Videos are a valued method of engagement with online audiences. As the number of videos online grow we need to pay particular attention to HOW audiences are viewing videos. Then, we need to adjust our content to match how the videos are being viewed.

For popular social media sites, you will need to generate an .srt file from services like rev.com. There are also free options by using YouTube and open source software. Given that it is so cheap and easy to generate .srt files there’s no excuse not to be including closed captions in your videos!

As content creators, we must change our videos to fit with the way that people consume video content. These days that tends to be on the go, on a mobile phone and, often, without sound.

Here, we’ll look at a way that will engage your audience in the way they want to consume their video content. We want content that will not lose its message on every device!

What are closed captions?

There can sometimes be a fair bit of confusion about what closed captions are and how they differ from open captions and transcriptions.

All of the methods produce a similar outcome – a video with readable text – but all do it in a slightly different way.

Closed captions are (from Wikipedia):

Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a televisionvideo screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information.

Wikipedia

The term “closed” in closed captions means that they are not viewable by the viewer unless they have been activated. Unlike, the opposite, open captions that are always visible on the video.

On most social media platforms the video will have a small button in the corner with a [cc] in it. Push this button and your titles will become visible on the screen.

The way the closed captions are displayed vary from platform to platform. Broadly, are displayed as white text with a semi-transparent black box behind them, like this:

The captions will also include environmental sounds like “sizzling of eggs” or “traffic sounds”. As well as any music descriptions like “uplifting music” or “hip hop music”.

In fact, I love watching what comes back from services like rev.com in terms of the music descriptions – they can be quite entertaining!

Why add closed captions?

I like giving the viewer the option of turning on the captions. Which is something that isn’t possible with open captions that are permanently on the screen.

There are plenty of reasons why you should add closed captions that go far beyond accessibility reasons.

Some may even surprise you!

  • Accessibility: When you make your content accessible, you allow people who might be deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the videos you produce. This is such an important reason to be using closed captions in itself!
  • SEO Reasons: At the moment search engines can’t crawl video to work out what the video is about, but they can crawl text. If you want your videos to rank on Google, Bing or anything else, back your video up with captions.
  • User Experience: Give your audience the ability to enjoy your content, regardless of the environment they are in. I’ve had viewers come and actually thank me for including captions in my videos!
  • Helping English as a Second Language (ESL) Learners: If you want to reach a larger audience, you should use captions and subtitles to make it easier for non-native English speakers to watch your video.
  • Improve Watch Time: Captions grab and hold your audience’s attention, people are more likely to watch your video all the way to the end if they have the option to turn captions on.

Five real reasons to be excited about including captions in to your video content.

Types of closed caption formats

You will have to choose a closed caption file format that matches the platform you are planning to publish your video on.

Here’s a quick rundown on the caption files that are recommended for each social media platform. Don’t get too caught up on the names of each. When you download or export the captions from your preferred method of generating them, just make sure you select the right file format!

  • YouTube:
    • Scenarist  (.scc) – recommended
    • SubRip (.srt)
    • WebVTT (.vtt)
    • DFXP/TTML (.dxfp)
    • SAMI (.sami)
  • Vimeo:
    • WebVTT (.vtt) – recommended
    • SubRip (.srt)
    • DXFP/TTML (.dxfp)
    • Scenarist (.scc)
    • SAMI (.SAMI)
  • LinkedIn:
    • SubRip Subtitle (.srt) – only option
  • Facebook:
    • SubRip Subtitle (.srt)
  • Twitter
    • SubRip Subtitle (.srt)
  • Instagram
    • NOT able to upload closed captions – use open captions in the video itself.

The free way to create captions

There’s one free way that I suggest you try to generate free closed captions for your videos. It requires a fair bit of time commitment and, in my experience, quickly become frustrating – I quickly started using a paid service when I decided to include closed captions for all of my videos.

YouTube – auto captions

When you upload a video to YouTube they will automatically attempt to create closed captions for your video.

A word of warning: the quality of the automatically generated captions are affected by the quality of the audio (make sure you have no wind noise etc). It can also struggle with some accents.

You can find the generate closed captions by uploading a video, heading to YouTube Studio and clicking “Transcriptions” in the left-hand menu.

When you click on “Published” (shown as 2. above) you’ll be taken to the caption editor.

Here, you can edit and download your content. It seems to be relatively user-friendly and includes a drag and drop editor – so you don’t have to worry about typing out time codes!

For a three minute video, it can take me up to 20 minutes to get the timing and text right.

Is that time well spent?

Given that amount of time as well as the time it takes to upload YouTube, for YouTube to generate the closed captions (which can take 30 minutes), This probably isn’t the most time efficient way to spend your time…but maybe you enjoy this type of stuff!

If you do, go for it!

The ALMOST free way to create closed captions

Getting transcriptions, closed captions and translations for your videos has never been as easy or cost-efficient as it is today.

I quickly started paying for services like rev.com as it was not only cost-effective but also allowed me to carry on with other, more lucrative, tasks.

I have only ever used rev.com for my videos. It was recommended to me by another content creator and I have had no reason to stop using it.

Other options and services are appearing on the market and I will be trialing a number of them for you in the near future. Maybe there’s a better option in terms of cost and accuracy of the transcript.

rev.com – what I use everyday

(This is not a paid or affiliate post – this is genuinely what I think about this service and am not receiving any money or kickbacks)

My experience with rev.com has been uneventful…which is a really positive thing when you are creating as much content as humanly possible!

Their service fit’s into my workflow perfectly. As soon as I have finished editing my video and have exported it in my preferred format, I simply upload a version of the video to their servers.

By “a version” I mean that I often export a low-quality version of the video so that I can upload it quickly. This is a little bit of a throwback to my days without super fast internet (NBN) but I have continued to do it and it saves me time by reducing the time it takes for the video to upload.

I normally edit at night. So, when I am done I simply close my computer and go to sleep. The captions are waiting for me when I wake up. Simple, right?

Well, it’s not quite over yet.

You have to review the captions in the editor and I ALWAYS have to make little adjustments. Normally it is only mistyped words or names that are spelt wrong.

On a rare occasion, it is the timing that I have to change. The editor looks like this:

This process of editing only takes me about 4 minutes and I don’t mind doing it as it gives me a final chance to check my video for any last minute edits I may want to do. Only edits that don’t change the timing of the script, though.

TOP TIP: review the video with the sound OFF. I have missed a couple of mistakes because I was more focused on the audio than the actual captions.

Once you are happy the edits, simply click the download button and add the captions to your video – simple!

Start using closed captions and let me know what your results are!

So that’s how I add closed captions to videos. Going the extra little bit has really opened up new audiences fro me and making your content viewable on any device at any time is invaluable as you are growing your audience!

If you’d like help or have any questions get in contact – I’d love to hear from you!