Multimedia Resources

Video Captioning

In compliance with AODA legislation, all public facing, pre-recorded video and audio only content must include captions and a transcript. It is important that the captions be synchronized and appear at approximately the same time as the audio is available; verbatim when time allows, or as close as possible; equivalent and equal in content; and accessible and readily available to those who need or want them.

The most important thing about captions and subtitles is that, when they appear on the screen, they are in an easy-to-read format. Currently available methods of captioning Web content vary in their capabilities, but good captions adhere to the following guidelines when possible:

  • Captions appear on-screen long enough to be read.
  • It is preferable to limit on-screen captions to no more than two lines.
  • Captions are synchronized with spoken words.
  • Speakers should be identified when more than one person is on-screen or when the speaker is not visible.
  • Punctuation is used to clarify meaning.
  • Spelling is correct throughout the production.
  • Sound effects are written when they add to understanding.
  • All actual words are captioned, regardless of language or dialect.
  • Use of slang and accent is preserved and identified.

  • Does the vendor use professional transcribers, crowd-sourcing, or speech recognition in the process? What steps are taken to ensure high quality captions? 
  • How easily will it integrate with the IT infrastructure on your campus, e.g., lecture capture platform, learning management system, university website, network, etc.? 
  • How long does it take to provide captions? 
  • How easy is it to get up and running? 
  • Is the captioning service provider reliable and easy to work with? 
  • What is the cost per hour? What is the minimum cost for videos running less than an hour? 
  • Are there extra charges for faster turnaround and difficult audio? 
  • Are there any setup charges or extra fees for special content? 
  • What media formats and captions are provided? 

​Authored by By: Patrick Loftus

When referring to words that appear on the screen of a video, many people tend to use the terms “Captions” and “Subtitles” interchangeably. Contrary to popular belief, they are not synonymous. They are, in fact, very different from each other in definition and purpose.

Open captions are a part of the video and cannot be turned off. Closed captions allow the viewer to turn the captions on and off.

Captions are designed for viewers who cannot hear the audio in the video. Captions, both open and closed, are different from subtitles in that they are designed to ensure the viewer can understand all of the essential audio in the video not just the spoken audio. 

Non-speech sounds that are necessary to the understanding of the video are a critical element of proper captioning and are normally shown in brackets.

Subtitles are designed to accommodate foreign audiences who did not understand the language used in the film, this required text on screen that translated the spoken audio. The main purpose of subtitling is to translate spoken audio into the viewer’s language. In most cases, subtitles are not an appropriate accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing viewers because they do not include non-speech sounds that provide an equivalent viewing experience for people who cannot hear.

​Described Video and Audio Description are practically synonymous, as both consist of a separate narrated track that accompanies the program in order to provide descriptions of relevant visual elements. The distinction, however, is that the term Described Video is commonly used in Canada, whereas Audio Description is commonly used in the United States and United Kingdom.

This subtle difference is important because in Canada, Audio Description has a separate definition from Described Video.

Audio Description (AD) relies on a program host or announcer to provide a voice-over by reading aloud or describing key elements of programming, such as text and graphics that appear on the screen. It is often used for information based programming, including newscasts, weather reports, sports scores, and financial data. Most broadcasters are required to provide audio description.

Described video (DV) or video description, is a narrated description of a program's main visual elements, such as settings, costumes, and body language. The description is added during pauses in dialogue, and enables people to form a mental picture of what is happening in the program. Described video typically uses a separate audio track.

Video or Audio Transcripts

At a minimum, a transcript is a text version of a program's audio track. For maximum accessibility, however, a full transcript– one that includes a text representation of the audio as well as descriptions of important on-screen action or cues– should be made available to users. Some videos don't have speech in them but they still have transcripts. Transcripts can be static documents, or they can be interactive: e.g., words can be highlighted automatically as they are spoken, or words and phrases can be selected by the user in order to move to that spot in the video. Learn more about best practices for creating transcripts.

Transcripts have a wide variety of uses:

  • Users can quickly scan a transcript to learn about a video- or audio-file's subject matter prior to watching or listening to the media.
  • Transcripts can be easily searched.
  • Transcripts can be printed or can be read offline on any desktop or mobile device. Transcripts can also be converted to braille.
  • Transcripts can be used as a basis for foreign-language translations.

Be sure to include:

  • important audio cues/sound effects
  • words on screen
  • descriptions of actions
  • visual characteristics that give context


When authoring transcripts for accessibility purposes, be sure to include text for all audio that is spoken including meaningful sounds. Ask yourself, does leaving out this sound change the story, lesson, or experience?

For example, should you indicate in captions/transcript that someone has coughed?

  •     Someone is giving the commencement address and pauses to cough — not necessary to include.
  •     Character in a play is coughing, because it foreshadows her later death — important to the story, include.


  1.     Include visual descriptions for people who are unable to see the screen but may have assistive technology read the transcript to them.
  2.     Include images and text appearing on screen, as appropriate.
  3.     Details: You do not need to go overboard with details such as what a person is wearing (unless it is part of a plot point) or that a person is pointing with his left hand as opposed to his right. You want to get any meaningful visual changes across. If it impacts the story or improves the clarity of a lecture, include it. If the dialogue covers the text on screen, you do not need to repeat it.
  4.     In the file, descriptions of the visuals for a scene should be included after the text of what is spoken.

Note: Audio-only files like podcasts will not include visual descriptions but will include sounds relevant to the story.

Most caption-editing tools provide an option to export a plain-text transcript (that is, one that is stripped of all timing, positioning and other markup). Transcripts can also be created by simply listening to a program's audio track and typing text into any word processor or text editor. HTML is the most accessible format for transcript presentation. As with any Web page, an accessible transcript should be marked up with headings, links, landmark roles, lists and other structure in order to make navigation as efficient as possible.

Basic workflow for creating transcripts:

  1. Write a brief summary of the subject matter.
  2. Listen to the audio and transcribe all dialog and narration.
  3. Identify each time the speaker changes.
  4. Include relevant non-speech information (e.g., sound effects, audience laughter).
  5. Include descriptions of important on-screen action or events. If the media contains an audio-description track, transcribe and integrate the descriptions into the full transcript.
  6. Transcribe any on-screen text (e.g., telephone numbers, URLs, credits, etc.).

Transcripts can be presented to users in several ways. To experience the different ways you could offer your transcript, visit the links below to compare.

Online Video Captioning and Transcript Tools

  • YouTube “Help”: Learn how to use the Closed Captioning feature to add a file or create new subtitles/captions from scratch.
  • A tool that allows you to import or record audio to generate an editable transcript.
  • Amara: Enter/edit captions or upload caption files (e.g., .srt) to sync with a video. 
  • dotSUB: Learn how to create caption files for streaming videos in multiple languages.
  • Subtitle Horse: Transcribe Flash videos online and export/convert caption files in different formats.
  • Creating Accessible iTunes U Content: The National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH has written guidelines for content providers who would like to create accessible iTunes U media via captions, subtitles and audio descriptions. These guidelines provide step-by-step documentation on creating fully accessible media.
  • SubPLY
  • Vimeo

  • Rev: Caption files include text and timing, for any platform. Popular platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, DailyMotion, Adobe, Kaltura.
  • 3PlayMedia: Competitively priced closed captions and transcripts that are word-to-word time-synchronized and more than 99% accurate. Offers integrations with over 20 leading video platforms, players, and lecture capture systems. 
  • Camtasia Studio (Mac/Win): Import movies/videos and create/import captions, and export to a variety of formats. Windows version includes speech-to-text feature.
  • CC Movie Captioner (formerly MovCaptioner; Mac/Win): Import movies/videos of various formats; create or import captions and export to a variety of formats (e.g., YouTube, iOS, QuickTime).
  • STAMP (Subtitling Text Add-in for Microsoft Power Point): Add closed captions to video and audio files you embed in your presentations or import caption files directly.
  • Adobe Captivate: This software converts slide notes into speech or closed-captioned text.
  • Adobe: Learn to create professional Flash videos.

  • YouTube “Help”: Learn how to use the Closed Captioning feature to add a file or create new subtitles/captions from scratch.
  • CCAC: Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning. It’s a welcoming place to learn more about captioning (subtitling, speech-to-text) and find support with others to advocate for inclusion using their free global online resource.
  • DIY Workflows for Captioning & Transcription: 3Play Media has compiled several DIY tools and resources you need to transcribe your videos and create closed captions in-house. 
  • CC for Flash: Software for adding captions to Flash videos. Flash Captioning Tutorial by CSU Long Beach, Contact: Walter Gajewski,
  • Windows Media Center: This shows how to make closed captions/subtitles visible in content played back in Windows Media Player.

YouTube Captions How-To

  1. Log in to YouTube.
  2. On the top right, click your Account icon > YouTube Studio.
  3. Select ‘Videos’ tab from the left side options.
  4. Select the video that you want to add captions to.
  5. Select the 'Subtitles' tab from the left side options
  6. Click 'ADD LANGUAGE' within the subtitles page
  7. Click ‘ADD’ under the Subtitles column.
  8. If automatic captions are available, you'll see Language (Automatic) in the "Published" section to the right of the video.
  9. Review the captions and edit/remove any parts that haven’t been properly transcribed.

Note: Please allow some time for the automatic captions to be generated. The time taken depends on the size of the video.

  1. Log in to YouTube.
  2. On the top right, click your Account icon > YouTube Studio.
  3. Select ‘Videos’ tab from the left side options.
  4. Click on the video that you wish to edit captions for.
  5. Select ‘Subtitles’ tab from the left side options.
  6. Hover over to the Subtitles column on the right and click on the 3 dots (the options) on the right of ‘Published’ or ‘Draft’.
  7. Select ‘Edit on Classic Studio’ This should take you to a page with the option to edit subtitles on the left and the selected video on the right.
  8. You can either manually make the edits here or upload a new captions file from ‘Actions’ drop-down menu.

  1. Log in to YouTube.
  2. On the top right, click your Account icon > YouTube Studio.
  3. Select ‘Videos’ tab from the left side options.
  4. Click on the video that you wish to download captions for.
  5. Select ‘Subtitles’ tab from the left side options.
  6. Hover over to the Subtitles column and click on the subtitles you want to download. It should say “Published” or “Draft” then take you to a new page
  7. Click on the dropdown menu Actions > Download .vtt.

Facebook Captions How-To

  1. Upload your video either by selecting "Photo/Video" above your newsfeed, or by selecting "Videos" in the sidebar, then "Add Video."
  2. Select "Subtitles and Captions (CC)" in the sidebar.
  3. Select the video language.
  4. Three options: Automatically Generate, Write, or Upload. Facebook can automatically write the captions for you (but then you should review and edit for accuracy), you can write your own, or you can upload captions in the form of an .srt (sub rip) file.

To automatically generate captions:

  • Select "auto-generate."
  • Review the captions frame-by-frame, editing the text in each text box.
  • Be sure to hit "Save draft" when finished and you will return to the main video screen.

To write your own captions:

  • Select "Write."
  • Transcribe the captions yourself frame-by-frame, editing the text by selecting each box.
  • Be sure to hit "Save draft" when finished and you will return to the main video screen.

To upload your own captions:

  • You'll need an .srt file (how to create a .srt file instructions).
  • Important naming convention: For Facebook, you’ll need to save the file in the form of “".

For all options, select "Save" on the main video screen to publish.

Automatic captioning isn't available for personal pages, but you can still add captions with an .srt file.

Upload your video by selecting "Photo/Video" above your newsfeed.

Share the video when it is ready and you've selected your desired settings.

Add captions by selecting "edit video" next to the comments box and uploading an .srt file.

Tip: If you also upload your video to YouTube and caption it there, you can generate an .srt file when you download it (YouTube Closed Captioning).

  1. Open a text editor, like NotePad, where you'll write your SRT code.
  2. Write your code. There are three parts to SRT code: the sequence number, the timings, and the caption text.
  3. Save your file as a "plain text" file with the correct naming convention for Facebook: "".

Sequence number indicates where the captions falls in the video, timings are broken down from hours to hundredths of a second, and caption text is the actual copy that will appear on-screen at that prescribed tie.