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Captioning, for web videos, has long been an after thought.  Web originating video is mainly exempt from FCC captioning regulations.  In addition, the immediacy of posting videos precludes the additional manual effort needed for accurate captioning requires.

However, over the past few years this has changed.  Google has suggested that SEO ranking may be improved with captioning, and videos on Facebook often have open captions to catch the viewer’s eye.

Plus, for those of us who make videos designed to educate – the mere fact we can each a broader audience is just a good thing to do (and a good way to do it).

How can we make captioning easier?

YouTube does auto captioning, by analyzing the audio of your uploaded file.  However, this is shoddy at best.  Poor audio causes inaccurate analysis, negating any benefit you hope for.  There is, however, a way to use this same technology to get your scripted content accurately timed, and then use this timed caption file for your own purposes.

Here’s the workflow hack:

1.     Export your finished video edit.  It should be a lightweight file, as it is only used for reference.  If this is just a reference, make sure the Ins and Outs match your high res version. If this is your videos final resting place, encode accordingly.

2.     Upload your video.  Let YouTube process.  Have patience.  Get a coffee, take a nap, but wait.

3.     While YouTube is processing, take your script, and eliminate any screen direction, labeling, or notes.  Only leave the content you want scripted.  Save as a plain text file.

4.     Once YouTube processes the video, go into your Video Manager, and select “Edit” on the video you just uploaded. Click on “Subtitles and CC”.  Next, click on “Add new subtitles or CC”.  Select your language, and upload your plain text file.

5.     Click “Set Timings”.  Again, wait.  YouTube needs time to compare the audio in the file against your script and set the captioning timings.

6.     Once the timing is done, you can go into the captioning and manipulate.  You may want to change how it looks aesthetically, e.g. timing of when certain sentences begin or end on screen.  Remember, a viewer (reader) should have a pleasant reading experience.  YouTube doesn’t understand context, so the timings will be based on audio, not readability.  When finished, click “publish”.  You will now go back to the main subtitles and captioning screen.

7.     Click on your published subtitles (English, etc.), and click on “actions”.  From the drop down actions menu, download the caption in the format you’d like.

8.     You now have a captions file – go forth and be merry.

**As a side note, YouTube will auto generate its own captioning.  You may want to go back into the YouTube video and delete these auto captions (“unpublish”).  Be careful!  The auto generated captions will probably be labeled the same (”English”, etc.).