Troubleshooting editor performance and playback issues

Under certain conditions, Descript projects can get slow, or laggy. This article will help you troubleshoot those issues, and offers some tips on structuring your project to avoid performance issues in the first place.

General troubleshooting steps

Troubleshooting non-reproducible performance issues

If you contact support with a performance issue, the support agent will open the project and try to reproduce the issue on their own computer. If it’s reproducible, great! We’ll escalate it to engineering and keep you in the loop about when it’s fixed.

If it’s not reproducible, then it probably means there’s something about the state of your computer or project that’s contributing to the issue. Here are a few more things you can try.

Reloading your project

You can do this by click Shift + Command + R (Mac) or Shift + Control + R (Windows)

Restart your computer

This actually works more than you would think in 2023. So if you haven’t already, try restarting.

Fully delete and reinstall Descript

Follow these instructions to wipe all Descript data from your computer, and then reinstall.

Reduce the size and complexity of your projects

This is the largest cause of performance issues. Projects get slow when they have a combination of:

  1. Several GB of files
  2. Lots of edits in a composition or sequence
  3. Lots of compositions
  4. Long compositions and/or sequences

There’s no hard and fast rule here — it is also highly dependent on the age of your computer and availability of its system resources — but if you’re noticing performance declines as your projects gets bigger or more complex, this might be the issue. Try breaking out your compositions and files across multiple projects, or dividing a single complex/long composition or sequence into several and see if that helps.

How to move a composition to a different project

Click here to learn how to copy a composition to a different project.

Close your other apps
Try closing other applications, especially apps that use a lot of your computing bandwidth, like your web browser.
Make sure you have enough free hard drive space
Descript gets slow if you have less than 20GB of available hard drive space. Click to learn about managing storage on Mac or to learn about managing storage on Windows.
Make sure your computer is powerful enough
Make sure your computer meets our recommended system requirements.
Try disabling effects
Effects (e.g. audio effects like the limiter, compressor, parametric EQ, or flanger) can cause CPU use spiking that result in glitchy playback. Try disabling them while editing to see if it resolves your issue. If it does, you can always edit with effects disabled and turn them on when you're ready to export.
Disable Grammarly
Grammarly has been known to cause issues with Descript. Disable Descript from within the Grammarly app or just keep it closed.
Disable McAfee
Running McAfee antivirus can cause issues with Descript. To avoid performance issues, consider disabling McAfee while using Descript.
Enable optimized media files

By default, when you add audio or video files to Descript, we create new “proxy” versions that are optimized for playback performance (we also keep the originals and use them for export).

If you’ve disabled optimized assets, then it’s possible that the unoptimized files are causing your performance issues, and you should manually create optimized files for any high resolution and bitrate files.

Diagnosing problems with your graphics card (Windows)
  • Make sure your GPU drivers are up-to-date. If your GPU drivers are up-to-date and still >2 years old, then you’ll probably still have issues and we don’t recommend recording video with Descript.
  • Make sure your GPU isn’t busted. Here’s a diagnostic process you can run on your GPU.
Use the fastest GPU on your machine

Currently Descript only supports using one GPU at a time. Your machine might be defaulting to the slower one. This usually happens when an Intel chip with onboard graphics is being used versus the discreet (not on a CPU) GPU. Generally, this occurs on laptops that use the on-board GPU in low power mode.

macOS Windows
  1. Open Activity Monitor and navigate to Window > GPU History
  2. Start exporting a composition.
  3. Observe in the Activity Monitor which GPU is being used.

Apple Silicon chips have integrated GPUs, so they should always default to the correct and fastest GPU

Once you have determined the which GPU is in use, and if it is not the discrete GPU in the machine (usually an AMD), you can manually override this by turning off Automatic Graphics Switching.

Other issues

Video not showing up in canvas
  • If you see a blank screen in the canvas:
    • Your script layer may not be present. Click in the white space outside the canvas, look at the layer list in the Property Panel, then select the script layer and confirm opacity is toggled on.
    • It could be because no visual layers are present. Once you add a video or visual, it will appear on the canvas.
  • If you don’t see the canvas at all, switch to a video composition which you can do from the File menu.
Low quality video previews in canvas
  • The canvas uses proxy files, but your exported content should be full quality. Try exporting or publishing to check quality. That said, there’s no option for that at the moment to increase canvas quality.
  • If export quality is still low, check your composition's resolution to confirm they are at a high enough resolution
Choppy video playback in the editor or exported file

Choppy playback could be caused by a low composition frame rate setting. To resolve, increase your composition's frame rate setting in the Aspect ratio and video settings menu.

Error during playback

Occasionally files with an unsupported or invalid format will cause a playback error. If you run into this error, your best bet will be to re-encode the original file using a third-party application like VLC or Quicktime.

After that, you can use the Replace File feature to swap the source file in your existing project, or re-import the file into a new project.

None of that worked? Contact support

Most performance issues are resolved by addressing one of the above issues (in particular the first one about big projects), but if they don’t fix your problem, contact support and we’ll take a look!

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