Working with scenes and layouts


Scenes work like slides in a presentation. They allow you to divide your video project into discrete segments and then add visual elements like titles or overlays. Basically, you’ll add a scene anytime you want to change the visuals in your composition. This article walks you through working with scenes in a video project. 

Scenes are only available in video compositions

Note that if your composition is set to audio-only scenes will not be displayed or used in the composition. All video compositions will have at least one scene at the start unless you add more.

Adding scenes

Creating scene boundarires.gif

  1. Add script content (video with spoken audio, or just audio) to your composition — either by importing and transcribing a file, recording your script content directly in the app, or writing your script from scratch using the writing tool.
  2. Place your cursor in the script where you want to add a scene boundary.
  3. Add a forward slash / to your script. Or click on the slash icon to the left of your script.

Creating a new empty scene

You can add an empty scene to your composition by typing two slashes / back to back. This is helpful when your script media isn't ready, but you want to start laying out visual layers, or for unscripted content – like b-roll scene with music or a title scene– that you want to play over a section where there is no script. 

Creating a blank scene.gif

Adding visuals to your scenes

Enhance your scenes by dragging and dropping visuals from your computer onto the Canvas, a scene thumbnail in the Scene rail, or directly over your script in the Script Editor. You can also utilize Descript's premium stock videos and images to elevate your project. Once you add a visual to a scene, it will display from the start to the end of the scene. 

Adding layers onto different panels

Creating a scene and adding media simultaneously

You can add media the selection toolbar in the Script editor. This action creates a new scene over the selected range and adds the media as layer in the scene.

Customizing layers and scenes

Once you've set up your layers and scenes, you can fine-tune every element from the Scene and Layer panels—these are your control centers for customization. Once you have a panel open, select a scene or layer to view it's properties. You can also make adjustments directly from the Canvas

Adjusting scene and layer properties

Layer properties

For modifications specific to individual layers, use the Layer panel or Canvas. Here’s how you can manage these properties:

  • Size, Position, and Cropping: Select a layer on the Canvas and adjust these properties as needed. Double-click on the visual to enter crop mode.
  • Effects and Animations: Add and manage effects, animations, and customizations directly from the Layer Panel. For video layers, adjust the start time of the clip here as well.

Keep in mind that the properties shown for a layer will depend on what you have selected, such as audio, text, a shape, or video.

Scene properties

To customize entire scenes, open up the Scene panel in the sidebar:

  • Background: Set a color or image as the background for the scene.
  • Effects and Transitions: Apply comprehensive visual effects and transitions to enhance the entire scene.
  • Templates and Layouts: Choose from various layout templates to maintain a consistent aesthetic across your project.
  • Layer Order: Organize the sequence of layers within the scene to perfect the visual arrangement. Learn more about adjusting the layer order.

Extending layers across scenes

You may find that you have visuals that you want to extend over multiple scenes. You can do this from the Timeline by clicking and dragging a layer's edge.

Extending a layer across scenes

For extended layers, you have the option to make adjustment to the layer in the current scene, or across all scenes.

Apply layer changes to current or all scenes

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