How to Find Words or Phrases in Video or Audio Files

how to find words and phrases on youtube

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Have you ever wondered how to find words in videos — without having to watch and listen to the whole video? Of course you have, too bad there isn’t some type of video search for YouTube videos to help you quickly breeze through video content. Except there is! And I’m going to tell you all about it.

While working on a video editing project for my Bizapalooza Channel, I was creating mashups and remixes of dozens of Google Hangout Interviews that I’ve done over the last few years. But here’s the problem: I was looking for a specific phrase that I KNOW several people used in their interviews, but I didn’t know WHO said the phrase.

How was I going to find this exact phrase across so many videos?

Hmmm. This required a little thinking. The first thing I did was search for software that might do the trick. Let’s just say that there wasn’t anything great out there — at least that I could afford.

Then I realized that I already had access to an easy FREE way to find these phrases I was looking for — Google Hangouts, YouTube and the trusty “Find” function on my computer. This is all you will need!

You see, when you record anything using Google Hangouts or when you upload any video to YouTube — you actually get a TRANSCRIPT with a TIME STAMP! I know — I’m a little too excited about this feature. But if you’re editing video and looking for a quick and easy way to find a phrase in the video or search for a word in an audio file, this little piece of information is a huge time and money saver.

how to find words in youtube video with transcript

How to Find Words and Phrases in Audio and Video Files

The video will show you how to search inside YouTube videos, and I’m going to write out the list right here for you.

  1. Make sure your audio or video is LESS THAN 60 minutes long. This is HUGE. If your audio or video is longer than 60 minutes, you will need to break it up into sections that are LESS than 60 minutes.
  2. Make sure that you have GOOD quality audio. If your audio is poor meaning it’s noisy, staticky, or the speakers do not annunciate clearly or if the speakers have an accent that Google can transcribe, you will be out of luck.
  3. Convert audio files to MP4 files. YouTube is, after all a VIDEO channel. You need a video. But if you only have audio, don’t sweat it, just convert it to a video slide show.
  4. Upload your video to YouTube. YouTube is where all of the magic happens. If you have a video or screen share or interview that you’ve recorded, upload it to YouTube.
  5. Wait about an hour or so. YouTube needs time to transcribe your video. So don’t freak out if you don’t see it right away. It can take an hour — sometimes longer. Be patient.
  6. Pull up the transcript. Under your video, click on the three dots that say “MORE” — then select “Transcript”transcript
  7. Search for the phrase you want. You can do this several ways. You can click on “Edit/Find” in your browser menu. You can also click on control or command “F” on your keyboard and then simply enter the word or phrase you are looking for. You will see it highlighted everywhere it appears on the site — even inside the transcription window.

Use the Speech Recognition Feature on Your Computer

But what if your video content isn’t on YouTube? How can you do a video search for words and phrases then? Not gonna lie, this is somewhat clunky, but you can search inside your videos by using the speech recognition function that’s already on your computer!

Google Docs

For either Windows or Mac computers, you can set up voice dictation on Docs with the same straightforward process. As Docs is a web-based app, you won’t need to install any extra software; just use whichever browser you like.

Log into Google Docs, select Tools, then Voice Typing. You may have to grant your browser permission to use the computer’s microphone. Then, click on the microphone icon. Now comes the “hack”.

Google docs expects you to speak your dictation, but you can simply let the video play aloud and let the Google speech recognition ASR do the work for you.

The disadvantage of this approach is that you won’t get a time stamp and you really can’t set it and forget it.

Honestly, I’d recommend that if the video you have isn’t on YouTube, that you upload it to YouTube and use the native transcription function.

Automated Transcription Tools

When it comes to the most accurate and easiest to implement way to search inside videos for words and phrases, I’ve been using artificial intelligence note taking and transcription tools like Otter.ai and Descript.

Here’s a screenshot from a webinar video I uploaded to Otter.ai.

Not only will you get a much higher quality transcription and time stamps, but you have the ability to search for specific phrases in the transcript and hear an audio replay.

Take smarter notes with Otter 1-month Pro Lite*

This is my go-to way to transcribe everything from meetings to videos. It's the easiest way to search and find words and phrases in long videos.

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I’ve been a big fan of Otter.ai this year, but for finding specific words and phrases in videos, I still recommend YouTube’s native transcription.

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Ivana Taylor

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