How to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video

Make your videos accessible to a larger audience, get better ROI and have more people watch your videos.

how to add captions to a video hero

Adding subtitles and captions to your videos has never been easier.

And while it’s probably an additional step you’re not used to in the video creation process, captions make your videos accessible to a larger audience, give you a better ROI and get more people to start watching your videos.

Whether you do it yourself before exporting, pay a service, or use an auto-transcription tool, it’s super simple to make sure your audience has easy access to your great content!

Let’s get started.

Add captions to a video

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Captions vs subtitles

While the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences.

What are captions?

Captions convey dialogue and/or narration plus any other audio effects that may be present in a video.

This includes when (and what type of) music is playing and any background noises such as loud crashes, cars honking or dogs barking that may be integral to understanding what’s happening on the screen.

In fact, to meet accessibility standards, captions must include those elements.

screenshot of captions with an audio cue
Video with captions and an audio cue

One of the most widely-known uses for captions — closed captioning — is a way for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to be able to access and understand the audio portions of a video.

What are subtitles?

Subtitles convey only the dialogue or narration happening in a video.

Subtitles used for translating one language to another would likely also include translations of any foreign language text shown on the screen.

screenshot of a news channel with a subtitle displayed
Video with subtitles

How to add captions and subtitles to a video

Most video editors have captioning capabilities. And you’re in luck! Captions are easy to create. And I’ll show the four options to add captions to your videos.

Option 1: Camtasia

Manually add captions

Inside Camtasia, you can add captions by going under the Audio Effects in the side panel and then Captions. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 1

Click it and drag it down to your audio track which is also the video track in this case and it automatically shows you the waveform and splits the captions into four-second increments right here. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 2

Those are completely adjustable so if you want to make this one go towards the end of this clip done and so on the way to get these captions typed in is as easy as clicking the first one and just start transcribing. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 3

Next, go through the entire video clicking on each caption that you want to add. 

Another nice option about this is maybe you’re not the fastest typer and you want to be able to try and keep up with what your speaker saying, but it just goes by too fast.

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 4

So you click the caption you want to hear and this play button that has the looping arrows will play the selected clip continuously until you’re able to get the caption written down. 

As you do that you go through all of your captions adjusting for the right duration so that we don’t have too long of a caption on screen at any one given time and so it makes sense where the caption breaks are. 

And just that easy, we made our captions in Camtasia. 

When we’re done you can go to share export captions and when we do that it brings up the window for you to save them. It’s good practice to name it the same as your video. 

Automatically create captions

Note: The second way that you can add captions inside Camtasia is only available on the Windows version. 

Over here in Camtasia’s side tab, go to More, then Captions.

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 5

This brings up this big open window on the left and you can either import your script if it’s already written out, or click add captions. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 6

After that, stretch it as far as the audio goes on the timeline, and click in the text box.

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 7

If you already have a script, you can paste it right into this window. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 8

To modify captions choose ‘sync captions’ and what this will do is allow the video to play as you tell it what words are said in the video.

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in camtasia step 9

If you’ve already gotten your script written down this is a great method and saves a ton of time.

Option 2: Knowmia

TechSmith’s newest video platform Knowmia has an amazing and super simple speech to text option. 

If you go down to the details inside of my videos one of the options down here in the tabs is accessibility. Under accessibility you’ll find your captions. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in knowmia step 1

And right here the first option is ‘speech to text’ automatically generate captions for this video. Simply click Apply and while you may have to wait a bit, it’s going to start transcribing them for you automatically. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in knowmia step 2

The great thing is you’ll get an email when the transcribing has finished. So you don’t have to sit around and wait for it. 

When you captions are ready to edit, go ahead and click the three dots and jump and to edit them. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in knowmia step 3

Then you can go through and take a look at them and just make sure that all the captions turned up correctly. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in knowmia step 4

When you’re done click publish. 

And that’s it! 

Now when people playback this video they can choose the option to have closed captions on or off. Side note when you upload your captions to Knowmia your viewers can search your video captions to find sections most pertinent to what they want to learn.

Option 3: Youtube

One of the most obvious ways involves the world’s largest video platform — YouTube. Once you make a YouTube video upload your video file head over to the YouTube studio editor. There you can go to the subtitles panel and choose to add new subtitles or closed captions. 

For this example, we’ve already added two different languages for this one, and now we want to add our English subtitles. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in youtube step 1

You can either search it here in the language search bar or choose from the one in the dropdown.

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in youtube step 2

This bottom option allows you to see YouTube’s auto-transcription and even jump in and edit what they’ve already done.

The middle one allows you to type along as your subject speaks, manually entering your captions.

And this top option is for uploading an SRT file or subtitle file. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in youtube step 3

If you’ve already created one, click Upload a file. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in youtube step 4

Then choose your file and click upload. But before you do that you can see in the background YouTube has auto transcribed your subtitles and they’re usually pretty close, but if you can, replace those by uploading our own just to make sure they’re accurate. 

screenshot of how to add a subtitle or caption to a video in youtube step 5

And if you want to edit it you can go through and click on any one of them to make changes. 

It’s that simple. 

If you choose to use YouTube’s auto transcription it’s very simple to go in and make any edits you need to after it’s finished. 

Option 4: Rev.com

When you have a lot of captions to do and don’t want to do all the heavy lifting of adding all those captions it’s probably worth paying a website like Rev.com or others to do the work for you. 

Where to add captions

Captions certainly are not a new concept for videos on TV, but they are a strategy that is proving more and more effective on all platforms.

Captions for social media

While scrolling through your social feeds with your sound turned off (which 85 percent of users do), most individuals will completely skip a video whose meaning is lost without sound.

If they can’t hear it, then they won’t get it, so who cares?

According to Facebook, “research found that when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 percent react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser”

However, when you add captions to videos, viewers are more likely to be drawn into it.

Facebook’s internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12 percent.

Anything you can do to capture a viewer’s attention — even seconds more than they normally would — can add up.

In fact, 74 percent of ad recall is achieved in 10 seconds of Facebook video campaigns. In a world without sound, captions are one of the best ways to increase those numbers.

Captions for business

Facebook video is powerful, but video is on the rise in education and in the corporate world as well.

In 2017, 77 percent of American companies offered online corporate training to improve professional development.

With the non-social use of video, we also have to consider other reasons why captions are crucial. When you offer video-based training or learning, you need everyone to have access.

Enter the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and compliance concerns. How can people who are deaf or hard of hearing learn from your video without being able to hear it? This is where video, in particular, can be a powerful tool, sound or not.

Captions for higher education

Universities, community colleges, and even K-12 are also adopting eLearning tools rapidly and with open arms.

Since 2000, growth in the eLearning industry has skyrocketed by 900 percent!  

And given the current state of education, a majority of full-time faculty at colleges and universities are planning to teach distance education classes.

The question we have to ask ourselves is not if we should adapt to video, but what can we do to make our videos the most accessible, engaging, and effective as they can be?

Captions are a key part of the equation.

Wrapping up

Just think of the benefits adding captions to your videos is gonna yield for both you and your audience. 

Have you used captions before? What’s your favorite workflow for creating them? Do you write them long-hand or have them automatically transcribed? 

Now you know your options.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist. Geek. Science Enthusiast. Hufflepuff. Retired roller derby coach. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him/ A few things about me ... 1. Mildly obsessed with the movie Alien, 2. Two pibbles: Biggie and Reo, 3. Friend of ducks everywhere.

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