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In Depth: Create Subtitles and Captions for Your Videos (Updated!)

In Depth: Subtitles and Captions

New 9 May 2023: Added new tutorials for DaVinci Resolve 18

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 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.[1]

Reach people who watch with no sound

A staggering 85% of Facebook videos are viewed without sound![6] 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.[2] 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.”[3]

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.[4]

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.

Captioning Standards

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.

00:01:22,110 --> 00:01:29,231
So you won't tell anyone? 

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

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.

  1. Transcribe your content
  2. 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.

Transcriptive for In Depth: Create Subtitles and CaptionsDigital 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 exports file formats such as SRT, STL, VTT, or SMPTE-TT (XML). There’s also a Free After Effects SRT Importer for Transcriptive. More on that below.

Learn More Try Transcriptive for free!

Transcriptive uses Artificial Intelligence to transcribe footage. It’s inexpensive and fast.

A friend of mine turned me on to It’s a product that can generate notes from interviews, lectures, meetings, and more and it’s AI-powered. My friend is a documentary filmmaker and he uses to create subtitles for his films. Furthermore, it includes 600 minutes of transcription free per month!

Learn more

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?

How to Create an SRT File for Video Subtitles?

This is more general, not host-specific. The article explains how to create SRT files on Mac with TextEdit. In addition, learn how to create them on Windows using NotePad.
Read the article

Adobe Premiere Pro 2021 Speech to Text and Captioning Workflow

New Premiere Gal explains the new Speech to Text and Captions in Premiere Pro, released in the Premiere Pro 2021, v15.4 update. This feature automatically generates captions using Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s AI. In addition, Adobe has an FAQ for Speech to Text in Premiere Pro to answer all of your questions.

Kelsey, aka Premiere Gal, also put out a video when the beta was coming out, and that information is below.

In the video below, Premiere Gal explains the feature when it was still in beta. There may be some nugget that you’re interested in that wasn’t mentioned in her new video, so I am leaving it here.

How to add SUBTITLES and CAPTIONS in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2020

That Icelandic guy explains how to add subtitles and captions in Premiere Pro CC 2020 if you’re not keen on using the new version of Premiere Pro.

digital anarachy SRT importer freebieFree After Effects SRT Importer

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.

Learn more | Get the Script

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

PremiumBeat explains how to create subtitles in Media Composer. Follow along with step-by-step instructions on the PremiumBeat blog.

Create Subtitles in DaVinci Resolve

Below, Jay Lippman explains how to add subtitles in DaVinci Resolve.

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 v14.1 has a new SRT Output: Stream using Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) an open-source video transport protocol for delivering high-quality and secure, low-latency video across the public Internet. (Supports Caller Mode, in x264 or Apple H.264). See the SRT Support Guide

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 for In Depth: Create Subtitles and CaptionsSUGARfx Subtitles

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

Learn More Try SUGARfx Subtitles for free!

Caption Burner from FxFactoryFxFactory Caption Burner

Burn captions and subtitles into your 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.

LetsMotion Subtitle ProLetsMotion Subtitle Pro for After Effects & Premiere Pro

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.

Learn More Try Subtitle Pro for free!

pt_ImportSubtitles pt_ImportSubtitles

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.

Learn More Try pt_ImportSubtitles for free!


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. [5]

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 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 on Vimeo,

Facebook & Instagram

With Facebook, you can add captions to your videos with .SRT file. To clarify, see the section above on SRT.


  1. Quick Statistics About Hearing, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
  2. Ranked: The 100 Most Spoken Languages Around the World, by Iman Ghosh, Visual Capitalists, 15 February 2020.
  3. Capture Attention with Updated Features for Video Ads, by Facebook for Business, Facebook, 10 February 2016.
  4. U.S. Laws for Video Accessibility: ADA, Section 508, CVAA, and FCC Mandates, by Sofia Enamorado, 3PlayMedia, 12 December 2018.
  5. Our Biased Web: Why Don’t We Care About Making The Web Accessible For All?, by Kalev Leetaru, Forbes Magazine, 22 January 2019.
  6. 85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound, Sahil Patel, Digiday, 17 May 2016
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