How to Add Captions to Videos

Make your videos enjoyable, even without sound

Using captions for videos ensures you won't lose viewers and that everything you upload, whether to YouTube or a personal website, is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Learn how to add captions to videos using multiple methods, including caption generators, video editing software, and paid services.

How to Add Captions to Videos Using Free Video Editing Software

You can find free video editing software that allows you to add captions to your video. However, this process is time-consuming since you're creating the captions manually.

This option is ideal for videos that require a minimal amount of captions. In this case, you're also creating a video that has captions rather than creating a standalone caption file.

  1. Download your favorite free video editing software, then install the software on your computer, following the installation instructions provided.

    iMovie on a Mac.

    If a video editor isn't installed on your computer, such as iMovie for Mac, download a free video editing program, such as Blender or Lightworks.

  2. Open the video editing software, then open the file you want to add captions to.

  3. Navigate to the first time someone in the video speaks or where captioning is needed.

  4. Select Title and place the text box under the speaker in the video. Keep the text box within the viewable video pane.

    The title editor in iMovie.

    This may look different depending on the software you use. Still, the function is almost the same across every video editing option.

  5. Match the caption to the speech in the timeline.

How to Add Captions Using Free and Paid Caption Generators

There are several free and paid web-based caption generators that make adding captions to videos easy and effective. In most cases, these generators add the captions directly to the video file instead of creating a separate caption file.

  1. Identify which service you want to use. Kapwing and Closed Caption Creator are two well-known free caption generators.

  2. Upload the video to the caption generator following the site's directions. This is done through a web interface.

    Kapwing's caption generator.

    You may have to sign up for the service to access this feature. Also, if you uploaded the video to YouTube or another video platform, you may be able to connect the file. If so, you'll see the option in the caption generator.

  3. Auto-generate the captions or manually type the captions. Kapwing, for example, has software that auto-detects when someone speaks and automatically creates the captions.

    When using Auto-detect, the software might get things wrong, especially if the speaker has an accent or uses slang. You may need to type the captions manually using the caption generator’s online interface. You can see where the captions are in the video timeline and place each one appropriately.

  4. Ensure the captions are timed correctly. Watch the video in the caption generator interface to ensure the captions are aligned with the speech and stay on the screen for the appropriate amount of time.

  5. Style the captions. Video caption generators, even the free ones, allow you to adjust how the text looks on the screen. If you have a video with lots of bright colors, you may need to use darker text or vice versa. Make sure it's readable by testing it out on different screen sizes and devices if possible.

  6. Download the new video file. Once everything in place and you're happy with how the video looks in the caption generator, download the video with captions and use it however you want.

How to Add Video Captions on YouTube

When you post your videos on YouTube, you can create captions from your YouTube account.

  1. Sign in to your YouTube account.

  2. Select your profile picture, then select YouTube Studio.

    The YouTube user interface.
  3. Select Creator Studio Classic in the lower-left corner. Captioning is not yet included in YouTube Studio.

    Screenshot of where to clic Creator Studio Classic.
  4. Select Video Manager to the left.

  5. Find the video you want to add captions to, select the drop-down arrow under the video, then select Subtitles/CC.

    The Video Manager dashboard.
  6. Select your preferred method to add captions. You can upload a file, type everything said in the video manually, and have YouTube automatically sync it. Or, you can go through the timeline and add captions manually when subjects are speaking.

  7. Save your work.

    If you add a lot of subtitles from scratch, it can take a long time. YouTube saves your work as a draft, so you can come back to it when you have time.

  8. Publish the video.

How to Use Paid Services for Video Captions

If you don't have time to create captions manually in video editing software or to go through the process of using caption generators, several paid services offer affordable services. Some may use auto-caption generators, while others have someone who creates the captions from scratch.

  1. Select the service you want to use. Services like Scribblr and Captionmax offer rates as low as $1 per minute of video.

    As with everything, you're likely to get what you pay for. Consider the project and how important it is that your captions are 100 percent accurate.

  2. Upload your video.

  3. Select any additional options, such as express delivery, then check out.

  4. You will receive an srt file in your email, which you can upload to any video platform of your choice, such as YouTube or Vimeo. This saves you from having to create the captions manually.

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