Hey there, movie makers! Are you ready to take your videos to the next level? Well, you’re in luck because in this post, I’m going to show you how to add some serious cinematic flair to your videos using the Ken Burns Effect. This effect has been used in countless documentaries and films to give still images a sense of motion and bring them to life. Plus, it’s super easy to use and will make your videos look like a million bucks. So Let’s get rolling on How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro has incredible capabilities, but we also want to understand their meaning. The Ken Burns effect originated from the American documentarian Ken Burns. Over his lifetime, he made many documentaries that awarded him multiple Emmys and Academy Award nominations.

Are you thinking of getting into documentary filmmaking? Check out this article, Documentary filmmaking: The Complete Guide. It is a great way to kickstart your filmmaking journey so you can pinpoint your interests! Ken Burns certainly did.

Ken Burns
American documentarian Ken Burns

In his documentaries, he uses many archival images to tell his stories. So what makes his documentaries a film and not just a glorified slide show? Because there has to be a way to make images in a film more engaging, right? Ken Burns found a way.

What is the Ken Burns Effect?

Defining the Ken Burns effect seems like the most important place to start. The effect is created by slowly panning across the image and fading in and out of different areas of the image. This creates the illusion of motion and depth. The Ken Burns Effect has become notorious in documentary films, television shows, and commercials. It is also used on web pages and presentations. The beauty of this effect is that it is not limited to photographs. Thankfully, we can also make our moving images a lot more stimulating. 

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX)

Final Cut Pro has an affordable plugin for the Ken Burns effect, which you can purchase here. However, if you like analog learning, then read on!

I will be using our short film, Valentine’s Day as our example. “After another forgotten set of plans, a relationship is pushed to its limits.” This dramatic short film won both the Jury selection and the People’s Choice Award at the Overly Arts Film Festival. 

Here are the steps involved on how to use the Ken Burns effect in FCPX:

  1. Select the clip
  2. Select the crop tool
  3. Select the Ken Burns option
  4. Drag your green and red boxes
  5. Preview the Effect and Done

Now let’s go into more detail (and images) with each step.

Step 1: Select the clip

Once your project is up and running, select the clip you want to apply the Ken Burns effect to. If you don’t have a project that is already in sections and only have a full-length version, go read my other article on how to split those clips!

Step 2: Select the crop tool

Select the crop tool in the lower left-hand corner of your video window. Make sure your cursor hovers over the clip so you can see the effect options.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 1
How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 2

Step 3: Select the Ken Burns option

Select the Ken Burns option. Your green box will be your starting point, and the red box will be your endpoint. Ie. The portion of the image you want to use to start and the portion of the image you want to use as your end.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 3

Pro Tip 1: The effect will automatically choose your start and end points for you. They will differ depending on whether you use a vertical or horizontal image. So keep that in mind!

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 4
How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 5

Pro Tip 2: If you select the effect and decide you don’t want to do it, you MUST click on the trim or crop feature, click reset, then click done. If you click on “Done” or click the purple crop button, which we did in step 2, without being on trim or crop, it will still apply the effect to your clip. You don’t want to be at the end of an edit and realize everything has a Ken Burns effect on it. I’m all for breaking boundaries, but I highly doubt that is what you’re going for.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 6

Step 4: Drag your green and red boxes

Drag your green and red boxes to the parts of the image that you desire. If you want to customize it further, you can click on one of the corners of either box to adjust the size and height. Notice that when you drag your boxes, you will see arrows indicating which way the image will move once the effect is applied.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 7

Step 5: Preview the Effect

Now it’s time to preview! This is an essential step so you can save some time and make sure you have things how you want it. To do this, you can click on the play button at the top of your viewing window. You can also drag your cursor in your timeline to the front of the clip and hit the spacebar to play. If you don’t like how it looks, hit the spacebar again to stop the clip and re-adjust your boxes. As stated above, make sure your cursor is still hovering over the clip to readjust.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 8

Once you are happy with your transitions, click done, and you are all good to go!

Pro Tip 3: Are you editing for a client? Knowing how to export frames or scenes in Final Cut Pro is essential when you are working for a client. Now that we have the Ken Burns effect the way we want it, we have to get their approval! To save yourself the time of exporting your entire project, you can export the specific clip for them. Check out my other article on how to export a frame in Final Cut Pro.


Can I reverse my boxes?

Absolutely. I understand having everything perfectly and then you put the boxes in the wrong place. To fix this, click on the reverse arrow keys in the upper left-hand corner of your viewing window.

How To Use The Ken Burns Effect in Final Cut Pro - Step 9

Can I adjust the speed?

The Ken Burns feature that is built into Final Cut already has a fixed speed which relates to the length of the clip. Adjust the length of your clip to fit your needs. However, this will only work on images.

If you want to apply this effect to video and change the speed, the plugin will be the easiest way to go since Final Cut has those features built in. The other way to go would be to create the Ken Burns effect via Keyframing, which requires a lot more work. Keyframing will be your best bet if you are trying to do complicated movements.

Need more Cool Final Cut Pro Tips?

I’ve written a variety of different tutorial and guides with FCPX which you can have a look below.

And That’s a Wrap on The Ken Burns Effect!

The Ken Burns effect is a beautiful way to add dynamic movements to your shots. With Final Cut Pro, they make this easy. What is your favorite way to add the Ken Burns effect? Let us know in the comments, and happy filmmaking!