Making a Ken Burns style documentary

War of the Machines is a Civil War documentary in the style of Ken Burns. It demonstrates Kahootz software developed by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation that can be used to create documentaries. It’s a free Creative Commons resource on a US Civil War topic intended primarily for K-12 teachers, students, researchers, and school staff to give ideas and to showcase what can be done with a netbook and pocket Dictaphone as a ‘studio’.

This¬†video mainly uses the techniques made popular by Ken Burns of still images animated by pan movements and transitions. Another well-known video that uses still images and text is ‘Shift Happens’. ¬†Points to discuss:

  • The ‘Ken Burns Effect’ in cinematography – how to take still shots through panning and movement beyond a simple slide show
  • use of open source and public domain archive resources
  • whether animation and music are essential, extraneous, and/or ought to be noticeable by absence in a purely documentary video
  • constructivist potential for this topic -ie- using such a documentary for classroom discussion, making puppet models of the boats; re-enactments of battle…
  • related discussion topics: slavery, why metal floats, future of machines …
  • Whether the multimedia justifies the massive extra time investment over audio-only and text-only versions.
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