Creating captions using YouTube

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

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 https://studio.youtube.com 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. 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’. 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 showing a table headed 'Video subtitles'. Entrie read 'Language: English (United Kingdom)(video language); Modified on: 6 Jan 2020; Title & description: Published by Creator; Subtitles: ADD.

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 ‘Transcribe and auto-sync’.
  3. You should see a box that says ‘Type what’s spoken here’. Copy the text from your transcript and paste it into the box.
  4. Click on ‘Set timings’. This may take 5 or 10 minutes to process as it aligns the written text with the audio track.
  5. Click the refresh icon under ‘My Drafts’ to check if the process is complete.

Screenshot of Refresh icon

If the timings have been set, this will take you to the editing screen. Otherwise you will get a new window saying that timings are still being set for this video.

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 the previous 'Video subtitles' table with a new first row which reads Language: English (Automatic); Modified on: 6 Jan 2020; Title & description: [blank]; Subtitles: Published Automatic

  1. Hover over where it says ‘Published Automatic’ on the right.
  2. Click on the three dots that appear and then click on ‘Edit on Classic Studio’.
  3. The caption editor should appear. Click on ‘Edit’ at the top of the page.

You will now need to edit the captions.

Editing the captions

Even if you have entered a perfect transcript of the video, it is still worth going in to edit the captions as the timings may have been confused by any long pauses or background noise.

  1. Click ‘Play’ on the video and on the sound (if you have already clicked through some of the captions it can get confused – just refresh the page and try again).
  2. You can click on the video to pause and unpause it.
  3. You will see the audio levels underneath. This is a helpful visual guide to where sections of audio start and finish, to help you align the captions correctly.
  4. To edit the captions or the timings, use the panel on the left. The draft will be saved automatically as you go along.
  5. 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.
  6. To split a caption block at a certain point, play the video and pause at the point where you want the caption to break. 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.

When you are happy with your captions, click on ‘Save Changes’ at the top of the screen. Then click on the published subtitles to go back to the editing screen, and click on the ‘Actions’ dropdown. This will give you the option to download your caption file in different formats – choose .srt unless you know you need something different. It will work with Panopto and Kaltura.

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 posts on Adding a caption file to your video using Panopto and Adding a caption file to your video using Kaltura.

Further information

From our website:

External resources: