How to Add Captions to Videos

Make your videos enjoyable, even without sound

A young woman working on videos at her computer.

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Using captions for your videos ensures you won’t lose viewers and 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 vides using multiple methods, from caption generators to utilizing video-editing software to paid services.

How to Add Captions to Videos Using Free Video Editing Software

There's plenty of free video editing software that will allow you to add captions to your video, but know that 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 actually creating a video that has captions rather than creating a standalone caption file.

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

    Screenshot of iMovie on a Mac.

    If you don’t already one installed on your computer, such as iMovie for Mac, you can download any number of free video editing programs, such as Blender or Lightworks.

  2. Open your 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 directly under the speaker in the video, but still within the viewable video pane.

    Screenshot of title editor in iMovie.

    This may look different depending on your software, but the function is virtually the same across every video editing option you’ll be using.

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

Add Captions Using Free and Paid Caption Generators

There are several free and paid web-based caption generators that make adding captions to your videos easy and effective. In most cases, these generators add the captions directly to your video file, as opposed to 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 your video to the caption generator following their directions. This will be done through a web interface.

    Screenshot of Kapwing's caption generator.

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

  3. Auto-generate your captions or manually type them out. Kapwing, for example, has software that will auto-detect when someone is speaking and automatically create your captions.

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

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

  5. Style your captions. Video caption generators, even the free ones, will allow you to adjust how the text looks on 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, testing it out on different screen sizes and devices if possible.

  6. Download your new video file. Once you have everything in place and are happy with how the video looks in the caption generator, you can download the video with captions and use it however you want from there.

How to Add Video Captions on YouTube

If you’ve already posted videos on YouTube, you can easily create captions directly from your YouTube account.

  1. Sign in to your YouTube account.

  2. Select your profile picture, then select YouTube Studio (Beta).

    The YouTube user interface.
  3. Select Creator Studio Classic in the bottom left. Captioning is not yet included in YouTube Studio (Beta).

    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.

    Screenshot of 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 manually go through the timeline and add captions when subjects are speaking.

  7. Save your work.

    If you have a lot of subtitles to add and are adding them from scratch, it can take a long time. YouTube will save your work as a draft so you can come back to it when you have time.

  8. Publish your video.

Using Paid Services for Video Captions

If you don’t have the time to manually create captions in video editing software or to go through the process of using caption generators, there are several paid services that offer affordable services. Some may use auto-caption generators while others will have someone actually go through and create 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 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 will save you from having to manually create all of your captions.