Every once in a while I do a project that requires transcribing recorded audio. It’s never something I look forward to, because creating the transcriptions can be tedious and time consuming, and getting them onto the video can be a chore, especially if you’re doing them in a program like Final Cut Pro X.
In the past, I’ve used rev.com to transcribe audio . For $1 / minute, Rev will create transcriptions or captions for your videos. They have quick turnaround times and high-quality output.
But today I decided at the last minute that I needed to caption a 3-minute video and didn’t want to wait two hours for Rev, if I could help it. So I did a quick search for transcription apps and was reminded of Descript, a combination app and service that provides both automatic and human-powered transcription.
Long story short, Descript is amazing. I downloaded the app, dragged my video file into the main window, waited a minute or so, and had a pretty darn good automatic transcription that I could start cleaning up in the app. Descript lets you quickly bounce back and forth between editing the transcript and playing the audio, so it was a snap to go through and fix the small number of errors I found. (If I had been willing to wait a bit, I could have sent the audio out for a higher-quality human-powered transcript.)
When I had the text the way I wanted it, I used Descript’s share button to output the file as time-coded subtitles to an srt file, which I further tweaked using BBEdit. I then used Handbrake to burn the subtitles onto a new video file.
(I also tried burning the subtitles using VLC, which offers more options for displaying the text over the video, but the app got stuck in a continual loop when I tried to export.)
Total time, including researching how to do each step: about an hour. If I had known what I was doing, I could have easily done the work in less than half that time.
If I had wanted a very specific or higher-quality look to the video, I could have created Photoshop files using automation and placed them in the video using Final Cut Pro X. But the output I got from the method I used is very good, and probably suitable for most purposes.
(I should note that YouTube does a decent job at auto-captioning videos, and supports adding your own srt subtitle files. But this video wasn’t going up on YouTube, so that wasn’t an option for me in this case.)
Descript is such a well-designed program that I kind of wish I had more captions to do. But for the next time the need arises, it’s nice to know that what’s usually a dull, mundane, and frustrating task can be as close to pleasant as it gets.