Captioning Your Videos

Extension has been doing a lot of video work lately. I know this because our Extension Technology Equipment Loan video kits have been booked pretty regularly all summer and now well into October. By the time you are done planning, shooting and editing your video, uploading it to YouTube may feel like the last step. It's not. One of the most important steps in the video production process is captioning. Adding captions to videos can feel time-consuming and you may be tempted to skip it but there are so many reasons why you shouldn't!

The Importance of Captioning

Adding captions to your videos make them accessible and usable by people of all abilities and all Extension videos must be captioned to be in compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act. But not only does captioning help people with disabilities, research shows that everyone can benefit from from closed captions. A 2015 study on Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcriptsconducted by Oregon State University's Ecampus Research Unit, showed:
  • The majority of students without a disability use captions at least some of the time
  • 66% of ESL students find captions "very" or "extremely" helpful
  • Captions help with comprehension, accuracy, engagement and retention.

Additional benefits of closed captioning and transcripts:
  • Improved indexing and searching: Search engines can’t watch a video or listen to audio but closed captions and transcripts make your video text-searchable.
  • View anywhere: Closed captioning allows people to view videos in places where audio is limited (e.g. library, office, bus).

Closed or Open Captions?

Closed captions are most common and utilize the functionality within video players and browsers to display closed captions below the video area. Closed captions can be turned on or off.

Open captions are a permanent part of the video and can’t be turned off. Open captions are usually added in the video editing process and are usually more time-consuming/expensive to produce.

Captioning Options

  1. You can do your own captioning
  2. You can hire a service to caption for you. They usually charge by length of video (approx $3/min). 
  3. The UMN Disability Resource Center is available to help if a person with a disability has specifically requested captioning. 

How to Caption in YouTube

There are three different methods for captioning in YouTube.
  1. Auto-sync is where YouTube creates captions for you which provides a good start if you don’t have a transcript file. You will always have to correct the auto-synched captions. If you don’t believe me, check out Rhett & Link’s caption fail YouTube channel (funny). 
  2. Create a transcript .txt file and upload it to YouTube. It should match the audio exactly.
  3. Create a transcript directly in YouTube. 
Step-by-step instructions for the three methods for captioning in YouTube are on the Accessible U website.

Do you have any tips for captioning videos to share with others? Please leave them in the comments!


  1. Hi Karen: Thanks for this reminder. I want to share another captioning service:
    I haven't used it myself, but colleagues in the web tech accessibility icop recommended it to me. It's also cheap.

    1. Thanks Ann! Additional resources are always good to know about - especially if they are cheap. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I recently captioned a 7-min video and it was easier than expected with the Auto-Sync. It took about an hour. The hardest part was getting under the hood to find where to do the editing.


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