Tools for DIY Captioning
This page offers “layperson” information that many find helpful, along with some contributions from CCAC provider members and others. CCAC is not a professional captioner – we are citizen advocates to educate and advocate for the mission of communication access via quality captioning universally. If you have questions about captioning, join us in the CCAC; then post your question to all as a subscriber to the CCAC membership forum online. CCAC members include hundreds of professionals along with hundreds of consumers and others who understand how vital captioning is. Together, let’s move forward.
February 2013: see this site to synchronize your captions on videos (correct timing): http://www.allsubs.org/subtitles/synchronize-subtitles and also check out Aegisub which is free and can be done off-line also.
December 2012: See http://www.reelseo.com/
ATC offers DIY information, e.g. http://atcoalition.org/article/using-youtubes-autocaption-feature-generate-captions, and http://atcoalition.org/article/creating-captioned-video.
Re YouTube, please do not use automatic cc there without editing them, updating them!
October 2012: DVD captioning is more complex. See below for the newest suggestions from a CCAC member who shares all the steps.
July 2012: Here’s another article online submitted by a CCAC member: http://booyabillybob.deviantart.com/art/How-to-Write-Captions-for-the-Deaf-313845976
June 2012: The CCAC Newsletters published a three part series on doing your own captioning. Find those articles in Newsletters on this CCAC website. ================================================================
There are several free or low-cost tools, software, and online, to help anyone who wants to caption their videos and make them accessible to millions around the world. Feedback or suggestions for additions welcome via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The following information provides our best effort to educate and advise. If you want more information, join the CCAC and ask the volunteers, Collaborate on CCAC projects.
(There is a spreadsheet created by two members of the CCAC, with more details and comparisons of online captioning tools. Temporarily, we’re posting a link to their spreadsheet here. If you have questions, do not e-mail the CCAC; instead, e-mail Zehavit Ehre, Golden Translations, at www.gtranslations.com.)
MAGpie – desktop software program
Synchrimedia – shareware for 30 days, after that, there is a cost
Online Information and Systems for Captioning
Universal Subtitles – Now called Amara – If you upload your video to a Vimeo account, you can caption using Universal Subtitles (free). Some of the steps involve the following: streaming your video from its published online address, using a transcript, and following further instructions on the site. Universal Subtitles works with Ogg, WebM, flv, mp4, Youtube, Vimeo or Dailymotion.
Google CaptionTube - YouTube and Google have good materials online to educate people about how to add captioning to YouTube videos online.
Overstream.net – told no longer operational.
A question that often comes up is how to “replace” the original YouTube video (without cc) with the newly cc’d version one creates with Universal Subtitles. Here is one answer:
After creating the captions on Universal you need to export the captions as an SRT file. Then the owner of the YouTube channel should add this file to the video. Here are the instructions on how to do that:
In other words, the owner of the YouTube channel, needs to add the cc with information from you, the good advocate. Thanks to Zehavit Ehre for this information.
Also, from a CCAC consumer member, there is this helpful link to the Universal Subtitles site itself for transferring the file from Universal Subtitles to Youtube. Scroll down to about the fourth paragraph from where the person provides an answer to that question: https://universalsubtitles.tenderapp.com/discussions/general-discussion/90-created-version-with-subtitles-got-url-now-what.
Another useful site we’ve been told about is:
More Online Information and Tools
- Caption It Yourself
- Bill Creswell’s Captioning Tools
Here are two more links mentioned to CCAC by DCMP (The Described and Captioned Media Program):
Quick YouTube Transcription to Captioning Instructions. Note that at this time you can only caption videos you have posted/hosted. You can upload a video, caption it, and download the timed file; you can NOT download a fully captioned video at this time.
- Access YouTube and sign in.
- Click “My Videos” from the top right navigation widget.
- Locate the video you want to add the transcription to.
- Ensure it is set to “Private” until you are finished with the following steps.
- Click “Captions” or “Captions and Transcripts” (I’ve forgotten which it says at this point, it does change).
- You will “upload” your transcript file. Click the selection that says something like “from a document” instead of the “with timing” one.
- This will take some time to process.
- Once complete, download the resulting file (it has an .sbv extension) and store it for later steps and record keeping.
- Click the video and see how it looks.
- Make changes to the .sbv file by opening in Word. You may have garbage content to remove near the beginning or end of the file if there is extra content in your transcript file, music, or other notations. You CAN move some text from one set of timing to the other. You CAN note if the text is a “speech as written” as long as the content gets the point across.
- Save as the same file type.
- If you make changes, you need to REMOVE the existing file from YouTube before uploading the corrected one. I frequently save this down as a new name just in case something goes wrong. We do this because the processing takes a long time on the native Word file.
- Upload the new .sbv file “with timing” from the selection option. This is very quick.
- Click the video and see how it looks.
- Download the .sbv file again and repeat steps 8 through 12 until you are happy with the video.
- Set your new video to “Public” in the settings to share with the world.
Captioning DVDs – Two Contributions from CCAC Members:
Contributed by CCAC Member Michael Lockrey, August 2011
Here’s the basic workflow for captioning video content on accessibleseinfeld.com
- With Mac OS X, I use an app called “grappler” (from the little app factory) to download any unencrypted video content that is available on the web. This app really is “foolproof”. All you need to do is enter the URL for the website where the video is located on the web, such as YouTube links etc. They also have another app that copies a DVD’s video and / or audio.
- Once you’ve got a video file – I then upload it to either Casting Words or Speakertext to get a text transcript. These services vary in price – but both offer good quality text transcription services for around $2 per minute.
- Once you’ve got a text transcript, you can use YouTube’s voice recognition services to produce a closed caption file (in their proprietary .sbv format). To do this, you just upload the video file and then add the text transcript file (which is still a BETA service). Usually it is about 90% accurate first time around, as there are often timing issues which need to be fixed. This is easily done using any text editor (I use TextEdit on the Mac) to adjust the timing of lines which “flash up” for a microsecond, etc. Once you’re happy with the edited .sbv closed caption file, delete the one created by YouTube and upload your final .sbv file and Bob’s your uncle!
HOW TO CAPTION A DVD, OCTOBER 2012: by Andrea Dietrich, CCAC Member:
It’s a pretty complicated process with a LOT of steps, but it can all be done with freeware tools. There’s a lot of good information on the videohelp.com forums. I basically used this process:
2, NOT method 1. I find the program Subtitle Creator is basically
useless for my purposes). I did not follow it to the letter, but it was a
good starting point.
All the programs I mention are available freeware, and easy to find with a
quick search. I’m not going to mention websites where you get them all,
since this isn’t a proper tutorial. I think most of the programs are linked
from the website I gave above.
In (VERY) brief, the steps I followed are:
- Make sure you have a TON of hard drive space available on your
computer. You need AT LEAST 20 gigabytes, preferably more. This process
takes a lot of space. You will be able to delete all the extra stuff once
the DVD is done, and reclaim the space, but you need the working room.
- Rip the DVD to your hard drive using DVDShrink.
- Figure out which of the .vob files in the resulting VIDEO_TS folder
contains the video you want to caption.
- Create separate folders for each .vob file you will be working with,
and copy the original files to the relevant folders. This is important
because you end up with LOTS of copies of the video in different places,
and it’s a pain to keep track unless you’re very organized.
- Create and time subtitle files for each video (Use your preferred
method. I like to create a transcript, use YouTube Autotiming to get a
rough sync, and fine-tune the syncing with Aegisub.)
- Use a program to convert your finished subtitle files to .ssa format
(I use Jubler. Open the subtitle, save as .ssa. Completely straightforward.)
- Use MaestroSBT to convert the .ass files to Scenarist files with 4-bit
bitmaps (I found that if I tweaked the settings this was the program that
produced the nicest-looking, easiest to read DVD subtitles I could
- Go back to your .vob files. Use pgcDemux to split the .vob files
you’re working with into individual audio and video streams and celltimes
(which control chapter points in longer movies).
- Use Muxman to re-combine the audio, video, celltimes, and add your
Scenarist subtitles to the video.
- Use VobBlanker to add your new .vob files back to the original DVD
- Use PGCEdit to “turn on” the subtitles (if you don’t do this step, the
DVD player won’t know your video has subtitles).
- Use DVDSubEdit on your new DVD to fix the colors and screen position
of your newly-created subtitles.
- Use whatever DVD burning program you like to create physical DVDs.
Then experiment to make sure they play in your standalone DVD player (not
all DVD players will play burned DVDs). I found that you can make them work
better using the program Imgburn to burn your final DVD, and changing the
burn settings to make the DVD more compliant with commercial DVDs, but
since the necessary settings are different for each DVD burner I can’t
speak to the details.
This is all to create a DVD subtitle that you can turn on and off using the
DVD player remote (or the menu options on most computer DVD player
programs). There are additional steps you can do to add a subtitle
selection menu. Adding proper closed-captions is an even more difficult
process, and I’m not sure if it’s even possible to do it with entirely
freeware tools. This will let you add 100% accurate subtitles for the deaf
and hard of hearing, that would be as good (if not better) than most closed
captions. You can position them on the screen wherever you want, add any
text formatting you like, etc.
There are tutorials all over the internet that explain in detail how to do
each of these steps, but if you undertake a DVD subtitling project, be
prepared to spend a LOT of time making mistakes and starting over and
fiddling with details. None of the steps are difficult, per se, it’s just
that there are so many of them, and it’s complicated and has a fair
learning curve to get it right.