In Depth: Create Subtitles and Captions for Your Videos
In this Article
- Why Add Subtitles or Captions to your Videos?
- When is captioning required?
- The Difference between Closed Captions and Subtitles
- Captioning Standards
- How to Add Subtitles to your Videos
- Transcribing your content
- Creating subtitles in your NLE
(FCPX, Premiere Pro, Resolve, HitFilm, Wirecast, Edius Pro)
- Subtitle Plugins
- Social Media Platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook & Instagram)
I used to work in corporate video and we’d often have to subtitle a video for foreign markets. It’s a time-consuming process. I remember the most difficult languages for me to work with were Chinese and Arabic. It wasn’t always clear on how to line up the characters with the dialog on-screen. That was 20 years ago and the world has gotten a lot smaller since then.
Laws now require that all video broadcast on television in the United States is closed captioned. If you’re making videos for the web, you don’t have the same requirements but there are many other benefits to subtitling your videos. We’ll go into the reasons why you should add subtitles or captions to your videos, as well as information on how to add them.
Why Add Subtitles or Captions to your Videos?
There are multiple reasons that subtitles can help your video gain reach and appeal to a wider audience. Not only that, but the Americans with Disabilities Act may require that your videos contain captions. More on that below.
Aside from requirements, what other benefits does captioning have? Many!
As an aside, if you want to see something visual, Dann Albright created a fantastic infographic called 7 Reasons Your Videos Need Subtitles [Infographic] that dives deeper into some of these reasons to use subtitles.
Reaching Hearing Impaired Viewers
15% of American adults, aged 18 and over, have trouble hearing. Besides, one in eight people in the United States (13% or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations.
Reach people who watch with no sound
A staggering 85% of Facebook videos are viewed without sound! Viewers are often watching in a quiet environment, where they don’t want to disturb others, for example, in bed or in the office. Others are in a noisy environment where they can’t hear the sound.
Improve the Grasp of Content
It is helpful for people with certain learning disabilities to read captions. Non-native English speakers often watch videos with sound and English subtitles because it helps them to absorb the content better, especially if the actors have thick accents.
Attract foreign-language speakers
Not everyone speaks English. English currently has 1.132 million speakers. Mandarin Chinese has 1.117 million speakers. For many, it’s easier to read than it is to listen. Also, many people use subtitles for language learning.
Increase viewer engagement
Facebook for Business shared that “Internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12%, so we’re soon releasing a new tool that makes adding captions to video ads easier than ever.”
Improve SEO on search results
YouTube will suggest sections of your video based on Google searches when subtitles are used. This can help with bringing viewers. Based on your captions, Google can list video content, complete with timestamps, in Google searches.
When is captioning required?
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act requires anything that has ever been broadcast on television MUST be closed captioned.
There are other U.S. laws about video accessibility, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the FCC.
The Difference between Closed Captions and Subtitles
Captions and subtitles are both on-screen text but serve somewhat different purposes and work differently.
Subtitles. Usually, subtitles a translation of a foreign language that you can turn on on your TV or computer.
Captions. Made for people with hearing impairments. They often include descriptions of dialog, sound effects, and music.
- Closed Captions. These can be turned off on your TV or device usually by clicking the button.
- Open Captions. These are automatically turned on. In other words, they can’t be turned off. It’s part of the video file and does not need any sort of decoder. A lot of videos on social media are open captioned.
Open Captions vs Closed Captions: What’s the Difference? [CC]
Ahmed Khalifa gives a thorough explanation of the differences between the types of captioning.
The FCC has a list of Captioning Standards for Video Programming on Television. You will want to be familiar with these if you’re producing content for television. This is for the United States, so if you’re in another country, please do an internet search for your country’s standards.
SMPTE-TT For Movies and Television
SMPTE-TT (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Timed Text) is the standard for XML captions and subtitles. In fact, SMPTE-TT is the standard Premiere Pro uses.
SRT Files for Streaming Video
The SubRip Subtitle file (.SRT extension) is simply a text file that contains information about your text, the timecode where the subtitle needs to be, and the duration of the subtitle. Important to realize, SRT files do not contain any audio or video.
It looks something like this.
1 00:01:22,110 --> 00:01:29,231 So you won't tell anyone? 2 00:01:30,476 --> 00:01:36,201 What, that you're a Dodgers fan?
With this in mind, you can create them yourself in most text editors. Use SRT files to add captions and subtitles in your videos on YouTube, and they can be used with software to bring subtitles into your video.
Wikipedia has a clear description of the file format and how to format your text using some basic HTML, but the video below also has some solid information.
There are several other formats for captions, including
- EBU-TT-D Subtitling (Captions) Distribution Format (an XML format)
- EBU-STL (an XML format),
- Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (SAMI) from Microsoft.
This is a topic that goes pretty deep. In short, I would recommend looking at the Subtitles page on Wikipedia for more information on the topic.
How to Add Subtitles or Captions to your Videos
In essence, there are two steps to adding captions or subtitles to your videos.
- Transcribe your content
- Add the content to your video
In this section, we’ll go over some options for you on both points.
Transcribing your content
First, create a transcription of your content. If you’re working from scripted materials, this could already be done for you. In other words, you can copy and paste from your script. If you don’t have the transcription, you have some options:
1. Transcribe it yourself
If you have more time than money, you transcribe the content yourself. Just be sure to spell check!
Hot Tip! Use Google docs to transcribe it for you.
Here are some great tips on transcribing your video from Ofer Tomash at Tomedes.
2. Use software to help you transcribe.
One very popular option is Digital Anarchy Transcriptive.
Easy, Accurate Automatic Transcribing
Transcriptive uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to transcribe footage. This makes all that footage searchable and makes it easy to create captions or paper edits. It’ll help automate and accelerate your video workflow!
It’s an inexpensive, fast, and flexible way of turning all your audio into transcripts.
Transcriptive uses Artificial Intelligence to transcribe footage. It’s inexpensive and fast.
3. Hire someone to do it for you.
However, you’ll have to do an internet search for this one.
Subtitles and Captions Tutorials for your NLE
Below, a few tutorials and resources for Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and more, plus some plugins to help you get the job done quickly and easily. After all, time is money. So, am I right?
Create Subtitles and Captions in Adobe Premiere Pro
That Icelandic guy explains how to add subtitles and captions in Premiere Pro.
Digital Anarchy has a free After Effects SRT Importer script, originally designed for use with Transcriptive, it lets you use any SRT to easily import and customize subtitles or captions in After Effects and then import into Premiere Pro.
Create Subtitles and Captions in Final Cut Pro X
Serge M. explains how to add Subtitles in FCPX.
Create Subtitles in Avid Media Composer
Workflow For Creating Foreign Subtitles in Avid
Create Subtitles in DaVinci Resolve
Below, Jay Lippman explains how to add subtitles in DaVinci Resolve.
Create Subtitles in FxHome HitFilm
Film Empire teaches you how to create Subtitles in HitFilm.
Wirecast: What You Need to Know About Captions
Andrew Haley talks to Giovanni Galvez, the Telestream Product Manager of captioning products. On the whole, this is a very thorough resource for captions.
Wirecast: Learning Session – Captioning Tips for Wirecast Users
How to Make Quick Subtitles in Edius Pro
To summarize, learn to use the Quick Titler tool in Edius Pro for quick subtitles.
Plug-ins to Create Subtitles in your NLE
SUGARfx Subtitles is a powerful plugin for adding subtitles to your movies.
Add permanent burnt-in subtitles to your finished movie in Final Cut Pro X, Final Cut Pro 7, Adobe Premiere, Motion, or Adobe After Effects. Subtitles is capable of handling many languages and fonts, as well as import several subtitle formats, making it one of the most versatile subtitles tools available today.
Host support: Final Cut Pro X, Final Cut Pro 7, Adobe Premiere, Motion, or Adobe After Effects
FxFactory Caption Burner
Burn captions and subtitles into video.
Caption Burner is a plugin for Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Motion. In short, Caption Burner lets you burn captions and subtitles into your video. Below, the video for Premiere Pro. Likewise, if you want to see tutorials for the other hosts, check out the product page.
Create professional high-quality subtitles directly in After Effects and Premiere Pro
Subtitle Pro is a professional plugin that lets you create subtitles for your videos directly in After Effects and Premiere Pro. This subtitle plugin for Premiere Pro and After Effects can make automated subtitles for you. you can import the SRT file or write your text. translating words by one click. sync times by one click. not just a simple text for subtitles, make animation for that.
Import Encore, SubRip SRT, or WebVTT subtitles
pt_ImportSubtitles is useful if you need to embed subtitles onto video for web or tape delivery. To explain, you can import subtitles into After Effects using either the Encore Text Script, SubRip SRT, or WebVTT file formats. Then, render with an alpha and import into your editing software, or use Dynamic Link to import directly into Premiere Pro.
Fast and Professional Titling Effect
Designed for EDIUS, Adobe, and AVID NLE to highlight the titling effect with numerous templates and powerful function control.
VisTitle can create 2D titles, 3D titles, and 3D stereo titles in SD, HD, and 2K or 4K resolution. It can apply high-quality real-time rendering* of broadcast-level to texts and objects rapidly with high performance.
Create Subtitles and Captions on Social Media Platforms
Some social media platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, can generate captions using AI but the results are mixed.
Of course, machine learning can help transparently make content more accessible. YouTube automatically generates closed captioning for uploaded videos and even for livestream videos. For many videos the results are excellent, raising the question of why Facebook and Twitter don’t follow suit. Indeed, automated captioning of clear English speech is not that far off from the professional captioning provided by American television stations. Though, just a few dozen of the world’s thousands of spoken languages are supported today by any automated captioning solution. 
Ultimately, I expect that captions generated with AI will improve a lot over the next few years.
How To Create SRT Files – How to Upload SRT Files to Social Media
If you’re uploading to YouTube, Justin Brown of PrimalVideo.com explains how to add fast, accurate subtitles. Generally speaking, you can do it without any manual transcription. He covers why you want to add subtitles to YouTube.
Subtitles for YouTube Chrome Extension
Another option for YouTube is the Chrome Extension. Get it here.
Of course, you can create and add subtitles and captions in Vimeo,
Facebook & Instagram
With Facebook, you can add captions to your videos with .SRT file. To clarify, see the section above on SRT.
- Quick Statistics About Hearing, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
- Ranked: The 100 Most Spoken Languages Around the World, by Iman Ghosh, Visual Capitalists, 15 February 2020.
- Capture Attention with Updated Features for Video Ads, by Facebook for Business, Facebook, 10 February 2016.
- U.S. Laws for Video Accessibility: ADA, Section 508, CVAA, and FCC Mandates, by Sofia Enamorado, 3PlayMedia, 12 December 2018.
- Our Biased Web: Why Don’t We Care About Making The Web Accessible For All?, by Kalev Leetaru, Forbes Magazine, 22 January 2019.
- 85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound, Sahil Patel, Digiday, 17 May 2016
Posted by Michele Yamazaki