how to add captions to videos

We live in the golden age of online video, but it’s also the age of silent film. Why?

Many people watch videos on mute. That means to get the most impact from your brand and product videos, you need to add captions. 

Captioning your videos can generate more views, more conversions and better SEO. Here’s why captions matter and which tools you can use to create captions for your videos.

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Video Captions Matter for Views and Engagement

Up to 85% of the videos people watch on Facebook are on mute. That’s because a lot of us watch videos in shared spaces like open-plan offices, waiting rooms and public transportation where blaring audio is rude. 

The silent approach works if there are captions. Digiday reported that agency research shows intent to buy and other key performance indicators aren’t reduced for muted videos.

However, Facebook found that adding captions to videos increased average video view time by 12%, which means more engagement with your brand and message. 

Video Captions Matter for Accessibility

About 15% of adults in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. Videos without captions exclude these millions of people from your audience.

If you’re producing videos for a public-service organization, like a state agency, city program, school or a television outlet, you’re almost certainly required by law to include captions.

Video Captions Matter for SEO, but…

To get SEO benefits, you need to use closed captions. This requires creating an SRT file that contains your video’s captions and uploading it to your social media videos. 

The SRT file works like a transcript of your video that search engine bots can analyze, which helps your video get found. Closed captions may display differently on different platforms, depending on the video display format.

Open captions, on the other hand, are embedded in the video so they’re not visible to search engine crawlers. But they do look consistent across video platforms because, like the images and sound, they’re part of the video itself. 

In-Platform Auto-Generated Video Caption Tools to Try

Facebook and YouTube can auto-generate captions for your videos, but they’re not closed captions, and users say the quality is uneven. You may want to try them out to see if they work for you. Facebook’s auto-generate tool is only available for Page owners, so if you want to caption videos on your personal profile, you’ll need to upload an SRT file to your video–or upload a video you’ve already open-captioned. 

Free Tools You Can Use to Caption Your Videos for Any Platform

If you’re producing marketing videos for your website and multiple social media channels, it’s more efficient to use apps and tools that aren’t tied to one platform. Make one video, edit one set of captions, and you’re ready to share. Here are a few to try out. 

1. AutoCap 

  • Platform: Android
  • Caption type: Open
  • Languages: English, French, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish 
  • Pros: Free, easy to use interface, font and caption placement options. Recognized my speech more accurately than my phone’s voice-to-text function.
  • Cons: Like other tools, AutoCap doesn’t transcribe perfectly. In my test, it omitted a couple of sentences, which I had to type in.
  • Time to upload, analyze, caption and save a 12-second video: Three minutes.
add video captions with autocap tool

AutoCap generates open captions quickly for videos on your phone. I tried it on my phone and found that the simple interface makes it easy to preview the captions AutoCap generates, edit the text, and add words or sentences that are missing. You’ll have to type in notes like [laughter], [music], and [chickens clucking]. 

2. Apple Clips 

  • Platform: iOS 11.1 and later
  • Caption type: Open
    Languages: English, Catalan, Chinese (Hong Kong), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
  • Pros: Free. Clips’ Live Titles tool generates real-time captions as you record, which you can edit before you save your video. CNet called the feature “fantastic.” PC Magazine called it “truly impressive.”
  • Cons: Only available for iOS users.

As an Android/PC user, I couldn’t try Apple Clips’ Live Titles tools for myself. Based on the number of positive reviews by Apple users, it’s worth exploring if you shoot your videos on iOS devices.

add video captions with apple clips

3. Kapwing

  • Platform: web browser on desktop and mobile
  • Caption type: open (auto-generated) or closed (user-uploaded SRT file)
  • Languages: Kapwing’s subtitle supports dozens of languages and different character sets.
  • Pros: More language options than Apple Clips and AutoCap. More captioning options, as well. Excellent voice-to-text recognition, and the app lets you edit the auto-generated captions while the video is playing in the editor, so you can fix errors as you hear them.
  • Cons: Slower to process videos than AutoCap. 
  • Time to upload, analyze, open-caption and save a 12-second video: Six minutes.
add video captions with kapwing

Kapwing is a browser-based suite of AV tools that, among other things, lets you upload videos so you can add captions by hand, use the auto-generate tool, or upload an SRT file (on the desktop site) with your captions. Once your video is processed, you can remove the Kapwing watermark by signing in with your Google or Facebook account.

4. Closed Caption Creator

  • Platform: web browser on desktop and mobile
  • Caption type: open or closed 
  • Languages: English and other Latin alphabet languages; other options unclear.
  • Pros: Free. This is an easy way to generate files for open and closed captions without formatting the file content yourself.
  • Cons: You can’t export captioned videos, only caption files.
  • Time to upload, analyze, caption and save a 12-second video caption file: Three and a half minutes.

This free tool lets you upload your video and type in your captions to create SRT and other types of caption files. There are also tools to format captions and adjust their timing. 

After you save a project, you can export and download your captions as an SRT file. Then you can upload your SRT file to videos you upload to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms. 

add video captions wtih closed caption creator

There’s a learning curve to adding captions to your business videos, but it’s not steep. And the payoff is getting more audience engagement with your videos, even with the sound off.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention