How to get the Ken Burns effect on your Raspberry Pi digital photo frame?

The Ken Burns effect is a type of panning and zooming effect which makes still imagery come to life.

In this short article, I will show you, how you can get this effect for your digital picture frame.

As always, I will be using the image viewer Pi3D.

Tested with: Raspberry Pi OS March 2021 version, Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and 4, Pi3D 2.43, PictureFrame 2021.03.10, 1080p and 4K displays.

What is the Ken Burns effect?

The name derives from American documentarian Ken Burns who was known to use this technique extensively.

Legend has it, that Steve Jobs approached Burns to let him use this effect on Apple computers and since then the effect effect is ubiquitous screensavers and slideshows.

Burns embedded still photos in motion pictures, shown with slow zooming and panning effects, and fading transitions between frames. The technique is mainly used when no moving images are available like with e.g. historical photographies predating the age of the film.

As you can’t really explain the effect with a photo, here is a video:

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It looks very smooth and combined with the deep voice of the narrator pulls you into the photo, sometimes with surprises when you start from just one small area of the image and only gradually reveal the full story by zooming out or moving to another area on the photo.

So why not use it on a digital picture frame?

Configuring PictureFrame to use the Ken Burns effect

As luck would have it, Paddy has included the Ken Burns effect in to the Pi3D PictureFrame image viewer.

If this is the first time that you hear of Pi3D, have a look at this article first.

I assume that you have installed Pi3D PictureFrame 2021 by now.

Open “configuration.yaml” in “picframe_data/config” file and find this line in the “viewer” section:

  kenburns: True  # default=False, will set fit->False and blur_edges->False

Set “default=True”.

Also, make sure that you have matting turned off:

  mat_images: False # default=0.01, True, automatically mat all images. False, don't automatically mat any images. Real value, auto-mat all images with aspect ratio difference > than value

Save the config file and close it. You’re done.

Start PictureFrame.

The movement of the photos is very smooth. The speed depends on a few factors, most notably the aspect ratio of the image. The more the images correspond to the dimensions of the screen, the smoother the effect will be.


Ken Burns is a very nice feature of Pi3D that can bring some life to your images. Given the very smooth and gradual movement of the image, it doesn’t create a disturbance but blends in nicely.

Are you using the Ken Burns effect? Let me know!

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