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Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro

Taking a still image and giving it subtle motion is an old technique, but it became cool again when iMovie reintroduced it to a mass market as the "Ken Burns effect." Ken Burns is one of the most famous documentary film makers of all time. When he needed to document scenes without video, Ken Burns would move the camera across a still image, creating the illusion of camera motion in-scene. This works very well with inanimate objects like a landscape. When using this effect on people it becomes immediately obvious that the individuals are still. Nevertheless it is a classic and often used technique.

When producing a photo montage with Final Cut Pro, consider using the Ken Burns effect to give your production life. This can be a very simple and systematic process. By bringing in all of your photos at once, and getting them rearranged into the desired sequence, you just go thru the images from beginning to end applying the Ken Burns effect to each one.

lighthouse3 (2).gif

Before getting started you will want to be sure the Canvas is set to Image and Wireframe mode. It is also a good idea to have the Canvas scaled down to 50% or even 25% of its "zoom to fit" size, so you can have extra space around the edge of the frame to work with your still.

Starting on the first frame of the first image, set the image in the canvas to the desired scale, position, and rotation you wish to start with.


Having done this you will have the image highlighted, and will be able to now turn on your key framing on by adding a motion keyframe at the first frame. To do this you simply hold down the control key, & press the K key (you can also click the keyframe button in the Canvas).






Once you have added a motion keyframe the wireframe in the Canvas will turn green.

ken_burns_keyframe.gifNow you need to go to the last frame of your image. The easiest way to accomplish this is to press the down arrow, (moving you to the next clip/image), and then the left arrow (moving you back one frame from the first frame of the clip you are in, to the last frame of the clip you want to be in)


Once you are on the last frame of the image you are working on, you will go back into the Canvas, and adjust the scale, position, and rotation to the values you desire the image to finish at. You will see a purple motion path showing the direction that the image will be moving from the first to last frame, if you have changed the position values from the first to last frame.

This image has now had the Ken Burns effect applied to it, and by depressing the right arrow key, (moving the playhead ahead one frame from the last frame of the image you have just applied the KB effect to the first frame of the next image you are about to apply the KB effect to) you will be ready to repeat the process.

This process can be very systematic, to the point that it is quite realistic that you could be applying the Ken Burns effect to up to seven images per minute.

To simplify the last 300+ words.

  1. Start on first frame
  2. Adjust image in Canvas
  3. Set Motion Keyframe
  4. Move to last frame (down then left arrows )
  5. Adjust image in Canvas
  6. Move ahead one frame (right arrow)

REPEAT These Steps


It is not advisable to attempt the Ken Burns effect with Freeze Frames from video, as the will become pixilated as soon as you begin to increase there size, which is necessary to perform the Ken Burns effect. For that matter you will want to keep in mind the size of the image you are working on. The larger the picture the more zooming in you will be able to apply. A 3 Megapixel image will obviously have less flexibility than a 8 Megapixel image. On the other hand if you are not zooming in too much on 8 Megapixel images you may want to resize them before use in Final Cut Pro, because it will allow Final Cut to handle them much quicker. This is a much bigger issue on 1-2 core machines.



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Transporter effect for Final Cut Pro was the previous entry in this blog.

Performing a Fit to Fill Edit in Final Cut Pro is the next entry in this blog.

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