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There are a number of options for automatically captioning videos (see our Screencast-o-Matic, Zoom, and YouTube guides for a few of these options), but there may be occasions when you need to manually embed captions into a video file. The guide below outlines one method to accomplish this.
Note that if you are planning to embed captions, you should leave a space at the bottom of your video that is clear of text, titles, and other important information (since this space will be covered by your caption text).
To ensure your captions are useful for viewers, it is a good idea to review the recommended standards for words-per-minute, caption duration, word matching, and other issues. There are many places online to find this information, but this guide from the University of Melbourne gives a good, quick overview of best practices in captioning style.
An SRT file is just a text file that has been formatted with timings that video encoders can read when creating captions. They look like this:
While you can create an SRT file manually by simply typing the timings and text as shown above, you can save a lot of time by letting an automated system take a first pass. YouTube and Zoom both have options for auto-captioning video, though Zoom can only caption videos recorded via Zoom. More info on auto-captioning in Zoom on our Zoom Overview guide.
If you don’t have a YouTube account, or need help uploading videos to YouTube, you can follow our YouTube Basics guide to get started.
Note: If you are uploading a video exclusively for captioning purposes and don’t want it available for viewing on YouTube, make sure to set your video as Private when uploading.
Once you have a video uploaded to YouTube, the algorithm will automatically start generating captions. It can take up to a day for captions to appear.
Once the captions are generated, you can use YouTube Studio to download them. Follow these steps:
SBV files are similar to SRT files, but different enough to cause trouble for most video encoders. Luckily, there are many automatic converters for SBV files. We recommend this in-browser converter from the Described and Captioned Media Program (dcmp.org). Follow these steps to convert your file:
Handbrake is a free and open source video encoding tool. You can download it for any operating system from the Handbrake website.
Follow these steps to embed captions into a video using Handbrake: