How to Add Captions to Video: a No-Nonsense Guide to Subtitling

Subtitling guide captions

The reasons for getting into the video content game as we edge ever closer to the 2020s are becoming increasingly self-evident. Video content lends itself very well to an era where the majority of people access the internet primarily through a mobile device and / or a social platform. But for video content to be appreciated on the go, subtitling is a prerequisite.


Subtitles make your video content more accessible to those with hearing impairments, those who speak a different language or those who simply want to enjoy your videos but can’t have the sound on. Closed captions can also make your content more engaging and even help to give your SEO a boost. Yes, search engine crawlers parse subtitles, too!

Yet, while subtitles can be invaluable, getting them just right can prove troublesome. That’s why we’ve produced this no-nonsense guide. 


Step 1: Get a transcript

This is the most vital step. Creating great closed captions without an accurate transcript is like trying to build a fortified castle on a foundation of sand. Inaccurate transcripts can diminish or cheapen the message of your video and compromise how seriously viewers take your brand.

So, what’s the best way to ensure a faithful and accurate transcript? You actually have a few options.


Do it yourself

Creating a transcription yourself is a great way to ensure accuracy, but it can be extremely painstaking and time-consuming. Transcribing video content is a skill, and can be an extremely slow and laborious process. For professional transcribers, it takes around 4 hours to type up 1 hour of audio so imagine how long it would take for those who don’t have a great deal of experience transcribing audio files!


Use an automated transcription application

There have been great strides in the quality and reliability of software applications which use ASR (automated speech recognition) software to create transcripts. These can transcribe audio files in seconds and are very affordable, averaging around 7-10 pence per minute. 

Sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it is. ASR-based transcription services struggle with accuracy, usually topping out at 80% as a best-case scenario. Therefore, the portion of the time you tried to save by using ASR services is then spent checking for and correcting inaccuracies in the text. 


Use a professional human transcriptionist

If you want to ensure complete accuracy and deliver a fast turnaround, human-based transcription services really are the gold standard. Users can get transcript turnarounds inof as little as 1224 hours and ensure 99-100% accuracy for your peace of mind. 

Users can provide any other extra information or specific details that they want to be included in their subtitles. This is, however, a more expensive option than ASR, with services usually costing between 50p and £2 per audio minute. 




Step 2: Turn the transcript into a caption file

Now you have the all-important accurate transcript, the next step is to convert it into a caption file. This can be VTT (WebVTT) or SRT (SubRip). Don’t use a text editor that changes the appearance of the text as this will add extra information to the files which will prevent them from being visible in your video files.

You’ll want to break up your subtitles into manageable chunks to ensure that the text on the screen matches the words being spoken by the performers. This means that you’ll have to ensure that timestamps are applied to the subtitles, telling the video editing platform you use when the subtitles need to come on the screen and when they need to go away. 

This can require a little trial and error. You want to ensure that the text flows along with what’s being said on-screen. At the same time, however, you also don’t want the text to eat up screen space. We all know that large chunks of text can be off-putting to viewers and can potentially obscure what’s going on in your video. Try and keep lines below 32 characters and don’t be afraid to make small changes to the language as long as the essence of what is said remains the same.

After a little experimentation, you should have accurate, usable text which is ready to be added to your video file. We’re ready to move on to…


Step 3: Import the caption file into video editing software

How you import the caption file (whatever format you use) into your video will depend on the video editing platform you use. Here, we’ll look at some of the most commonly used by the video production industry and how to import caption files for each.


Adobe Premiere Pro

One of the industry’s favourite editing platforms, Adobe Premiere Pro makes a range of integral processes easy… including adding captions. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Select “File” and click  “Import” to import embedded caption files.
  • Import through the Media Browser using the file’s context menu.
  • Your captions are now ready to use.


Final Cut Pro

Importing captions via Final Cut Pro is just as easy:

  • Select File > Import > Captions. 
  • Find the caption file. 
  • Choose a caption role.
  • Select the insertion time (aren’t you glad you have all those timestamps now?)
  • Click Import.


Corel VideoStudio Ultimate

VideoStudio Ultimate makes it really easy to import captions:

  • Select “Import Subtitle File”.
  • Locate the subtitle file in your directory and click OK.
  • Your subtitles will now be overlaid over the video.


CyberLink PowerDirector

PowerDirector by Cyberlink also has an easy way of importing captions;

  • Open the “Subtitle Room”.
  • Select the desired start point. 
  • Click “Add Subtitle”.
  • Click the stop button when you reach the desired end point. 
  • Click “Import a Text File”. 
  • Locate the caption file in your directory and click “Open”.


Step 4: Get any translations you need

If you have your sights set on the international market, you’ll likely need alternative translations for your video content to make it more accessible to overseas markets. The good news is that when you have an accurate transcript, you can turn your captions into subtitles. 

However, accuracy is all the more important when you’re trying to convert text into a language that is unfamiliar to you. This is why caption translation is best facilitated by a professional service. The right services can give you accurate translations in any languages you need. These translated files can then easily be converted and added to your video as above to give your content international and multilingual reach! 


Alternatively… get one step captions!

As we’ve hopefully established, captions and subtitles should be considered absolutely essential when creating video content. However, you should expect some expenditure of time, effort and capital to create them. 

Creating subtitles yourself isn’t the only option. The right transcription service will provide you with the captions you need for your video, easily and within your timeframe — and even integrated to your video. Using an outsourced service will provide you with accurate and time-stamped captions with a bare minimum of effort and in accordance with your deadlines. This frees up your time and resources to do what you do best… creating more video content and filling the fast-growing black hole of demand for quality digital video.

No matter how you choose to create and add captions to your video, the value of a good quality transcript cannot be overstated. When this is thorough and accurate, you have a strong foundation upon which to build your captions. This is why it’s so important to find the right transcription service for your needs. 



Take Note

Take Note is a UK-based transcription service with world-class customer support alongside the highest standards of security and ethics. We deliver a comprehensive range of transcription services including Audio and Video Transcription, Video Captions and On-Site Note Taking.