How to Caption

Wouldn’t it be great to make all your church’s content easily accessible? All of those online sermons captioned for the Deaf to have access to as well? With a little bit of computing know-how, and the time, you can! Today we are going to look at how it’s done! First we are going to look at the technical aspects of captioning, and then I’m going to give you the easiest way I have found for free captioning.

Photo Credit Bob Smith via

Photo Credit Bob Smith via

How Captioning Works

On a technical level, there are two parts to captioning your video. You need a transcript of the video, and you need to connect the transcript with time snaps in that video. That sounds complicated, but it is not that bad. I will break it down.



This is the most difficult part of the whole process. If you have more funds than time, it might be worth it to simply use Fiverr and pay someone to do this part. There is no good software to automatically transcribe audio. Dragon comes the closest, if you are interested, but as of now, there is nothing more accurate than the human brain to transcribe audio. If the video is in ASL, you are stuck typing out a translation or voice interpreting it into the memo app on a phone and then correcting the document. Your other option is to transcribe the audio yourself. There are several free programs (I like “Play it Slowly” on Linux) to help you slow down the audio while you type. On many video players, there is also an option to slow down your video. With few exceptions, you need a transcript before you caption. (I will discus the exceptions later.)

Time Snaps

This is the part that sounds technical but is actually really simple. Below you will find a list of programs that can do this part for you almost automatically. All you need to do is indicate when one sentence should start, and another stop. I have not tried all of these programs, but the ones I have looked at are similar. You just need to play around and see what works for you and what does not.


Often you will see what’s called a “caption file” or “subtitle file.” That is a special kind of file that has the transcript and the time snaps together. If the program you use creates this file, you simply upload it to either your hosting site (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc), or your program (either with one of the programs below or through many available commercial video editing programs) to add the captions directly to the video, and you’re done.

I mentioned that you do not always need a transcript. Several of these programs allow you to type your captions while you listen. The paid programs are even more simple, but you have to pay for that simplicity.

These programs work by you uploading a video to the program (or link to it in some cases) and manually going through the video and deciding what chunks of words go on the screen and when. It sounds technical, but once you find a program that works for you, and get past the learning curve, it is not that complicated.


Name System Cost Notes
Dotsub Web Based Free
Free, web based platform to create a caption file (a file that contains the transcript and time snaps).
Captionate Windows Free
Embeds data to flash videos (.FLV)
Jubler Windows, Mac, Linux Free
Instalation guide for Windows
Gnome Subtitles Linux Free
CaptionMaker and MacCaption Windows, Mac Starts at $1,095
MAGpie Windows Free
MovieCaptioner Windows, Mac Starts at $99.95
Subtitle Workshop XE Windows Free
Still in Beta, but usable
Amara Web Based Free
Can have “friends” who can help you transcribe videos.



The Easy Way!

Captioning can be overwhelming! Thankfully, Google has made it much more simple with YouTube! YouTube has the capability to manually add captions like most of the above programs, but YouTube has one little difference… Auto-Captions!

For this to work well, you cannot turn on auto captions and just leave it. The captions can be wildly inaccurate and lead to some funny, and not so funny mistakes. To use auto captions, you must have your video uploaded to YouTube and it must have a spoken language component. If you are working with a video in sign language, you will not be able to use the Auto-Captions feature. Once you activate Auto-Captions, you simply go through and edit the captions for accuracy. This is much faster than transcribing it yourself and it’s 100% free, except the cost of time.

To activate and edit Auto Captions, simply go to your video, click edit, and then select the “CC” icon and select “Automatic.” Then, you simply edit the captions as they appear. I also made a quick video to show you how.


There you have it! Captioning is a lot of work, but to make our churches, and the Gospel, more accessible, it is worth it!

How do you caption? Do you have anything to add? Any programs I should add?


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