Enhance Your iMovie Videos with Captions

Computer with iMovie open, video camera a coffee and piece of cake

Mobile phones can be found in nearly every pocket and the features and functionality they provide get more advanced with every year. Video is now easy to film which has inspired a host of budding amateur videographers, eager and ready to capture memories on film, to keep for prosperity or share with the wider world on social media.  

Brands are also capitalising on the video trend. Content created by customers and employees often feels more authentic and relatable than glossy video advertisements. 

Many devices have access to apps that allow you to manipulate video content to help you get a more professional look, adding effects, transitions and even music, to create a mini-production.  

If you’re an Apple user, you’ll have access to iMovie, the video-editing program that comes with Apple devices. The best bit? It’s free to use. On many devices such as iPads and your trusty iPhone, the app will be preinstalled. On a Mac, you may need to download it first from the app store but then you’ll be ready to add that professional edge to your video content.  

To ensure the videos you create in iMovie are accessible, inclusive, engaging, and have the greatest reach possible, you should be thinking about captioning your content. Captions help people who are deaf, hard of hearing, watching without sound, or are otherwise having difficulty hearing the sound to consume your content. Captions also help those whose native language is different to that in the video to more easily follow along and understand your key messages. 

Does iMovie transcribe automatically? 

Person editing a video in iMovie

To add captions to any video you first need to transcribe the spoken word in your content into text. The text can then be aligned to the video so that it the right text is shown along with the video. Unfortunately, unlike many other video-related platforms and apps, iMovie doesn’t currently offer any built-in tools allowing you to automatically transcribe or add captions to your content.  

To add captions to iMovie content, you first need to gain a text version of your content from other sources or manually transcribe the content yourself. 

Can I add captions in iMovie? 

Although iMovie doesn’t offer a captioning feature there is a workaround that allows you to add the spoken word so that it appears within your video.  

 You can use the ‘Titles’ option in iMovie to add what’s being said in the video. There are a number of title options to choose from. The best style to use is called ‘Standard Lower Third’. This will display the text in the lower portion of the video, where captions would typically appear. Some of the other options include more movement which would be distracting for someone trying to read along so are best avoided. 

Lower third titles option in iMovie 

The titles are designed to be used for a variety of purposes and so come with a range of handy customisation options. You’re able to adjust their appearance by changing the font, colour, size and style. The added flexibility is a nice benefit of iMovie, but it does mean you have to check that your titles can be easily read, especially as backgrounds often change throughout a video. It can be beneficial to add a black background behind the white text to ensure the text can be seen clearly, regardless of what’s going on in the video behind. 

As adding titles in this way is a manual process it can be time-consuming. You may have to fine-tune some of the titles to ensure the text lines up with the audio in the video. The end result is a video with what’s known as ‘open captions’. This means that the text is always visible to the user, unlike closed captions where the user can select whether they are visible or not. 

How to add captions in iMovie 

You can create the illusion of captions in iMovie by manually adding the relevant text over your video. The process itself is quite straightforward but can be a drain on your time, especially if you’re planning on carrying out the transcription yourself. Accurately transcribing video content is quite a skill. It takes professional transcribers, such as those at Take Note, around four times the length of the video to produce an accurate output. So, a 30-minute video would take around 2 hours to transcribe. Bear in mind, if you don’t have much experience, it could take you considerably longer.  

Alternatively, once you’ve completed editing your video you can export it from iMovie to open up some other options for transcription and adding captions, including uploading the video to a video hosting platform or using a professional service such as Take Note.  

DIY with iMovie 

Man typing captions while listening to video audio

Taking a DIY approach to adding captions in iMovie requires you to add a sprinkling of patience to ensure the text accurately matches the audio. You can transcribe the video yourself as you go along by playing and pausing the video as you type in the words spoken. Or, you may find it more efficient to gain a transcript of the audio first which you can then manually align to the contents of the video. 

Either way, having a separate transcript provides the added benefit of being able to use a spell checker and other tools to check your work before committing it to the video. It would be a shame to only spot a typo once you’ve exported and shared the video! 

Here are the basic steps to follow for a DIY approach: 

  1. Open up iMovie on your chosen device and choose ‘New Project’. 
  2. Import your video or videos. 
  3. Drag your video(s) into the movie timeline. 
  4. Make any edits required to the content such as transitions. Adding captions should be the final stage in the process. 
  5. Click on ‘Titles’ and select the style called ‘Standard Lower Third’ and drag this above the video in the timeline. 
  6. Type in the text for about 5 seconds worth of video. Ideally, you’ll want to try and keep to one line of text to make it easy for people to read.  
  7. Trim the title length to match the relevant portion of the video.  
  8. Adjust the font and other options to produce the style you’re after. 
  9. Copy the title you’ve created and paste it. This will keep all the formatting you’ve added so you just need to update the text itself. 
  10. Repeat the process until you’ve added the text for the entire video. 
  11. Save and export as usual. 

Adding Captions Outside of iMovie 

Adding captions in iMovie can be fiddly and take up a lot of precious time, particularly if your video is over a few minutes long. There are some alternatives available which allow you to gain a transcript and add captions outside of the iMovie platform. The best option for you will depend on your time and budget constraints.  

The first step for gaining captions outside of iMovie is to export your final video. By downloading your video you’ll be able to share it with a range of other services to suit your requirements. 

  1. Use built-in tools provided by a video hosting platform 
  2. Use a transcription service 

Use built-in tools provided by a video hosting platform 

iMovie is an editing tool rather than a hosting platform so many people will upload their final video to a hosting platform to make the sharing and promotion of their content easier. This does mean that once you’re happy with your content you can upload it to your video hosting platform of choice, such as YouTube, Vimeo and others.  

 The majority of video hosting platforms give you the option to add captions, either through using their built-in tools or to upload an accurate transcription file. The built-in tools can seem appealing as they offer a quick and often free solution. However, the problem with YouTube transcription and other platforms is that accuracy levels are often very low as they rely on Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) to produce the transcript.

Although accuracy levels continue to improve, current standards still have a long way to go before they reach the 99% accuracy levels offered by professional transcription services. If you go down this route, you’ll either need to accept errors in your video or factor in time to do a lot of manual editing. 

Use a transcription service 

There are a variety of transcription services available that vary in quality, accuracy, speed and price. ASR services will have quick turnaround times and a lower price but will suffer the same accuracy problems that occur with many built-in tools. If accuracy is a priority, you’re better off using human or hybrid services that provide an accuracy guarantee.  

Professional video transcription services provide high levels of accuracy with guaranteed turnaround times. You simply upload your video and select the relevant service. You’ll be provided with a transcript in the correct format to be used with the majority of video platforms. In the case of Take Note, this will be an SRT file. Many platforms, such as YouTube, can transform your SRT file into closed captions for your video as well as displaying the transcript alongside the video player.  

Including captions increases the accessibility of your video content and providing a transcript allows your content to be searchable. Helpful for not only viewers of your content but for your SEO efforts too.

Making sure video content is inclusive, accessible, and discoverable is a growing priority for brand creators. Regardless of the editing tools or video hosting platform you choose, transcription and captions should be part of the process. Reach out to Take Note today and begin to upload your videos to have them properly transcribed to start seeing the benefits.  

Posted in

Kat Hounsell