24 March 2012

Guide to YouTube Captions (Subtitles) and Transcripts Tutorial

If you have viewed videos on YouTube you have probably noticed a small icon marked as "cc" in the bottom bar of the video player(See the image below)

If video owners upload captions(subtitles) for their videos, you will be able to select from a range subtitles based on language or whatever variation of subtitles(captions) the video owner provided. However for most videos on YouTube, nobody uploads the subtitles so YouTube has a voice recognition software that attempts to provide subtitles for English spoken videos. I must point out that although the automatic speech to text feature is technologically impressive, it is not adequate from a user's perspective.

Creating subtitle files is a fairly time consuming process, however creating a transcript is much less work. Because you don't need to set start/stop times for each piece of text which you would need to do for subtitles. So if you have a transcript of your video you can upload it for your video and not only will YouTube provide an interactive transcript of your video(accessible via an icon below your video) but the automatic speech recognition software by YouTube will use this same transcript for the subtitle captions. So the subtitle captions will be 100% accurate. YouTube does a very good job at matching the transcript to the audio so the timing of subtitles appearing on your video will be in sync with the audio itself.

Transcript Toggle: shows the transcript as video is playing.
There might be very rare occasions where the timing of the audio and a subtitle caption is not perfect, however this can easily be fixed. All you need to do is follow the steps below (This guide assumes you have uploaded your transcript file otherwise there will be an auto-generated one which will be fine as well):

1. Go to your video.
2. Click the "Edit captions/subtitles" link above your video (this will take you to another page)

3. Click on your caption link which will be something like "English - your transcript name" (this will take you to another page)

4. In the bottom right corner of this page you will see a button which says "Download" click this button to download the "caption/subtitle" file. (Note: you never uploaded a subtitle/caption file, YouTube create this file from your transcript file) save this file on your computer.

5. Open the download file using Notepad or your favorite text editor.

6. You will see that each line of text has two sets of times above it, these times indicate at what point in your video the subtitle will appear and at what point it will disappear. Change the times to match your video.

Here is an example:
0:00:01.000,0:00:05.200Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
7. Bring back your browser now and click on the link "Return to All Tracks

8. Click the "Add new captions or transcripts" button

9. Choose the subtitle file.

10. Make sure the option selected is "Caption file(includes time codes)" this is the default option so you shouldn't need to change anything here.

11. Select a name for the captions. I usually call it "subtitles (captions)" because when your video starts it will show the language name of your subtitles with this text appended to it for about 2 seconds.

12. Click "Upload file"

and you're done.

Assuming you have a transcript for your video, this is by far the easiest method for providing subtitles/captions for your videos. If you don't have a transcript for your video you can download the auto generated captions then edit them and upload the new file to fix any errors that YouTube had produced.

Here is an example video that I created:

Applications for Subtitling / Captioning your YouTube Videos
Alternatives to the above method exist in the form of software that look like video editing applications. Using this software you will need to play the video then pause it, type in a sentence for the caption and set when it should disappear. I have tried a few of such applications and I can tell you they are all really time consuming. But if you would like to try one these application, here are a few:

Online Captioning Websites:
Desktop Applications

Tools and approaches aside, here are some usability guidelines for creating subtitles: http://www.dcmp.org/ciy/

You might also find these YouTube help files useful:

Uploading YouTube Transcript File Tutorial

Just in case anyone has problems with this, I made this small addition to the how-to guide for uploading a transcript file. Here are the steps:
  1. Go to your video
  2. Click the "Edit captions/subtitles" link above your video (this will take you to another page)
  3. Click the "Add new captions or transcripts" button
  4. Choose your transcript file
  5. Select the option "Transcript file"
  6. Select a name for the Transcript
  7. Click "Upload file"

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  1. These instructions don't work for me at all.
    Win 7 pro + Google Chrome

    I can upload a caption file but it's impossible to edit - the timing is totally wrong and the "edit" mode lets nme edit NOTHING

    I also don't see any timing as was shown here

    6. You will see that each line of text has two sets of times above it, these times indicate at what point in your video the subtitle will appear and at what point it will disappear. Change the times to match your video.

    Are you saying that you have to include the times before uploading the file to youtube?

    1. First you upload a transcript file without the times then youtube will automatically process it and add the times to it. You can then download this processed caption file which includes the times.
      Then you have a file with the times which you can edit in notepad and re-upload but this time as a caption file instead of a transcript file.

      So the second time you will be uploading a file that contains "times"

    2. I did not include the first upload in the guide above because it could have been the case that someone would just use the automatically created transcript file by youtube.

      but before step 1 in the guide above; either youtube has to automatically create captions using its speech recognition software which currently only works in English or you have to manually upload a transcript file of your video. It is only then that you may proceed with step one of this tutorial.

      hope this helps

  2. Since YouTube updated it's user interface I am unable to upload caption files. I go through the upload process, click upload and nothing happens. I work in a gov depart using Windows XP, IE 8 (no hope of upgrading until the dept does). Is this a known issue and is there fix?

    1. I have also come across this problem. I believe the problem is from youtube. They seem to make changes frequently without thorough testing procedures.

  3. With regard to the caption upload problem do you know if there is a work around? (I've had to create a "new comment" for some reason I couldn't just reply to your feedback - Gov systems got to love them)

    1. My guess would be to try another web browser such as "Google Chrome" or "Firefox". Or try doing it on another machine in a different network altogether, just in case there is a problem with your settings or the gov network is blocking it.
      For me it worked after a few retries.

  4. We can ever download video with CC thanks to this tool