While Apple’s iMovie and—to a far greater extent—Final Cut Pro X allow you to edit video in wondrous ways, oftentimes all you really want to do is lop off the beginning and end of a clip, and possibly cut a few seconds from the middle. For such simple operations iMovie and Final Cut are overkill.
One alternative is Apple’s $30
QuickTime 7 Pro (which, yes, Apple continues to sell) but it can be a clumsy tool when dealing with multiple splits. Thankfully, there is a utility to make these seemingly simple edits easier: Movavi’s $35 Split Movie for Mac.
The app’s interface is mostly straightforward. Thumbnails of images within your movie appear at the bottom of the window, with a timeline and large viewer pane above. You can navigate through your movie file by clicking on the timeline or within the thumbnails area. Along the right side you find a clips bin, with Split and Join buttons below.
Split Movie’s workflow is pretty simple, as well. Just launch Split Movie and drag a video file into the window. When you do, the video is placed in the bin as a single clip; thumbnails from the movie appear at the bottom of the window. The app’s controls—which appear above the thumbnails pane—then become active.
Editing video is relatively easy, though a couple of the controls need additional explanation. To split a clip, you just drag the playhead to where you’d like the split to occur and click Split (or press Command-S). Doing so creates a new clip in the bin that starts where you inserted the split. Continue creating splits throughout your movie, and additional clips appear in the bin. To remove a clip from the bin, select it and choose Edit > Delete Scenes or click the Delete Scene button; alternatively, right-click (Control-click) on a clip in the bin and choose Delete. (I’d welcome the capability to delete a clip by highlighting it and pressing the Delete key.)
Removing a clip doesn’t delete that portion of video from the movie. Rather, it simply removes the split points that defined the clip. Within the bin you can also merge clips by selecting them and choosing Merge Scenes from the Edit menu, or by right-clicking and choosing Merge from the resulting menu.
Another way to edit your movie is to use the Select and Deselect buttons. These two buttons give you control over real-time editing. For example, suppose you’re playing your video and want to cut out a portion of it. Although you could adjust the timeline and insert splits, you can instead drag the playhead a couple of seconds before the point at which you want to make the edit, start playback, and then click and hold the Deselect button. When you reach the end of the bit you wish to cut, just release Deselect. The resulting section will be colored gray rather than blue, indicating that it’s deselected and not part of any clip in the bin.
If you’re interested in trimming your movie, place the playhead where you’d like the video to begin or end, and then click the appropriate border control, left (start) or right (end). This deselects the portion of the clip that appears before (in the case of the left border) or after (the right border) the playhead. As with any other selections you make, you can fine-tune where they begin or end by dragging on the left or right edge of a selection above the thumbnails area.
Once you’ve made all your edits you can export the results. The means for doing so are the Split and Join buttons that appear below the clips bin. Click Split, and any clips in the bin are exported, in their native format, as individual movies. Click Join, the clips are joined (minus the bits you’ve deselected and trimmed) and exported as a single movie. The app supports AVI, MOV, WMV, MP4, FLV, MKV, MPG, MTS, M2TS, TS, and TOD files—you edit and export files in their native formats, so no format conversion is required. On the other hand, while it’s convenient that the app edits videos in their native formats, it would be terrific if you could choose to encode the results of your work in a different format when splitting or joining.
Split Movie lives up to its name, but its interface needs some work. One control is called Invert Scenes, which might lead you to believe that in addition to its other talents, it inverts the colors in any selected clips. But no, what it does is deselect selected clips and selects those clips that were previously deselected. I’m not entirely sure how that’s helpful.
Keyboard shortcuts, such as they are, could also be improved. Assigning Command-S to do anything but save a file (here, to split a clip) is unintuitive. And although you can undo an action by clicking an Undo button, or redo an action using the Redo button, there are no keyboard shortcuts for these actions. I’m accustomed to using standard Mac keyboard shortcuts when editing video, and the lack of them in Split Movie is frustrating.
But the un-Mac-like stuff goes deeper. For example, the Edit menu, which should be found next to File, is instead located to the right of a Playback menu; and the Preferences command is in a separate Settings menu rather than in the application menu. Overall, the app looks like it was ported to the Mac and then not tweaked to better conform to OS X interface standards.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the capabilities Split Movie has. Once you get the hang of the app, you can cut movies pretty quickly. I just think that those capabilities could be presented in a cleaner and more intuitive, Mac-like way.