Creating captions using YouTube

Originally published 20/01/2020

Note: 06/07/2020
You can now add automatic captioning directly in Panopto.

Do you have a self-created video resource that you use regularly on your module?

You might want to consider adding closed captions. Closed captions are not permanently recorded as an inseparable part of the video, but are written in a simple file that can be associated with the video and displayed as the user wishes. You can create this file yourself fairly easily. Not only do closed captions make the content accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but they can be very useful for others as well. Maybe someone is in a public place without headphones, and doesn’t want to be disruptive. Maybe English is not their first language, and the written words improve their comprehension. There is evidence that people engage more with videos that include captions.

One way to create a caption file is with a YouTube account. You don’t have to host your video on YouTube; you can temporarily upload it as a private video in order to create the file, which you can then download and use however you wish.

It is easiest if you already have an accurate transcript, or a script that was used during the filming. If not, YouTube can automatically generate the captions for you. Be aware, however, that they will need editing as the automated captions do not include punctuation, and unusual words may be misinterpreted. Sound quality can also affect the accuracy of the automated captions.

Uploading the video

You will need a Google account to sign in to YouTube. Once you have signed in, go to or click on YouTube Studio from your account menu at the top right.

  1. From the Dashboard, click on ‘Upload Video’.
  2. Choose the video file you want to upload. Uploading the video may take a few minutes; possibly more if it is a long video.
  3. In the latest version of YouTube Studio, you will need to declare under the Details section whether the video is meant for children.
    Screenshot of declaration of suitability for children
    Don’t worry about the other settings on this tab or the next if you intend to keep it private.
  4. On the final tab, ‘Visibility’, select ‘Private’ from the first dropdown and click ‘Done’.
    Screenshot of 'Private' setting
    Again you may have to wait a few minutes until the video is processed.
  5. Click on ‘Subtitles’ on the left of the screen.
  6. Select the video you have just uploaded. It may ask you to set the language if you have not previously done so.

Your video subtitles list should now look something like this:

Screenshot of the Video Subtitles list for editing

Adding captions

If you have a transcript

    1. Go to where it says ‘English (United Kingdom) (video language)’ and click ADD on the right.
    2. Click on ‘Auto-sync’.
      Screenshot of options for adding captions
    3. You should see a box that says ‘Enter the words that are spoken’. Copy the text from your transcript and paste it into the box.
      Screenshot of the autosync option with Assign Timings button
    4. Click on ‘Assign timings’. This may take 5 or 10 minutes to process as it aligns the written text with the audio track. You can close the dialog box while it processes.
    5. In your subtitle list you will see the words ‘Generating timings’. Refresh the screen to check if the process is complete.
    6. When finished, click ‘Publish’.

If you want to make use of the automatic captioning

You may have to wait for another 5 or 10 minutes until the option ‘English (Automatic)’ shows up (refresh the screen after a while to check if it is ready). Once it appears, the list should look like this:

  • Screenshot of automatic subtitles listed in the video subtitles list

Click on ‘Duplicate and Edit’. You will now need to edit the captions.

Editing the captions

Click ‘Play’ on the video to hear the soundtrack. You can pause and unpause it as you wish while editing, or tick the box so that it automatically pauses when you start to type.

To edit the captions, use the panel on the left. There are two editing views, ‘Edit as Text’ and ‘Assign Timings’, which you can switch between. If you just want to edit the text of the captions, you can use the default ‘Edit as Text’ view.

If you want to edit the timings as well, click on ‘Assign Timings’. In this view, it will highlight the current caption block as you play the video.

  • If you click at the start of one of the caption blocks and press backspace, it will merge with the previous caption. This can be helpful if just the odd word has gone over into a new caption block, or if the timings aren’t quite right and you want to split the caption somewhere different.
  • To split a caption block at a certain point, in the Assign Timings view, go into the correct place in the text on the left, and hit the Enter key. A new caption block will be created from that point. This is also useful for removing long pauses at the end of a caption. Just split the caption block where the audio finishes, and delete the resulting empty caption block. This prevents the previous text from remaining on screen when it is no longer needed.
  • You can also add caption blocks as required using the plus sign between the blocks.

When you are happy with your captions, click on ‘Publish’ at the top of the screen.

Downloading the .srt file

In your Video Subtitles list, click on the three dots next to the captions you want and then click on Download. This will give you the option to download your caption file in different formats – choose .srt unless you know you need something different. Once you have downloaded the file and checked that it works, you can delete the video from YouTube if you wish.

Uploading on to Blackboard

You will need to associate the .srt caption file you have just created with the original video, before adding the video to your Blackboard site. See our post on Adding a caption file to your video using Panopto.

Further information

From our website:

External resources: