Understanding iMovie Projects and Events

It is easy to get confused between iMovie Projects and Events. Events can be used to store video clips which can then be used in multiple Projects. Clips can also be stored directly in a project.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Understanding iMovie Projects and Events.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. On this episode let's look at iMovie Projects and Events.

If you're new to using iMovie, or even if you have been using it for awhile, you may be a bit confused about the difference between Project and Events and where clips go when you import them. It is very confusing. So let's take a look at an example and see if we can get to the bottom of it.

You really can't do anything in iMovie until you create a project. So here I've got nothing in Media stored here and I've got nothing in Projects. I'm going to create a new project. It's going to be a standard movie project.

Now on the left I can see the sidebar here that shows all the different media I've got. I've got the media in my current project which is called My Movie. The terms movie and project are pretty much interchangeable in iMovie. I look there and I've got nothing. I've got a big Import Media button.

I can also look down here in the iMovie Library. This is where events will be stored and there are no events. Everything is totally empty and I just have this one empty project to start with.

Now there are two main ways to bring video clips into this project. One is that I can go to File, Import Media. The other is that I can simply drag and drop to here. Of course I can also click here. It's the same thing as using File, Import Media.

Just to make it simpler I'm going to drag and drop a video into here. Now I see the video clip here as part of My Media under My Movie. Notice there's still no events that have been created. So where are these events that everybody always gets. Tons of events in here.

Well, it turns out that if you import something directly into your Projects, your movie, with it selected on the left sidebar it doesn't get added to an event at all. It's simply a piece of media. A movie clip that is only for this project. If you were to create another project you wouldn't have access to this clip. Only this project, this movie, has access to this clip and any other clips I import into it.

So for many people you never need to mess with events at all. You can simply import video into the project, into the movie, and then forget about events and just create your video here by dragging and dropping from the media area into the timeline.

So what about events? How do I get clips into events and what difference does it make having it in an event rather in a project media. Well I cannot create a new event here, File, New Event is grayed out, because I have the Project Media selected. I'm going to instead click where it says iMovie Library and now I can do File, New Event. It'll create an event and give it a name that has the date. I'll just change that to My Event, change it to whatever you want to be descriptive.

Now I can import media and since I have the event selected rather than the project media selected it will import it into that event. So I'm going to choose three videos here. Import selected. You can see now that I've got My Event selected. I've got those three videos. When I look at Project Media I've got that other video I selected.

If I were to select iMovie Library I actually will see all four. I see under My Movie one video and My Event three videos. So it's going to show me everything when I select this. I can also select All Events and I can just see the events, I would see this thing here and I can flip between them and if I had a second event I could flip between that. I can select just a single event. I can go back and select just My Movie and just see the stuff in there.

Now at this point it is still somewhat straightforward until I go to My Event, which is basically just a storage space for clips. I select a clip and I drag it into the timeline. Nothing changes here but if I go to Project Media, to My Movie, I see both clips here. So what I've got now, is I've got one clip, this one, that's only part of Project Media. I've got another clip that appears to be part of Project Media but is also part of My Event.

In fact it's not in two places. iMovie is smart enough to only store one copy of it in the iMovie Library. Since I originally brought it in as part of My Event this is where it is. It sits in this folder, if you want to think of it as a folder. But My Movie is going to give me a look at things that are in Events that I'm using in a current movie and it's going to give me clips that are not part of any event but I've imported and are just part of this project.

Okay, so then what's the advantage to having clips stored in My Event here in the library rather than as part of the Project Media. Well, if you were to start a second project and this one by default is called My Movie 1 but I haven't saved it yet. You can see it has no clips in it. However, the events are all listed here. There's the three videos that I imported into the event but not the video that was imported into the other Project Media.

So I have access to videos that are in events in all of the projects. So if you're going to be using your videos and creating a variety of movies from those clips then store them all in Events and then easily access each clip from an event, bring it into different movies. So you've got these two movies here. I can access all the clips in all of the events in either one of these. But in this one since I only imported this video of waves into the Project Media it's only available for this movie. That is the difference.

But what happens if you've made a mistake and you've brought this in as part of the Project Media but you realize that you want to use it in other projects as well.

Well, in this view it is very simple. You just click and drag to the event that you want to add it to. Now it's part of that event. When I leave this project and go into another one and I select that event I see this video is there as well. So it's very easy just by dragging to correct that mistake and make the Project Media part of an event. iMovie is smart enough not to duplicate the clip. It simply moves it. This is all just for organizational purposes anyway. Everything is handle under the hood. You're not actually creating more copies of the same file.

So the bottom line is if you're not into organization at all and maybe don't use iMovie that often you just want to bring clips into Project Media and not use Events at all.

However, if you are into organization and plan on mixing and matching your clips into different movie projects then you probably want to go to the media section of iMovie and here you can access under iMovie Library the clips used for each movie and the clips in each event and you can zero in on specific events. You can create new events. You can drag and drop items between events.

So we could do, let's create a New Event. Then we can go in here and drag this over to this one and we can do all sorts of organizational things to put our clips into organized events and then access them in projects.

You have either way. Either you can kind of use iMovie without organizing your clips in iMovie or you can use iMovie to heavily organize your clips into events before you even start making projects.

Comments: 19 Responses to “Understanding iMovie Projects and Events”

    3 years ago

    Super useful. I find iMovie very confusing, and this was really helpful, and helped me understand finally the basic structural model of the app.

    Your tutorials on iMovie and Kenote are always excellent and some of your best ones.

    Mr. Luigi
    3 years ago

    Putting clips in My Movie reminds me how files are managed in iOS apps. There is no finder and files used in an app reside in that app. iMovie Events reminds me of how applications access files using the finder in OS X. Different applications can access the same files via the finder. I’m sure that made things much clearer. :-)

    3 years ago

    Gary – I spent HOURS trying to figure this out. Wish I had wait a few weeks to see this. When did this change happen? I was searching all over to try to find where my 2016 “events” went! And, if you Import clips to a Project from Photos, do they actually go into iMove (I want to delete the clips from my iPhone). Finally, what about old Projects? How does this change impact them? (Still trying to figure this out.)

    3 years ago

    Sorry, forgot to thank you for the video rather than complaining about the change in iMovie. Thank you!

    3 years ago

    Tony: Yes, it appears that the photos ARE imported into iMovie. Know how I know? Select the photo or video clip in the project, then choose File, Reveal in Finder. That shows you where it is. In this case, it was in the iMovie Library, not the Photos Library.
    As for old projects — depends on lots of factors. Not sure what you mean by “this change” — iMovie has been this way for a long time. So it depends on what you mean by “old” I guess. Either way, you have what you have now — so just look and see.

    3 years ago

    Hi Gary, Thanks again for an excellent learning video!

    I am one who had been using iMovie and like things to be organized. However, I found that all my iMovies were taking up way too much space on my MacBook Pro. Does dropping the video clips into an event folder help with the storage space issue?

    3 years ago

    Janice: No. It doesn’t matter if you put them in an event or in a project, the video will be there just once in either case. Videos do use a lot of space. A big mistake people make when buying Macs is getting one with too little hard drive space when they plan on editing and keeping a lot of digital video. Maybe time to get an external drive and offload some of the older stuff you no longer need daily access to.

    3 years ago

    I, too, am grateful for this one, Gary.
    For my pics there is no doubt that I import everything into Photos and use the Photos Library as my main storage site. That always makes me feel rather dependent, but it works so nice. I’m wondering about movie clips … the short ones I take with my photo camera I just import into photos as well. But longer ones … do you import them into iMovie for Organization? Or, do you leave them in Stacked Folders in your “Movies” part of Finder?

    3 years ago

    Ron: Personally, I put all my video files into a folder and give them good names. I like them separate from my photos. I don’t use iMovie for these personal videos too much. But with iCloud Photo Library being so awesome (having all my photos on all my devices) I may soon be rethinking this and putting my videos in the Photo library.

    Paddy Zoller
    3 years ago

    Gary, totally appreciate this in-depth but concise explanation for a version of iMovie that has challenged me more than the previous. Just one question tho. Can you let us know how you import photos into iMove. i.e.. Where are you dragging and dropping from? Photos app, desktop, or ? Keep up your exceptional work

    3 years ago

    You can drag and drop from the Finder. But I usually use the Photos Library option listed on the left sidebar. Then I can browse my Photos library by album, etc.

    3 years ago

    Thanks for explaining this. I have found this particularly confusing–one of Apple’s worse UIs IMHO. I don’t use iMovie that often and each time I do I have to struggle figuring out the differences. Now I know, never to bother with events and only work with projects. Thanks again.

    John Riddle
    3 years ago

    Been using iMovie for about 4 years and was alway a little confused between Events and Projects. This was an extra awesome explanation Gary. I’ve though of upgrading to Final Cut Pro. Is the file structure similar? Is there a way to convert/Import iMovie Projects and Events to FCP? (Disregard if too far off topic)
    Many Thanks

    3 years ago

    John: Yes, the structure is similar. But there’s also the ability to use multiple Libraries (which contain projects and events) and have them open at the same time. Yes, there is a way to “send” from iMovie to Final Cut Pro (it is in iMovie you do it).

    Paddy Zoller
    3 years ago

    Gary, on the iMovie subject, is there a keyboard shortcut (didn’t see one on your pdf list) that will move through the time line and select the next “slide” – I know the down arrow will move to the next slide, but I need it to highlight/select the next slide. Looking for ease of editing and long time line. Thanks in advance

    3 years ago

    Paddy: Well, X is the shortcut for “select entire clip.” So if you use up and down arrows followed by an X you can get what you want.

    Paddy Zoller
    3 years ago

    Thanks for responding Gary. You’re the best. Works perfectly and will speed up my editing considerably. Hope it helps someone else also.

    Steve Bragg
    3 years ago

    Finally, an explanation of the iMovie logic that makes sense! Sorry a little late in reacting–having to go back in archives to view videos. GladI did. This information will change the way I organize latest trip videos and pictures. Thank you.

    3 years ago

    “Not sure what you mean by “this change” — iMovie has been this way for a long time. So it depends on what you mean by “old” I guess.” ~ Gary.

    Well, in the past, when you connected your iPhone up to your Mac with iMovie open, wasn’t it that when we imported the clips, it imported directly into an Event only? I don’t remember being allowed to import clips directly into a Project–i.e. I thought it used to be that they always imported _only_ into Events. Thanks!

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