What’s the deal with Video Captioning?

by | Jan 18, 2017 | Video Tip

Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about video captioning at Nel Shelby Productions. It’s clear that captioning is gaining importance in marketing efforts in addition to ensuring accessibility to viewers who need them.

Captioning boosts your SEO, improves viewer comprehension, and paves the way for foreign language subtitles. Most importantly, captions make your video content accessible to deaf or hearing-impaired viewers. Secondarily, captions make your videos more likely to be viewed on a Facebook newsfeed. Maybe your viewer is watching at work with the volume turned down to avoid distracting their co-workers, or maybe they’re watching on their phone while they’re in a noisy environment so it’s easier to read than hear every word…you get the point.

It can be tricky getting started with video captioning! So we wanted to share a quick breakdown of your options for YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.

Captioning for Youtube

Upload your own transcription through YouTube for free

This is the method we used for a recent Dance/NYC campaign video.

In order to do this, you must upload either a caption file or a transcript file. Caption files contain both text and time codes, while transcript files only contain text and are saved as a plain text file (.txt). If the video is in English, YouTube can automatically synchronize your transcript with the video to create a caption file.

NCDAE offers this really great resource for adding captions through YouTube’s video manager!

Can’t see the captions? Check to see if they are turned on by pressing the “cc” button in the lower right corner!

Automatic Captioning

With Automatic Captioning, machine algorithms generate captions for you without you needing to type out your transcript. The quality may vary with this method, but you can edit the captions it collects to make it clearer!

Subtitles in other languages

Youtube can also guide you to a selection of vendors who can translate your videos. The video must have captions already entered in the video’s original language in order for this to work!

Community Contributed Subtitles

If time is tight, there is a way to crowdsource subtitles and translations. You can turn on community contributions for your videos, and then users will submit closed captions or subtitles. Once content is submitted, you can manage it by reviewing, editing, publishing, flagging, or rejecting it.

This seems to us that it would be just as effective as editing the automatically generated captions, so why rely on a stranger to submit when you can use the auto version?

Captioning for Vimeo

Vimeo has a partnership with Amara for captioning/subtitles for videos. Amara is a non-profit subtitling service whose mission is to make as much content as accessible as possible. Amara provides two services:

  1. Software that allows users to add and edit captions/subtitles
  2. Captioning and subtitling services provided by a community of transcribers and translators.

In Advanced Settings, you can upload existing captioning or use their editor to create a new file for free. You also have the option to purchase captions, subtitles, and translations from Amara, based on the length of your video (rounded up to nearest minute).

Captioning for Facebook

On Facebook, most people are browsing a home newsfeed and prefer to choose whether or not sound plays as they’re scrolling through.
Facebook found that 80% of people react negatively, both toward the platform and the content creator, when sound plays unexpectedly. Therefore sound is off as a default for the platform.
People tend to be more engaged when there are captions – captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12%.
Enter Facebook’s automated captioning tool! Once you’ve uploaded your video in Ads Manager, you can choose to automatically generate your captions. Facebook gives you the option to review them manually, or you can let Facebook review your captions for accuracy if you’re short on time. If you prefer to upload your own transcript, you can do so by uploading an SRT file.
If you’d like some more detail, Facebook has a great guide for using the Automated Captioning Tool.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Don’t worry! It can take a little while to get the hang of it all. However, if you’re pressed for time, companies like VITAC can take care of your captioning at a very low cost.

And of course, if you ever have questions, we’re here to help!

Nel Shelby is Owner & Filmmaker for Nel Shelby Productions, her New York City-based company dedicated to dance videography and editing. Nel shares her mission to preserve and promote the art of dance with her husband, Christopher Duggan, a dance and wedding photographer. They collaborate on projects with dance companies of worldwide renown, up-and-coming choreographers, dance educators, dance schools and more. Nel is Video Producer at Jacob’s Pillow and Vail Dance Festival and is also the proud Director and Producer of PS DANCE! — a New York Emmy-nominated documentary about dance education in NYC’s public schools.