The app, simply called “Ken Burns,” allows the user to surf an overarching timeline year by year, seeing how clips from each film line up chronologically with – and, as Burns says, “speak to” – each other. Zoom in on 1869, for example, and a cloud of clips from The Civil War, The West, and The National Parks orbit in parallax formation around one another; swipe to 1930, and it’s clips from Jazz, Prohibition, Baseball, Huey Long, Thomas Hart Benton and The Dust Bowl. You can also watch its six playlists straight through – they range in length from 20 minutes to an hour long – or select individual clips à la carte.
The concept came out of a conversation Burns was having two years ago with MacKinnon, who is the music entrepreneur behind Hear Music and has known Burns since they worked together on music components for 2001′s Jazz.
“Ken and I were talking about how his films were in the search engines of iTunes and Netflix, and they’re always the top-rated thing when they run on PBS, but there wasn’t a digital place where all of his films were presented as one thing, as an integrated body of work,” says MacKinnon. “Then he paused for a second, and looked at me and said, ‘I really love my iPad.’”
Download the app but only if you are prepared to lose your day to it.