Learning to edit video and audio is tough, and complicated software interfaces don’t make things any easier. If that rings true for your editing experience, you may want to try Descript, a desktop video and audio editing program for Windows and Mac that transcribes videos and lets you trim, rearrange, and even update clips just by moving text.
I checked out Descript’s free version and previewed some of its premium features with the included tutorial projects, and I definitely see its appeal for podcasters, YouTubers, and other content creators — as long as you’re willing to pay for the best features. But before we go there, let’s go over how Descript actually works, because it’s really cool even without the bells and whistles.
How Descript’s text-based editor works
Descript can create a transcription of a video for you, but you’ll still want to comb through the AI’s script and correct any errors. That said, as long as the speaker is clear and the audio quality is good enough, you probably won’t have much to edit.
You can also type and timestamp the transcriptions manually, or even copy and paste over a script if one was used for the recording. Manual transcription is tedious, but the end results are the same.
Once your transcription is finished, you can jump around the video’s timeline by clicking a specific part of the transcription, and you can then edit video recording by trimming words from the text. A “Filler Words” feature — premium subscribers only — will even highlight unwanted words like “uhs” and “uhms,” making it easier to find and cut them.
You can also replace words with Descript’s “Overdub” feature and the program will add new words to the audio track without having to re-record. All you do is select a word or sentence from the transcript then retype the words. The program will synthesise the replaced words in the speaker’s voice, and the outcome is surprisingly convincing.
Obviously, a replaced word here or there will sound fine, while an entire sentence could sound slightly artificial, but it uses the speaker’s own voice as the baseline, so it at least sounds like them.
I make podcasts and YouTube videos as a hobby, and fixing minor speech errors is by far the most tedious part of the entire process. Worse, going back to re-record segments can sound “off” if you’re splicing together multiple recordings with slightly different audio quality or speaking cadence. Descript could alleviate these issues entirely — though you’ll be paying for yet another editing tool if you want to use Overdub and Filler Words.
Is Descript worth the price?
That brings us to the most important question: is Descript good enough to replace, say, Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition? You’ll be paying roughly the same for each, so unless you’ve got the cash to spend, you’ll probably want to pick just one.
There’s a free version, but it’s super limited. Free accounts get a one-time, three-hour allotment of transcription time, after which they need to upgrade to get more. Free users are also capped to just 20 screen recordings with a maximum 720p resolution, and single-project editing (meaning you have to finish or delete the project you’re working on before starting a new one).
The “Creator” subscription ($21/month or $200/year) allows up to 10 hours of transcribed audio/video per month with unlimited screen recordings and on-going projects. However, Descript’s Overdub and Filler Word features are locked behind the “Pro” subscription ($42/month or $405/year), which is as much as you’d spend (or more) on other subscription-based software with deeper editing capabilities. After spending some time with it, I wouldn’t recommend Descript as a comprehensive replacement for professional editing software you may already be using.
To be clear, Descript is a fully competent multitrack video and audio editing program. It even has screen capture and audio recording tools built-in, and it lets you collaboratively edit with multiple users remotely. These are useful features, and its text document UI is intuitive, but Descript is just not as powerful or feature-rich as other editing software out there. It lacks many important video tools like colour correction and unique transitions, and only has a smattering of audio touch-ups.
That said, Descript could fulfil basic editing needs if you’re just starting out or can’t afford more expensive software, and the game-changing Overdub and Filler Word features could make Descript a welcome addition to your existing production workflow — if you’ve got the budget to spare. You can always try out the free version and get a glimpse at the premium features with the pre-included tutorial projects if you’re on the fence.