Ken Burns: Introduce music early in the documentary process

Ken Burns is about to release a new documentary called The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. There are a few things you can be certain of regarding a Ken Burns production: It will have a great story; visuals will be stunning; it will feature real characters (like Shelby Foote in the Civil War series); and, of course, the music will be a crucial part of the production.

Here’s a preview of the new series, to be aired on PBS next month:

In this next video, Burns talks about how to make music an “organic” component — advice that relates to anyone trying to tell a story by video. His process is to choose and introduce music early in the process, sometimes editing the visuals and words to the piece of music, rather than the other way around:


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