Transcribe with Descript

I've been transcribing audio interviews on and off since 2013.

After living abroad in Seoul for a year, I came back with the motivation to ditch my unfruitful political science studies and switch gears to creative non-fiction writing. It was dubbed literary journalism at my university. The program was a rigorous bootcamp and laser focused major that gifted me the opportunity to study under former editors of well-respected news outlets and publications. 

In literary journalism, interviews are the cornerstones of crafting a good story. There's one painstaking problem for people like me who interview folks for our work — the process of transcription is really tedious and just outright sh*tty most of the time.

Tools I’ve Tried

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Like many others, I've primarily used a website called oTranscribe. It's a free web app that has intuitive and very helpful keyboard shortcuts built into it. Still... transcribing takes forever. The longer the interview, the more painstaking the process. Oftentimes, it's actually daunting to even get started because you know how long it's going to take — pure dread. 

But Emerline, why don't you just send it to one of those transcription services?

Good question! One answer is that I'm a control freak and I like doing things myself. The other is that I know that I'd just sit there listening to the raw audio again and triple checking across the transcript sent from a service. 


Meet Descript


The painstaking days are over. Meet Descript, the audio transcription tool that has flipped my dread of transcribing audio upside down.

Descript is a beautiful and seamless audio transcription software/app that uses AI technology to do the initial work for you. All you do is drag your raw audio clip into the software, give it a few minutes, and it'll have a transcript written out for you. 

Is it perfect? Of course not, but it's the closest thing to perfect I've found that doesn't involve hiring an outside service. It's pretty accurate for the large chunks of riffs and is great at picking up higher vocabulary. I literally couldn't stop cursing while using it (in a good way) and was so relieved it existed. 

In fact, the moment I discovered it and tested it out, I couldn't stop talking about it for a few days. All my friends who do similar work to me most likely received a text from me about it. I think I even created an Instagram story about my love for it. I promise you this blog post is not sponsored, hahaha. I just love it that much.

If you're still with me, you're a nerd like me. So let me continue blessing you with more facts about Descript — it has simple built in audio editing capabilities synced with the transcribed text.


An Example

Let's say I interviewed my friend named Mark who is a designer about his work.

Mark is doing great telling me about what his thinking process was behind his latest shipped project. Oh no, Mark just remembered something funny that has nothing to do with my question. I already know that I'm going to edit this out while he's talking. In Descript, I could scroll down to that part of the interview and simply delete the text and it'll also cut out that section of the audio. Voila. When I re-listen to the audio in its entirety, that part is completely non-existent. No wasted time.  


Another super cool fantastic feature (there was no other way I wanted to say this) is that replaying audio on Descript is like experiencing karaoke machine. There's no singing, but the words on your screen get highlighted as the audio is playing along with it in real time. If Mark says, "Right before we shipped, I realized I was missing one thing," you would hear him say it in the audio recording while also seeing the text light up word-for-word. 

One last feature I found brilliant was the two different type of editing modes you can toggle between throughout proofreading: 'Editing Audio' and 'Correct Text.' If you do it in the 'Editing Audio' mode, your actions will result in what I mentioned before — deletion of audio segments along with the text. If you use the latter, you can edit text without necessarily deleting the audio.

Okay, I'm done fangirling.

I've been wanting to write this personal review for a month or so now and I'm satisfied I finally did it. You can see their pricing on their website and try a free trial. 

Happy mega-improved transcribing! 

ReviewsEmerline Ji