How to caption your videos

CC OC on computer

As I write this post, I am on Day 9 of social distancing and our entire state was recently given a “stay at home” order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All around the world, I’m watching my colleagues who work with Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) students scramble as they transition to composing lessons for e-learning.  Finding captioned content can be difficult, so some are resorting to captioning the content they want to use on their own.

I also have D/HH peers who need resources for adding captions to content that they view or use so it’s accessible.

I wanted to share some resources that might help.

What’s the difference between subtitles and captions?

Subtitles only reflect the dialogue of what is spoken on the screen.  Subtitles can be in a variety of languages.

Captions not only reflect the subtitles but any non-spoken information such as environmental sounds like [door creaking] or [music] or [silence].

There are Open Captions (OC) which are always visible on the video content – you can’t turn them off.   There are videos that you can watch on a portable device that are OC – you just play the movie and the captioning is there.  If you go to a movie theater to watch an OC movie, you can’t turn it off (though the movie theater employee can).

There are Closed Captions (CC) which can be turned on/off by the viewer.   There is a CC button on newer remote controls for TVs as well as cable/satellite boxes.   Sometimes the control is on screen.   When you watch DVD or Blu-Ray media, you might see a choice for “Subtitles – English” or  “SDHH (Subtitles for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing)”.   The first represents true subtitles while the second actually would be considered captions because they include the non-spoken information.

Why caption your videos?

For people that are DHH, captioning = access.  The audio signal that comes from recorded or live content played through speakers is not as robust as what we might get talking to someone face-to-face.  Also visual and speechreading cues are not always available.   We rely on captioning to understand what we can’t hear.

People with normal hearing like captioning, too!   Some people might like to watch videos on mute because they don’t want to bother others (did you know that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound?!?), maybe they’re multitasking, perhaps they’re trying to hear a video but it’s in a noisy environment, or maybe they’re still learning English.

There are many advantages to watching captioned content.  Studies have shown that captioning can improve literacy in children – if you’re going to sit them in front of a screen, may as well turn on the captions!  As a business, captioning your videos can increase the amount of time someone stays on your website/social media site, remembers your content as well as improve your SEO.

How can I caption videos?

These are just a few of the resources out there that you can use to add captions to your videos.  I picked the ones that seemed to be the most used in the DHH/teaching community.   I’m sure that every day, more and more are becoming available.  I leave it to you to go to the websites and/or find video tutorials to make them work.  If I find some great resources, I’ll add them.

Let’s start with some of the FREE websites (click on the name of the products to go directly to their website and directions for generating captions):


“Amara’s award-winning technology enables you to caption and subtitle any video for free. For larger subtitling projects the platform makes it easy to manage teams of translators. And you can always purchase high-quality captions or translations from our passionate team of professional linguists.”

“Subtitles created in Amara Public are freely available to anyone. Use the award-winning Amara subtitle editor for free in a public workspace. Anyone with an Amara account can join the workspace and contribute subtitles in any language.

Amara Public is designed for crowd-based, open subtitle creation
Subtitles are always visible, editable and downloadable
Upgrade to Amara Plus to create subtitle files in a private workspace”


  • You will be manually typing out the subtitles, they are not generated by automated captions.  This should work well for shorter videos or videos that do not have a lot of talking.


This “is an online editor for subtitling your videos”.


  • Upload a video or provide a URL to the video (maximum 10 minutes for the free version)
  • In your “studio”,  select “auto-generate”.
  • After the subtitles have been created, you can correct and edit them.

Microsoft Stream

“You can add subtitles or captions to any Microsoft Stream video during upload or after. You can also choose to configure your video so Stream generates captions automatically using Automatic Speech Recognition technology.”


  • If you don’t have a script, start with the ASR captioning and then go back and make the edits you need
  • Can also download the transcript

Simple Online Video Editing


  • There are different plans – Free, Basic, Pro
  • You get a one-time allowance of 2 hours of free auto subtitling
  • Free version only works for a video up to 10 minutes and 50 MB or less
  • Easy and intuitive way to add text as well as subtitling to your videos


“Read your video like read an article.

We use smart technologies (NLP + AI) to create well-formatted interactive transcripts for your videos. Now you can read, search, share, and locate a sentence within any videos in seconds. Get started with a YouTube link below!”


  • You must first upload your video to YouTube
  • This site generates an interactive transcript which you will view side-by-side with your video (i.e., it’s not embedded)
  • You can even download the transcript.   This may be a good option for your students that also use screenreaders due to vision impairment.


With YouTube, you’ll upload your video first.  If you already have a transcript, you can sync it with the video.  If you don’t have a transcript, you can enable automatic captions (unedited) or run your video through automatic captions and then edit them.

Here are directions on how to enable the auto-generated captioning which can be wildly variable in terms of accuracy, depending on the quality of the signal.


  • If your video is more than 15 minutes, you will need to verify your account


“Zubtitle is an online tool that automatically adds subtitles to any video by transcribing the audio and generating subtitle text.  Zubtitle offers multiple subtitle text style and makes it easy to edit subtitle text on the fly.”


  • “Free” hooked me.  You can caption ONE (1) video for free, otherwise, it’s 10 videos for $19/month or 30 videos for $49/month.
  • I found the caption editor for this site to be the most intuitive compared to the other free websites.
  • The website did a pretty good job of extracting the audio information from the video first and then transcribing it, getting it ready to be edited.   There were not that many errors that I had to correct.
  • There are quite a few caption styles to choose from.

Here is a list of some companies that will create subtitles/captions/transcripts for you, with a quick turnaround time (anywhere from 24 to 72+ hours), but have an associated COST:

Are there other teaching tools that have captions built-in?

Yes!   Here are apps that generate realtime, automated captions:


  • FREE
  • Available on iOS only
  • Takes video and can generate realtime, automated captions that can also be edited
  • Great tool for making videos with captions on-the-fly as well as materials like social stories


  • FREE
  • Tool that allows educators and students to exchange video clips
  • These clips are all automatically captioned via automated captions when they are uploaded
  • You can even edit the captions

Google Slides

  • FREE
  • When you start your presentation, click on the CC button at the bottom of the presentation window to start automated captions
  • You cannot save a transcript of the captions but if you do a screenrecording of your lesson, the captions will be on there

Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts Meet

  • Anyone with a Gmail address will have access to Google Hangouts
    • If your email address has the same suffix (e.g.,, you will have access to live captions through Google Hangouts
    • If your email address suffixes are different, there will be no live captions
  • You need to have a G-Suite account into order to start a meeting with Google Hangouts Meet – you don’t have to have G-Suite if you’re invited to a Google Hangouts Meet meeting
    • All Google Hangouts Meet meetings have access to live captions
  • (thanks to Mary Beth Napoli for the information above)
  • Click on the CC button to generate automated captions for all videoconference participants
  • If you record this call, the captions will NOT be saved to the recording
  • If you want to save the captions, you have to do a screenrecording

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Part of Office 365 which has a cost
  • Automated subtitles consistently available on PCs when using the PPT standalone version
  • Automated subtitles for MacBooks available when using the online version of PPT through Office 365
  • You can save the transcript from your PPT presentation subtitles

Microsoft Teams

  • Part of Office 365 which has a cost
    • Not all Microsoft licenses have access to teams (h/t MBN)
  • Cool new feature that you can now have automated captions when you use Teams for a videoconference
    • ONLY if your email address is associated with a Microsoft account, otherwise you will not see captions (h/t MBN)


  • Cost is based on number of students and teachers that use the platform
  • This is a place where people can save videos
  • Every video that’s uploaded to this site can be played with automated captions
  • You can also do a “lesson capture” with this platform, which will also have automated captions
  • There is the ability to integrate a live CART (communication access realtime translation) captioner during a webinar on this platform


  • Free
  • This popular videocall platform now provides automated captioned during the phone/videocalls
  • For individuals that are D/HH, having captions is great in addition to having visual cues from the videocall


(Again, h/t MBN for her insight on this!)

  • Run a speech-to-text (STT) app like Live Transcribe (Android only) or Otter or Ava (both are iOS and Android) on a separate mobile device such as a cellphone or tablet.  You can also open up, Otter or Ava (only at the higher paid tiers) in another browser window.  Make sure your computer speakers are turned up so the mobile device can pick up the signal.  You will then be able to read captions on the mobile device.
    • Another way to use these STT apps is to hold your device under your chin and facing the camera so people can not only see your face for lipreading cues, they can read the captions.   Be aware of computer glare on. your mobile device though!
  • If there is someone in your group that is able to get captions on their end, have them share their screen so that everyone can see the captions.
  • If you have access to three devices:
    • Device #1 – participate in the meeting
    • Device #2 – use the STT app to caption the audio signal coming from your speakers
    • Device #3 – zoom in on the captions to join the meeting as a separate “participant”

What if I want a recording of the captions from the class but they don’t transfer over when I record from within that particular videoconferencing platform?

In this situation, it would be best to do a screenrecording of your lecture.   Here are some of the most popular ones:

Quick Time

  • FREE – This is the native screenrecorder that comes on Mac computers

PC – Built-in

  • FREE – This is the native screenrecorder that comes on PCs


  • Can start with a free 30-day trial and then cost increase to $249 (one time)
  • Screenrecorder where you can also add captions


  • Free for an up to 5 minute video / $29 per year for unlimited videos currently (40% discount)
  • Screenrecorder and can manually add captions with Google Slides or YouTube
  • Has a Chrome Extension for quick access


  • Free for basic tier
  • Automated or manually uploaded captions only available on upper two tiers

Final Tips:

  • If you’re going to creating your own captions from scratch or editing a video more than about 15 minutes, PLAN FOR WORKING ON THIS FOR A FEW HOURS, even more so if you’re not familiar with the app.
  • Make sure to save early and save often.  I learned that the hard way. 😦
  • Personally, for the amount of time I spent adding captions to a 15 minute video, it would have been worth $18.75 ($1.25×15 minutes) to have someone else do it.  But you have to plan ahead unless you want to pay a higher price for quick turnaround time.
  • This can be a good task for a paraprofessional in the classroom.
  • A fantastic resource for not only open captioned but also audio described (for the visually impaired) content is the Described and Captioned Media Program.   They have THOUSANDS of titles on a variety of topics.  This is a FREE service and the videos can be streamed right to your computer. Be sure check them out!


  • 3PlayMedia has some great How-to Guides across different platforms and products
  • How to add captions using Google Drive, YouTube Editor, Pinnacle Studio, CaptionMaker and Aegisub

If there are any apps that I missed or if you have any comments, please let me know!

Author: Tina Childress

I am a wife, mother, educational audiologist, late-deafened adult and bilateral cochlear implant recipient who travels between the Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing and hearing worlds. Feel free to contact me at

13 thoughts on “How to caption your videos”

      1. Options for captioning with Zoom:

        1. Hire a third-party for CART captioning
        2. Upload the recorded Zoom meeting to the Cloud and automated captioning, which can also later be edited, can provide you with a transcript
        3. If you share your Zoom screen using a tool like Google Meet, Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint, all of which have automated caption options, and simultaneously record your Zoom screen, the captions will be included in the recording.


  1. Tina, you provide a very comprehensive list of options for captioning, with useful tips. Thank you! As a teacher of DHH students, and also as someone with a hearing loss who relies on captioning, I feel there needs to be more information on this page regarding use of auto-generated captions if this is truly going to be a resource for people (especially educators) who are looking for solutions to add captions to their videos. We have to get the message across that auto-generated captions are NOT acceptable for recorded content. The average hearing teacher, or special ed director or district administrator, sees options like FREE auto-generated captions in Google slides or Google Hangouts that can be recorded, and sees this as an easy, cost-effective way to caption recorded video content. Auto-generated captions, with word errors and no punctuation, do not provide the equal access to recorded video content that deaf and hard of hearing students are entitled to. With so many options out there to provide edited captioning, those of us advocating for captioned access to video content must make it clear that only edited captions should be used in recorded content.


  2. Hi Tina! You have provided so many helpful resources for us DHH peeps. I realized there was one that was not explicitly suggested. It’s called Microsoft Presentation Translator, which is what NTID uses to provide captioning for their DHH students. and Our district is looking into using this not only with the DHH but also with the ELL population (we are a high poverty high ELL district).


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