Navigating the Timeline
and Trimming Clips
Movie Maker shines because of its wonderful working environment...
the newbie who hasn't exercised the controls long enough may not yet agree. Some controls are intuitive
and others not.
Sometimes little things count a lot because you do them so often... and, if you start off doing them
one way, they become so routine you may not realize there's a different or better way. Let's go through
the controls to navigate around a project in the timeline view. And while we're there, we'll look at
trim handles and clip trimming.
I'll use a timeline with almost 10 minutes of clips on it... on my laptop running with a screen resolution
of 1600x1200 pixels. The resolution effects what you see of the timeline.
Adjusting the Timeline Height
find it difficult or impossible to work with clips on the timeline... due to something as basic as their
constraining view and not knowing how to change it.
I've seen many posts from those who can't find or grab the trim handle of a clip.
You would be hard pressed to select one of the 6 title overlay clips on this timeline, never-mind grab
a trim handle and adjust the duration of the clip.
Both of these views show a project with 17 clips on the video track, 5 music clips, and 6 title overlays...
zoomed out to the maximum with the little zoom magnifying glass icon (4th icon from the left above the
timeline - grayed out in these images because it's at the maximum zoom out level).
The upper left view shows the timeline at minimum height. The view at the right shows it at the maximum.
height adjustment is made by grabbing and moving the horizontal divider line between
the upper working panes of Movie Maker and the project timeline/storyboard.
A comfortable view of the timeline is a prerequisite to feeling and being in control. And what's comfortable
changes as you do different things during project editing.
... before getting into it more,
here are a few notes...
After 64 weekly issues in a row, I'm finally going to skip a week before issuing
the next one. We'll be doing some vacationing with our 5 grand-children and I'll do issue #65 the following
week. An annual subscription is for 52 issues, not 52 weeks... vacations are one reason why.
There's an interesting thread on the Capturing and Importing Media forum at
windowsmoviemakers.net. A Movie Maker
user with a brand new Sony High Definition camcorder has captured some test footage
as an HD avi file using Vegas 6, imported it into MM2, and rendered a clip using my widescreen custom
profile of 1920x1080. The WMV file is 24 fps, 8447kbps total bit rate, 24 seconds in duration, and 25
MB in file size.... at that size, a standard data DVD would hold about 2 hours of video.
I have a
of the clip on my website... right click the link and download it first... playback on anything
less than a 3 Ghz computer won't be smooth... and my best monitors only go up to 1600 pixels wide so
I can't see it in full resolution of 1920.
The forum thread has the ongoing discussions... the clip is of a turtle.... slow
moving and no sound... but shows you what's ahead as more people get and use such camcorders. Movie Maker
is handling its part of the process well.
.... on to the main topic
Let's look at a couple more extreme views...
At minimum height and maximum zoom (the zoom icon turns gray)...
this view shows less than 7 seconds of the timeline... and shows the offsets of the first music
clip and title overlay... which gets me into a little side topic....
....with this view it's easy to make notes about the offsets before you do anything
to change them.
the first music clip starts at the 2.47 second point of the timeline, and the first title overlay clip
starts at the 3.80 second point.
These are the critical offset positions... if a project is finished and the sync
between music and title overlays perfect, and you decide to add a new opening credits clip at, here's
what you would do to maintain the sync...
Add the opening credits without concern for what it's doing to the sync situation. When finished,
see where the new beginning of the clip ended up. You can see from the two little images that show the
two offsets, when you place the mouse cursor in the time strip of the timeline, a tooltip tells you exactly
where the cursor is. You would do that where the shifted clip now begins, and note its new position.
Let's assume the new starting point of that video clip is 18.93 seconds. Where should the new starting
positions of the first music and title overlay clips be? At 18.93 + the 2.47 offset = 21.40 seconds for
the music clip and 18.93 + the 3.80 second offset = 22.73 seconds for the first title overlay.
It's easy to select all of the music clips or all of the title overlay clips and move them together
as a batch, including fine tuning to the exact position you want. Click on the track of the timeline
and use the Control-A keys to select all the clips on it. When they are selected as a batch, the nudge
feature applies to the whole batch. The addition of a new opening title segment has minimal impact on
project rework to get the sync back.
The last extreme view of the timeline is that of maximum height and maximum zoom...
a view that really starts to get you into the content of the project. You can read the text of text clips,
see large thumbnails of the first frames of video clips, the transition types, the wave patterns of the
audio of the video clips and the music pieces.. It's great when really getting immersed in the details
A couple editing 'for examples'
If the first two seconds of the music piece is noise and not music, here's the view to select the
starting point of the music and trim the clip so it starts with the good music instead.
If the music is good but you'd rather have it smoothly fade in over the first 3 seconds instead of
ramping up quickly over the first 0.7 seconds, the default of the fade-in option. Drop any 4 second audio
clip in front of the music clip and overlap them for a 3 second fade; mute the 4 second clip and it'll
be a silent one, but cause the volume of the music to slowly build up over 3 seconds.
You've seen the 4 extreme views, 2 of which can be frustrating for newbies, and the other 2 of value
to those who know how to navigate the timeline... of course you'll usually use views somewhere between
extremes. Let's look at some more navigation features.
To control your position and navigate the timeline, you have a number of options.... the goal is to
balance the current position with the right level of zoom.
The positioning control under the monitor is called the seek bar and the comparable
control over the timeline is the playback indicator .
If you select a video or audio clip in a collection, moving the seek bar gets you to any position
within the clip... but has no effect of the position of the playback indicator.
If you select any part of the timeline, even empty space, then the seek bar and playback indicators
are linked. Moving either one results in the other moving also..
Let's assume you're zoomed pretty far into a timeline. In this picture you're looking at 7 seconds
of a 9-1/3 minute timeline. That's just a bit over 1 percent of the timeline. To get quickly from one
place to another and remain as far zoomed in, there's no need to zoom out, move to the position, and
zoom back in.
Use the seek bar to move to the approximate position, and then fine tune it with the position indicator.
Watch the view in the monitor to see where you are.
To fit the project to the timeline so you see it all at once, without having it all scrunched up at
the left, use the F9 key. It's called Zoom to Fit.
I pointed above to the little magnifying glass icons for zooming out or in... but if you haven't used
the PageUp and PageDown keyboard keys, you're in for a treat... 12
taps of a key gets you from one extreme to the other... but instead of tapping, hold a key down and it'll
take you all the way out or in. From one extreme to the other couldn't be easier or quicker.
When zooming into the project, it goes into the point where you currently have your positioning control.
Set that position first.
Here's a good 3 step approach to navigate, right after opening a project, or when ready to sit back
and consider what next to focus on:
the F9 key to see the full project on the timeline
- Select the point in the project you want to focus on... using either the
seek bar or positioning control, which are linked
- Zoom into that point, using the Page Down key (or the + magnifying glass
icon)... the point you selected will be on center stage
If you forget the keyboard commands, an easy way to check is to use the View option of the main menu...
next to the 3 zoom features are the shortcut keys.
Having zoomed into a project so far, grabbing and moving a trim handle is one of the things you'll
do there.... and do often.
Using Trim Handles
Trim handles are features of the timeline only, and
they only show up on the specific clip that you select. It's the clip with your focus of attention.
They don't exist on a clip in a collection, nor do they appear in the storyboard view of the project.
They work a slight bit differently with still pictures and text clips than they do with video and
The video and associated audio of a clip on the video track both show the same trim handles when the
clip is selected. In the picture at the upper right, you see the trim handles can be grabbed (as the
one at the upper left is) and pulled toward the center of the clip to reduce the frames seen.
The clip in the picture hasn't been trimmed yet, so there's no extra frames to unhide by pulling the
trim handle outward. There's no gray area on the timeline above the clip when its selected, indicating
that some frames are hidden.
The audio associated with the video clip shows up so you can see the wave patterns, and do things
like mute or adjust the volume. Using it's trim handles is the same as using the ones on the video track
of the clip... if you're trimming it for audio purposes, it's sometimes easier to use the audio trim
Trim handles on still image clips are used to shorten or extend the duration.... there are never any
hidden frames to uncover. It's not part of the nature of a snapshot to have hidden clips, but their trim
handles still perform a valuable feature.
The trim handles on an audio clip work the same as those on a video clip.
See the highlighted gray area of the timeline at the left when this music clip is selected. It means
the rest of the clip from that point to the right is currently 'hidden' but available for use. I could
grab the right trim handle and pull it to the right to hear more of the music.
The area to the left of this clip doesn't show any grayness, so the music is starting at the beginning.
You can only move the trim handle to the right to hide some of it... that would result in the hidden
part showing up as gray on the timescale.
Title overlay clips have trim handles too, and can be trimmed like the video and audio clips... but
they are like still pictures with regards to 'hidden' frames... there are never any hidden parts.
You can make them as long or as short as you want, but you're not trimming them as you are video or
By changing the beginning or ending points of a text clip (overlay or one on the video track), you
are changing its duration... and the duration of a text clip with animation (like the 'star-wars' scrolling
text), directly correlates with the speed that the text plays at. Extending the duration slows down the
speed, and reducing it speeds it up.
Trimming - Keyboard Shortcuts
Sometimes it's easier to zoom into the timeline,
place the position indicator at the exact point that you want to set or reset a clip's start or end
trim point, and use the pull-down menu or keyboard shortcut.
Again, if you don't remember the keys, the
pull-down menu lists them, including one to clear one or both trim points on the clip.
I don't split clips and discard the unused
part... unless I have a good reason to split one... to use both parts (one situation is adding a
stop motion still image in the middle of a clip, where I want the motion to stop for a bit and then
pick up exactly where it left off).
Most of the time I'll trim a clip rather than
split it. You never know when or why you'll want to change the location of the trim point to uncover
some of the previously hidden frames or sounds.
Conclusions and Closing
We navigate project timelines all the time.
I don't know about you, but unless I'm writing a book or newsletter,
I forget the value of using the F9 key to fit the project to the timeline view.
Speaking of that, when using it for the newsletter
this week, I found my laptop running into a quirk or bug with the F9 key.. Before pressing it I can
use the Page Up and Down keys fine. But after pressing F9 and seeing it do its thing, my Page Up
and Down keys don't work for project zooming. It might just be my system, but if you get a chance
to check yours, let me know if you find the same issue.
And again, I'll see you with the next issue
the week after next... I'll be busy taking video next week.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters
on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
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About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
||John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online.
An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter
of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award
from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive
website about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides
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by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert
by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about
Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his
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