Adding subtitles to YouTube videos using CaptionTube

YouTube is a wonderful resource, it works on just about all internet enabled devices, it hardly ever goes wrong, it is easy to use and although there is a lot of low quality rubbish on there (in my opinion), there is also huge amounts of really useful high quality videos that we can use in education to enhance our teaching and learning practices.

A feature of YouTube that many don’t know about, is the auto-captioning option – in other words YouTube creates a transcript of the video without you having to do anything. If you are watching a video on the YouTube page and you want to see the captions, then there is a button below the video (currently to the right of the where it says ‘add to’) which is the transcript button – this brings up the transcript as a timeline below the videos and automatically advances with the video. This can be great for learners that have a disability (e.g. are deaf), but can also be really useful to find a key point within a video.

For example I often use short sections of the excellent TED talk video of Ken Robinson talking about schools killing creativity. If I want to locate a certain section within that video, I use the automatic captions that appear below it to locate the section that I want.

Because the transcripts are computer generated, they do contain errors – and depending on the clarity of the voice and the background noise of the video will determine the accuracy of the transcript. For some reason my voice never does well with automated speech to text systems, including YouTube.

However if you do want to override the automatic captions that YouTube creates with your own ones, then this is very easy to do – and for this I use a service called CaptionTube This is a simple system where you sign in (using a Google Account) you locate the video you want to caption (which could be your own or someone elses) and then you play the video pausing it at intervals to add your captions. If the video is your own, then you can add the captions to it there and then, if it isn’t your video then you can send the transcript to them to see if they want to upload it.

The following video (by John Skidgel) introduces the basics of CaptionTube.

Here is a video of mine that I captioned using this method. This took me 12 minutes in total from opening the page to my captions appearing on the video on YouTube.

Adding Captions to a video is a simple way to increase the accessibility of a resource, as well as potentially increasing the number of people that see your video, as the contents of the captions will get picked up by search engines (if the video is set to being public and listed).

9 Responses

  1. Yes, the automatic captions by YouTube really need editing – I have had some really funny transcriptions that bear no resemblance to what I was saying in the video!

  2. This is an amazing feature of YouTube.I tried its with my own videos and found it quite effective. It creates transcript but the transcripts are computer generated, they do contain errors – and depends on the clarity of the voice and the background sound of the video will determine the accuracy of the transcript. Though my voice never does well with automated speech to text systems, including YouTube.

    I recommend this to all participants of iPGCE course. Try it once!

  3. Hi Dave,

    I have a problem with captiontube and i hope you can help me out:

    the subtitles are only visible to myself when i am logged into my youtube account – and not for others. Do you know how to fix it? Or another program through which I can add the SRT. to my video – the SRT. i already created with Captiontube? Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Renee. Assuming you own the YouTube video then once you have created the captions using captiontube you can save the caption file (I think it is txt format), you can then go onto YouTube and upload this as the subtitles.

      If someone else owns the YouTube video, then others won’t be able to see the captions.

  4. Hey thanx
    this post has been very helpfull,I have a question,Do you know Where can I go to have the language(Audio) of my videos changed to let say from english to spanish???

  5. Just want to say that nowadays you can also hire a captioning service to captions your videos for you, which is actually very affordable. Services like only charge $1 per minute and you don’t even have to upload the YouTube video itself to have it captioned, all you need to do is copy and paste the link of the video.

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