How to change a vertical video to horizontal with Descript

Video editor designer using editing software

Despite the rise in popularity of vertical video due to social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, horizontal video isn’t going away anytime soon. Horizontal, or landscape video is still the standard orientation in the world of film and TV. It’s also the preferred video orientation on YouTube, which is the second-most visited website in the world.

Ideally, you should choose the right orientation before you film your video, but you might find yourself wanting to change video orientation after the fact. For example, you might have initially made a vertical video for your Instagram Story, but it did so well that you wanted to make it horizontal so you could share it to your YouTube channel. Whatever the reason, there are numerous video editors and online tools that can help you convert vertical video to horizontal. Here’s how to make vertical video horizontal using Descript video editing software.

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How to make vertical video horizontal using Descript

Horizontal video is the optimal orientation for video viewed on TV screens, computer monitors, tablets, and YouTube. But if you convert a video from vertical to horizontal you might end up having to crop off a huge chunk of the picture — not great. As a way around this, you can use Descript’s video editor to add black bars to the sides of your vertical video so that it fits a horizontal frame. Before you start editing, download and install Descript and then follow these steps.

  1. Create a new movie project. After you open Descript, click the blue “New” button in the top right corner and select “Project” from the drop-down menu. Type in a name for your project and click “Create Project.”
  2. Import your video file. Next, either drag and drop the video file into Descript or click the “Choose a file…” button to import your video content into the software. Descript will then use AI to automatically transcribe your video. You don’t need Descript’s transcription-based video editor to change the video orientation, but it's there if you want to make additional edits — and you can make them right in the transcript.
  3. Convert portrait video to landscape. Hover your cursor over the video preview window to reveal the “Video Settings” button in the top right corner of the preview window. Select “Video Settings” > “Orientation” > “Landscape (16:9).” Now your video will have black bars on its sides so that it fits a horizontal frame. At this point, you’ve converted your video to horizontal and could skip to step 6 to save it as is. But if you find that your video now looks smaller than you want thanks to the addition of the black bars, follow the next two steps to  zoom in on the important parts of your video.
  4. Zoom in on the video. Click the “Show Clip Inspector” button along the right side of the video preview window to open the Clip Inspector panel. Under the “Layout” section, look for the “W” (Width) and “H” (Height) boxes. To zoom, simply toggle those values higher than 100% until you reach your desired zoom level. To avoid changing the video’s proportions, make sure to toggle on the “Link” icon between the “W” and “H” boxes.
  5. Select the important portion of your frame. Descript automatically zooms in on the exact center of the video, but if you want to focus on another area, look for the “X” and “Y” boxes above the width and height boxes. Then just adjust the “X” value up or down to move the frame right or left, or adjust the “Y” value up or down to move the frame up or down. You can even move between different areas of the video by clicking the “Add Cue” button (the lightning bolt icon) and selecting “Zoom and Pan” from the list of options.
  6. Save your completed horizontal video.To save the edited video to your computer, click the “Share” button in the top right corner, select the “Export” tab, click the “Video” icon, and click “Export.”
  7. Add a background image. As an alternative to black bars, you can add a background image (AKA an image overlay) to your video using Descript. To add an image overlay to your video, drag your desired image file directly from your computer onto the pin track in your timeline. You can then click the image in the video preview window to adjust its size and position so it covers up both black bars. To move the image behind your video, right-click on the image in the timeline and select “Move layer down (below script).”

Benefits of recording horizontal video

Horizontal video isn’t necessarily better than vertical video, but it does serve a specific purpose. Here are just a few of the main reasons why you’d want to record horizontal video.

  1. It looks more professional. Films, TV shows, and other professionally made videos are almost exclusively shot as horizontal video. Vertical video is a newer phenomenon due to the proliferation of smartphones, which means a video shot vertically appears as though you filmed it using a mobile device. Vertical video is great for a DIY vibe, but for a more professional and visually impressive aesthetic, horizontal is your best bet.
  2. It’s best for long-form video. There’s a reason TV and movie screens are horizontal: long-form content is better suited for horizontal orientation than vertical. Recording in the horizontal format is conducive to long-form storytelling because you can see more of a given scene, which allows the viewer to become more immersed in the video. A horizontal video shows the world as we see it at eye level, whereas vertical videos show more of the ground and sky than they do the surrounding environment.
  3. It’s ideal for posting to YouTube. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Stories are all optimized for the vertical video format, while YouTube’s interface is optimized for horizontal video. So if you have a YouTube channel, it’s a good idea to record your video horizontally. Plus, if you’re comfortable editing videos, you can always crop your video to the vertical orientation later for other types of social media channels. This is our recommended workflow. It’s easier to convert horizontally shot video to vertical and square aspect ratios, than converting vertically shot video to a horizontal aspect ratio.

Final thoughts

Before you film a video and choose your orientation, you should think about where you want your content to live. If you think YouTube, a TV screen, or a computer screen is where you want viewers to watch your videos, then horizontal video is definitely the way to go. However, if you’ve already shot your video vertically on your phone, you can still make that vertical video horizontal — just try to plan for that in advance and center important visuals in your frame to make “fixing it in post” a bit easier.

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