MacMost Now 718: Archiving iMovie Projects and Events

After you have made many iMovie projects, you may want to remove them from your projects and events lists. This can be as easy as just moving the folders and files from your movies folder. If you want to go back to that project, simply move the files and folders back to their original locations.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let me show you how you can achieve your iMovie projects and events.

I have been using iMovie for years. If I hadn't been archiving my events and projects I would have a huge list of both. So what I do is that I move those away off to another hard drive. It is very easy to do and if you ever need to get back to a project it is very easy to put it back into iMovie. Let me just show you.

Here I am in iMovie and there is a whole bunch of different projects here and a few different events. Let's say I'm going to archive one. I want to take this sample project here and I click on it and I see that I've got all sorts of stuff here. I have a bunch of clips and some titles, some music, and some transitions between them and I want to save all my hard work. It is using all the clips here from samples to this event. So I'm going to archive the samples to this event which includes all these large video files and I also want to archive this sample project here.

So right now I am going to quit iMovie and go into the Finder. So in the Finder I've got in my home folder in the Movies folder and under there I've got my iMovie Projects and iMovie Events. So looking at the iMovie Events I see there samples2, samples 1 and pieces there as well. Also, if I look at Projects I can see there all my different projects just as they were in iMovie are here is the Project file for what I was working on. So, it is basically a mirror of what I see in iMovie and these two folders.

Now, I have created here in my Documents Folder Archived the two iMove Events and Archived iMovie Projects. Now this could be in another drive, it could be on some sort of portable media, and I could even burn a CD or DVD with this. So for the example I am just going to put it in my documents folder. I am simple going to drag these away. I am going to take Samples2 and put it in Archived Events and I'm going to go into Projects and take that sample project and put that into Archived iMovie Projects.

If I had been moving these to another drive it would have copied them so I would still have them here. I would then have to select them and delete the project and delete the event once I am sure that it is copied over to the other drive.

Now I'm going to run iMovie again. Simply by removing those projects and events from there iMovie picks up right from it no longer listing that project and it no longer shows that event there. So iMovie doesn't ask for anything special. Just remove those folders and remove that file and it will no longer appear in iMovie.

So now let's quit iMovie again and let's go and reverse the process. Say it is six months later and I want to go back to that project. So I will take this sample project from the Archived Folder and I move it back into my iMovie Projects. I will go into iMovie Events and I will move that Events Folder into iMovie Events just basically replacing it back where it was. Now if I were to run iMovie again I would see that both the Project and the Event have been put back in place. There is the Sample Projects and I can see the Event is there as well. If I go into Sample Project it actually picks up right where I have left off. You do not have to relink anything or tell it where things are. It doesn't mind at all that stuff has been removed and has now been replaced.

Another thing I want to show you is that if you look inside of an Event like this you are going to find there is something called iMovie Cache and iMovie Thumbnails. I have found that you can just delete these. What happens if you delete them is iMovie has to recreate them so there is a little bit of a delay the next time you use those videos. But it does actually work. The cache of course is just recreated. It is just basically a little video there that displays a little quicker for you while you are editing and the thumbnails does the same thing. Just something to help it quickly display what is available. If those folders are missing it will simply just recreate them when you use the event the next time. So you can save a little space by getting rid of those after you move the files.

It seems pretty easy and it is. If just works this way. By not complicating the whole file structure of Events and Projects, Apple has made it very easy to basically remove a project that you are no longer using and put it somewhere else and then restore it later on if you need.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 32 Responses to “MacMost Now 718: Archiving iMovie Projects and Events”

    6/6/12 @ 9:27 pm

    Does this also work for FCP X?

      6/6/12 @ 9:51 pm

      More or less, yes. Save the project file, and the event and you should be able to re-create it. Give it a try.

    6/7/12 @ 6:25 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I haven’t used iMovie for a while now, but seem to remember movies could be moved from within iMovie. If you have an external drive connected, it’ll show up in iMovie, along with any projects on it. To move a project from your local drive to your external, you just drag and drop your movie from your local drive to the external drive and this will move it from within iMovie (again, from memory, I think it asks you if you wish to move or copy it).
    If you then work on it, changes will be saved to the external drive. If you want it back on your local drive, you can just drag it back from your usb to local drive from within iMovie.

    Just a thought, something else you may want to explore.


      6/7/12 @ 9:02 pm

      Right. That will move the projects or events to another drive, but they are still part of your iMovie collection. That’s different than archiving them as I am suggesting — which will remove them from iMove. Anyone who has 50+ iMovie projects and events knows how it can get cluttered.

        6/8/12 @ 10:10 pm

        aahh…thanks for the clarification .

    6/23/12 @ 11:23 am

    i really wish to move the projects and events to another external drive but be able to access them from within iMovie ’11. However everything I have read says simply drag from one drive to another. Every time I do that, i get this annoying error:

    This file could not be copied:

    /Volumes/BigDisk 1/jaywasack/Movies/iMovie Events.localized/Tiger Tennis 6-11-12 Full/iMovie Thumbnails/week2-1_backview

    (File not found)

    Yet they work perfectly on the main drive. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

      6/23/12 @ 3:28 pm

      That’s odd. Looks like something is wrong with that one file. You’ll have to tinker with it or have an expert help first-hand.

    6/26/12 @ 4:38 pm

    Excellent – solved a major problem for me!! I have hard drive space again!

    7/15/12 @ 8:22 am

    Hey Gary ~ Your podcasts are great and very educational. I have a question about #718, Archiving iMovie Projects. By doing this does this help my Mac w/ more memory and in my New Event folder I find quite a few of MOV’s that I created, do I throw those out also or just what’s in Cache? Thanks in advance for the reply.

      7/15/12 @ 9:13 am

      It doesn’t help with memory at all. But it does clear out some hard drive space. If your hard drive is almost full, it can slow down your Mac. But if you have 10% or more free, then it probably won’t make a different.
      Don’t try to manage the contents of those folders unless you know what you are doing — manage the content from inside iMovie. Just use this technique to archive the folders if that is what you want to do.

    April Greenlaw Chand
    8/5/12 @ 4:46 pm

    Hi Gary,
    Your tutorials are a great resource. However when I tried to move my new imovie archive folder into a portable drive (my passport) I got the error message “can’t complete the operation because some data in “imovie archive” can’t be read or written (error code -36). Any thoughts are appreciated!

    April Greenlaw Chang
    8/5/12 @ 5:02 pm

    Me again, I have just realized the portable hard drive I was trying to use is also my ‘time machine’ device; could that be the issue — I’m guessing I should get a dedicated hard drive for video projects??

      8/5/12 @ 6:18 pm

      You definitely do not want to manually put anything on (or take anything off) your Time Machine drive. Doing so will ruin Time Machine’s ability to properly manage the drive. You should only be using that drive for TM and letting TM manage it completely.
      I recommend using your internal drive from video — it is much much faster than an external drive which would have to send data across USB. Do you work on the internal, then archive the project to an external when you are done to make space.

        April Greenlaw Chang
        8/5/12 @ 11:32 pm

        Got it, I think!

          April Greenlaw Chang
          8/5/12 @ 11:35 pm

          I will add that I’m using a Mac Air, so space is an issue and it’s really useful to get video out off the hard drive.

    Norman Moxey
    8/14/12 @ 10:26 am

    Very interesting Videos. So easy to follow, hope I can remember it all

    10/30/12 @ 7:43 am

    Very helpful tutorials! I assume that projects do not stand on their own. They require the event file from which they were created. Therefore, you can save an event file by itself but a project file is useless unless the corresponding event is filed with it. Correct?

      10/30/12 @ 7:56 am

      Right, more or less. A project could use clips from zero to several events. It is possible to have a project that uses no events, just photos, titles, music, and other non-video items.

    10/30/12 @ 1:15 pm

    Just want to thank you so much for your very clear description of how to archive iMovie projects. This tutorial helped me figure it out! Clearer than any other explanation I came across.

    11/1/12 @ 11:33 pm

    Hi Gary,

    You consistently great content and I would like to thank you. Question regarding this topic:

    If I export only the Project (without the corresponding events), does the Project file contain the video clips from the selected events such that it can stand-alone without the Events. Put another way, if at a later date I wanted to re-export my Project as a movie file (and I only have the Project file without Events), will the Project file alone be able to create the movie file or does it depend on the Event files with the raw footage to create this?

    Hope that is understandable. Thanks again!

      11/2/12 @ 8:26 am

      No. You need the events too. They are separate from the project.

    12/29/12 @ 3:33 am

    Do you need to drag it back onto the mac or can you play the video from the external hard drive?
    Also, I have 8hrs of video from my go pro to load and edit.
    How can I do this without filling all my mac hard drive?
    Any thoughts?


      12/29/12 @ 10:24 am

      As long as you have access to the files, you can play back a video file. Try it. You’ll see.
      If you have 8 hours of video to edit, then you have to edit it right? If you don’t have enough space on your hard drive, then use another drive. Most video software (iMovie, Final Cut, etc) let you use any attached drive as storage.

    Ole Magne
    1/4/13 @ 1:22 am

    I have 2 questions vs archiving:

    – If you archive a lot of projects/events, how to keep track of which events belonging to which projects, if “restore” is required?

    – Are archived events/projects likely to be compatible with future versions of iMovie (experiences so far..)?

      1/4/13 @ 9:51 am

      I simply name them so I remember. Project “MacMost809” and event “MacMost809.” But that isn’t always possible if you use videos from multiple source. So many a text file with some notes?
      Impossible to say about “the future.” Probably, to a point. At least events use standard video codecs, so you can always convert them.

    1/5/13 @ 2:30 am

    Hey Gary, my question doesn’t really match the topic but when I export a project, iMovie creates like a copy of it and stores it (somewhere) so I can export it faster the next time, right? Now where exactly are these files located? They take huge amounts of space and I have some projects that I just need to export once to let’s say, burn them to a DVD and then I would just archive them because I probably don’t need to export them again, ever.

      1/5/13 @ 9:28 am

      I think you are talking about the project cache. Look in the event folder and you’ll see various cache files. You can get rid of them when you archive. But I think it also stores a cached version of the movie so you can export a second time — I can’t remember exactly. But if that is the case, don’t worry about it. iMovie will dispose of it. Probably when you quit.

        1/5/13 @ 5:05 pm

        I think I have finally found the location. When you go to the iMovie projects folder -> right klick on show content; you get the copy of the output file (apart from the one you have extracted to a location you where asked to choose) which is used to extract it a second time if needed. It will be automatically deleted by iMovie when you change something in the project in iMovie, otherwise it will stay there and take HD space. Thnx all tough.

    Karen Simpson
    2/5/13 @ 12:07 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I am back doing my family video. I followed the steps to doing professional looking end credits. I haven’t finished inserting all of my videos using picture in picture as you describe. Now, when I insert a video the sound gets lost (but it is not lost in my library).

    Can you help me?


      2/5/13 @ 12:40 pm

      Not sure what you mean. Hard to help without seeing it first-hand. So you’ll need to play around with it and try to determine why the sound is “lost” and try something else.

    2/8/13 @ 7:27 am

    I am just trying to change the font colors that are listed on the iMovie Preferences. Is there any way to do that? I think I have seen it done before.

      2/8/13 @ 8:16 am

      You can use any color you want. You just need to switch modes in the text inspector from the basic one that gives you limited options, to the regular text options. Click the System Font Panel button you will see there.

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