, has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, Producer of the Year Award from the Producer's Guild, People's Choice Award, Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, D.W. Griffiths Award, and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others. His nine episodes explore the Civil War through personal stories and photos that create a very different kind of experience than watching any modern movie today. When he was filming the movie, he filmed thousands of archived photographs. This resulted in the aforementioned “Ken-Burns Effect” being coined. Ken Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of The Civil War. His film series has been viewed by more then 40 million people. (


Ken Burns' documentaries include:

  • Brooklyn Bridge, in 1981
  • The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, in 1984
  • The Statue of Liberty, in 1985
  • Huey Long, in 1985
  • Congress, in 1988
  • Thomas Hart Benton, in 1988
  • The Civil War, in 1990
  • Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, in 1991
  • Baseball, in 1994
  • The West, in 1996
  • Thomas Jefferson, in 1997
  • Louis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, in 1997
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1998
  • Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, in 1999
  • Jazz, in 2001
  • Mark Twain, in 2001
  • Horatio's Drive, in 2003
  • Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, in 2004

Ken Burn's short films include:

  • William Segal, in 1992
  • Vézelay, in 1996
  • In the Marketplace, in 2000

External links


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