Video content has become a fundamental tool in education. The value it adds to the learning experience, from the classroom to distance learning, is immeasurable. As educators embrace new technology and the use of video they may face a few speed bumps. By law, video content needs to be accessible to those with disabilities, like the deaf and hard of hearing. This requirement places a burden of cost and time on educators, but it does not have to be as daunting as it sounds.

Learn more about the captioning service Verbit.

Captioning Your Own Video for Free

You can caption your own videos using one of several free online tools, including:

The process for creating captions using each tool is approximately the same:

  1. Upload the video to the web (most services can caption any video as long as it has a public URL, including videos on YouTube). To keep the video private during the captioning process, don’t publish it’s URL (YouTube offers this as one of its privacy options).
  2. Provide the video’s URL to the captioning service. Some services also support uploading a video directly to their site.
  3. Use the service’s captioning tool to watch the video and transcribe it. Caption text is displayed in real time on the video as you type.
  4. Review and edit the captions to be sure they’re accurate and easy to follow. The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides a Captioning Key with guidelines for effective captioning.
  5. Download the captions as a caption file in the appropriate format for your needs.

The end product generated by this process is a caption file. Most caption files are plain text files with time codes indicating start and stop times for each caption. However, there are various types of caption files with slight variations in their syntax. The type of file you need depends on how your video is ultimately being provided. See the following section for links to pages that include this information.

How to Add Caption Files to Video

After you have a caption file, the final step is to add this file to your video. How you do this depends on where your video is hosted. 

Adding Captions to Screencast-O-Matic

Both Screencast-O-Matic Free and Deluxe Users have the ability to add captions files to the video during the publishing process.  A standard captions file (format as .sbv or .srt) can be created and added when publishing to Screencast-O-Matic or to a video file.

Speech-to-text automatically generates captions for your video. The tool picks up the audio from your video and creates captions. 

If you select this option, use the dropdown menu to select the correct language for your captions. This option is available with the Deluxe Plan.

Blank captions let you start from scratch, manually creating your own captions in the video editor.

On Screencast-O-Matic, press “start” to continue creating your own personalized captions.  A list of audio sections from your video will appear. Click the play button on the first section to hear the audio from that part of the video. Then type the corresponding caption in the textbox. The audio will pause when you start typing, so just hit enter to resume.

Tips for Captioning

You can go into your captions and make quick edits to it so that the audio lines up with the text.  To do this, go into the captioning tool and hover over the point on the video timeline where you’d like to put your caption and click “+ sync point.” This highlights the section of text you want to edit. Then place your cursor right before the text you’d like to show at that time, and hit enter. This will sync your caption with the audio.

If any silent parts of your video weren’t detected by the video editor, you may need to add a section to sync it. 

How to Videos by Screencast-O-Matic

Adding Captions to YouTube Videos

There are three ways to add captions to YouTube videos. For all three, you must be the owner of the video.

  1. Use the YouTube Caption Editor.  YouTube automatically generates captions for most videos when they’re uploaded using speech recognition technology. These machine-generated captions are rarely if ever fully accurate. However, if their accuracy is decent and captions can be perfected with only a few minor corrections, the easiest way to correct them is to do so directly in YouTube.  For instructions see the Edit Captions help page on YouTube.
  2. Outsource. Companies such as Automatic Sync Technologies, 3PlayMedia, cielo24, and many other captioning service providers will caption videos for a fee.  Contact these companies directly for additional information.
  3. Do it yourself.  There are free tools available online that make it possible and easy to caption your own video. See Captioning your own video for free for additional information.

The end product generated by the second and third options is a caption file. Most caption files are plain text files with time codes indicating the start and stop times. Popular caption file formats include SRT, WebVTT, and TTML, all of which are supported by YouTube.

To add captions to videos on YouTube, you must be the owner of the YouTube account where the video is hosted. The specific steps for uploading your caption file change frequently as the YouTube interface is upgraded. However, the general sequence is fairly consistent.

Step 1. Login to YouTube, then go to Video Manager.

Currently Video Manager is located within the Upload menu, accessed by clicking Upload.

Note: Depending on your YouTube configuration your videos might not be displayed under Video Manager and instead listed under Creator Studio. 

Screen snip from YouTube: Click on Upload, select Video Manager from the menu

Step 2. Find the video you want to add captions to, select Captions.

Video Manager features a list of all your current videos. Currently each video includes an Edit button. Click on the Edit button to reveal the Captions option.

Screen snip from YouTube, showing the Edit menu for a video. The Subtitles and CC option is highlighted within the menu.

Step 3. Upload your caption file.

The Captions area within Video Manager includes a variety of features for managing your video’s captions and subtitles. One of the options is Upload a File. Select that option, then follow the prompts to upload your caption or subtitle file and identify the language. After you upload your file the new captions or subtitles will be live on YouTube within seconds.

Screen snip from YouTube showing the Add a New Track dialog

YouTube also includes its own caption editor as well as a variety of other features related to captions and subtitles. For additional information see YouTube’s Help page on Captions.


Want to add videos that are longer than 15 minutes? Get verified. Learn more.

Adding Captions to Videos on Web Pages

HTML5 introduced two new elements, <audio> and <video>, which make it easy to add media files to web pages, and in some browsers (especially Internet Explorer) the default media player is highly accessible for keyboard users and screen reader users.

When adding video to a web page, it is important to add captions. In HTML5 this is done with the <track> element. In the following example, a video file named myvideo is provided in both MP4 and WebM formats to ensure cross-browser compatibility. English captions are provided in Web Video Text Tracks (WebVTT) format using the <track> element.

<video preload="auto" width="480" height="360" poster="myvideo.jpg">
  <source type="video/mp4" src="myvideo.mp4"/>
  <source type="video/webm" src="myvideo.webm"/>
  <track kind="captions" src="myvideo.vtt"/>

HTML5 also includes a powerful API that enables developers to create their own media players. One such player called Able Player includes a wide variety of features and was specifically designed with accessibility in mind. It was originally developed at The University of Washington and is now maintained as an open source project on GitHub. Able Player is the player used on the DO-IT Video site.