Captioning in Youtube

In the interests of making the online Masters of Social Work program as accessible as possible, we’ve tried to make sure that all the video and audio content provided in the courses has, at the very least, transcripts. Above and beyond accessibility issues such as those involving hearing impaired students, transcripts are useful for students to print and take notes on, or for any students who want to “skim” the text of a presentation as a way of brushing up on it before a big test or paper submission. Video and audio are far more difficult to “skim.” The operative term in AV speak is called “scrubbing,” which anyone who has spent a few minutes hunting through a Youtube video for that one several-second-segment that they’re thinking of will tell you: it is frustrating.

So, transcripts are beneficial in several ways: They’re printable, they’re more easily referenced for specific elements that the student may feel he or she needs to brush up on, and they help with accessibility. They are not, however, the only option for increasing the accessibility of a video presentation.

Youtube provides a robust closed captioning tool for the videos it hosts. There are multiple ways to input closed captions. First, though, you must upload the video you want to caption. After you’ve done so, enter your Video Manager and select the video there that you want to add captions to.

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Underneath the video, you’ll see this “CC” icon. Click it, and you’ll enter the dashboard for creating and managing closed captions for this video.

You’ll be prompted to select a language (if you haven’t already selected one), and captions will automatically be created for the video. This is pretty powerful software, as it’s done much more quickly than any human could possibly do so. However, with that quickness and automation comes a great deal of error. In fact, it is not advisable that anyone rely on the automatic captioning Youtube provides without first understanding that they will likely have to work through the automatic captions to correct the myriad of errors that have proliferated throughout.

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To do so, select the automatic caption string to the right of the video window in the closed caption dashboard. In cases where there are multiple caption strings to choose from, you’ll be able to tell the automatic caption from the rest by its name, which will always have “(Automatic)” at the end.

YouTube 2015-08-20 23-25-56

You can see, here, how the automatic captioning has produced a large number of errors in the caption displayed, with time stamps, to the right. In addition to fixing the text, the timing of the captions can also be adjusted to more closely align with the speech rhythms of the speaker. Play around with it; these tools are more easily learned through experimentation than through telling.

After you’ve adjusted the captions produced by the automatic caption tool, you’re golden.

However, in many instances the speaker may have worked from a script, or perhaps a transcript already exists which you would like to input for the captions. This, in many ways, is the most efficient way of using Youtube’s closed caption tool, as editing the captions after the fact is not necessary when the words are already correct.

To input the text from a transcript or script for captioning, click “Add new subtitles or CC” from the closed caption dashboard, then select your language.

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Now, you see there is the option to “Upload a file.” Select that, then a dialogue will appear into which you can paste the text of the transcription that you’ve copied out of the file containing it. Now, the errors will have to have been cleaned out of the transcript prior to this process, but if you’ve done so, then Youtube’s caption tool will stop trying to understand the words your speaker is saying, and instead focus on aligning the words with the sounds in the video. The tool does this very well, and as such the resulting captions are often excellent without any additional editing necessary.

One thought on “Captioning in Youtube

  1. Thanks, Chris! This article is very timely. The only thing I can add is that by using closed captioning we also add the “interactive transcript” to the video. Which means you can rewind or fast forward the video to a certain spot in the transcript. To access the interactive transcript, click on MORE under the video and select “Transcript”. There you go!

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