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Ken Burns — the PBS documentarian who has produced exhaustive video histories of everything from baseball to the Civil War to the relationship between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt — now has something in common with Britney Spears, T-Pain and Snoop Lion: his own app.
On Monday, the New Hampshire-based filmmaker will launch the Ken Burns app, which promises to be the comprehensive destination for extras and behind-the-scenes commentary on all 25 Burns films. It will also have six thematic playlists — Race, War, Innovation, Art, Hard Times and Politics — selected by Burns that illustrate how a specific theme shaped American history. The iPad-only app (free to download, $9.99 for all content) was conceived and produced by Burns’ longtime friend Don MacKinnon along with Florentine Films producer Sarah Botstein, who has worked with Burns on multiple documentaries. Digital agency Big Spaceship helped create the platform, which lets users navigate to Netflix, iTunes and shopPBS if they want to watch Burns’ films in their entirety.
Also on Monday, Burns will launch a companion, curriculum-based website — Ken Burns America — hosted by Washington, D.C., PBS station WNET and featuring essays, biographies, a screening room, photographs, primary source materials, interview excerpts and media spanning the entire body of Burns’ work.
“Apple has long used an element of my filmmaking in its programs, which they call the Ken Burns Effect,” noted Burns, referring to the technique of panning and zooming in on still photos that is a feature of multiple Apple programs including Final Cut Pro. “I’m so excited to now be using Apple’s platforms to create a radically new way to present my work and reach new viewers. Our films are made in a small town in New Hampshire over many years, with images and stories woven together in a way that we hope brings experiences of the past into the present.”
Burns’ 1994 film Baseball still stands as the most-watched film in the Burns canon with a cumulative audience of 43.1 million viewers. The Civil War, which debuted in 1990, follows; the premiere broadcast had a cumulative audience of 38.9 million.
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