Video Closed Captions


Closed captions are not required for our video content, but they are highly recommended. And cost is no longer a reason to avoid captioning and localizing your video. We now have a fast and inexpensive process.

What are Closed Captions (aka closed captions, aka captions, aka subtitles)?

Closed Captions are the words that you see along the bottom of the video, that match what the narrator is saying. Some videos have closed captions in only one language, but other videos allow viewers to select from a list of languages. closed captions can be turned off and on. If created properly, Closed Captions files can be used by sight-impaired and hearing-impaired devices.

Closed captions can be created in many different ways, using many different tools. And closed captions come in a variety of formats (.srt, .sub, .sami, .smi, .sml, .vtt, etc.). And each site we publish to also has specific requirements. For example, YouTube (.srt), Showcase/STO/TechNet/MSDN (.smi), Office (their own proprietary format, see below), etc. And keep in mind that the requirements keep changing.

What are transcripts?

Transcripts are the written version of the words (and sounds) in the video. A script is a form of transcript. Sometimes transcripts are included on the same page as the video player and sometimes they open in a separate window to make it easier to see both at the same time.

What is a localized video?

Just as with written topics, videos content can be translated into other languages. For some teams, this means translating just the captions or just the transcripts, or both. For other teams, they are required to re-"shoot" the video using localized UIs and native speakers for each language.

NOTE: For the purposes of this article, when we use the term localized, we mean only the closed captions are translated.

InterTitler and DotSub Process

InterTitler is the name of the tool we use in CSI to create and localize our video content. and instructions can be found here. InterTitler can be used to get: transcripts in 1 or more languages, captions in 1 or more languages, and to publish captions to the live video.

  • Submit your video and get back a manually-created English transcript and machine-translated captions in your choice of languages; or
  • Submit your video and a transcript, and get back machine-translated captions in your choice of languages; or
  • Submit your video and a Closed Captions file in one language, and get back captions in your choice of other languages.

InterTitler can even be used to publish the captions for you (just supply the video URL on MSDN, TechNet, or Channel9).

Turnaround time is 48 hours max, and I've seen the closed captions created and localized and published live in just a few hours for some of my videos!

To get started, contact

Reasons to provide closed captions and localized video content for your viewers

  • Accessibility
  • Show international customers that we care
  • Reach a broader audience
  • Reduce work of subs who would otherwise have to recreate videos in their own languages

Reasons to provide transcripts for your viewers

  • SEO
  • So viewers can fast-forward to the part they're interested in most
  • For customers who prefer reading to watching
  • Absent closed captions, the transcript can be translated in-browser
  • Absent closed captions, non-native speakers can follow along with the speaker (and non-native-speaking narrators can be understood too)

Other options for closed captions creation and localizing

Use of InterTitler is not required. What tool you use, and what you use if for, depend on several factors:

  1. If publishing to YouTube, and you upload a caption file with your video, then YouTube will create localized captions on-the-fly. They're not perfect, but they're not bad either.
  2. In rare cases, you may be required to use human translation.
  3. Your publishing platform requires a certain caption file type that InterTitler can't output (yet).
  4. There are other in-house tools available for our use. Office uses one called SmartCaption.
  5. You can always create your own English (or other language) caption file and/or transcript. But unless you speak 30+ other languages, you'll still need the caption file localized.

Preparing closed captions

The easiest way to create closed captions is to use InterTitler and DotSub. If you already have a script, the easiest way to create your own closed captions and transcripts is to:

  1. Start in Camtasia with an edited video. If the Captions tab isn't already showing, select it from the More tab. This adds a grey bar on top of your video and a captions track to your timeline and opens up the captions editing screen. Save the Camtasia Project with a new name. For example, _Closed Captions. It's easier if you have 1 project which contains the captions and one project that has no captions. To create the captions, you have several options:
  2. Click Speech-to-text and Camtasia will do its best to automatically add captions. The more you train it, the better it will do. I haven't done any training, but what I have done is added words like 'hadoop' 'azure' 'ftp' etc to my dictionary. And I have noticed an improvement in my results. The speech-to-text is pretty quick and the captions show up here in the editing screen. Where I can listen to the video and edit the captions.
  3. Import a script or transcript. Select the Captions tab. Click inside the field that says Click to paste script or add caption. Paste your transcript or script. You will then have to break it up into separate captions.
  4. Create the captions from scratch by listening to the video and typing the captions into the Captions screen.
  5. Edit the captions in the editing screen. One tip is that you can use the ENTER key to restart a caption – so you don't have to go back and forth from the caption screen to the PLAY button.
  6. In the editing screen I can also add text, break 1 caption into 2 or more, add new captions between other captions, and delete captions.
  7. Edit the captions on the timeline. On the timeline I can drag to change the length of the caption or make room for a new caption.
  8. Once I'm done creating and editing the caption,I export captions twice. I click Export captions and save my caption file in the SRT format. This is a format supported by YouTube. Then I export it again and save it in the SAMI/.smi format.

Preparing transcripts in Camtasia

  1. To create a transcript, select any of the captions, right-click and select Copy all text.
  2. Open Word and paste in the text. Later I'll edit the transcript for spelling, punctuation, formatting, and phrasing. I also like to do a bit of rewriting to enable the transcript to double as a How-to topic. This may mean making it more explicit to include steps taken in the video that I didn't narrate.

Producing the video that will be used with the closed captions file

Now it's time to produce my video. I'm going to do this twice. The first time with the Closed Captions baked into the video (just for demonstration purposes) and the 2 ndtime without the Closed Captions (for uploading to Showcase, STO, YouTube).

You've already created and exported your Closed Captions file (as .srt and .smi files)

The first video has the Closed Captions baked in. I can't turn these on and off or edit the appearance or translate. This is not very useful.

Before I produce the video for the 2 nd time I either I remove all of the Closed Captions and save the Camtasia project with a new name OR I open my other Camtasia Project -- the one that I saved prior to adding the captions. To remove the captions right-click in the Captions timeline and select delete all captions. Produce the video. This is the video I'll upload.

Adding the closed captions on YouTube

  1. On YouTube I go to the Captions page and upload the SRT file I created earlier. Make sure 'caption file' is selected.
  2. I see here that YouTube created a machine transcription for me, but I've tried using these and they are horrible. Perhaps in the future they'll improve and I can save myself the step of creating my own Closed Captions in Camtasia. But until then, I'll upload my own captions files.
  3. Once the SRT file is uploaded I reload the page and review the video and Closed Captions. I almost always find a mistake I missed. I can fix it here or fix it in Camtasia and re-upload. (I prefer to fix it in Camtasia and re-upload to ensure I have the latest Camtasia project file.)
  4. Turn on Closed Captions by clicking the Closed Captions icon.
  5. I can edit the appearance by using the Closed Captions Settings.
  6. I can also translate the captions. I don't speak Italian, so am not sure if YouTube has done a good job or not.

Adding the closed captions on Showcase

Use the MSVideo tool to upload the video to Showcase. Attach the Closed Captions file. As of March 2012, MSVideo only accepts .sami/.smi Closed Captions files.

Adding the closed captions on MSDN/TechNet

Use the STO Video process to upload the video to MSDN/TechNet. Attach the Closed Captions file. As of March 2012, STO only accepts SAMI/SMI Closed Captions files.

Adding the closed captions on and OCMS use a proprietary Closed Captions format based on xml. If there is budget available, I recommend using it to have Office create and publish and localize the Closed Captions and transcript for you. If you do not have budget, follow the instructions below.

Once you've created your English Closed Captions file, follow OCMS procedures for uploading the VC and linking it to the VA and VF files.

Here are examples of the same Closed Captions content in .srt formatand .txt (Office) format.

Here is the process I used:

  1. Paste your script into Camtasia and sync with video.

![IMPORTANT] – NONE of your closed captions can be longer than 2 lines. I know that Camtasia only requires the Closed Captions to be split if it is longer than 3 lines, but OCMS will reject any caption that is more than 2 lines long. Just to be safe, keep them at 1.5 or 1.75 lines long.

  1. Export Closed Captions as .srt file.
  2. Edit .srt in Notepad so that it matches Office proprietary format. You'll notice that the .srt and Office format are similar. For each caption, there is a timestamp. The .srt uses a start timestamp and an end timestap while Office just uses a START timestamp.
  3. Open the .srt file in Notepad and Save it with a new name and as a .txt with Unicode Encoding
  4. Search-Replace commas in your timestamps with periods (carefully so you don't remove commas within caption text)
  5. Add some empty space at the top of the file.
  6. Copy this code to the top of the .txt file.

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="unicode"?>

  7. Below the heading, Copy/paste this empty section for each Closed Captions line. Paste it as many times as you need.

    <ScriptCommand Time="" Type="caption" Command=" " />

  8. Copy/paste each caption into the Commandsection, between the quotes.

  9. Copy/paste the START timecode (now with periods instead of commas) in the Timesection, between the quotes.
  10. Add the following code to the end