While using a 3rd party captioning service certainly makes the captioning and transcription process easier for video producers, sometimes it is not a plausible solution (mainly due to cost). People often ask if there is a “free” way to caption their videos. If you want accurate captions, usually the only free way to get them is to do it yourself.
This blog will take you through the DIY captioning and transcription workflow. We have compiled the following resources of helpful tools, different workflow strategies, and captioning and transcription standards to help make the DIY process as quick and easy as possible. Good luck!
Creating Closed Captions for YouTube Videos
If your videos are hosted on YouTube, there are a number of ways to create your own captions directly in the YouTube editing interface. There are three possibilities for creating captions by leveraging YouTube’s offerings:
Download and Edit YouTube’s Automatic Captions
YouTube’s automatic captions provide a good basis for captioning, but are far too inaccurate to be used on their own. Not only do the automatic captions provide error-ridden captions that hurt video accessibility, but YouTube and Google will not index the auto captions (this means they don’t help with your SEO). Here is how you can leverage the auto captions to create accurate captions for your YouTube videos:
- From the Video Manager, select your video and click Edit > Subtitles and CC. Click English (Automatic) to pull up the automatic captions, then click Actions > Download .srt. Note that Google and YouTube will not index your captions if you edit the automatic captions in the YouTube interface.
- Open your .srt file with a plain text editor. Edit the captions while playing back your video to make sure the captions are accurate. When you are happy with your caption file, make sure you save it with the .srt extension.
- Upload your edited captions to YouTube by going back into the Subtitles and CC editor. Click Add subtitles or CC and select English, then click Upload a File and choose Subtitles file. Upload your .srt file; you can edit timing, if necessary, after the file has uploaded.
Create a Transcript in YouTube
If you don’t want to use YouTube’s automatic captions as a starting point, you can create a transcript and sync it with the video directly in YouTube:
- From the Vide Manager, select your video and click Edit > Subtitles and CC. Select Add subtitles or CC and choose your language.
- Select Transcribe and Set Timings and, in the space provided, type the transcript of your video. YouTube will automatically pause the video as you type so you can transcribe the video quickly and more accurately.
- When you are satisfied with your transcript, select Set Timings. This will sync your transcript with the video. You can always edit timing once the captions are published.
Create a Transcript File to Upload
If you would rather transcribe your video on your own, or if you already have a script for your video, you can upload the file to YouTube to create captions.
- First, create a transcript of your video if you do not already have a script. Keep in mind YouTube’s recommendations for formatting.
- Navigate to the Video Manager in YouTube and click Edit > Subtitles and CC next to your video. Select Add Subtitles or CC and choose your language.
- Choose Upload a File, select Transcript, and choose your .txt file for upload.
- When your transcript has uploaded, select Set Timings to sync your transcript with the video. You can always edit timing once the captions are published.
DIY Captioning Workflow for Other Video Platforms
If your videos are not on YouTube, there are many tools that can make the DIY captioning process easier. Keep in mind that many video platforms require different caption file formats – we’ll show you how to create the right format in Step 3.
1. Start by Creating a Transcript File
You can manually create a transcript file by typing the spoken content of your media file into a plain text editor. Many people find it easier to first put the media through automatic speech recognition software (like Dragon, Dictation, or Camtasia). While this transcript will have a lot of errors, it is often quicker to clean up an inaccurate transcript than to start from scratch.
Another option is to use transcription software that is designed to make the process faster and easier. Express Scribe works on both Mac and PC: it has configurable keyboard shortcuts and allows you to slow down playback so you can keep up with the audio. While Express Scribe tops the list, there are many other transcription software options to consider, as well.
Before completing your transcript, follow best practices for formatting your text.
2. Synchronize Your Transcript with Your Media File
Once you have completed your transcript, you need to synchronize it with the media to create caption files. There are many different programs that can help you align your captions, to varying degrees of accuracy. You should always double check the final file before posting it to your video. Programs that can help you sync your transcript and video include Camtasia, MovieCaptioner, Accessify, CaptionTube, Subtitle Horse, YouTube Subtitler, and Magpie.
Once you are satisfied with your captions, save the file to your computer. You can always edit the timing in a plain text editor.
3. Upload Your Captions to Your Video
Depending on what video platform you use, you may need various types of caption files. You can check our list of caption and subtitle formats to figure out what format your video player requires. If the program you used to time-synchronize your transcript does not provide the caption file format you need, you can use 3Play Media’s free caption format converter to convert your caption file into the necessary format.
Once you have the correct caption file format, upload it to your video and view it with captions! You can learn how to add captions to many different video platforms in our How-To Guides.
Many universities and organizations that do captioning in-house have made their DIY captioning guides available to the public. Ohio State University has a particularly helpful guide of DIY techniques. University of Texas Austin and Northern Illinois University also have useful information for DIY captioning. YouTube’s captioning documentation is fairly comprehensive, as well, if your videos are hosted there.
As you dive in, it is important to keep in mind best practices for captioning, transcription, and subtitling. Formatting, accuracy, speaker identification, and capturing non-speech sounds are all important in order to meet quality standards for captioning.
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