When interacting with people about building access, there are a couple of things that I get a lot of pushback on. One of them is creating additional documents giving information in accessible language without removing information. The other, and subject of this post, is captions.
Often, the response when I ask for something to be captioned is that it’s difficult, complicated, or would require removing and re-uploading the video file itself. Alternatively, they say that buying a program to create captions, let alone having someone do it, is cost prohibitive. And maybe they would have a point on cost — if we weren’t talking about putting a file on YouTube. Additionally, half the time I am providing them with the caption file. So I explain that no, it’s very easy, and I type out the steps for them to add a provided caption file to their video. I do this often enough that it makes sense to just create a how to post here that I can link people to instead of typing it again and again.
YouTube makes it very simple to add captions to your videos if you have a file for it. Below are the steps involved in adding a caption file to a video you manage. Please note that automatic captions are usually almost as or just as bad as no captions. More on that later.
- You have to be logged in to the account that the video is on. This is important; if you aren’t, you won’t have access to the video manager or the information edit area of the video.
- Go to the YouTube home page. From here we are going to need to get to the video manager, and there are two easy ways to do this:
- Beside the “Upload” button immediately to the right of the search bar is a down arrow. If you click on it, there will be a little menu. From that menu, click “Video Manager.”
- The other way: In the upper right hand corner is your user icon. Beside it is a little down arrow. If you click on it, a section of the page expands showing some of your history and some account options. Under “YouTube” is a list of YouTube-related account options. One of these is the Video Manager. Click on that.
- Now you should be in the video manager. Your uploaded videos should be listed — a screen grab, some video information, and an edit button. Scroll down to the entry for the video the captions are for. Next to that entry’s Edit button is a little down arrow. If you click on it, it will have a number of options for areas of the video to edit or adjust. Click on “Captions.”
- You should be taken to the Captions list, or where that list would be. You might already have something called “Automatic captions” on that list. Automatic captions are generally as bad as no captions. Ignore that line. Above it is a big blue button that reads “+ Add Captions.” Click on it. From the menu that drops down, click “Upload a file.”
- You’ll have some options on the new side bar that comes up. These are basically the details for the file you will be uploading, and you need to set them. Under “Track Language,” select the language that the captions are in. (If I sent you the caption file, it’s probably English unless otherwise specified.) You have the option of adding your own track name if you want (by clicking “+ Add track name”) but that is an optional step.
- Under “Caption or Transcript File” is an “Upload” button. Click on it. A dialog box will pop up that will allow you to locate and select the caption file. I usually prefer to use a “.SRT” file myself, but YouTube also allows for .sbv, .sub, .mpsub, .lrc, and .cap files. Once your file is selected, click “Open.”
- TA DA!!! You have successfully uploaded a caption file to your YouTube video!
If you only have a transcript, save it in a .txt file with a space between each line of text. YouTube can try to figure out the timing on the lines, but keep in mind that YouTube is just running it through a computer and won’t catch things like undetected errors or that the timing the computer selects is too fast for most viewers.
If you like, though, you can use a website called Amara to subtitle the video yourself, or to edit your transcript to add timing. Amara used to be known as Universal Subtitles. It is a simple to use and easy to learn tool, doesn’t require you to download any new programs onto your computer because it’s completely in browser, and is free. That’s right, free captions if you can use it yourself or have a friend or fan of your channel do it for you for free. (Or if you have an intern or work-study student working under you who needs something to do anyways.) I put together a video showing how to use it (see below), but Amara has a lot of videos and FAQs that make learning their system easy. If you have your Amara account linked to your YouTube account, it will automatically export the captions you make for your videos so that you don’t have to go through the above steps.
I recognize that not everyone has the same learning style, so I created “How to Add a Caption File to A YouTube Video” guides in multiple formats:
- Video guide of “How to Add a Caption File to A YouTube Video”
- Simple/plain language guide of “How to Add a Caption File to A YouTube Video”
- Still images guide of “How to Add a Caption File to A YouTube Video”
- Audio recording of “How to Add a Caption File to A YouTube Video”
On YouTube’s automatic captions: they can be pretty horrible. Yes, they slowly get better, but that doesn’t help any of us now. For a funny (and musical!) example of how messed up they can be, I suggest watching Rhett & Link’s Taylor Swift Caption Fail video. Using some of the frankly bizarre things that YouTube’s autocaptioning feature thought were the lyrics to actual Taylor Swift songs, Rhett & Link put together a mash-up song. It’s both illustrative of my point, and extremely funny.
It is my hope that I won’t be the only person who will find these guides useful to have on hand. I know I’m not the only one who is frustrated about how few people think to caption their YouTube videos, and I know a few people who will benefit from having it explained to them again.
Because access is for everyone, not just English speakers, I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to translate any of the above into a language you are fluent in. You can also leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. If you are a fellow captions user, I’d love to hear from you as well — I use them because of auditory processing issues myself.
This post originally appeared on my blog, Cracked Mirror in Shalott.