Adding Captions to Your YouTube Videos

We recently added captions and subtitles to our videos on YouTube. These are essentially the written words of what is being spoken or narrated during the video. They show up on the bottom portion of the video and look like this:

Screen shot of a YouTube Topic Simple video with captions

There are three great reasons to add captions to your YouTube videos:

  1. Captions will make your videos accessible to those that are hard of hearing.
  2. Captions can now be translated easily by YouTube into other languages.
  3. Captions can improve your Search Engine Optimization, providing you add the transcription to your videos description section (more on that later).

Essentially, captions will expand your YouTube video’s potential audience, and we don’t need to explain why that’s a great idea!

So let’s start:

1. After you’ve logged into your YouTube account and found your chosen video, look above it and click the Edit captions/subtitles link:

Screenshot of a YouTube Topic Simple Video

2. On the Captions screen, look under Machine Transcriptions on the right, and click English (or other language if your video is in another language!).

3. You will see your transcription divided up based on time. This is YouTube’s automated attempt at interpreting the words in your video into text.  As of late 2011 this technology was still very much a work in progress, so you will most definitely see some errors (and hilarious errors) in their transcription. You can’t edit the transcription directly here so you will need to download it. So click the Download button below:

Screen shot of a YouTube Topic Simple Video

4. The downloaded file is a simple text file that looks like this:

Screenshot of captions/subtitles text file of a YouTube Topic Simple Video

YouTube's machine translation is WAY OFF!!!

5. The numbers are time codes that specify the exact micro-second the words on screen will change.  You can ignore these for the most part, as we’ve found that the timing is usually correct.

6. Go about fixing any word errors manually, or copy and paste the correct sentences if you already have a written script handy. Save your updated text file.

7. Back at YouTube headquarters, click the Return to All Tracks link and then click the Add New Captions or Transcript button:

Screenshot of a YouTube Topic Simple Video

8. Upload your newly saved Caption file and then that’s it!  Viewers can now turn on CORRECT captions from the CC button on the black bar just below your video. Make sure to check it out yourself to see if its working.  If you need to make a small change, delete the file and quickly re-upload your corrected text file again.

9. We then recommend adding a full transcription (without the time codes) to the description section of your video.  This text will be searchable by Search Engine spiders and help them to understand more of what your video is about:

Screenshot of a YouTube Topic Simple Video

That’s pretty much it.


More info:


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