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iMovie: Editing Clips in the Timeline

iMovie, Version: 10.1.4. Be aware that different versions of iMovie will vary in appearance and functionality. Full Guide: View/Download

Use the following methods to edit clips that have been added to the Timeline. These edits can be made to videos, audio, and pictures. Edits made to clips in the Timeline will not affect the original media. 

Clip Re-ordering and Stacking

The Timeline is played from left to right; clips to the left are played first. Clips can be placed on top of each other in the Timeline. For video clips, only the top-most clip will be visible, covering up the clips below it. Stacked audio clips, however, do not cover each other up; they will play simultaneously and will all be heard playing at the same time.

showing three clips, were one is on top

To change the position of a clip, click-and-drag it up/down or left/right.

Attachment Points

Stacked clips in the Timeline are connected with Attachment Points. Attachment Points connect stacked video and photo clips, as well as audio to video/photo. The bottom-most video/photo clip acts as the parent to the attached clip; when the parent clip is moved or deleted, the attached clip will be also be affected. The attached clips, however, can be moved independently of the parent clips.

showing two examples of attachment points

To reposition an Attachment Point, Command+Option+Click a new position on the attached clip. Reposition Attachment Points to adjust the parent/child timing.

Edit Start- and End-points

The start- and end-points refer to the beginning and end edge of a clip in the Timeline.

To trim a clip by adjusting the start- and end-points:
  1. Hover the mouse cursor over a start- or end-point. The cursor will change into a double-sided arrow.
  2. Click-and-drag the point inwards to shorten the clip, and outwards to lengthen. The length of the clip in minutes is shown on the top-left of the clip.
Timeline clips pull their information from the media imported into the Library and therefore cannot be extended past the original length of the media. For example, a 10-second video cannot be lengthened past 10 seconds. A red line at the start- or end-point of the clip in the Timeline will indicate its maximum length, beyond which the clip can’t extend.

Clip Trimmer

Use the Clip Trimmer to fine-tune the duration of the clip. Unlike when editing the start- and endpoints, the Clip Trimmer shows the visible as well as the unused portion of a clip.

To use the Clip Trimmer:
  1. Right-click the clip from the Timeline and select “Show Clip Trimmer” from the pop-up. A black bar with the clip in it will appear at the top of the Timeline.
    1. Adjust the start- and end-points, which appear as white vertical lines, to change the duration of the clip.
    2. Click-and-drag the portion within the start- and endpoints to change which portion of the clip is visible.
  2. Click the Close Clip Trimmer button to the top-left when done. 

Splitting Clips

Split clips to cut a clip into smaller pieces. Split clips can be moved around the Timeline independently of each other.

To split clips into smaller portions:
  1. Select the clip in the Timeline.
  2. Move the playhead to the desired split location by clicking within the Timeline.
  3. Right-click the clip and select “Split Clip” from the pop-up. The clip will be split into two separate pieces.


Picture clips in the Timeline can be edited in similar ways as video clips. By default, picture clips in the Timeline have a duration of 4 seconds. Lengthen/shorten picture clips by adjusting their start and end-points.

Depending on the selected iMovie preferences, picture clips added to the Timeline may have the Ken Burns effect applied to them automatically. The Ken Burns effect, named after the famous documentarian, is a slow zoom-and-pan over a picture. See the Ken Burns Effect section for instructions on how to edit the effect.


Keyboard Shortcuts
Spacebar: play and pause.
Delete: select clips in the Timeline and press Delete to remove.

Keywords:workshop, software, production, guide, video, editing, mac, iMovie, cutting, splitting, trimming   Doc ID:85229
Owner:Tommy S.Group:Pacific Lutheran University
Created:2018-08-24 16:22 PDTUpdated:2018-10-11 11:54 PDT
Sites:Pacific Lutheran University
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