Step-by-Step Guide: Adding Closed Captioning to Your Video

Do you create videos for the web? Chances are, adding closed captioning can help you reach a bigger audience while improving viewership satisfaction. Depending on the platform, such as YouTube, identifying the right solution to add closed captioning can be tricky. In this blog post, we’ll break down the basics of closed captions, delve into why they’re important, and provide tips on how to add them quickly and easily.

What Are Closed Captions?

Closed captions are text or audio translations of the dialogue or speech in a video. This is typically used for people with hearing impairments, but they can benefit virtually all types of viewers in certain situations. As an example, captions may be necessary for people watching a video at work or a loud, public place. They’re also advantageous for people who don’t speak the language of the video’s audio track.

Types of Closed Captions

When adding closed captions, there are a few different types of subtitles to consider.

Closed captions are the most common and feature dialogue, sound effects, and music as text on screen. The text is typically displayed in a white font and is completely hidden from the viewer until activated.

Open captions, also known as burned-in captions, are displayed permanently on the screen, like a regular subtitle. This type of caption file can’t be turned off, which limits its usefulness.

Transcripts are another type of caption file which deals purely in text. It’s not technically a caption, but it’s a common form of packaging captions, as it can be used on many platforms and edited easily.

Also, captions come in two formats: hard and soft. Hard captions are pre-embedded into the video, and soft captions, the most common, aren’t visible until the viewer chooses to activate them.

Why Add Closed Captions?

The inclusion of captions allows for greater accessibility, enabling more people to watch your videos at their convenience. Not only is this considerate and inclusive of hearing-impaired audiences, but it’s also beneficial for those who aren’t native speakers of your video’s language.

Improving accessibility will also potentially increase your video’s viewership, as search engines prioritize captions for indexing and searches. Additionally, captions enable viewers to understand foreign-language videos, which can help expand your content’s reach, especially on platforms like YouTube.

Lastly, adding captions can improve users’ experience with videos, as captions can be used in places where sound isn’t appropriate — think office environments or situations with a lot of background noise. This can add convenience for many viewers, as they’ll able to watch and follow along with the video’s content without the need to strain their ears.

How to Add Closed Captioning to a Video

Creating closed captions for your videos can be a time-consuming task, but there are tools available that can help make the process simpler. Getting started with adding closed captions is easy and requires just a few steps.

Step 1: Write the Transcript

The first step to adding closed captions is to write the script or transcript. This can be done manually, but there are transcription tools available that enable you to quickly generate an accurate transcript. Depending on the software you use, you may also be able to access speech recognition and automated transcription.

Step 2: Format the Captions

Once you’ve got your script, the next step is to format the captions to their appropriate specifications. This is a multi-step process that involves adding start and end times to each line, manually adjusting lines for readability, and adding “on-screen cues” such as [LAUGHS], [CHARLIE SIGHS], and [MUSIC].

Step 3: Include Timecodes

Timecodes are important for accurately synchronizing captions with your video’s content. In this step, you’ll need to add timecodes to your transcripts to ensure that captions appear at the right time and for the right duration.

Step 4: Create a Caption File

After adjusting your transcript for accuracy, you’ll need to prepare the captions in a media file format suitable for the desired platform. If you’re distributing your video over the web, your file type should be WebVTT for YouTube, Microsoft Word file for Vimeo, SRT file for Facebook, and STL file for video on demand services.

Step 5: Upload Your Captions

The final step is to upload your caption file to the video-sharing platform of your choice. YouTube and Vimeo, for example, will both allow you to upload your closed caption file directly. Once uploaded, you’ll be able to make edits to your caption file and sync the captions accurately with your video.

Video Captioning Services

For those who don’t have the time or know-how to create their own closed captions, there are captioning services available that offer a comprehensive solution for adding captions to videos.

Services such as and 3PlayMedia offer caption, subtitle, and transcription services with quick turnaround times — for a fee, of course. They generally offer a flat rate with easy-to-use tools and have staff on hand to help with creating transcriptions, which is helpful if you’re dealing with difficult-to-understand audio.


Closed captioning is a great way to increase accessibility to your videos and open up your content to more viewers. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can easily learn how to add closed captioning to a video and make your content accessible and engaging for a wider audience.

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