10 Free Tools to Make Your Video Captioning Process Easier in 2018!

 

Titlecard for blogpost about 10 free video captioning tools

Adding captions to video contents 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 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?

I have reviewed 11 video captioning tools, which are organized in the categories from transcription tools, captioning platforms, to captioning software to help you choose the one works best for you! 

I 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, I will focus on discussing tools that creating “closed caption“, 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 you a mass amount of time: turning voice into text and putting text in the right position on the timeline.

The first process is called transcription, and the later we call it captioning, let’s start with transcription tools reviews. 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 miss the entire point of machine transcription.  I 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 Doc Voice-typing Tool(combined with Soundflower)

What?! Google doc 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 Doc voice-typing alongside with Soundflower.

Another downside of using Google Doc 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 you might want to download Soundflower to create direct sound out/input)
  • Very accurate(about 85% accuracy)
  • Support multiple languages and accents( I have tried both English and Mandrian, 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)

I have tried Temi once for my in-depth interview for my college graduate project.  It was super accurate compared to most of the machine-transcription tools available online. After generating my transcription using Temi,  all I need to do is to correct some technical terms and that’s it!

The benefit of using Temi is that you don’t need to monitor the transcribing process, you don’t need to re-hit the recording button or download any software. Just upload your audio or video file and they will do all the heavy lifting 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 is the speaker in your subtitles for better accessibility.

However, it only provides one free transcription for your audio or video for any given lens.(So, make sure you save it for a long one!)

Benefits Summary

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

Shortcomings

  • Only have one-use free trial

Free Closed Captioning Platforms

For closed captioning tools, I want to 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 cations online as caption editors while some of them with extra functions like directly sync your captions to your streaming services or collaborative working interface, I also give each of them a summary of benefits and shortcomings to help you choose the one that suits you!

Amara

Amara is one of the most powerful and intuitive subtitling editors online! It saves you a lot of time by letting you use up and down buttons to put subtitles into your video while playing it, and it also enables collaborative captioning and translation. Well-known organizations including TED, Udacity and Scientific American are all current users of Amara!

To start, go to Free platform->paste the link of your video->hit “Add a new language! “on your left side of screen-> follow the prompts to start captioning then publish it.

After publishing, everyone on the Internet will be able to contribute their translation or edit the caption by simply visit your video page.

The following short video demonstrating how to use Amara platform in just 5 Mins.

Another big plus of Amara is that you can directly sync your subtitles to your original videos without extra steps of download/upload once you sync your Youtube, Vimeo, accounts with Amara.

If you want to add multiple languages of subtitles, we recommend uploading your videos and captions to Amara even you end up using other software to caption your original language.

Sidebar: If you want to be able to manage who has access to your video page, you can consider using Amara Enterprise Platform.

You can also use the paid subtitling service on Amara on Demand, letting the professional captioners 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, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter without extra steps of download/upload( If you own the channel)
  • You can position your subtitles while playing the video using up and down buttons without having to pause several times
  • You can move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner
  • Built-in revision and activity history that lets you monitor changes and progress.
  • No need to manage tool updates you always get the latest version when you navigate to Amara.
  • Easy to work with others collaboratively
  • Easy to share your captioning/translation result( You can embed your video on your blog/website or share the link)
  • Intuitive interface and workflow with step by step prompts
  • Intuitive keyboard shortcuts instruction showing right on the screen while you are captioning
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • Existing translation and captioning community

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.

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 sync 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 doc
    • But I just tried this function with my English video, it seems at least about as accurate as Google Doc 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 publishing it in any online environments. They also have a lot of useful keyboard shortcuts readily available on the right side of the screen.

Like Amara Public, 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 keyboard shortcut to add timestamps for captions so you don’t have to hand-typing it every time
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • Yoy can sync your captions and translations to Youtube and Vimeo directly

Shortcomings

  • Even 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

Free Closed Captioning Software( Download required)

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

Aegisubs

Aegisubs give you a lot of flexibility to design your captions’ font family, size, color, outline and even rotate your captions. You can even decide 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 wave”. 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 wave” 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 presentational, 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

If you like to do your transcription and “putting text in the video” in two respectively working session, Divxland 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
  • Don’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 visualized “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 allows you 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
  • Don’t have 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 closed caption means? 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 (.ass)(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!

 

5 comments

  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…

  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.

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