Full disclosure before talking about the new Ken Burns app: I’m a big Ken Burns fan. For nearly 40 years, the award-winning historical documentarian has been telling beautiful, expansive, influential stories on film about everything from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Civil War to baseball and jazz. If you watched all of his 23 films back-to-back (which Wired calculated would take 136 hours), well, you’d deserve a prize.
Here, take these three Chuck E Cheese’s bronze tokens I have in my bag.
For the rest of us Burns appreciators (i.e. busy parents) who don’t have that kind of free time, there’s now a far more feasible option: a new iPad app from the man himself called, simply, Ken Burns.
The impressive app is essentially a masterfully curated mixtape of Burns’ films. Short clips from his documentaries are broken down into hour-long playlists and grouped by themes: Art, Hard Times, Innovation, Politics, Race, and War. Each playlist is comprised of 10 to 20 scenes that run no longer than three minutes each, making Burns’ decades-long catalogue feel more like six smartly edited short films. Digestible, but all still highly educational and engrossing.
The preview version of the new app is free, and features only the “Innovation” playlist. To get the full experience and access all the content, it will cost you $10. And take up a wee bit of space on that iPad of yours.
An added treat is seeing Burns himself in front of the camera, for a change; he’s in more than 30 introductory clips throughout the playlists. Hearing (and seeing) his honest excitement and admiration of the ingenuity involved in building Brooklyn Bridge, for example, is charming and refreshing. And I imagine there are plenty of history-buff kids who will love it too.
Download a free version of the Ken Burns app for iPad at the iTunes store. Unlock the complete app for $10.