DIY Workflows for Captioning & Transcription
Updated: March 2, 2021
While using a 3rd party closed captioning and video transcription service certainly makes the process easier for video producers, it’s not for everyone. The main barrier to hiring a captioning company? Cost.
Is there a cheap or free closed captioning and video transcription solution? Well, if you want accurate captions, the only “free” way to get them is to do it yourself.
We’ve compiled all the tools and resources to help you with DIY captioning in-house. Be warned: it’s a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. Best of luck!
DIY Captioning: 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. You can leveraging YouTube’s offerings in three ways:
Download and Edit YouTube’s Automatic Captions
YouTube’s automatic video transcript and captions are a great starting point, but they are far too inaccurate to be used on their own. Automatic captions produce copious errors that hurt video accessibility — and can be embarrassing. YouTube and Google will not index the automatic captions, and so you miss out on the video SEO benefits of quality captions.
Here is what you need to do to YouTube’s automatic captions to get their full value:
- From the Video Manager, select your video and click Edit > Subtitles and CC. Click English (Automatic) to pull up the automatic captions.
- Next, click Edit. You can now select individual caption frames to edit. Your changes will populate in the video preview.
- When you are ready to download the caption file, select Actions > Download. YouTube allows you to download your caption file as a .sbv, .srt, or .vtt.
Note: you do not want to use YouTube’s automatic captions without cleaning them up first. If you upload poor quality captions, Google will flag your content as spam and penalize you in search results.
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 from scratch and sync it with the video directly in YouTube:
- From the Video 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 outside of YouTube, 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 and create closed captions. You can always edit timing once the captions are published.
DIY Captioning: In-House Captioning Workflow for Other Video Platforms
If your videos are not on YouTube, there are many tools that can make the in-house transcription and captioning process easier. Keep in mind that 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 Video Transcript
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 it is 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 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 Video
Once you have completed your transcript, you need to synchronize it with the video to a create closed caption file. There are many programs that can help you align your captions — with 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, DotSub, Accessify, Subtitle Horse, and YouTube.
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
You will need a particular caption file format depending on what video platform you use. 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 your closed caption file correctly formatted, upload it to your video and view it with captions!
Learn how to add captions to many different video platforms in our How-To Guides.
Some generous universities and organizations that do video transcription and captioning in-house have made their DIY captioning guides available to the public, including:
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 caption quality standards. The Described and Media Program (DCMP) has a helpful captioning key with best practices to follow.
If you find that transcribing and captioning video yourself becomes too cumbersome, you can always use a captioning service like 3Play Media, which offers roundtrip integration with YouTube.
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