Video Captions & Transcripts

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Summary: Captions (for video) or a transcript (for audio) should be included with all multimedia content produced by University of Minnesotans, including instructor- and student-created content. These alternate formats improve the playback experience for your audience in a variety of contexts and situations. 


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Audio and video content, including podcasts, videos, narrated slideshows, and more are increasingly being used to enrich and deliver course content. Captions may be integrated as a user-selectable option (“closed captions”) or as “open captions,” which automatically display in sync with the audio or video.

What are captions and subtitles?


  • Display all audio information including sound effects or music
  • Identify speakers
  • Are displayed in the same language as the audio
  • Can be either “closed” (able to be turned on or off by the user) or “open” (on all the time)


  • Display only spoken content
  • Are often (but not always) in a language other than the language of the audio
  • Can be turned on or off by the user

You can tell if the video you are watching has captions by clicking on the CC button in the video playback window. Auto-captioned content will likely have basic errors, especially capitalization and punctuation issues.

Who does the captioning?

You might choose to do the captioning yourself or call in one of several captioning vendors listed below.

The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is available to help if a person with a disability has specifically requested captioning. The DRC is also available to consult with you about your options.

Or you could hire a third party service (that usually charges by length of video) to help with your captioning. 3Play Media  or Caption Max are a couple places you could look for help captioning.

Who benefits from captioning and/or transcripts?

Captions are necessary for accessibility and usability as they provide access to a wider audience, including users:

  • learning another language or those whose native language is not that of the audio content (i.e. international students)
  • with learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments
  • who learn by taking in information in multiple ways
  • in quiet environments where audio output is undesirable (i.e. libraries)
  • in noisy environments where audio may be difficult to hear or understand (i.e. student unions).
  • Users whose equipment does not support audio output or who simply do not have an audio output device available — headphones
  • users who are looking for information contained in the transcript; search engines can find info in transcripts, but not in a video or audio file

Three methods for captioning in YouTube

YouTube is the U of M's preferred, supported video host (though you can also add captions to videos located on your Google Drive, Kaltura, or VoiceThread). YouTube supports three methods to doing captioning in YouTube.  

How to add captions to YouTube video using auto-sync (Method 1)

You may have noticed that YouTube creates captions for you. This feature is called auto-sync, and it provides a good start if you don't have a transcript file. But you will always have to correct auto-synched captions. This tutorial shows you how to correct the captions that YouTube creates automatically.

How to add captions to YouTube video when you have a transcript (Method 2)

This tutorial assumes you’ll be hosting your video on YouTube, which is a U of M centrally supported resource.

'How to' video

'How to' with screen shots

  1. Create a transcript. The transcript should match the audio exactly. Save the file as a .txt file without any formatting. The text file should include not only spoken words but also any other sounds, like “background music” or “doorbell.”
  2. Go to YouTube: Click on 'My Channel' on the left side of the screen and choose the video to which you’d like to add captions. 
  3. Click on the CC button below the video frame as seen in this screenshot:

 4. Then you can add your transcript. Click 'Add New Subtitles or CC' (big blue button). Select your language. Then, click Upload a file.

 5. Browse for the transcript file (.txt file) on your computer and upload it. Click Set timings. YouTube will automatically sync the words in your transcript to the timings of the audio. This process may take some time, depending on the length of the video. When YouTube is finished, review the captions to make sure the words synced properly with the audio track. Now, click the Publish button then the Done button.


How to create a transcript in YouTube (Method 3)

If you don’t have a transcript, you can type one in the interface below. (Start with steps 2-4 above to get to the interface.) Click the Transcribe and auto-sync button.

Transcribe directly into the box that says “Here I can type...” Then click the Set timings button.

Again, give it a listen to verify the timing is accurate. Click the blue Edit button to edit both the text and the timings on the screen below. When you’re done with your edits, press the Publish button at the bottom of the screen to make the captions publicly available. 

You do not need to caption audio or video where the two don't need to be synchronous to make sense, (e.g., person at a podium delivering a speech). In that case, you can just provide a transcript.


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