How to add subtitles to your online video

Recently a number of our clients have started asking about using subtitles on their videos. Subtitles are vital if you want to ensure that your video is accessible to the widest range of people possible whether it’s catering for different languages or for people who are hearing impaired. In most cases our clients are interested in having subtitles added to their online videos so I thought I would draw up a quick overview of the options available.

Adding subtitles to YouTube videos

Automatic subtitles

YouTube will automatically generate subtitles based on the audio in the video, it’s quick and very easy but incredibly inaccurate and I would not recommend it. Here’s a blog post listing some pretty bad examples.

Manual subtitles

The best way to do this would be to send the videos off to a transcription service to get a script of the video. This will normally cost £1-£2 per minute of video depending on the complexity of the audio. Once you have the script it then needs to be adapted to work as subtitles – you don’t normally need to include every single word and expression (ums and ahhs are generally excluded). Then it’s simply a case of copying the text onto the video using YouTube’s caption tool. It’s actually pretty quick (if quite tedious) to do. Here’s a video quickly explaining the process.

As a bonus, adding subtitles to your YouTube videos can really help with SEO. For viewers it’s simply a case of selecting captions when they are watching the video. But what if your video isn’t on YouTube or Vimeo? Here are a couple of choices.

Burnt on subtitles 

This works in the same way as the titles or graphics we add to a lot of videos as it takes place during the editing process. This is probably the most time consuming of the lot as all of the separate subtitles need to be manually created and moved to line up with the correct audio. This could be helpful for you if, for example, you were displaying a video at an event or somewhere without an internet connection and needed to accommodate people that are hard of hearing. The disadvantage of course is that the subtitles can’t be turned off and so will be on the video permanently meaning you’ll need multiple versions of the same video.

Subtitles for DVDs & Blu-rays

If you ever wanted to produce DVDs to display any videos then subtitles can be added to the DVD in a similar way to YouTube. Viewers can then select to display subtitles using the remote control or via the DVD menu (you may well have done this at home whilst watching a film).

Some of our clients also need their videos to be accessible for those with visual impairments or for the videos to be translated into different languages. For visual impairments you can have audio descriptions produced which effectively adds another audio track alongside the original one to describe what is going on on screen. If you need to cater for other languages then once the video has been transcribed we can the provide you with translations for all of the videos and then either add foreign language subtitles or even re-dub the audio.

Hopefully this short blog has helped you better understand your choices when it comes to using subtitles. If you need more information or would like Echo Video to produce subtitles for your video then please call Will or Andy on 01273 911 345 or email [email protected].