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"Steve Jobs called me up in December of 2002 and he said, 'Would you come and visit me?'," Burns said. "And...that was me knocking at the door of the next moment. He said that they'd been working on this thing. They were perfecting this sort of abbreviated, superficial version of what I do with old photographs."
Burns is known for his historical documentaries, where he enlivens still images with a combination of panning and zooming. Jobs wanted to add that feature to Macs, which were long marketed to rebellious, artistic consumers.
"He said, 'Every Mac computer in January 2003 is gonna have it from now on in.' And I said, 'Oh, that's really great.' And he goes, 'We wanna call it the Ken Burns effect.' And I said, 'I don't do commercial endorsements.'
And he looked at me. And it was really a great moment. He says, 'Come on.' I said, 'No, no, no...I don't do commercial endorsements.' And he said, 'Come with me.' And we went back to his office. And when I left I took from him a promise to give several hundred thousand dollars in software and hardware, which I gave away to non-profits, in exchange for keeping the name.
Burns said he's faced criticism over the years for the decision.
"The world is divided between people who've said, 'You idiot. You should have asked him, you know, for a fraction of a cent every time it was used,'" Burns said. "I said, 'Oh, he would have then called it the Pan and Zoom effect.' You know?"
But Burns said he's happy that his friendship with Jobs that emerged from the deal.
"When I was in the Silicon Valley I stayed at his house," Burns said. "And had dinner with him and his kids and his wife. And, you know, got to know him very well."