Many commercials and documentaries use a technique where a still photograph is panned or zoomed, and a parallax-like effect is applied. When zooming, some figures scale differently from others and a 3D effect is simulated.

What is this effect called, and how is it done?

Edit: I'm looking for the extra effect that's added beyond panning/zooming a still photograph that seems to allow you to see what was behind some objects. Or sometimes objects more in the foreground will become larger than before, covering up more of the objects behind them than before.

1 Answer 1


It's called the Ken Burns effect.

"The name derives from extensive use of the technique by American documentarian Ken Burns. The technique predates his use of it, but his name has become associated with the effect in much the same way as Alfred Hitchcock is associated with the Hitchcock zoom."

Edit: A 3D effect can be seen in motion comics / illustrated films but this might only be the case with existing artwork, not necessarily photos.

Edit again: This is a video showing how to edit a photo to animate it with a "3D parallax" effect. Not sure if that's the real name but I think it is what you're looking for.

  • Not quite it. I'm looking for the extra effect that is added to this where objects scale differently. You get to seemingly see behind some objects sometimes. Jan 31, 2011 at 6:33
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    The 3D parallax effect is what I was looking for, thanks! Skip that video to 15:00 and you can see the effect I was referring to. Jan 31, 2011 at 6:57
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    @Jeff Handley, @soutarm: This answer is not correct. "Parallax Scrolling Using Layers" is not related to the "Ken Burns Effect". Biographer Ken Burns popularized the technique of panning and zooming across still photographs to add interest and movement to video documentaries, but the 3D effect is not attributed to him. I don't know if the technique of creating the layers from a 2D photo has a more formal name but the latter part of this post is correct. Hopefully someone can fill in the blanks and provide wholly correct answer. Feb 2, 2011 at 16:17
  • @Robert Cartaino: I left the original response there with the edits that contain the final answer.
    – soutarm
    Mar 28, 2011 at 3:32
  • This answer needs to be rewritten to address the question, as it stands it is wrong.
    – e100
    Nov 22, 2012 at 10:37

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