How to Crop Video on Mac with iMovie

Aug 21, 2016 - 22 Comments

How to Crop Video on Mac with iMovie

If you have ever recorded a video or movie and found that some of the surrounding frame is unnecessary or irrelevant, you can use an editing function to crop down the video to focus on what should be the focus of the movie. This tutorial will show you how to quickly crop a video on the Mac by using iMovie.

Remember, cropping a video is entirely different from trimming the length of a video, the latter of which shortens the videos length but does not change the frame of the movie itself. If you just want to trim a video on the Mac, you can do that with QuickTime rather easily and you do not need to use a more powerful video editing application like iMovie.

How to Crop a Video on Mac OS Using iMovie

Before beginning, be sure you have iMovie installed on the Mac, and updated to a modern version of the application.

  1. Open iMovie on the Mac, it’s found in the /Applications/ folder
  2. iMovie

  3. Click on the big [+] plus “Create New” button under the Projects section
  4. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie

  5. Choose “Movie” under the new project type
  6. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie 2

  7. Choose the “Import Media” button and select the video you want to crop (or drag and drop the video to crop into this window)
  8. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie 3

  9. With the video imported, look in the toolbar for the small crop button and click on it, it looks like a square
  10. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie 4

  11. Now click on the faint grey “Crop” button that appears in the editing section
  12. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie 5

  13. Use the handlebars around the corners of the video to adjust the crop as necessary
  14. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie

  15. When satisfied with the crop, click on the small blue checkmark button to apply the cropped video change
  16. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie

  17. Click on the faint grey Share button in the upper right corner of iMovie
  18. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie and save the video

  19. Choose “File” from the Share button options
  20. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie

  21. Give the cropped video a description, and if desired adjust the resolution, video format, and quality, then click on “Next”
  22. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie

  23. Fill in the “Save As” file name to export the cropped video to, then click on the “Save” button
  24. How to crop a video on Mac with iMovie saving the file

The cropped video will save as the file name given, to where ever the location you saved the cropped movie file to. In this example, the cropped video is saved to the desktop.

As you can see, the process of cropping a video on the Mac with iMovie is pretty easy when it is made obvious with a tutorial like this, but the tiny buttons and low contrast user interface can make finding and using the crop tools and other video editing functions somewhat challenging for some users.

Here is what the newly saved cropped video from this example looks like in Quick Look in the Mac finder:

A cropped movie saved from iMovie

And here is what the original uncropped video from this example looks like in Quick Look on the Mac:

Uncropped video on Mac

Many users will resort to cropping a video frame like this when the videos orientation was filmed vertically or horizontally, though for best results you’ll want to be working with a fairly high quality video recording. Otherwise, you can simply rotate the video on a Mac too, which quite literally rotates the video but does not adjust the frame or crop.

Know of another way to crop videos on a Mac? Let us know in the comments. And if you enjoyed this guide, check out more iMovie tips here.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Anelize says:

    I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out, this works perfectly! Thank you SO MUCH!!!!

  2. Matt says:

    Oh man, this is a gem of a find! Thank you, thank you!. Why did they bury this?

  3. Asia Rodo says:

    THANK YOU! I took me ages to find it…

  4. aeromidd says:

    Ugh, I’ve been looking for a solution forever, I was convinced that it didn’t work in my iMovie version.

    Kenogi is right, it ONLY works if you select the video file in the imported media section – you can’t crop it to a different aspect ratio when it’s in the timeline editor section. Why Apple designed it this dumb way, I have no idea.

    So that’s solved… but you still have to guess at what aspect ratio you’re getting: dragging the sides of the clip together appears to be a completely arbitrary process. How do I know if it’s exactly square, or exactly 4:3 or 16:9? You have to make a blind estimate. It’s ridiculous.

  5. Kenogi says:


    You can’t crop the video in the “workspace”, only the imported videos. Am using Ver 10.0.9. :)

  6. Meghan says:

    I NEED to be able to crop to the 4:3 standard, as I am dealing with old films from the 60s/70s. I was able to manage this with iMovie, but then I updated to Sierra and I can’t do it anymore. Ridiculous. I even tried what Nick said and that doesn’t work, I still get the black bars on both sides of the video.

    • pinto says:

      You can crop the video down to your desired ratio, 4:3 ratio is fine or others, but if you’re viewing the video on a widescreen display in full screen then it will show the black bars.

  7. Nick says:

    Just realised this can only be done on individual clips. You have to select the clip in the “My Media” tab, then crop it, then export it. Seems you cant actually make a full movie in a custom ratio/size.

  8. marta says:

    Same for me, Fran & LCA! I dropped a couple of square images to get a simple clip, and the result is a rectangular video which I CAN’T crop to any proportions apart from standard 16:9 and 4:3 size…

    Any idea why I can’t crop the resulting video into a square one as the original images were? maybe there is a ‘keep proportions’ option that can be desactivated somewhere I can’t find…?

    Thanks in advance!

  9. LCA says:

    Followed this exactly, but iMovie left me with black bars on either side of a square crop (as opposed to the standalone square your workflow shows). Can you advise? Thanks!

  10. Fran says:

    Hi there,

    I was wondering why my iMovie 10.1.2 doesn’t have that crop tool, the one that allows you to crop square. I can only crop 16:9 or 4:3. I checked on apple website and even there they say you cannot crop as you like.
    What am I missing?

  11. cashxx says:

    I hate the trim features in QT X. QT 7 made more sense and worked better all around and let you make quick edits to video alot faster and easier.

  12. Hamza Sheikh says:

    My vote goes for Final Cut. iMovie is such a trouble to use. It takes too much time to get things done. However, it is a cool tip for other users.

  13. Ian says:

    John – “This is fine, but IMovie disappeared with ElCapitan. WTF”

    No it didn’t. Version 10.1.2 is latest version that shipped with El Capitan (10.11.6)

  14. John says:

    This is fine, but IMovie disappeared with ElCapitan. WTF

    • Ton says:

      You can re-download iMovie through the Mac App Store. Look for it and choose the download option, it was free with most new Mac models.

  15. Boatswain says:

    Decent, but not perfect alternatives to iMovie in iOS:

    Adobe Clip
    Adobe Spark Video

  16. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Ok but how about doing this with iMovie on iPhone? I can’t find out how to drop a movie. Only trim it. Crop. Autocorrect

    • Fjar says:

      On iMovie for iPhone you have to use the zoom feature to ‘crop’ the video. The two versions of iMovie are totally inconsistent, they might as well be called different things for iPhone and for Mac. Both have an absolutely bizarre difficult to use interface too, never found them intuitive. Final Cut is better for the Mac, makes more sense too. I don’t know of a good video editor for iPhone. I use iMovie, because there is no alternative.

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