I'm wondering what the cheapest option for achieving a split-screen effect with different video clips is. This is on new iMac hardware with the latest version of iMovie '11, as well as QuickTime Pro 7 and iMovie HD '06 installed. Obviously I know Final Cut Express can do this, but I am hoping not to have to pay so much for what should be a simple thing.


Okay, my first bounty. Fun times. Here's what I know: http://imovieplugins.com/ has some very cost-effective one-off effects for iMovie HD. However, it seems quite difficult to install these on 10.6. If anyone has a way to do so, I'd consider that a good answer.

Also, I am aware that the open-source Blender can do this, though the learning curve there is a bit much for me. An easy step-by-step guide for that would suffice if nothing else comes up.

  • This is a classic "fast, cheap, good" dilemma. Good + Fast = Expensive, Good + Cheap = Slow and Fast + Cheap = Inferior - All of the cheap plug-ins I have seen for iMovie have bad reviews for crashing on clips that are more than 30 seconds long.
    – bmike
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 1:53
  • @bmike I hear you there, and I'm certainly looking for good+cheap.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 3:24

2 Answers 2


The cheapest option is to use quartz composer to assemble the individual clips and mix them down. It is not designed like iMovie or Final Cut Express with shortcuts and ready build transitions, but it is free with Xcode 3. You have to register and agree to Apple's developer tools restrictions before downloading Xcode 3. You want the free program at the bottom of the page.

A more expensive solution would be something like ScreenFlow where you could make several self contained movies and then play them back for recording on the screen. By arranging and synchronizing multiple quicktime windows on your desktop you could record what you see on your screen. I have seen amazing works that were recorded as a screen capture. It's also not ideal, but if you are good, you can do wonders. Quicktime has free screen recording as well, but ScreenFlow makes it easier to crop out parts of the screen, catch the audio and automate moves and edit.

Lastly, Final Cut Express is the best tool and it sells for under $200 US. It is the same engine as Final Cut Pro, but lacks all the other tools like Motion and Color that assist in cinema quality effects and editing.

Only you can know your budget and how much your time is worth. Start free and only pay for software when your time is worth more to you than the cost of the tools.

  • 1
    +1: I never thought of Quartz Composer; that's a fantastic idea.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 3:24
  • Quartz Composer is stunningly elegant, powerful and you could write a PHD thesis on computer visualization or graphics modeling and barely touch one tenth of it's power.
    – bmike
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 4:35
  • But Quartz Composer can also be a pain in the ass sometimes. As far as I know you can't get the video out of Quartz as the "Export as QuickTime Movie" doesn't work with imported video clips.
    – Patrick
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 7:09

If you need this for just one project, why won't you download the 30 days trial version of Adobe Premiere?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .