Captions (a.k.a subtitles) aren't the first thing you think about when you produce a video for YouTube but they can really boost your potential audience. They not only allow people with a hearing impairment and foreign language speakers to enjoy your videos but also help people find them through search.

YouTube say: "Providing captions not only makes your work accessible to a wider audience, it also acts as additional metadata which helps your video show up in more places on the site."

From the front-end your audience can turn on captions in the bottom right corner (where you find the button to go full-screen, change the resolution etc). If you want to edit your captions from the back-end, you'll find Captions in a drop-down menu for each of your videos in your Video Manager.


Automatic Captions

Did you know that YouTube automatically generates (where possible) captions for your videos using speech recognition technology? You can imagine the quality of these captions heavily depends on the quality of your audio therefore it may be advisable to disable them at times.


For example, the above caption (taken from our Work For Us video) should read "Zengenti is a software vendor. We produce a CMS called Contensis." It is possible to go through and edit these automatic captions using YouTube’s 'in-line editor' but this can often be fiddly if you want to break things up. For example, you might want "Zengenti is a software vendor" and "We produce a CMS called Contensis" to appear one at a time. It's also worth noting that "captions automatically translated within the player are not indexed" so won't aid your videos when it comes to searching.

Transcribe & Sync

For my money, Transcribe & Sync is a great option; not very time consuming and can produce great results. Firstly, you'll need a transcript of your audio, you can achieve this by either copying your script (if the video in question is scripted), copying the automatic captions (no doubt with a few tweaks from yourself) or as a last resort; typing it up from scratch. Next, break them up, leaving a return in between sentences (see below).


This way YouTube will have a better idea of how you want them to be displayed. Finally, you just need to press the Sync button and YouTube will generate time codes for your captions, again using speech recognition technology. This is where Transcribe & Sync is a bit hit and miss - when it comes to setting the in points (i.e. when someone begins speaking) it does a great job but it fails to recognise when someone stops speaking. A caption will generally remain on screen until someone speaks again which is useless when you have sections where nobody talks. The fix is to go through and tweak the out points for the captions that need it.

Transcribe & Sync is the method I used to create English subtitles for our Forms Module video, note that I didn't tweak any of the timings so that side of it is all automatically generated by YouTube.

Caption Files

Alternatively, if you want full control over your captions from the very beginning, Caption Files are the way to go!  Here is a small list of captioning sotware provided by Youtube. Captioning software will allow you to input your transcript and set the in and out points of each caption but is more time consuming.

Overall I think captions are worth investing in as they not only make your videos accessible to a wider audience but also help with SEO too. From my experience, I think Transcribe & Sync is a great bet taking into account that you don’t have to sign up for or download any additional software, can guarantee the accuracy of what the captions say but YouTube put in most of the work with timecodes. You will usually need to go through and tweak small sections but this is easier than inputting every timecode from scratch.

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Howard Phillips

About the Author

Howard is the video production specialist for the marketing team here at Zengenti. He creates videos for case studies, events, talks, and clients. His background includes design, photography, and video (from scripting and directing to shooting and post-production).

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