How to quickly trim video on Mac and iOS

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How to quickly trim videos on Mac and iOS
Editing your video clips will make them way less boring.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The secret of a good movie is in the editing. Well, the script, the lightning, the directing, the photography, and the acting are all important, but for home movies, you have little control over those.

So it’s down to the edit. And the most basic of edits is to lop the ends off a clip, to trim video and make it shorter. Watching excessively long clips is the equivalent of a conversation with someone who can’t ever get to the point. “Let me tell you about that time I fell out of the plane. It was a Tuesday. No, I think it was Wednesday. Wait, it must have been a Tuesday because …”

It’s painful. So, do yourself a favor and trim your video clips. Even if you’re not planning on combining your edits into a short movie, you should at least remove the cruft from anything you’re going to show. The good news is that it’s dead easy to trim video on Mac and iOS.

How to trim video clips on iOS

On iOS, video editing is done inside the Photos app (you can also do the same trick on the Mac, with one fundamental difference — details below). To trim a clip, find it in the Photos app, and tap to open it. Then hit the Edit button to enter editing mode. Depending on your iCloud Photo Library settings, the clip may not be stored locally on your device. In that case, it will be automatically downloaded, ready for you to edit, and a little “progress pie” will fill up as this happens.

This is the iOS video editing view in Photos.
This is the editing view.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Now you’ll see the video editing screen, with your clip at the top, and the timeline at the bottom. You can play the clip, and you can also scrub through the clip by sliding the little white bar along the timeline. This will help you narrow down your trim points. (The screenshots in this post show the iPad, but the steps are the same on the iPhone.)

Perform the cut

Trimming the clip requires a little finesse to get things started. You see those arrows at either end of the timeline? You need to grab one of those. When you manage it, you’ll see a yellow box over a part of your video timeline.

The yellow box shows the part that you will keep.
The yellow box shows the part that you will keep.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

This box shows the part of the clip that will be kept. To check that it looks good, you can hit the play button, and only the selection in the yellow box will be played. You can move both he start and the end points of your clip using the ends of this box.

When you’re happy with the new clip length, just tap Done. You will be prompted to Save as New Clip, which does just that.

Now, you have your new, shorter clip, ready for sharing, or just showing off. You also still have the original clip. Depending on your preferences, you might want to keep that original clip, or you might want to delete it. If it’s just a long, boring, five-minute shot of nothing, with a few seconds of action in the middle, then you’ll probably want to ditch it. If it’s a long baby-goat video, with a whole slew of cute moments, then you will surely want to keep it, and chop out the best bits to make goat GIFs.

Trimming video on Mac, iPad or iPhone?

You can trim a video clip on your Mac just as easily as on your iPhone or iPad. The method is almost the same: You view video in the Photos app, then click the little settings cog in the playback controls, and choose Trim from the resulting popup menu. Then you continue with the yellow-box instructions above.

Here's the Mac video editor. It works just like the iOS one.
Here’s the Mac video editor. It works just like the iOS one.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

But when you click Trim to perform the cut, there is no option to save a new clip. That’s because the original is left untouched, and you can revert back at any time (Menubar>Image>Revert to Original). It’s just like the filters and edits you apply to photos, which can all be removed at any time in the future. This option will appear on iOS, too, but only if you’re not using iCloud Photo Library.

Should the iOS editor also behave like this? Perhaps, but the current method is straightforward, and allows you to save storage space on your mobile device.

Either way, trimming your videos will not only make them better to watch, but you can save space, on iOS at least. What’s not to like?