iMovie ’09 Tip: Trim to Playhead

When iMovie ’08 introduced skimming, where simply moving your mouse pointer over clips previewed the footage in the Viewer, it also created an interesting interface problem. Unlike earlier iMovie versions, you can’t position the playhead and leave it there while you access menu items for editing.

This is most obvious when trying to split a clip. In iMovie HD, you place the playhead where the split should occur, then move the mouse pointer up to the Edit menu and choose Split Clip at Playhead. In iMovie ’08 and ’09, the playhead moves with the pointer as it moves across footage. To split a clip in iMovie ’08, you had to first make a selection and then choose Edit > Split Clip (which still works in iMovie ’09).

However, iMovie ’09 offers workarounds that, perhaps as a side effect, turn into a new, nearly-hidden editing feature.

To split a clip, position the playhead where you want the split to occur, Control-click (or right-click) to bring up the contextual menu, and choose Split Clip. Or, beginning with iMovie ’09 8.0.1, press Command-Shift-S to make the split. There’s also a third way: After you position the playhead, press Control to temporarily disable skimming and then choose Edit > Split Clip.

However, that’s not the nearly-hidden feature I’m talking about.

iMovie ’09 now includes a new contextual menu item, Trim to Playhead, which promises to save a few steps when trimming a clip. But its operation is a bit confusing, so here’s the rundown.

To trim to the playhead:

  1. Position the playhead in the clip you want to edit, keeping in mind that this technique is based on the playhead’s proximity to the nearest selection border:
    • If the playhead is closer to the clip’s start point, the footage after the playhead remains visible.
    • trim_to_playhead_ex1.jpg

      Here’s the clip:

    • If the playhead is closer to the clip’s end point, the footage before the playhead remains visible.
    • trim_to_playhead_ex2.jpg

      Here’s the clip. Notice the giraffe just barely enters the trees, compared to the clip above:

  2. Control-click (or right-click) the clip and choose Trim to Playhead from the contextual menu to apply the edit.
  3. trim-to-playhead-menu.jpg

That sounds like a lot of work, but if you know what you’re looking for in a clip, you can trim away unwanted footage with a single click instead of a few steps.

  1. Thats a bloody good tip mate!


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