Ken Burns Review

Ken Burns Review

Watch clips from the works of American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in his free iPad app

Even if you’re not familiar with his documentaries, which were made for the PBS channel in the US, the name Ken Burns may ring a bell: the effect of panning and zooming in on still photos is named after him, due to his extensive use of it. Rather than offering a complete collection of his numerous films (which would amount to over 135 hours of footage), this app contains clips selected by Ken himself to illustrate various themes of American history.

The app’s slick interface shows a zoomable timeline – ranging from 1776 to the present day – with circular photos representing the clips, whose colour-coded borders indicate which of the six themes they belong to. The rather short Innovation theme is free to enjoy, but you’ll need to make an in-app purchase (£6.99/$9.99) to unlock the rest: Art, Hard Times, Politics, Race and War. The 23 documentaries are listed along the bottom; tap one to highlight its clips and get links to watch it on Netflix or download from iTunes.

In total, the Ken Burns app offers over three hours of streamed footage. While viewing the clips in a themed playlist doesn’t offer quite the same narrative flow as a documentary proper (despite introductions from Ken himself and some extra interviews), it does give you a good overview of that aspect of US history.

Rated 4 out of 5

A useful introduction to the work of Ken Burns, although you could watch the full-length films on Netflix.