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How to Caption YouTube Videos in 3 Easy Ways

Christopher Nguyen
Christopher Nguyen
Posted in Zoom Sep 6 · 7 Sep, 2022
How to Caption YouTube Videos in 3 Easy Ways

Adding captions to YouTube videos is one of the most effective ways to boost your subscriber base and build credibility in the competitive social media industry. Captioning your videos increases view time by at least twelve percent. More than nine out of ten social media video users will also watch your content to completion. Only two-thirds of people will watch caption-less videos to completion. 

If you’re a budding YouTuber, you’ll want to generate as much buzz as possible. Captioning your videos should get you on the right track. If you’re wondering how to caption YouTube videos, you’re lucky. We’ll show three ways you can do just that.

The DIY Method

Most YouTubers create videos by following a script, giving them a readily available transcript for captioning purposes. Unfortunately, most beginner YouTubers fail to recognize the value of using a video script. They prefer going impromptu, with a gung-ho, come-what-may attitude.

While we laud these YouTubers for having the guts to create videos without a template to follow, it will be more challenging for them to add captions to their YouTube videos. Hence, if you’re an absolute newbie and would like to start on the right foot, having a video script is crucial in learning how to caption YouTube videos effectively and quickly.

If you already have the transcript for your YouTube videos, you can proceed to our first how to caption YouTube videos method. Don’t fret if you don’t have a YouTube transcript because we’ll share a few techniques for getting the video text.

How to Caption YouTube Videos

Manual Transcription

The most practical way to transcribe YouTube videos is by typing the spoken words in the video. You’ll be like a court stenographer, keying everything you hear from the YouTube video. It’s a meticulous process that takes hours to complete, depending on the video length.

You’ll need good-quality, transcription-specific, noise-canceling headphones for this method to work. Although you can use your ordinary headset, there might be some words you won’t hear because of their low-frequency characteristics. You’ll also require transcription software to make the process more efficient and systematic. However, if you can promise that your future YouTube videos will have video scripts from here on, you can skip the transcription software.

So, let’s look at the steps.

1.      Open the YouTube video you want to transcribe and launch a word processor on your computer. You can use Notepad, MS Word, Notes, or other apps. It would be best to position the two windows (YouTube and word app) side-by-side.

2.      Plug your headphone into the computer’s audio port and hit the YouTube video’s “play” button. Learning how to caption YouTube videos starts with accurate text. We recommend adjusting the video play speed to help you hear every word and nonverbal cues.

3.      Type as you listen to the recording. Review the transcript once complete to ensure accuracy. We recommend playing the video, reading the transcript, and editing the copy as needed. 

4.      Save the transcription to your computer because you’ll need it for captioning the YouTube video later.

Using Speech-to-Text Technologies

Mastering how to caption YouTube videos requires effort and time, which some of us might not have. Manually transcribing a video’s audio can take hours to complete. Some people might also have a modest typing speed that further extends completion time. What can you do?

Are you familiar with Google Docs’ Voice Typing feature? If you are, you can exploit its advanced speech-to-text algorithm to make transcription almost effortless. The procedure is slightly similar to manual transcription, except you’ll rely on Google Voice to type the text for you. It’s like using Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa. The only difference is you’ll want the AI to type the words it hears.

The procedure is pretty simple. Here’s how.

1.      Log in to your Google account and launch the Google Docs. We recommend using Google Chrome to open YouTube and Google Docs for seamless operation and integration. We recommend opening them on separate windows and fitting them side-by-side on the screen.

2.      Select “Tools” from the Google Docs menu and tap on “Voice Typing” to activate the Google Voice feature. Alternatively, you can press “Ctrl+Shift+S” from the Google Docs window to proceed straight to Google Voice. Look for the microphone symbol on the Google Docs’ left pane.

3.      Choose the YouTube video for transcription and click on the microphone icon or the “Click to Speak” badge on the Google Docs window.

4.      Play the YouTube video and wait for Google Voice to finish transcribing the audio on Google Docs. We recommend turning the video’s volume up to make it easier for Google Voice to recognize the speech content.

5.      Review the YouTube transcript by playing the video and reading the text simultaneously. Check for missing or misspelled words.

6.      Save the transcription on Google Drive, and you can proceed to the step on how to caption YouTube videos.

You can also use Microsoft Windows’ Speech-to-Text feature because it works like Google Voice. However, we prefer Google Voice because YouTube is a Google subsidiary, making the transcription more spot-on than other voice-to-text platforms. 

You now have a transcript you can convert into captions for your YouTube video. We know it’s a tedious process. However, it’s crucial if you want to improve your YouTube channel’s viewership and subscriber base. 

There are three techniques on how to caption YouTube videos as a DIY project. Most beginner YouTubers use the social media platform’s integrated video editor, while more computer-proficient users caption YouTube videos with third-party video editing software. More experienced YouTubers create SRT files or VTT files to upload to YouTube.

Let’s examine each.

How to Caption YouTube Videos

 Using YouTube’s Video Editor to Add Closed Captions

Mastering how to caption YouTube videos is easy if you use the social media platform’s video editor for YouTube Studio. You can upload the transcription text file to YouTube or copy-paste it from the word processor. The beauty of using YouTube’s video editor is it works seamlessly with closed captions.

Closed captions allow your viewers to toggle on and off the on-screen text. It’s the perfect solution for reaching more audiences – you’re targeting average YouTube users and people with hearing difficulties. Viewers in noisy environments, ultra-quiet locations, and other situations where they must mute their devices can continue watching your YouTube videos without misunderstanding the content.

Here are the steps for adding closed captions to your YouTube videos.

1.      Launch your YouTube channel and select “Video Manager.” You should see it alongside “Views” and “Subscribers.”

2.      Scroll to the YouTube video for captioning and click on the “Edit” badge below the video title to activate the drop-down menu.

3.      Select “Subtitles & CC” on the open window. You should see this option above the YouTube video title, alongside “Info & Settings,” “Annotations,” “Audio,” and “Enhancements.”

4.      Tap “English (Automatic)” on the next window to display the automated YouTube video transcript on the left. 

5.      Tap on “Add” under “Subtitles.” You will have four options here: “Auto-Sync,” “Auto-translate,” “Upload File,” and “Type Manually.” 

Type Manually: If you prepared the transcription beforehand, you can copy it from the document file and paste it into the YouTube Subtitles panel. Choose “Type manually” and play the video. Copy the corresponding text and paste it into the timeline. Don’t forget to add nonverbal cues (i.e., [thunder] or [laughter]) to keep YouTube viewers abreast of what’s going on. Finalize the YouTube captioning by hitting the “Publish” button.

Auto-Sync: Select this option if your YouTube video is less than 60 minutes long and has excellent audio quality. Otherwise, it would be best to execute the how to caption YouTube videos by manually typing the captions. Upload a plain text file (.txt) or type the words for the YouTube video. Choose “Edit” and “Save and Close.” It’s crucial to synchronize the timing between the video and the wordings.

Auto-translate: Choose this option to leverage YouTube’s advanced machine learning algorithm. We’ll have a separate discussion for this.

Upload File: Most newbie YouTubers shy away from this option because it’s a bit technical. The file we’re talking about here is different from the .doc or .txt transcript file. YouTube has a list of compatible files it accepts on its platform, so we’ll devote a separate section for that.

Using Video Editing Software to Add Open Captions

This technique on how to caption YouTube videos is more challenging than using the social platform’s integrated video editor. YouTubers who use this method must be proficient in video editing software because they’ll “embed” or “burn” the text into the video. You cannot do this trick if your video is already on YouTube unless you take it down, burn in the text, and re-upload it on YouTube.

Be mindful that open captions prevent your YouTube viewers from toggling the captioning feature. The on-screen text is permanent on the video screen. Some people might dislike losing control of their viewing experiences.

Most YouTubers who use this technique rely on Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, or other video editing software. We’ll share the steps for adding open captions to your YouTube videos with Adobe Premiere Pro.

1.      Launch Adobe Premiere Pro and pick “File” on the menu ribbon. Select “New” and tap on “Captions.” The shortcut for this step is to click on the “New Item” badge at the bottom section of the Project Panel. Choose “Captions” from the pop-up window.

2.      Check the “New Captions” box that appears. Adobe Premiere Pro automatically synchronizes the caption settings with the project video sequence. Nevertheless, it would still be best to check the frame rate for both elements, ensuring they are the same.

3.      There are three “New Captions” options: “Stream,” “Timebase,” and “Standard.” Most YouTubers pick “Standard,” although you can also select “Timebase” if you want the on-screen text to coincide with the video timeline. It would be wise to study these options if you need to master how to caption YouTube videos like the pros.

4.      Double-click the caption file or transcript you prepared for the video to open the Captions Panel. You can also tap on “Window” and choose “Captions.”

5.      You can type the text for your video or copy-paste it from your document file. Adobe Premiere Pro offers various formatting tools, including text position, color, and italicization. You can also set the background color to make your YouTube video stand out. 

6.      If you must add caption blocks to your video, select “Add Caption” at the screen’s bottom right corner. You can also remove a caption block using the “Delete Caption” option.

7.      Tap and drag the caption file into Adobe Premier Pro’s timeline. The software should synchronize everything.

You can also use Final Cut Pro X, Compressor, or other video editing software. Although they have different creators, the process should be almost similar.

How to Caption YouTube Videos

Creating a YouTube-compatible File

YouTube allows video content creators to upload a captions file to the platform. However, YouTubers must understand that the social media platform only accepts content in YouTube-compatible file formats. For example, you cannot upload a .doc file to append your YouTube videos. Instead, you can use a .vtt or .srt file. Here’s a list of compatible file formats for YouTube’s closed captions and subtitles.

The problem with these file formats is that not everyone is knowledgeable about them. On the bright side, you can control how your captions appear on YouTube. For example, Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (.smi) and RealText (.rt) files allow for color attribution, while WebVTT (.vtt) promotes caption positioning. 

The process is similar to what we outlined under “Using YouTube’s Video Editor to Add Closed Captions.” You only need to select “Upload File” and click “Publish” to add the captions to YouTube.

Leaving it to the Machines

In the DIY method of how to caption YouTube videos, we mentioned that YouTube has an automated transcription feature. This technology relies on the social platform’s high-tech neural network to translate one language to another. Unfortunately, this feature only works if your video is in any of the following languages: English, Dutch, German, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Turkish. 

Here’s the process.

1.      Launch and log in to your YouTube Studio and click on “Subtitles” on the menu bar.

2.      Scroll to the YouTube video you want to add subtitles or captions to.

3.      Look at the subtitles for editing and click on “More + three dots.”

4.      Play the YouTube video and review the automated captions. Click “Edit” to rectify any misspelled words or inaccurate text. You should see the “Edit” badge at the screen’s top right corner of the screen.

5.      Select “Publish Edits” and pick “English (Automatic)” or “English.” Rerun the video and check for accuracy.

Although YouTube continuously improves its speech recognition technology, there will always be inaccuracies because of accents, background noise, dialects, and mispronunciations. It’s best to review and edit the captions before finalizing the video publication. It’s a crucial step to learning how to caption YouTube videos effectively.

You can also use other Speech-to-Text technologies to create captions for your YouTube videos.

Leave it to the Pros

Let’s face it, mastering how to caption YouTube videos isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s time-consuming, requires additional resources, and demands a certain level of technological proficiency. If you dislike the hassles of preparing and adding captions to YouTube videos yourself, there’s a more effective and efficient solution.

A captioning service company offers you a hassle-free way to add captions to your YouTube videos.

These service providers have professional transcribers who guarantee high-quality and accurate transcriptions for videos. If you’re in a hurry to upload your on-screen text, these organizations have automated transcription technologies similar to YouTube, only better and more accurate. Some captioning service providers automatically update YouTube videos with captions, saving you the hassle of uploading the file yourself. 

Final Thoughts

Mastering how to caption YouTube videos takes time, patience, and effort. Although the process seems straightforward, it requires ample resources, dedication, and commitment to add captions to YouTube videos or upload videos with open captions. Some methods are more technically-demanding than others, potentially undermining the joys of YouTubing.

Adding captions to YouTube videos yourself can be rewarding. Unfortunately, you’ll need time, effort, resources, and technical proficiency to complete the project. There’s no harm in hiring a professional captioning service provider to put on-screen texts to your YouTube videos. After all, almost everyone is doing it. It can be costlier, but you’ll sit comfortably on your sofa waiting for your order to arrive. The only thing left for you to do is to upload it.