Position iMovie clips anywhere in the timeline?

Fang Jin
4 min readApr 9, 2023
Photo by Gordon Cowie on Unsplash

I’m very new to the movie business, I mean as a content provider as a youtuber. I picked up iMovie initially to cut the scenes since it’s absolutely free. And lately I started to learn Final Cut Pro a bit. So I can speak for one of the most strange thing I felt by using these tools as a beginner.

Here’s the project that I’m working on, “Make It Work React Hooks by Fang” series from Youtube, where you can find tutorials in learning React Hooks. This is also the companion free materials I created for my book “Designing React Hooks the Right Way” sold at Amazon.

Clips and timeline

I have recorded songs before so I understand what are the timelines. But if you hop on the iMovie or Final Cut Pro today, the first thing you’ll notice is that you can’t drag the clip to whenever you want the clip to be. Instead, the clips will be magnetically sticking together for you. This is actually a feature!

Documentation: The timeline “magnetically” adjusts clips to fit around clips that you drag into place. If you drag clips out of place, the surrounding clips close up to fill the space.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not extremely difficult to use at all. Because with this feature, arranging clips is more or less like dragging them around, and they will snap and stick to each other so that there’s no gap in between. However, I have to say, my physical mind isn’t accepting this as norm initially because in my mind, I should be always put a clip anywhere I want it to be precisely.

Unfortunately, you can’t do that in iMovie, believe it or not. You just have to get used to it, since Apple believes this feature boosts your efficiency 100%. Yes, Apple may be right about it, but I can’t disagree with it creates some issue.

Interestingly this can be done in Final Cut Pro where the feature is named as Position , once turned on to a particular clip, you can then drag it freely to anywhere in the timeline. Notice the gap in the above screenshot. Wola!

Clip and assets

Another interesting thing I realized using iMovie and Final Cut Pro is that every assets you added along with the clip, be it a soundtrack, text annotation etc, they will be all attached to the clip. That means, if you drag and drop a clip, all the assets will be dragged along with it. Pretty efficient according to Apple once again. Yes I agree most of time except in some cases, I really want to replace a clip with another clip of same length. Maybe I did bad job on the first take, and now I have the improved take, I want to swap the first one with the second one.

Damn, it seems you just can’t do it in iMovie easily. To get around it, you basically need to redo the scene. For instance, delete the old one, put the assets somewhere first, and then get the new one in. Or you can get the new one in first, either way, but the bottom line is that you can’t swap them. Interestingly again, this can be done in Final Cut Pro.

When you bring the clip to timeline, you can choose between Append , Insert or Replace . iMovie supports the first two, and the Append is the most common method. Final Cut Pros uses Append as the default, but you can choose either Insert and Replace through the menu, as in the above screenshot. Amazing! Small things, but big accomplishments.


When coming to the movie editing, there’re lots of tools. iMovie is free, and quite easy to use, but sometimes I felt it can be a bit too “efficient” in making decisions for us. So if you don’t mind paying $300 to be a bit more bossy, maybe you can consider Final Cut Pro. Otherwise iMovie still rocks.



Fang Jin

#OpenToWork Front-end Engineer, book author of “Designing React Hooks the Right Way” sold at Amazon.