There are lots of free tools online for creating closed captions. Nearly all will allow you to export your captions as an srt file which is the most widely used closed captions format on the web, but not all programs are created equal. So how do you know which one to use? We’ve done the hard yards for you and shed light on our three faves – Amara, YouTube and Subtitle Edit.
Amara is one of our favorite programs for short video captioning. It’s an online non-profit project which is super easy to learn. We find that it's the best platform for creating captions from scratch.
- Type up all the dialogue in the video that you want to caption. Amara allows you to easily skip back and forth using the keyboard, saving loads of time.
- Manually sync the captions to the audio using the up and down arrows. This is a really simple way of making sure your captions match your clip.
- Final review and edit stage.
The great thing about Amara is it becomes very quick to use once you've got the hang of the keyboard controls. It also allows you to translate your videos into other languages when your captions are finished.
USE IT WHEN:
- You have to create captions from scratch.
- You want to translate your captions into other languages.
- Your videos are hosted online.
YouTube has a great tool for creating captions. It’s quick and easy, but you can only use it for videos that are uploaded to YouTube.
'Transcribe and Auto-Sync' is a really neat tool that takes your typed transcript and uses their speech recognition engine to match the transcript to the audio to time your captions. It's by no means entirely accurate, but it gives you a head start and save you loads of time. Once YouTube tries to time your transcript to the audio, you can easily edit the timings using a simple visual timeline.
YouTube also has an "auto-generated closed captions" feature. While these captions are far from perfect, if your clip has slow and clear speakers, you may find it quicker to edit the auto-generated captions rather than starting from scratch.
USE IT WHEN:
- You already have a transcript for your video.
- Your videos are uploaded on YouTube.
Unlike Amara and YouTube's editor that both run online, Subtitle Edit is a piece of software, which means you'll need to download and install it on your computer first. It has a beginner mode for learning, and then you can progress to its advanced interface.
It has editing features galore that can fix up your spelling and grammar, burn open captions into your video, import a whole bunch of fancy subtitle file types and so much more.
If you want to get a bit more serious about your captioning, this might be the program for you.
USE IT WHEN:
- You want offline access to a captioning program.
- You're after captioning software with a bit more grunt under the hood than the online options.
Not interested in captioning? Give transcription a try!