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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Creating Cutaways

A cutaway is a common video-production technique. Think of Barbara Walters nodding solemnly while Fabio describes what kind of tree he’d like to be. Or maybe the video changes to show a close-up of Grandma’s garden as she talks about it. To create edits like these, use the Advanced menu’s Paste Over at Playhead command.

Try it yourself. Want to experiment with cutaways? Go to and download the Cutaway Example Footage archive. Double-click the archive after downloading it, then open the folder named Cutaway Footage and read the instructions inside.

  • Step 1. Get Your Shots

    Begin planning cutaway shots when shooting your video. After Grandma talks about her garden, shoot some close-ups of the plants she talked about. While you’re shooting the school play, grab a couple of shots of the audience laughing or clapping. Or after you’ve shot an interview, move the camera to shoot a few seconds of the interviewer nodding. (In TV news, this kind of shot is called a noddie.)

  • Step 2. Set Up for the Edit

    With your footage imported, you’re ready to set up for the edit. With cutaway shots, you retain the audio from the primary clip and discard the audio from the cutaway shot. iMovie HD does this for you: choose Preferences from the iMovie HD menu, click the General button, and be sure the Extract Audio When Using “Paste Over at Playhead” box is checked.

  • Step 3. Crop the Cutaway

    Using the crop markers as described on page 228, crop the cutaway footage so that it begins at the first frame you want to use as the cutaway. Don’t bother specifying the exact end of the cutaway at this point—you’ll do that in Step 5.

  • Step 4. Copy the Cutaway

    In the Clips pane, select the cutaway and choose Copy from the Edit menu (apple.gif-C).

    Another way to cutaway. For those times when you want precise control over the contents of the cutaway clip, use a different technique to insert the cutaway. In Step 3, crop the cutaway clip to the exact length you want it to be. Copy the cropped clip to the Clipboard, then position the playhead at the spot where you want to insert it—don’t highlight an area with the crop markers. Now choose Paste Over at Playhead. iMovie HD pastes the entire cutaway clip, replacing an equal amount of footage in the timeline.

  • Step 5. Mark the Footage You Want to Replace

    With your primary footage in the timeline, navigate to the spot where you want the cutaway to begin (tip: a bookmark can be a handy way to indicate where you plan to insert a cutaway). Select the clip in the timeline, then drag crop markers to indicate the area you want to replace.

  • Step 6. Insert the Cutaway

    Choose Paste Over at Playhead from the Advanced menu (Shift-apple.gif-V).

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