How to Create a Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro 08/12/2019 4 min read

The Ken Burns effect in Final Cut Pro X allows you to add this animated style to your images and video in just a few clicks, and we’re going to show you how. This is a simple way of adding movement to a clip, allowing you to choose the start and end scale/position.

The effect gets its name after the famed American documentary filmmaker, who is well known for his use of archival photographs and footage in his films. You may not have heard of the technique, but you will have seen it used across a range of different videos to add movement to still images. Let’s get started!

Part 1: How to Add the Ken Burns Effect to Videos

You can apply the Ken Burns effect to the whole clip, or a part of it using the incredibly useful Blade tool. Final Cut Pro will assume that the start and end points of the effect are the same as the clip, so you need to consider how much of your video you want to animation applied to.

Step 1: Adding the Ken Burns Effect

The best use of this effect is when you want to draw attention to specific parts of an image, while also offering overall context. It also brings otherwise flat, motionless content to life, to provoke emotional reactions in viewers. 

  1. Edit your clips in the Timeline.
  2. Select the clip you want to add the Ken Burns effect to.
  3. In the Viewer window, click the pop-up menu in the bottom left-hand corner.
  4. Select Crop (or press Shift + C). 
  5. Within the Crop onscreen controls, click on the Ken Burns button.

Step 2: Customizing Your Effect

The Ken Burns display should now show the controls to adjust the panning and zooms effects. They are done by changing the position (panning) and size (zoom) of two colored rectangles, which are overlaid on the clip. 

  1. Adjust the size and position of the green rectangle to set the Start position.
  2. Adjust the size and position of the red rectangle to set the End position.
  3. You should now see an arrow. This shows the direction of the camera movement between the two positions.
  4. Use the Swap button in the top left-hand corner to exchange the Start and End positions.

Step 3: Preview Play/Looping

The Play Loop button offers preview playback so you can see the changes you’ve made in action. By default, this loops for convenient multiple watches to help your decision-making.

  1. Click the Play Loop button. 
  2. Press the Space bar or click the Pause icon next to the time display to end the loop and return to editing.
  3. When you’re happy with your movement, click Done.

Remember that the speed of the animated effect is relative to the length of the clip. Longer clips will produce slow movement, and shorter clips will be faster. 

Step 4: Add Keyframes for More Control (Optional) 

If you want to do more complex movements, you will need to keyframe your video, which involves adding unique animation points to your media and adjusting the settings yourself. The Ken Burns effect uses keyframes too, but the complicated parts are done for you by FCP. Check out this handy tutorial on how to keyframe zooms.

Part 2: How to Add Ken Burns Animation to Photos

When working on a project that features a lot of still images, as Ken Burns himself uses in his documentary films, it’s best practice to make it easy to find them when browsing your material. 

To stay organized, create separate Keyword Collections and Folders for your images. You can also work with photos already imported to and organized in your Mac’s Photos application library. 

Step 1: Edit Image Duration Preferences

When you add a single still image to your timeline, it will, by default, appear as a 4-second clip. This also applies when adding multiple clips together. If you want to have longer or shorter clips by default, you can change this setting.

  1. From the Menu Bar, select Final Cut Pro > Preferences (or press Command +,)
  2. Under the Editing panel, Still Image Duration is an option. To change the default duration, use arrowhead buttons ⌃ ⌄ or type in the desired timing.

Step 2: Adding Multiple Movements 

Only a single Ken Burns movement can be applied to an image, but it’s still possible to give the impression of numerous movements being used. For instance, if you want a wide establishing shot to zoom into a subject, then return to the wider frame. To do this, you’ll have to duplicate the photo on the timeline and build the movements in sequence.

  1. Add the first camera movement to the image on your timeline. 
  2. Duplicate the clip, either by copy and pasting (Command + C & V) or click-drag the image while holding the Option key.
  3. In the Ken Burns settings, use the Swap button, so the Start and End positions are reversed.

When played back on the timeline, the movements will appear as one seamless action. This process can be repeated with the End position adjusted each time, to affect the look of continuous panning and zooming to different areas of a single photo.

Step 3: Copy & Paste the Effect

If you have created an ideal effect that you wish to replicate on another photo, you don’t have to repeat every step to use it again. Instead, you can copy and paste the effect across clips in your timelines. This shortcut is useful when creating photo montages. 

  1. Copy the clip that has the desired Ken Burns effect applied.
  2. Select the image you what to effect, and from the Menu bar, choose Edit > Paste Attributes (or Shift + Cmd +V). 
  3. In the pop-up window, from the Video Attributes column, check Scale from the list.
  4. Click Paste.

Remember, the focus of the image/clip you paste to might have a different focal point to the one you copied. Just open up the settings and adjust the colored boxes.

The Ken Burns effect in Final Cut Pro X is a quick and useful tool for applying animation to videos and still images. The settings are easy to apply and allow for combinations of moves to be created within a composition. We hope you enjoyed the tutorial, and it helps you bring your photos and video to life!  

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