I have a 3-hour long .mp4 video that has sensible breaks roughly every 30 minutes or so. I want to export this into multiple videos of each section, but have run into nothing but problems trying to do so. This isn't something I do often so I don't really want to invest in commercial tools for this one task, but as yet I can't find any free tool capable of this job.

I really would prefer to just cut this up without having to decode and re-encode the file(s) all over again. I'd like to just mark the sections I want, and spit them out as standalone .mp4s. No other edits, no corrections, no effects, no anything... just cut & export without any formatting changes at all.

I thought Handbrake could do this, but if it can I can't figure out how. I then thought maybe iMovie (10.x as I'm on Mavericks), but that's been nothing but headache and appears to decode the entire movie first before working with it anyway. Quicktime itself seems only able to direct export as .mov and I don't want to re-encode to mp4 all over again.

I keep running into free/open source programs that either are only free in a very limited fashion (like 5 minute max exports, or nasty watermarks, etc.) or that won't run on Mavericks. Is what I'm looking to do just not possible without commercial software? Is it really so difficult to split one long mp4 into several shorter ones?

  • I used Quicktime: a pain in the neck, but I got the job done. – Antonio Sesto Sep 16 '17 at 18:31
  • But how without re-encoding the clips? – Jonathan van Clute Sep 16 '17 at 18:31
  • Sorry: not Quicktime, the old iMovie version 9.0.8. – Antonio Sesto Sep 16 '17 at 18:33
  • Aha, that version could import and export mp4s without re-encoding?? If so I'll have to try and track it down. – Jonathan van Clute Sep 16 '17 at 18:34
  • Have you tried using FFmpeg? – user3439894 Sep 16 '17 at 19:10

Here's a tutorial I just made to solve the problem. No pro subscriptions, no nonsense.

QuickTime Export Split Clip Tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7MgVBGfFCo

Essentially, you just use the shortcut to split the clip, move the split over to a new file, and save the new file. Quick and easy. Split up an over hour long video into 13 videos or so [1] in 15 minutes.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3z1TiLmRFcwBvXbeSmXhYbouKfBKZyZv

  • Your Youtube video does not load for me. Just says "Oops, something went wrong." – Jonathan van Clute Oct 21 '18 at 17:49
  • WHOOPS. Linked to the edit rather than the video: youtube.com/watch?v=g7MgVBGfFCo – lustig Oct 21 '18 at 17:51
  • Thanks for the tip here, but unfortunately it doesn't work for me. When I try to save the clip I created by pasting into the second video, I just get "The operation could not be completed" and it won't save. – Jonathan van Clute Oct 21 '18 at 21:06
  • @JonathanvanClute can you post a screen recording of this happening? I could try and replicate and fix for you. – lustig Mar 16 at 2:08
  • Sorry, I’ve long since moved past whatever video I was dealing with at the time. I don’t even remember anymore. But I have had a problem recently with certain MP4‘s generated by a particular program that just will not merge using QuickTime player. My work around has been to re-save them as M4V files using VLC pass-through encoding, and then they are able to be merged as expected. – Jonathan van Clute Mar 16 at 2:11

Turns out this CAN be done, and simply using QuickTime to boot. Thanks to this post from another forum, I discovered that you can tell QTPro to simply "pass thru" and not re-encode your material, when exporting.


  1. You must have QuickTime 7 Pro. Might also require a license key if you don't already have one. You will have to get these on your own as QT7 has been discontinued for years by Apple, but it's very much still out there.
  2. Open your original (large) movie in QT7.
  3. Move to the point you want your first clip to start, and press "I" to mark an in point. Move to the end of the clip and press "O" to mark the out point.
  4. COPY the now-selected section and select File > New Player (or hit COMMAND-N)
  5. PASTE what you previously copied, onto the new clip.
  6. Select File > Export... (NOT Export for Web...)
  7. Make sure Movie to MPEG-4 is selected as the export type, and click the Options button
  8. Make sure "Pass Through" is selected for both audio and video, and enable Streaming options if you need them.
  9. Export your file where you want it. QT7 will pretty quickly generate the new file, so fast that it is very obviously not re-encoding. Should only take a few minutes at most.
  10. Rinse & repeat for as many clips as you have in the larger movie.
  11. Enjoy your new clips!
  • 1
    You can just make 3 copies of your mp4, and use the Trim command in QuickTime Player on each, to give part of the original file. No tricksy multi-megabyte copy and paste that way. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 16 '17 at 22:42
  • What multi-megabyte copy & paste? Copying & pasting into a new file is instantaneous, and I certainly didn't notice any memory or storage issues whatsoever (and my system is generally running pretty close to capacity in those regards). Making 3 copies of the original huge file, seems to me that it would actually require a whole lot more storage and be more likely to have memory management issues. – Jonathan van Clute Sep 16 '17 at 23:15
  • Where does one get a copy of qt7 or pro with a valid license key ie corrrctly registered? – Solar Mike Sep 17 '17 at 8:01
  • Since Apple will no longer let you buy one, you'll have to hunt around the web I'm afraid. It can be a bit of a sketchy thing to have to do, but unfortunately it's the only way anymore. – Jonathan van Clute Sep 17 '17 at 14:25
  • So you say, basically, use illegal software.... personally I use handbrake as it does the job neatly and you way is not the only way – Solar Mike Sep 17 '17 at 17:30

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