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How to add Closed Captioning on YouTube Videos

Posted by Timothy Lorang on Mon, Mar 05, 2012 @ 11:00 AM

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Add captions to your YouTube videoIn my last blog, YouTube Auto Caption will Increase SEO for YouTube Videos, we talked a bit on how YouTube’s closed captions and transcripts will help improve Search Engine Optimization by turning the audio track on the video into text that can be searched by YouTube’s and Google’s search engines. In fact, YouTube has an automatic caption function; unfortunately it is not always accurate. In a video I recently uploaded the auto caption turned this:


Avoid common communication mistakes that will
undermine and sabotage your business success.
Sound good? Right! Are you ready to get going?

Into this:

avoid common communication mistakes that will
undermine and sabotage your business success
found dead fat you're editing killing.

Talk about common communication mistakes.

The only way to avoid errors and add punctuations is to edit the closed caption files. Fortunately it is very easy.

How to Download the Automatic Caption File

    1. Log into your YouTube account and go the “Video Manager” tab found in the drop down menu under your channel’s name in the upper right hand corner.
    2. Choose the video you want to work on, then select the “Edit” button, then select the “Captions” tab above the video.
    3. To the right of the video you will see an area called: Available Caption Tracks.
    4. If there is a caption file associated with the video the button should be green.
    5. Next to the green button will be a link that says “English” (or whatever language your video is recorded in.)
    6. After you select the language link the “Editing Track” box will open. This is a bit of a misnomer because you cannot actually edit the closed caption file here. You will notice that the text is broken into short segments with time code references at the beginning of each line. When you play the video the caption text will follow along with the video.
    7. To make corrections you will need to download the file. In the bottom right side of the box is a “Download” button. Press this and save the file.
    8. YouTube’s downloaded caption file format will be *.SBV. The two formats YouTube supports are SubViewer (*.SUB) and SubRip (*.SRT). You can upload any of these three formats for your YouTube video but if for some reason you need an SRT file try this handy SBV to SRT file format converter from Gideon Goldberg.

Editing Your Automatic Caption File

If you are not attaching the closed caption file to video for broadcast or another player that doesn’t accept .SBV then do not stress about it. Just follow these steps when editing:

    1. Open the .SBV file in Microsoft Word or in a text editor and edit the text.
    2. Do not change the formatting and do not change the time code.
    3. You can correct spelling, add punctuation and fill in the gaps.
    4. Adding square brackets like [music] or [gunshot] will help people with hearing disabilities understand what is happening in the video.
    5. Adding tags like >> at the beginning of a line will identify a new speaker.
    6. After you have completed editing your transcript save it as an .SBV file.
    7. File Extension Warning: .SBV is not one of the choices when saving a file in Microsoft. It is best to save the file as a .txt file and change the file extension later. If you are unfamiliar with how to change a file extension read Media College.Com’s How to Change a File Extension In Windows.
    8. Go back to YouTube and Select the link that says “<<Return to All Tracks” then select the button that says “+Add New Captions or Transcripts.”
    9. Under the word “File” will be a button. Simply select the “Choose File” button and upload your newly edited .SBV transcript file.
    10. Because there are Time Code numbers in your file choose “Caption file” as the “Type.” The “Transcript file” type does not have time code and any captioning may not stay in sync with your video. 
    11. Now there should be two available caption tracks. The “Uploaded Captions” file and the “Machine Transcriptions” file. Make sure the green button is turned off for the “Machine Transcriptions” and turned on for the “Uploaded Captions.”

That should be it; you are now ready to go. Play the video with the closed captioning on to double check that everything is working. Downloading and uploading the file only takes a few minutes. Depending upon the length of your video and how accurate the original transcription was the actual editing time will vary. Some people take the transcription, strip out the time code numbers and post the transcript to their website to increase its SEO value. For more details about increasing the SEO for your YouTube Videos you can download our free, updated eBook: Search Engine Optimization for YouTube Videos. Let us know how this is working for you and send us a link to your video.


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