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Transitioning to the new Descript

In addition to 30+ new features, we’ve completely redesigned Descript, reflecting our learnings over the last five years, and setting us up for the next five. But for existing users, it means that a lot has changed. While most of the changes should be self evident and intuitive, some - like new keyboard shortcuts - probably won’t be. This document enumerates everything that’s changed.

Scenes

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Scenes are a new approach to video editing unique to Descript. If you’ve worked with other video editors, you’ll kind of need to rewire your brain before you dive into scenes. They work like slides in a presentation, allowing you to divide your content into discrete segments. Basically, you’ll create a scene anytime you want to change the visuals in your composition. Check out our video editing tutorial or working with scenes guide to learn more.

Media Library

We moved the location of project files. They’re now in the library drawer, this image icon up in the insert toolbar. The keyboard shortcut is command option L.

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Compositions are no longer mixed in with project files

They’re now in their own drawer by the composition name. I’m really liking this - the keyboard shortcut is command option C, and then you can use the arrow keys and enter to switch compositions super quickly.

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Back to project files. You can no longer open files in their own window. When you click on a file, it opens in the sidebar. And from there, you can set an insert point and add it to your project - all the same commands should be there. The one thing that’s new is that for visual files, you have to decide whether you’re going to add them to the script or your scene.

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Keyboard shortcut changes

  • Tab no longer works for playback - it turns out that tab is kind of a non-negotiable keyboard accessibility thing, so we had to take it away. You have to use spacebar for playback, or, if you’re in correct or edit mode, we added a new shortcut, command S.
  • We changed the text correction shortcuts. Instead of Q, W and E, they’re now Z, X, and C. This was mostly driven by trying to balance intuitive shortcuts with an ergonomic workflow. It took me a bit but I’m finding these shortcuts are still fast and it’s nice to have things like “C” map to “Correct.”
  • The Overdub selection shortcut is now O instead of D.

By the way, I know relearning shortcuts is annoying, and we’ll definitely eventually add keyboard shortcut customization because there’s no one size fits all solution, but we think these are a good baseline so give it a try and let us know what you think.

Transport controls

We moved the transport controls down to the timeline toolbar. Gone are the buttons to skip forward/back by 15 seconds, and replaced they are with these buttons to jump forward/back by marker. Still, the easiest way to get to a marker remains command K and then typing the marker name.

Playback speed is in this … menu in the timeline toolbar.

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The Script Toolbar

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The toolbar that used to be at the top of the script is gone. Now, you get access to a lot of that stuff by making a text selection.

There are a few things still up at the top - the wrench icon that used to house filler word removal and word gap reduction, that’s now this sparkle icon.

Search

Search is initiated in the script toolbar, and then the results show up in the right side panel.

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Clip to Composition

Clip to Composition is now called duplicate. Make a selection, and then it’s in the menu.

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Audiograms

On this subject, we’ve changed the way that audiograms work. Instead of making it an export option, first use the “duplicate” command to create a new composition from your audiogram selection, and then use templates to select your audiogram. The cool thing about this is it makes them completely customizable - if you don’t want to use one of our built in audiogram templates, you can easily create your own.

Labels

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Speaker labels are now inline with the script instead of being in the gutter.

To add a speaker label at your text caret position, hit the plus button in the script margin and type speaker label, or use the new keyboard shortcut, the @ symbol. The old shortcut was command R.

Fancy Captions

To add captions, click on the text icon in the insert toolbar, and select captions. You can also click “Live Text” in the property panel of any text clip.

Once you’ve added fancy captions, they’ll be constrained to your current scene by default. To extend them across your entire timeline, select them in the canvas, and then click and drag in the track strip.

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Recording

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Recording has a new icon. And when you click it, you’ll see that you can now record your camera and/or screen directly into the editor. And it’s multitrack - so the screen and camera will be on separate tracks, combined into a sequence.

Timeline

OK, let’s talk about the timeline. For video compositions, the timeline has changed a lot - much less for audio compositions. So I’m going to start by just talking about video, and then I’ll bring it back to audio at the end.

First, from a nomenclature perspective, in Classic, we called all of these things tracks - this is the script track, and then these are other audio and visual tracks that are anchored to the script.

Now we’re calling all of these things up here layers. So there’s a single script track, and then a bunch of layers.

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By default, you’ll only see the active layer that you’ve selected in the Canvas. If you need to see all of your layers at the same time, click this button, or use the keyboard shortcut command T. But try to force yourself to work with the layers hidden - you don’t need to edit in the timeline very much because scenes make it possible to do most things from the script.

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When you drag around layers, by default, they’re going to attach to scenes. If you want to disable this attaching behavior, hold shift while you’re dragging.

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If you make internal edits to a layer so it’s split into multiple clips, clicking will select the entire layer. If you want to select a single clip, double click.

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If you want to access different types of transitions, single click on the transition handle for a menu.

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We’re no longer visualizing the position of the script anchor. And depending on when you’re watching this, you may not yet be able to offset the anchor position. It’s one of the last things we’ve re-added.

If you’re using a mouse, the shortcut to zoom in and out of the timeline is now command + scroll wheel. We did this to standardize with how zoom works in other tools, including our own sequencer, and in anticipation of adding vertical scroll to our own timeline.

Properties Sidebar

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We’ve streamlined the properties sidebar. There’s no more track inspector, or what we’re now calling layers - now there’s just this one properties sidebar, which by default is going to show you information on your selected layer.

If you want to make edits to individual clips inside the layer, those are in the clips section - so you can see in here that you can adjust volume and clip speed.

Studio Sound

You’ll find studio sound in the audio repair section of audio effects.

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Animation

Animation - we used to use a feature called cues for animation, now we just call it animation. Animation is normally attached to scenes, and you can read more about it in the help docs - but for now, what you need to know is that cues are gone, and for now we’re losing the functionality to animate volume this way, you have to do that in the timeline using volume automation.

Aspect Ratios

Ok a few things on the Canvas. To change the aspect ratio of the canvas, click on this …

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When you resize things on the canvas by dragging a corner, the aspect ratio stays fixed. Drag the sides to change the aspect ratio, or hold shift while dragging.

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Changing layer order

To change the ordering of layers, right click on the layer in the canvas. Don’t do this in the timeline anymore - the concept doesn’t really make sense since layers can span scenes and layer order is determined scene by scene.

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Scene level properties

Most properties are scene level now instead of being clip level. So if you want to do a zoom cut, add scenes instead of adding clips.

The exception is audio properties, like studio sound and other effects - those are still on the layer (ie, track) or in the case of Studio Sound file level.

Project Access

This is the button to invite collaborators to your project.

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Publish and Export

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For exporting your composition, we moved the publish button up here. This menu includes all the different cloud publishing destinations. Or if you want to export a file locally, click the export tab.

 

Temporary limitations

While we’ve made significant improvements to Descript, there are a few temporary limitations. We’ll be tackling all of these limitations in the coming months. 

  • You can’t offset pins for audio layers from the words they come in at, but you can still freely move them in the Script Editor or Timeline to start wherever you want them to.
  • For sequences containing video that are in a scene and not your script track, you can’t change the multicam source between sequence tracks.
  • Projects with files uploaded a long time ago and extremely large projects (more than 20 hours) can’t be copied from Descript Classic into new projects.
  • Zapier and Edit in Descript are only supported on Classic projects.

 

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