How To Create Captions For Your Videos

Captions are vital to videos, especially online, to allow everyone to understand what is happening in your video. Captions are a written visualisation of the dialogue that takes place in your video.  Captions are often referred to and confused with subtitles, and while similar there are notable differences. Where as captions are a written visualisation of the dialogue that is in the same language, subtitles are a translation of dialogue from a different language.  You may often see captions called Closed Captions (CC), which are the captions we will be most familiar with online, and means that they can be activated/deactivated by the viewer.

Why are they important?

Captions are essential, not just for your viewer, but to help you as well. They are now common practice across social media, and a video that lacks captions can often be overlooked by people scrolling through their feeds. As LinkedIn reported, 80% of video views on the platform take place without any sound. So by not using captions as an option, you are potentially cutting out a huge part of your audience. Captions can also help with your SEO, by giving your videos much more information that search engines are able to easily use to display your video in the right searches.

Captions can be really beneficial to your audience, and make it accessible to more people, especially those with hearing issues and adding captions it can also mean that viewers are potentially taking in more information.

Auto Generated Captions

Most platforms where you can upload videos give you the option of using auto-captions, which can be very helpful but do have a few disadvantages.

Using auto-captions allows you to easily add captions to your video, with the software guessing what is being said in your video. This requires little work from yourself and it the easiest and quickest method.

However, with the captions using voice recognition to determine what is being said, it can often make some glaring mistakes. While most of the captions will be fail accurate, if the auto-captions get it really wrong it can lead to your viewer not understanding what is happening in the video, and your videos messages not being delivered effectively.

YouTube allows you to edit the auto generated caption in the creator studio, making adjustments to the text and/or timing of the captions.

Custom Captions

The most accurate method of creating captions, is to transcribe the audio yourself, making sure that what is on screen is correct. The disadvantage to this is that it can be quite a time consuming process, depending on the length of your video.  If you are short on time, but still want to be perfectly accurate, there are services online where you can pay someone to transcribe the video for you, and usually charge a set amount per minute of video/words spoken.


Before you start working on the timings of your captions, you will first need to transcribe all the dialogue in the video. You can either note down the timings of the dialogue as you transcribe, or come back to that at a later stage.

Manually transcribing the video is the most accurate method, but it is also the most time consuming. If you don’t want to rely on auto-captions, but don’t have the time to transcribe your videos, you can always use a number of online services where you can pay for someone to do this for you, and usually charge a set amount per number of words.

A simple hack in transcribing your videos is to use a voice typing function in a program like Google Docs. This will try and accurately work out what is being said in your video, and gives a great starting point for you to go back and make any corrections. For the voice typing to work, you will have to change the audio input on your computer to pick up what is being outputted by the computer itself. For this to work, you may have to use software such as Sunflower for mac, so that you can do this, as mac does not let you do this easily otherwise.


When you are creating your captions, they need to be formatted in a very specific way, or the video players will either not be able to read the file, or will result in incorrect timings. Below is a description and example of how to accurately lay out your captions.

[Number of the caption]
Hour:Minute:Second:Millisecond –> Hour:Minute:Second:Millisecond
[line of text of what is being said]
[move onto a second line if needed]

Leave a space between each caption


0:00:00,000 –> 0:00:02,650
This is how to layout your captions

0:00:02,650 –> 0:00:04,480
It is important that they are
formatted correctly

0:00:04,480 –> 0:00:06,240
Or this will result in errors

If your video player does not show milliseconds, it is best to just leave this as [000], as this will still be fairly accurate in regards to the timing of your captions.


Now that you have transcribed the dialogue and set the right timings, you will need to make sure that the file is exported in the correct format. The file format that is most commonly used is a SubRip subtitle file (.srt). The easiest way to create this format, is to copy the text you have created so far and paste it into TextEdit (Mac) or NotePad (Windows). After pasting the text in, you will need to make sure that all formatting is removed by making it Plain Text. This means that any fonts or point size don’t affect the video player being able to read the file. 

When you have created this text file, you will need to make sure the extension of the file is changed to .srt. On Mac you might have to right-click and select Get Info, on there you can make sure the box Hide Extension is unchecked. 

After you have saved it as an .srt file, you should now be able to upload it to the video player.

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