10 Free Video Captioning Tools
Now updated for 2019!

Adding captions to video content has a lot of benefits to both audiences and content creators in terms of accessibility and SEO, but, as video captioners, we all know the process of creating captions is not always easy.

By choosing the tools best fit for your working style, you can save a lot of time and energy and complete your captions in a shorter amount of time.

We know most people don’t have the time to research all the tools that available online to make the best decision, so we have done the heavy lifting for you!

How to make closed captions and transcriptions efficiently

We have reviewed video captioning tools and transcription tools, which are organized in the categories of transcription tools, captioning platforms (browser-based), and captioning software (downloadable) to help you choose the one works best for you.

We list a benefits and shortcomings summary for each of them to help you decide which one is the best tool for you. You also can use them side by side or serially to make your captioning process as efficient as possible.

Ps. In this post, we will focus on discussing tools that creating “closed captions” (rather than open captions), which is generally more beneficial to both audiences and content creators in terms of SEO and accessibility; you can see our discussion at the end of the article.

You can use the following links to jump to the topic or a specific tool review you are interested in!

How to make captions and transcriptions efficiently

There are two processes involved in closed captioning/subtitling that might consume a massive amount of your time: turning voice into text and putting text in the right position on the timeline.

The first process is called transcription, and the latter is called captioning and subtitling. Transcription can take a lot of time depending on how much video you have. If you just have a short 1-3 minute video, it may be simpler to transcribe the audio into captions right inside a subtitle editor rather than do the transcription part separately first. For now, in case you do have a long video, let’s start with a review of transcription tools. Here you go:

Free Machine Transcription Tools

There are a lot of free machine-transcribe tools online, however, most of them are disastrously inaccurate to the point that you will have to make correction every three words, which misses the entire point of machine transcription.  We have tried out a lot of them for you and boiled them down to some good options.

So following are the best machine transcription tools that I have tried that have at least 85% of accuracy.

Google Docs Voice-typing Tool (combined with Soundflower)

What?! Google Docs has a built-in voice-typing tool? Yes, it has. And it’s pretty accurate compared to most of the free voice typing tools online.

It’s super easy to use, just go to your Google Doc, create a doc file, select Tool->Voice typing…->select your language and accent using the drop-down menu on top of the microphone icon->hit microphone icon before you play your video or audio

However, the accuracy of using microphone input to voice-typing your video transcription might be affected by the surrounding noise, and even there is no obvious noise source around you, an extra process of sound input and output will still decrease the accuracy of your transcription.

One way to get around with the problem is to use Soundflower to create direct sound output and input. The following video demonstrates how to use Google Docs’ voice-typing alongside with Soundflower.

Another downside of using Google Docs’ voice-typing tool is that it sometimes stops transcribing between sentences, so you have to re-hit the recording icon to keep transcribing. However, when you are using the Soundflower output, you can’t hear the output sound by default which makes it very difficult to monitor the transcription progress. To get around with this, you can create a MIDI output include both Soundflower and built-in sound output and you will be able to hear the sound and having a Soundflower output at the same time.

Benefits Summary

  • Completely free
  • No download required (even though you might want to download Soundflower to create direct sound out/input)
  • Decent accuracy rate (about 85% accurate results)
  • Support multiple languages and accents (I have tried both English and Mandarin Chinese, both are super accurate)

Shortcomings

  • You might need to re-hit the recording icon several times during the transcription

Temi (Free trial for one use)

We tried Temi once for an in-depth interview for a video project. It was very accurate compared to most of the machine-transcription tools available online. After generating a transcript using Temi, all we needed to do afterward was to correct some technical terms and that was it!

The benefit of using Temi is that you don’t need to monitor the transcribing process, and you don’t need to re-hit the recording button or download any software. Just upload your audio or video file and the audio processing starts for you. By the way, one of their cool features is that it can identify the speakers for you if you want to specify who the speakers are in your subtitles for better accessibility.

However, Temi only provides one free transcription for your audio or video, so make sure you save it for a long recording!

Benefits Summary

  • Hyper-accurate (about 95% accuracy)
  • It can identify the speakers for you

Shortcomings

  • Only has a one-time-use free trial

Free Online Closed Captioning Platforms and Subtitle Editors

For closed captioning tools, we will start from online platforms, which means there is no download required, you can just go to the online environment and start captioning your video and publish/download your results directly.

All of these tools enable you to create captions online as caption editors, while some of them have extra functions like directly sync your captions to your streaming services or a collaborative working interface. Here we also give each of them a summary of benefits and shortcomings to help you choose the one that suits you.

Amara Subtitle Editor

Amara is one of the most powerful and intuitive subtitle editors online, and it’s free. With Amara, you can start subtitling immediately without having any subtitling experience and you don’t have to watch any kind of tutorial (unless you want to – we’ve included a short video that demonstrates how to use Amara platform below). Amara saves you a lot of time with many keyboard shortcuts, such as using the up and down arrow keys to time the subtitles to your video while it’s playing. There are also different playback modes for beginners and experts so that the video plays at a speed that’s comfortable for you.

Amara also has a built-in video player that plays your work as you go, so you can watch the video and have visual context while creating subtitles and then playing back the captions to make sure the subtitles are matched up to the video. Once you have the original-language subtitles created, you can continue working in Amara by translating them into other languages or you can publish your finished subtitles. Another big plus of Amara is that once you’re done creating your captions or subtitles, you can directly sync your subtitles to your original videos without the extra steps of downloading/uploading once you connect your YouTube and/or Vimeo accounts with Amara.

Amara also enables collaborative captioning and translation. Well-known organizations like TED and Udacity use Amara every day to caption their videos.

To start, go to Amara’s subtitle creation page, scroll to “subtitle a video” and paste the link of your video. Once you’ve hit “Begin”, all that’s left to do is click “Add a new language!” on your left side of the screen and follow the prompts to start captioning. When you’re done, publish it!

After publishing, anyone interested in adding a subtitle language to your video or improving the subtitles you made will be able to contribute their translation or edit the caption by simply visiting your video page on Amara. If you want to add multiple languages to your captions and subtitles, we recommend adding your videos and captions to Amara even if you used another subtitling software to caption your original language, because it’s very easy to keep your subtitles organized.

Sidebar: If you want to be able to manage collaborators or teams or have a private workspace, you can consider using the Amara Enterprise platform. Additionally, if you don’t really want to do the subtitling yourself, you can also use the affordable subtitling service on Amara on Demand and let the professional captionists and translators caption your video and translate it into your target languages. 

Benefits Summary

  • Completely free
  • No download required
  • Directly sync your subtitles with YouTube and Vimeo without extra steps of download/upload (if you own the channel)
  • You can position your subtitles quickly while playing the video using up and down arrow keys without having to pause each time
  • You can visually move/trim/adjust your caption’s timestamp bars on the timeline
  • Built-in revision and activity history that lets you monitor progress and compare progress
  • Intuitive interface and workflow with step-by-step prompts
  • Intuitive keyboard shortcut instructions showing on the screen while you are captioning
  • No need to manage software updates because you always get the latest version when you navigate to Amara.
  • Easy to create subtitles with others collaboratively
  • Easy to share your captioning/translation result (You can embed your video on your blog/website or share the link)
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • Existing translation and captioning community to help you add more languages to your video

Shortcomings

  • You can’t directly upload your video

Export

You can export the following subtitle formats

  • .dfxp, .srt, .ssa, .sbv, .txt, or .vtt 

YouTube Automatic Subtitles

If your video was recorded in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish, YouTube automatic captioning might save you a lot of time. While the accuracy is not always great depending on the clarity of the audio, the automatic syncing is pretty good.

It’s also super easy to use. If your video is in English, they will start the auto-captioning at the time you upload your video. But if your video is in other above-mentioned languages, you can just go to your video editing page->Subtitles or CC->Add new subtitles or CC and follow the prompts to create your subtitles on demand->review and edit your captions before publish and download it.

The following video demonstrates how to edit and download your captions on YouTube:

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Automatic syncing of captions on the corresponded position of the timeline
  • You can adjust your captions’ timestamp using visualized “timestamp bars”
  • Easy to work collaboratively (You can enable the video for community contributions and let your viewers caption and translate your content )

Shortcomings

  • Only available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish at the time of writing
  •  Some people said its auto transcription is less accurate than Google Docs
    • But I just tried this function with my English video, it seems at least about as accurate as the Google Docs voice-typing tool in English, so I would like to hear your opinion if you happen to have tried both

Export

  • You can only download .sbv before published
  • After publishing you can also download .vtt, .srt

Dotsub

The biggest benefit of Dotsub is it allows you to directly upload your video to the platform and work on your captions before you publish it in any online environment. They also have a translation mode so you can translate your subscriptions into other languages. In addition, they have a lot of useful shortcut keys readily available on the right side of the screen.

Like the Amara subtitle editor, it also allows you to collaboratively caption and translate your video so you can share your video page to ask your friends or online community to translate your video into other languages or caption it.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can save your progress in the account
  • The keyboard shortcuts are available on the right side of the screen
  • You can directly upload videos up to 4 GB
  • You can use their shortcut keys to add timestamps for captions so you don’t have to hand-type it every time
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • You can sync your captions and translations to YouTube and Vimeo directly

Shortcomings

  • Even though you can use their keyboard shortcut to add timestamps, they don’t have visualized “timestamp bars” for you to adjust positions, so you have to manually add time codes for each caption

Export

You can export the following subtitle formats

    • .srt, .stl, .dfxp, .ssa, .qt, .vtt, .txt, .csv, .sbv

Closed Caption Creator

Closed Caption Creator is another cloud-based subtitle editor. One specific feature of Closed Caption Creator is the ability to customize your keyboard shortcuts if you have preferred keys to use. For any videos that are long or difficult to hear, you can slow down the playback rate of a video or put a section of it in “loop mode” so that you can manually transcribe the audio at a pace that works for you. There’s no direct video upload, but it can stream videos locally from your hard drive. There is also no crowdsource or community collaboration available, but you can share your subtitles with people you know so that they can review your work.

The online version of Closed Caption Creator is free, but requires a fee if you want to be able to download it and work offline.

Benefits summary

  • Online version is free
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Includes waveforms for subtitle syncing
  • 3rd party player support (YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook)
  • You can share your work with others
  • You can save as you go

Shortcomings

    •  No direct video upload option
    • No revision history
    • You can’t upload existing subtitle files (except for .txt files)
    • No crowdsource option

Export

You can export the following subtitle formats

    • .ssc, .csv, .dfxp, fcpxml, .mcc, .sbv, .srt, .stl, .sub, .ttml, .txt, .vtt, .xml   

Free Closed Captioning Software (Download required)

The following closed captioning software requires you to download the software before you start working on your captions.  You can read through our review and find the best closed captioning software that fits your needs.

Aegisubs

Aegisubs give you a lot of flexibility to design your captions’ font family, size, and color, as well as outline and rotate your captions (not sure if that is very readable, though?!). You can even decide where they should appear in which part of the screen through the interface.

It has a visualized “audio wave” to help you replay a certain part of a video. You can zoom in and out of the audio wave to better target your captions’ timestamp which enables you to replay a certain part of the audio. However, this function is purely for replaying, you can’t create a caption with selected timestamps directly through this function which I think it should be able to.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can set up font family, size, color, outline and even rotate your captions in the interface
  • You have more flexibility to decide where the captions showing up in the video
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of audio to replay while you are captioning

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • You can’t edit while playing, sometimes you need to check which “wave” should link to which “subtitle” by re-playing it several times
  • Timestamp setting up for captions is very tedious
  • Keyboard shortcuts are not readily available, you have to find it from the menu
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .ass, .stl, .encore, .sub, .srt, .ssa, .ttxt, .txt

VisualSubSync

VisualSubSync is another software featuring visualized audio waveforms. However, you can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp by rightclick->create subtitle. You can also zoom in and out of the audio wave to better target your captions’ timestamp.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Intuitive
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of an audio
  • You can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

Some shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Don’t have OS version for Mac
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .cue, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa

Jubler

The interface and features of Jubler are very similar to VisualSubSync, you can also select their visualized audio waveforms and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

However, Jubler has OS version for Mac, and it gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline. It also presents the visualized “caption bars” on the timeline, but it’s purely for presentation, you can’t move/trim/adjust the bar directly.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Has OS version for Mac
  • It gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline.
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of an audio
  • You can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp

DivXLand Media Subtitler

If you like to do your transcription and “putting text in the video” in two respective working sessions, DivXLand Media Subtitler can be very helpful.

Before you start, you should prepare two files: A complete transcription saved as .txt and a video file. Then you simply just start syncing them by hitting the apply button while playing the video. The following video demonstrates how to do it.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can put the subtitle on the timeline while the video is playing, and sync the subtitle to that specific time code.

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Doesn’t have OS version for Mac
  • Harder to adjust the positions of captions on the timeline after you put it on the timeline since it doesn’t have visualizethd “caption bars” on the timeline

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp…and more

AHD Subtitles Maker

AHD Subtitles Maker is another software that allows you to move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner. It also gives you relatively more flexibility to style your captions and support a variety of export formats. Their visualized “timestamp bars” is modifiable so you can adjust the caption timestamp in a visualized manner.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • It gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline.
  • You can move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • No OS version for Mac
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp…and more

Closed Captioning vs Open Captioning

By the way, what’s the difference between Closed and Open Caption?

In this post, we focus on discussing closed caption tools. But what does closed caption mean? To understand it, let’s draw an important distinction between two kinds of captions, Closed Caption and Open Caption since they powered by very different technologies and provide different benefits respectively.

The following short video (no longer than three mins!) will give you an overview of the differences between closed caption and open caption.

The following table summarizes the relative benefits of Closed Caption compared to Open caption.

Summary of the Pro and Cons of Open/Close Caption

Difference between Open/Closed Caption Open Caption Closed Caption
Pros
  • You can push captions to your audiences without their demand
  • Typically have more flexibility to visually style and animate your captions
  • You are able to display your caption in online environments that don’t support closed caption
  • The audiences can decide whether or not the captions are displayed
  • Easier to include multiple languages
  • Easier to sync or upload to several media outlets
  • Easier to make derivative contents out of captions
  • Easier to modify or correct your captions after they are published or exported
  • Beneficial for SEO purpose
Cons
  • Harder to include multiple languages
  • Can’t be read by the search engine so it does not directly benefit SEO
  • Less flexibility to style and animate your captions
  • Some online environments don’t support closed caption

There are a lot of file formats for closed captions,I have listed the most common ones below. 

Common Captions’ Formats

  • PGS (BluRay)
  • VOB (DVD)
  • SubRip (.srt) (the most common subtitle format supported by most video players)
  • WebVTT (.vtt) (Web Video Text Track format, which is similar to SRT, but does not number subtitles)
  • Substation Alpha (.ssa) (SSA ,SubStation Alpha subtitle format)
  • YouTube Subtitles (.sbv)
  • JSON (TED.com) Subtitles (.json)
  • TTML (.dfxp)((Timed Text Markup Language, subtitles in an XML file))(DFXP (Distribution Format Exchange Profile format))
  • SCC (Scenarist Closed Captions, for western languages)
  • CAP (Videotron Lambda captions)
  • MicroDVD (.sub)

Are There Any Fantastic Free Caption Tools We Missed?

There you have it. I tried my best to compile most of the tools that I found useful online. But we would like to hear your opinions!
If you happened to have tried any free captioning/subtitling tool you found useful, let us know! Otherwise, share us your experiences on using these tools we listed and how do you make the most out of them!

14 thoughts on “10 Free Tools to Make Your Video Captioning Process Easier in 2019!

  1. Recently I experienced YOUTUBE sound recognition for transacription but in dispair. Not as I expected. So I am eagerly seeking any application or something like that. And I found out this morning soundflower in your sent e-mail. However I am novice to handle rb file and I don’t have MacOS. So I want you to provide explaining tutorials of installing your provided recent soundflower or provide window version of it. Would you do this? Please…

    1. Hi, Ksmtesoler,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      Unfortunately, Soundflower don’t have Window version at this moment, but at 4:09 in the video I shared do demonstrate the equivalent solution for window https://youtu.be/erx9czQsY2Q?t=4m8s

      You can also try Temi, which is a paid service but providing a one-time free trial. https://www.temi.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwttbWBRDyARIsAN8zhbIm0JKbuacUwZ5DrJL_6T9JT3YLjvda6DCCoF-PtXAmll9Ts4M_OLkaAl2nEALw_wcB

      I hope this information helps!

  2. To Shao Chieh Lo
    Sorry for late reply to your long kind letter.
    You are distisfied but it is because of traffic I think and I tested and satisfied.
    The STT need learning process so as long as I use Google voicetyping tool it’s going to be developed as long as I use it. And late at night the traffic is so heavy then it get slow. But in day time it’s satisfying me. I will keep an eye on your sent URL. Thank you!

  3. Very appreciated blog! Really well explained useful tools for video captioning, these are in a way easy to understand, reason is explanation in step by step. Provide a list of free tools also define to users in the blog is really appreciated. All remaining need of user video can fulfill. I will share the blog on social sites.

  4. Here is what I did:
    – used the google docs to transcribe my video in seconds
    -Proofed read it
    -Uploaded Into youtube
    – on the CC options copied and pasted the Google Docs
    – Let youtube sync the video with the transcript I provided
    -downloaded the srs file to upload into facebook.

    Now I must also say i wanted in Spanish so
    – once I had the google doc i Google Translated
    – once the English is set on youtube you can upload the spanish onto the sections
    – saved
    – went back to the CC section and clicked on the spanish copy and downloaded the srs file in spanish
    -uploaded it to facebook but attached this “filename.es_LA.srt” for Spanish

  5. hi, these are all for subtitles. – i want too add captions too a video, permanently. – can you please advise on software too overlay and reencode the video permenantly with text.

  6. Great article. I have read open captions are considered better for accessibility as the caption toggle can be difficult on some mobile devices and the learner might not even be aware captions are an option.

    Microsoft Stream that comes as part of Office365 has a good stab at transcribing and captioning any video you upload. It gets it a bit wrong but all the timing information is there and you can download and edit the vtt file as well as converting the vtt file to another format that you can use in your video editor. If you have Office365 I would definitely check it out.

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