YouTube is an incredibly interesting video platform with some amazing (and sometimes educational) videos, but if you have trouble understanding what’s being said in those videos, they’re not particularly useful.
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Closed Captions can mean the difference between understanding perfectly or not understanding at all. On top of that, if the language of the video you’re watching isn’t your first language, Closed Captions can help you to better process what’s being said. Better yet, subtitles are sometimes offered in various languages, allowing you to view content you never otherwise would’ve understood.
And yet, for all the potential usefulness of Closed Captions and subtitles, they can still be hard to come by on YouTube. Transcribing YouTube videos can be time-consuming or expensive.
Thankfully, there are a good number of tools out there for making the most out of your Closed Captions and subtitles on YouTube. Whether you’re a Creator looking to make your content more accessible, or a viewer who prefers or needs subtitles/CC, we’ve got you covered in this list.
YouTube has been changing a lot lately. One of the changes that drew a lot of media attention was the addition of a paid tier called YouTube Red, but there was another new feature added that went relatively unnoticed, and that was Fan-Contributed Subtitles/CC.
This is something that people have been asking for a long time, and it’s nice to see YouTube finally do something that’s nearly universally seen as positive.
Fan-Contributed Subtitles/CC are exactly what they sound like. Anyone watching a YouTube video is able to add CC to that video for the Creator to later approve — if the Creator turns on this feature. So what does this mean for you? That depends on if you’re a Creator or a viewer.
I would argue that CC are a vital part of being successful on YouTube. They make your videos accessible to the widest possible audience, and they show that you care about people who might have trouble hearing your videos.
Thankfully, even if you have a small subscriber base, someone will probably want to help you transcribe your videos. If your fans are passionate about your work, it’s very likely that at least one of them will want to help out.
To make this possible, you first need to flip the switch. Head into your Creator Studio, open up Community, and click on Manage subtitles and CC. From here, click on the Cog icon in the upper right, and click Turn on for all videos.
You can then turn this on or off for individual videos by going into the Video Manager, selecting Edit on any video, and going under Advanced Settings.
Remember, you will need to approve subtitles/CC before they go live (to prevent people from uploading false, inaccurate, or offensive subtitles/CC), so be sure to check back under the Manage subtitles and CC tab every once in a while.
If subtitles are submitted in a language other than the one your video is in, you’ll be able to view a Google Translate translation — it’s not perfect, but at least you’ll know they’re approximately correct.
And that’s all there is to it!
We also recommend making a quick video to notify your subscribers of this new possibility, or announcing it at the end of a video. People can’t use a feature that they don’t know exists!
If you want to add subtitles for a Creator you love, the process is simple. First, go to whatever video you want to add CC or subtitles for and click on the Gear icon in the bottom right. Then select Subtitles/CC. If you don’t see this option, you’ll need to send a message to the Creator telling them to enable Fan-Contributed Subtitles/CC (as outlined above).
However, if you do find this option, it means the Creator has enabled it, and you’re good to go. It should pop up an interface where the video plays on the left and you can transcribe on the right. If you’re contributing Closed Captions, be sure to write everything that happens solely through audio — that means typing sound effects in brackets or identifying when someone is intentionally doing an accent or impression.
If you’re contributing subtitles in a different language, it should show you the original language Closed Captions on the left and allow you to translate on the right, making the process a bit easier than having to re-transcribe the video.
Then, simply submit them when you’re done and wait for the Creator to approve them!
Years before YouTube got around to enabling fan-contributed subtitles, Amara hit the scene. It billed itself as a platform for crowdsourced subtitles and CC, and it was adopted by many YouTubers.
Because of its popularity, uniqueness, and ease-of-use, it quickly became the standard for free subtitles and CC. Even today with YouTube’s built-in fan-contributed subtitles, the Amara community is strong. You can join as a Creator, viewer, or both — but you will have to make an account either way.
Their software allows for easily adding CC or subtitles in any language, and they have communities for viewers built around making videos accessible. As a Creator, you get a link to each of your videos that you can share to have people easily add subtitles, which some might find preferable to YouTube’s method, which is semi-hidden in the video’s settings.
Rev is a service for creators to get their English videos captioned for only $1 per minute, or subtitled in another language for $7.50 a minute. This is really an amazing, inexpensive, and fast service if you need captions for your videos.
Turnaround time is typically well under 24 hours for captions and under 48 hours for subtitles. Plus, at only $1 per minute for captions, you’re paying only $5 or so for a 5-minute YouTube video. You really can’t beat that. Lots of big-name YouTubers use this method regularly.
Want to transcribe your own videos, or someone else’s videos? DIY Captions should make that a little easier by allowing you to start off with YouTube’s automatic captions and make corrections from there.
Automatic captions have been around on YouTube for a while, but they’re notorious for not being the most accurate. Still, it’s easier to start off with an imperfect base rather than a completely blank slate. This way, you can just tweak a few words here and there, instead of having to listen and pause and type entire sentences.
For free creation of captions that should hopefully go a little quicker than basic transcription, check out DIY Captions.
This Chrome extension, as the name suggests, allows you to add subtitles to YouTube videos. Now those subtitles won’t appear out of nowhere –you’ll have to supply the .srt file — but it does allow you to watch any video you have the subtitles for without downloading the video.
From within the extension, you can even search for subtitles from OpenSubtitles.org and Amara. If you often work with subtitles and want to watch a movie or something on YouTube that’s without subtitles, give Subtitles for YouTube a shot.
Are there subtitles on a video online that you want to save locally to your computer? DownSub can grab subtitles from videos on sites like YouTube, DramaFever, DailyMotion, and more.
This could allow you to either watch the video offline with subtitles, or you could work on improving the subtitles. However you want to use it, it’s a fantastic tool for snagging captions from any video that already has them.
ccSubs is another option for downloading subtitles from YouTube videos, but it also bills itself as more of a search engine for already-captioned videos. This seems to get muddled by the fact that lots of auto-captioned videos can be found here too, but it’s not a bad place to start your search.
And, if you have trouble with DownSub, you can paste links here to download subtitles as well in any number of languages. If you ever need to download a YouTube video to go along with your downloaded subtitles, that’s an option too with other tools.
What Would You Recommend?
These are some of the most popular tools for dealing with subtitles on YouTube, but what do you use? This can be as a Creator or a viewer.
Do you think that captioning and/or subtitling videos is important in the age of online video? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!