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PapaJohn's Newsletter #64

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

Minimum Zoom - Minimum HeightMinimum Zoom - Maximum HeightSome 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.

Adjusting Timeline HeightThe 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 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 copy 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

Timeline Views

Let's look at a couple more extreme views...

At minimum height and maximum zoom (the zoom icon turns gray)...

Maximum Zoom - Minimum Height

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.

Title Overlay OffsetMusic Offset... 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 of editing.

Maximum Zoom - Maximum Height

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.

ControlsTimeline Navigation

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.

Timeline Positioning Controls

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:

  • Menu - ViewUse 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 - Video

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 audio clips.

Video Clips

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 handles. 

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. 

Trim Handles - Audio

Audio/Music Clips

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.

Trim Handles - Title OverlayTitle Overlay Clips

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 audio clip.

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.

Menu - Trimming

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

Have a great week...


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 -

Products and Services

I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, and adding more regularly. Some are free and others reasonably priced.

Radio and Podcasting

theDVShowTheDVShow is the only weekly Podcast having more useful information about desktop video editing and production than anywhere else on the Web. Digital video editing, nonlinear editing, streaming media, software releases, tutorials, business tips, technical help, download of the day and news on the latest products to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer desktop video users go to stay on the cutting edge. 

Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516

The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files.. The June 19th 2005 podcast included the first 'bi-weekly' show with a segment about Movie Maker 2.

Do Amazing ThingsBooks and Magazines

Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on, published by Microsoft Press

Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -  Friends of Ed

MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie with Maker 2'. The special edition of the video made for it is now  on my website as a file download.

Learning VirtualDub - published by Virtual DubPackt Publishing, is the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the first chapter about downloading and setting up the software: VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - - the site's 3 goals are: an online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial for PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.

PhotoStory 2 - - a detailed tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.

Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups

I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:

Forums are open to all for viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively participate to ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.

Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at W indows Movie Makers

Movie Maker 2 forum at

Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.

Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup - microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker

Photo Story 2 newsgroup -

Photo Story 3 newsgroup -

Weekly Newsletters

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story newsletter. The annual subscription is $20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker website at:

Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):

August 6 - (skipping the first week since the newsletters started - busy with summertime fun)

#65 - August 13 - Titles and Text Clips in Photo Story 3

#66 - August 20 - open

Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are posted by Rob Morris to an Archive Site at his Windows Movie Makers website. Links from website pages to specific newsletters make it easier for the website viewer to see the content of both while browsing a topic.

Drop an email to suggest a newsletter topic... I can use more requests rather than fewer.


Add-On Transitions and Effects

Transition Maker 2  (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2. It's a  joint product from Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself. Version 2 was released a week ago and I'm still working on updating the online tutorial.

I routinely beta test the  Pixelan packages and think very highly of their people and products.


ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 provides an additional source of professionally developed transitions and effects.

Personal Database

Managing your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet more robust. 

My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others. Info is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and in the database package itself.

It's available free to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request.

To others it's $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.

Online Gallery Neptune Gallery

An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website is the  'PapaJohn Expert Zone' at neptune.

Check it at Neptune  and the Distributing > Neptune page of the website, where there's a developing tutorial about how to use the service.


in conjunction with the Portage, Michigan library, I offer two free training sessions about Movie Maker, an intro session and a workshop. The upcoming scheduled sessions are:

Monday - August 15 - 6-7:30 - Workshop

Monday - September 19 - 6-7:30 - Intro to Movie Maker

Monday - October 10 - 6-7:30 - Workshop

Other fee-based services

If you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects, and provide detailed instructions about how to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 (no cost if it's not the right solution or doesn't work) - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $50 per hour - send an email -  and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.

Wedding combo website/video packages - starting at $2,500 + travel expenses. See  Jill-MarkWedding or the bottom branch of the Movie Maker 2 website for a sample of what you can expect for the online portion of the package.


About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from
John 'PapaJohn' Buechler 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 support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer 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 advice in the Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows Movie Makers Forums.

This newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides this information "AS IS" with no warranties.

Visit - PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index



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