Captioning Video

You Tube logoI was recently introduced to a new FREE captioning service called Universal Subtitles. This service essentially takes the place of a captioning application that you or a professional captioner or speech-to-text reporter might use to view, listen and transcribe the speaking parts of a video. As you know, the captioning of video is an essential accessibility requirement if you want to make your video content available to the Deaf and hearing-impaired folks.

Up until fairly recently, the captioning process was accomplished by sending the video off to a service provider who would create the transcription, sync it to the video and create either an open-captioned, or closed-captioned version of your video. These services historically have been fairly expensive, but the prices have come down in recent years.

Last year I excitedly told you about a new “automatic” system being offered by YouTube where you throw a couple of switches when you load up your video and Mr. Google does the rest. The results of that process were, and still are, rather hilarious and almost always require some editing. You can fix your captioning track by downloading the sync transcript from YouTube, editing of the text yourself using captioning software or a simple text editor, and then re-loading the edited transcript back to YouTube.

The new Universal Subtitles service allow you to upload un-captioned video to their site and provides a fairly easy-to-use editing bay to create the captions (what they called subtitles) by typing in the text as you listen to your video, and then saving the edited/captioned video on the Universal Subtitles website. At this point, I have not figured out a way to download the captioned video (or the transcript file) from the Universal Subtitles website. All you can apparently do is embed the code on another website or link to it. But, I’ll figure that out or use a video grabber application to get my video back. It will be interesting to see if the grabbed video has the captioning – probably not.

As a means of comparison, I have linked the original YouTube video below which has been captioned using the built-in “automatic translation” tool. Below that, I have linked the version which I created, then uploaded and captioned using Universal Subtitles. So you can see the differences between the two methods.

For those interested, I’m guessing it took about 45 minutes to caption the 1:32 test video. This included the time to create the free account with Universal Subtitles, view their support videos showing how to do all this and then creating the caption version. I might add that midway through the process I somehow managed to delete the whole transcript that I had created and had to start over again. So be careful if you try this with a long video.

I’ll provide more observations as I review this new service more, so stay tuned.

Below is an embedded version of the original video on You Tube. Unfortunately, to see the captioning you will have to use this link to YouTube and view the video there. The automatic captioning does not appear in embedded video. When you get to the YouTube page, you will then need to click on the CC symbol at the bottom of the screen and then click the automatic translation dialog box to get the captioning to appear – Mr YouTube does not make this easy.

And here is the captioned video on Universal Subtitles:

6 thoughts on “Captioning Video

  1. JEB, I got feedback from a colleague I recommended this to that she had no trouble getting her own captioned video (as in solving the problem you describe). Ping me in a week (away from work for now) if you haven’t found a solution and I haven’t gotten back to you with more details and contact info.

  2. you may be confused – I think that universal subtitles overlays th video, not upload. You can download the subtitles. does upload video, but again you only. download the subtitles.

  3. I didn’t realize you can’t embed automatically generated captions (probably because for Dutch there are no auto captions yet).

    The cool thing about universal subtitles is you can crowd-source your subtitling. But I have now statistics on how likely and fast it is for your video to get subtitled and in what language.

    I currently like using Subtile Horse for creating Closed Captions. You can directly work on an on-line flv video file (such as YoutTube) and you can upload the .srt or .xml file to YouTube after you have saved it. And Subtitle Horse provides functionality to save your captions midway.

  4. We use MovieCaptioner to do all our YouTube captioning. It has a great workflow that gets the captions done quickly. Once you have them done you just export as SRT format and upload that file with your movie on YouTube. You can also use it with a speech-to-text program such as Nuance Dictate so you don’t even have to type them. It’s pretty slick. The website is

  5. Hello:

    Im trying to subtitle a few youtube videos, but im having ONE MAJOR SETBACK. Im translating from spanish to Norweigian, so whenever I embedd this captions into my website, the is no auto-languaje-captions thing running, basically the videos run with no captions. I do get a button that asks me to choose the captions languaje.

    So basically the question is, is there any settings/options that will o r can allow me to change that?


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