Adding Captions on YouTube Videos

Example of a YouTube video with captions
Example of a YouTube video with captions

After reading and blogging about the Automatic Captions that have recently become available for YouTube videos, we were eager to try them ourselves.  It turned out to be a little more work than we expected, but the end results were very satisfying.  One of the biggest problems we encountered was that we found less information than expected on going through the actual process of adding captions.  We’ve decided to share what we learned so you know what to expect and what worked for us.

Create a video. You probably already knew that, didn’t you?  Keep in mind that you probably want to avoid placing other text (such as a website name) at the bottom of the screen since this is where the captions will be.

Upload your video to YouTube. Your video can be no larger than 2 GB, no longer than 10 minutes.  Our videos average about 3 minutes, which is a good place to start if you’re adding captions for the first time.

Choose how you want to add captions. Just to be clear, YouTube’s automatic captions are currently only available for a few specified channels, such as PBS and National Geographic, while they work to perfect the technology.  However, Google’s auto-timing is available for everyone, and makes adding captions fairly painless.  You can also choose an alternative online captioning site like CaptionTube, but we found this to be less accurate as far as timing was concerned.

Transcript or Caption file? You have the option of writing a transcript file or a caption file.  We chose to do a transcript because you don’t have to write the timing for the captions to appear.  With a transcript, all you have to do is type the words in a plain text file and YouTube’s auto-timing technology will pick up on when to have the captions appear (it essentially converts it into a caption file for you).

Get ready to type. Writing a transcript takes some time, but is very easy.  Just open a plain text file like Notepad and give it a memorable title.  You will be listening to the video and pausing it frequently to copy the words you hear, so have it ready to play.

Start by typing the speaker’s name like this >>Wade:

Play a little bit of the video and pause it when you’ve heard enough to type ten or so words (this depends on how well your short term memory serves you).  Type the words out and move to the next line when you think a caption break is appropriate.

You don’t need to type EVERYTHING.  Leave out unnecessary items such as “um,” stuttering, or anything else that might be completely irrelevant to what is happening in the video.

Example of a transcript file
Example of a transcript file

Add Transcript to Video. Once you have recorded everything into your transcript and saved it to your computer, go to your uploaded video in YouTube.  Click on the Captions button.  Then you will click the Add New Captions or Transcript.  Choose your file, make sure you pick Transcript, and upload.

That’s it!  YouTube does the rest.  Check out your video’s captions by clicking the “CC” in the bottom right corner.  Here’s an example of a video with captions.

Have questions or want to share some tips?  We’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or email me at

  • This is in response to a comment from Sara C. on This is a good example of using keywords in the title. I did a search for this and there were great results. Think of ways that people may be looking for this information and word your title and keywords in this fashion. Have you considered using All-in-one SEO for your blog installation? This can help with some of your efforts in maintaining a sound SEO structure for your blog.

  • Sara C

    Thanks, Brandon! I just installed Google Analytics on this site, however I’m new to it and not sure how to use it effectively. I appreciate you looking at this and helping us out!

  • Thanks a lot for your tutorial. This should be really helpful. but like anything it can take more effort to start. I’m hopeful that this will improve with time.

  • What a great resource!