January 01, 2023

Product Watch: Looming Into Descript

Julie Bays
Screenshot from Loom's interface.

Screenshot from Loom's interface.

Video sells. People respond more positively to online videos than other marketing tools. Videos became even more popular during the pandemic. It is deceptively easy to record a video today since we all have phones with that capability. But making videos can be difficult, and your video competes with every other online video, including those produced by professionals.

During 2020, I participated in recording and posting video law practice tips for the Oklahoma Bar Association. Once you progress past the “record it and share it” stage, one wants to be able to edit the video and provide captions, headlines or other items. The learning curve was not easy, particularly with the free tools. A colleague and I recently discussed videos on lawyers’ websites or social media platforms. During this discussion, Loom and Descript were mentioned as easier tools for making videos. Due to my earlier experiences, I was skeptical. After reviewing both products, I realized that they are both quite useful, but they serve two different purposes.

Loom

Loom advertises that it is an easy-to-use video messaging platform. The free version gives you up to 25 videos per person, but they can only be five minutes long. The editing is limited to reviewing the transcript, trimming clips, adding clips and putting a call to action on the last frame. It does not give the user the ability to add text or titles to the recording. The user cannot add videos or pictures to their frames or embed links in the videos. The free version does have background templates and you can add GIFs to your videos. Loom advertises that its $8 a month plan offers advanced recording and analytics. This plan offers unlimited videos with unlimited time. A user can also edit out filler words such as “uh” with the transcript. If a lawyer wanted to evaluate this platform, Loom has a free 14-day trial period.

Loom is very basic, and although it gives the user an easy way to make and publish quick videos, it’s not a product to use for long, fancy videos. The company emphasizes this is a good platform to post short videos for your team instead of the need for a face-to-face meeting. Most news articles about Loom call it a “workplace video message platform,” which best describes this product. Loom and others call this “asynchronous video messaging.” Loom has a discussion of this type of messaging and how to analyze when it is the best way to communicate on its blog. According to its website, Loom, founded in 2015, expanded its customer base in 2020 and 2021 by 900 percent.

Screenshot from Descript's interface.

Screenshot from Descript's interface.

Descript

Descript advertises that it is an all-in-one audio and video editing application that makes it as easy to edit audio and video as it is to edit a document. They have a free plan that offers full audio and video editing, unlimited screen recordings, studio sound effects and three hours of transcription. Their next plan is $12 a month when purchased annually, and it offers the same features as the free plan but includes 10 hours of transcription per month and watermark-free video exports. Descript requires the user to download their Windows or MacOS desktop application.

Descript does as it advertises. It allows the user to record videos with its app or to download a video made with another platform. Recording a video in Descript gives the user the ability to quickly edit afterwards and publish it. However, if the user wants the full editing features, they would need to save it in the Descript app first.

Descript transcribes the audio to make it easier to edit. The transcriptions are close to perfect, but they are effortlessly fixed, and a user can designate various speakers. There are different ways to edit videos. The easiest way is by using the transcript and deleting words or changing the word to another (overdub) just by typing. Filler words such as “uh” can be edited out with one keystroke. A user can easily close gaps or dead spaces in their video with the timeline bar at the bottom of the video.

Descript offers an easy way to add titles, and it’s not limited to one slide or six seconds, which is the default setting. When adding a title, it shows in the transcript, on the timeline bar and in the video. A user can place titles anywhere in the transcript and edit them on the video screen. Adding “fancy captions” or dynamic subtitles to different slides allows for written material within the video and is as easy as the other editing features. Descript allows users to add pictures and video overlays into the video.

Descript offers additional features such as podcasting and video demonstrations with music added. Their tutorial videos are very detailed and can take the user through the product a step at a time. They also have a large community on their Discord channel with discussions about using the product, creator advice and live events. The company is constantly upgrading this service and beta-testing new or easier features. Some members of the Discord channel found this frustrating, but the best advice for a novice user is to stay away from their beta products. It is a relatively new company; Descript was founded in 2017 but did not start offering many of its features until 2019 through 2020.

Security with Loom and Descript

Lawyers must be concerned about the security of any product they use. Both Loom and Descript should be used as intended.

For instance, it is never wise to put sensitive or confidential information in a video, even if the lawyer believes it is going to stay safe in-house. Both companies explain on their websites that customer information is private. Descript shares more information with other products than Loom.

Loom describes itself as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. This means it complies with the privacy laws of the European Union. As for individual videos, it describes its servers as secure; they sit behind a firewall and videos are uploaded over an SSL-encrypted websocket with (I presume) HTTPS.

Descript does not mention GDPR and only states that it is SOC 2 Type II compliant by going through a certified public accounting firm and audit. SOC 2 compliance is based on specific criteria for managing customer data correctly. They use Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud to store the videos. They also use Google Speech-to-Text for transcriptions.

Both Loom and Descript are easy to use. Loom may be frustrating for a new user if they expect it to do more than its capabilities. It is a product to use for short and fast videos with cute GIFs and colorful backgrounds. Descript, on the other hand, is a full-service video and audio editor that allows a user to play around and make fun or informational videos. I found Descript not only simple to understand but fun to use.

Julie Bays

Practice Management Advisor, Oklahoma Bar Association

Julie Bays is the practice management advisor of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA). She works with the OBA Management Assistance Program to provide assistance to attorneys in using technology and other tools to efficiently manage their offices, and she teaches a variety of CLE classes. Bays is also involved with the Access to Justice initiatives of the OBA, such as Oklahoma Free Legal Answers. julieb@okbar.org

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