How to trim a video: a fundamental element of editing

Camara Kit

At Descript we believe that editing is an essential, often overlooked, tragically unloved part of the creative process. Video is no exception. Unless you can reliably open your mouth and omit a string of perfect sentences, with musical intonation and b-roll projected from your eye sockets, you need to edit your video before you publish it. 

That goes for vlogs and documentary-style videos, but also for tutorials and short social video. At the very least, every video needs to be trimmed. Trimming the beginning and the end of your video helps keep it to a length that won’t repel viewers. If you really force yourself to cut all but the very best parts, it also leaves you with tighter, more compelling content.

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Why should you trim videos?

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A few years ago Tubefilter determined that 500 hours of video were being uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s to say nothing of TikTok, Instagram and all the other places where we’re all posting more videos that we as a human civilization can possibly consume. 

If you hope to have any chance at all of standing out in that ocean of content, of convincing anyone to watch your video when there’s so much to choose from, you’d better make it good. 

That means, first and foremost, thinking hard about the ideas and the ways you want to express them. But just as importantly it means editing your raw footage. It means trimming all the parts that might cause a viewer to click away. And in an age where the most watched videos can be measured in seconds, it means having the discipline to make it as short as it can possibly be without losing your message.  

Many operating systems, including Windows PC, macOS, and mobile versions on Android and iPhone, have built-in programs that allow you to cut video. But the built-in programs are really only helpful for trimming the beginning and end of a video. To deal with the interior parts you want to cut, you need a third-party app like Descript

Here we’ll note that there are many very useful editing apps. Of course we’re going to say that Descript is the best, and others would argue for another editing tool. That’s fine. But for trimming, we don’t think it’s even close. Descript makes cutting your video down to consumable size easier than any other editing tool out there.

Descript automatically transcribes your videos, then lets you edit the video (and audio) by editing the transcript. That lets you focus on the content itself, making it fast and easy to determine which parts of the video should stay in, and which should cut. Once you’ve identified the trims, editing them out is as easy as selecting them then tapping your backspace key. 

You can also make fine edits, trim the video without cutting the audio, and do other things that legacy video editing tools let you do. As you get more adept and discerning as an editor, you can grow into more sophisticated polishing. 

But for now anyway, many online video consumers don’t expect a lot of polish. What they do expect, even demand, is video that doesn’t waste their time with a lot of stumbling around, conversation that drags or awkward silence. With Descript you can cut all of that out in minutes. 

And because it’s a non-destructive editor, you can cut your video without losing any of the original footage. To walk you through the process of how to trim a video using Descript, we’ve put together a short tutorial below.

A quick note: We’re using a Mac to edit the video clip for this particular tutorial. If you’re working on Windows, your setup and how you access your video files may look slightly different. There’s lots more on this and other topics in the Help Center

How to trim a video with Descript

First, open your video project in the Descript app. If you’re importing a new file, you can upload from your computer or drag it into your project like so:

When you drag and drop the file, Descript will prompt you to transcribe the file and assign speaker names; if there is more than one speaker Descript will detect them and add Speaker Labels in the transcript. Once the video is transcribed, you’re ready to start trimming.

To learn how to trim video into parts using the Script Editor:

  1. Behold the Descript Script Editor, where your transcription sits. 
  2. Highlight the words that you want to cut. When you do, Descript will highlight the corresponding video in the timeline below.
  3. Cut it just like you would in a doc: command+C, or right click and choose Cut, or tap your backspace key.
  4. Descript will edit it out of the transcript and the corresponding video.

That’s really all you need to know to cut your video down to a manageable length. Depending on where you’re posting it and the level of polish you want, you may also want to add fades, b-roll, or effects to smooth over your cuts and liven up your story. You can do all of that in Descript too. 

To cut a video using the Descript Trim Tool:

You can also make basic cuts the same way you do in other editing tools, using Descript’s Trim Tool. 

Hover your cursor over the pinned track at the bottom of your Script Editor until you see the edit boundary pop up. It’ll look like a small bracket with two arrows on either side of it:

The difference between trimming, cropping, and splitting

Here are some final thought on the difference between trimming a video, cropping a video, and splitting a video. They can function as different aspects in Descript as well.

Trimming is the act of cutting off the beginning and the end of your video clip to make the intro and exit quicker-paced. It increases your chances of keeping your audience engaged. 

Cropping a video is the act of removing the black bars or unwanted edges around the edge of your video so that you can zoom in on the clip itself. It’s a visual edit rather than a pacing edit.

Finally, splitting is the process you take to cut your video clip into parts. It’s useful when you want to insert an extended, more complicated transition between two sections. It's also helpful when you’re editing a large video clip, and you want to break that clip into smaller, more manageable pieces.

For more on Descript’s editing features, check out this article on five ways to use Descript.

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