How to add closed captions to your YouTube videos in 2021

In this article, I’ll show you how to add closed captions to your YouTube videos and I’ll walk you through my process. We’ll also discuss a bit about what these captions are and why you need them.

If you’re a small-time crochet designer like myself and have started working on a little YouTube channel of your own with patterns or tips and tricks of the trade, you may want to add closed captions to your videos.

I’ve searched high and wide for an actual step-by-step tutorial on how to easily add captions to my videos, to not end up wanting to pull my hair out in frustration. I couldn’t find one.

So I’ll share my journey and the lessons I’ve learned from trying to add proper captions to my YouTube videos, as opposed to the garbled trash that comes out of the tool for autogenerated captions from the platform itself.

replace craptions
Pin me for when you really mean to add captions to your videos.

Now I don’t mean to bash the YouTube captioning AI (artificial intelligence) for the trash it produces, as it saves me a lot of work, writing out most of what I say, even if it’s not really legible.

But there’s a lot of work to be done on auto-generated captions before you can call them closed captions.

Just to be clear, I’ll assume that you don’t read from a script when you film your videos and give the instructions on the fly, while demonstrating the stitches, like I do.

If you do have a script (who has time for that), your work will be much easier, you just upload the script and assign timings.

But first of all, what are closed captions?

Closed captions, also known as CC, are essentially subtitles that describe the sounds that appear in a video.

They can transcribe the words that are spoken and they also bring additional information, describing sounds in the environment, music (sometimes even mentioning the artists, titles and even lyrics, which is awesome) and are used by a wide variety of people.

There are Deaf and hard of hearing people who used closed captions, but they are not the only ones!

what are closed captions
Closed captions on YouTube – the text that explains what is being said on screen and sometimes even noises and music in the background.

There are many people who like to read, along with listening to the words, for better understanding.

I’m one of them and I can’t watch movies without subtitles because of the overwhelming amount of various sounds in the background of most scenes, which I can hear/perceive just as loudly as the actual speech of the characters.

There are people who use the auto-translate ability of the YouTube AI, which is pretty decent, as it’s based on Google Translate, but it too will produce trash if you feed it with trash captions.

There are also people who are learning foreign languages while watching videos on YouTube and find closed captions super useful for understanding how words are written, as opposed to the sounds they make, in the wonderful language that is English (I’m assuming you’re reading this in English, but maybe I shouldn’t assume things about your language).

The good thing about closed captions is that you can turn them off if you don’t need them (and edit them, if you’re the creator!), as opposed to open captions, which are hard-coded into the video and can interfere with some people’s enjoyment of your videos.

Why do you need closed captions for your YouTube videos?

Besides providing excellent service to your audience and your potential audience (how many more people will click on your title if you have a little [CC] in there?), it’s also a great way for your video to get found more easily.

Because in the world of YouTube and Google, closed captions are SEO for your channel and can get your videos on top of other people’s videos on the same topic simply because they exist.

How does that work, do you ask?

The captions of your videos are parsed by search engines (especially Google, since, you know, it owns YouTube, just saying) and used to provide answers to search queries.

Let’s say you have a video about weaving in ends. There are many written articles and some videos (I’m just inventing this, I have not idea how many videos are on this topic).

If you are the only one to add closed captions to your video, the next time someone searches on Google for “how to weave in ends”, your video will possibly be recommended at the top of the search results page because you have that exact expression in the closed captions of your video.

how to add youtube captions 3
Auto-generated captions can suck or they can just be annoying to read. Two good reasons to turn them into proper captions.

Auto-generated captions are not a popular a source of results because Google recognizes that its automatic system is full of flaws and it should not recommend auto-generated content.

OK, that last bit is only my assumption, but I’ve never seen a video recommended like this that didn’t have manual closed captions.

What’s wrong with auto-generated captions?

First of all, they suck.

Just look at this screenshot below, with a wall of uncapitalized text that has no punctuation, no paragraphs.

It’s unreadable. And that’s OK, because we can fix this.

how to add youtube captions auto generated wall of text
Example of text generated by the auto-captioning AI at YouTube – this is not legible by a regular human.

Second of all, when you have such garbled nonsense, nobody will be able to follow your auto-generated captions.

They are not meant for human eyes. Well, maybe just the eyes of the human who will extract meaning and structure from here.

How to add manual captions to your YouTube videos in three steps

The process is a bit convoluted, but what takes the most time is the actual editing of the wall of text than anything else.

1. Make sure you have auto-generated captions

You may even not have those enabled, in which case you need to have YouTube generate them for you.

They will be generated when you upload a new video if you select the language of the video. But if you forget, you can do it later, like this.

In your creator Studio, you go to the list of videos, select the video that you want to add captions to and click on edit.

On the edit page, scroll down to SHOW MORE and click it.

Then scroll down to Language, subtitles, and closed captions (CC) and select your language.

For now, YouTube can generate automatic captions in a few languages, including: English, German, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Korean and Japanese (yes, I know, we Europeans are spoiled).

Once you select the language, it should automatically generate a caption file if there’s speech in the video.

how to add youtube captions 6 select language
One way of generating auto-captions, in case you forgot to do it while uploading your video.

In the video I selected for the screenshot above there is no speech, so there’s nothing to generate (ooops).

So I tried it with another video that I hadn’t added closed captions to (not even the puny auto-generated ones – again, oooooops).

Another way to get the auto-generated captions is by going to Subtitles on the left-side menu and from there you can select the language, like this.

how to add youtube captions 6 select language alternative
The second way to generate auto-captions.

Selecting the language should automatically show you the auto-generated captions, provided that you’ve had the video uploaded for at least a few hours.

Yay, we have ugly, auto-generated captions. But it’s something.

how to add youtube captions 6 select language alternative done 1
Automatic subtitles are generated and available for editing.

2. Edit the auto-generated captions

Now once you have the wall of ugly text, it’s time to have some fun with it.

First click on that DUPLICATE AND EDIT button (don’t ask why these buttons are in all caps, they are annoying to me too).

Then you’ll have a copy of these captions that you can edit, since you can’t edit the auto-generated ones.

You can delete them, though, after your proper captions are ready.

Let’s try with Kizilkaya (yes, that pattern that you get when you sign up to my email updates – no, I don’t know how come I haven’t added closed captions yet to such an important video).

how to add youtube captions - editing
You can’t edit the machine-generated captions, but what you can do is make a copy and edit that.

Once you click on that DUPLICATE AND EDIT button, you get this pop-up window where you’ll do all the editing of the text and moving around of elements.

No, you can’t edit this pop-up like a regular window, there are no handles to move things around, what you see is what you have to work with.

Screenshot from Youtube captions while editing - wall of text auto-generated by the auto-captioning system
Wall of text. Oh no, ruuuun!!! Or, better yet, add some paragraph breaks in there to make your editing easier.

First of all, look at the text you have there. Chances are you also have a big sausage of words, with no beginning and no end.

Your task is to turn this word sausage into beautifully crafted paragraphs that are easy to read.

We humans normally don’t speak in full paragraphs because we generally get interrupted and don’t have a chance to express our ideas fully (which is why I prefer writing), but a good video will be made up of sentences and paragraphs that are connected into a coherent story/script, even if you make things up as you go, like when recording instructions to make something.

If you have trouble reading your own speech as it is interpreted by the AI, maybe because of too many uhms and ahs or filler words that don’t lead anywhere, you might be better off to begin with editing your videos better and maybe adding a voice-over, instead of explaining the stitches while working them.

That will both improve the quality of your videos overall and give you less of a headache while fixing captions.

I’ll assume that what you got is decently legible and only needs to be broken into paragraphs with capital letters and proper punctuation.

Of course there will also be strange words invented by the AI, which is why you need to actually read the text and correct those words, not just skim it.

You now have two options. Edit this big chunk of text or click on ASSIGN TIMINGS and try to fix each line by itself on the timeline. Trust me, you do not want to try the second approach.

how to add youtube captions 4
Start separating the paragraphs right away, fixing capitalization and punctuation.

So the best way is to start reading right away and separating the paragraphs.

You could also copy all the text and paste it into a text editor, but I see no advantage in doing that, since you lose the ability to check the video when you are in doubt and would need to work with multiple windows.

You don’t need to add double spaces, but the AI uses these as break-off points to separate the different chunks of text when it generates the timings and the paragraphs are easier to read when you have them, so I recommend using them even within longer paragraphs.

You can listen to the video while working on the text, but I reserve this only to confusing things, like words that don’t exist, where I have no idea what I was trying to say.

Because it’s such a smart system, the AI can take your beautiful paragraphs and put them almost perfectly on the timeline once you’ve done the hard job of fixing them up.

After you’re done with the text, you can go ahead and fix the individual chunks of text that may or may not be aligned properly on the timeline.

how to add youtube captions assign timings
Better fix that text first before doing any work on the timeline. Click on EDIT AS TEXT if you find yourself here and your paragraphs look like a mess.

But if you are a fool (like me, the first time I tried this) and try to do both these things at the same time, fixing the text and the placement of each paragraphs in the timeline, you’ll give yourself extra work for nothing.

You should only click on ASSIGN TIMINGS after you’re done fixing the text.

how to add youtube captions 5 after paragraphs
Once your text is nice and legible, the captions will look a lot more proper and correct. Thank me later.

Now you can truly admire your own work and fix the little inconsistencies, where the timings are a bit off.

I noticed that the timings are mostly off when I stop talking and there’s a pause.

You can move the beginning and end of each section by using the handles on the selected section.

But beware that these handles are not very user-friendly and are very frustrating to use. So keep this editing to a minimum if you want to keep your sanity.

3. Publishing your manual captions

Once you’re happy with how the captions appear on your video (I watch the whole thing through on 2x speed at least once to make sure everything is right), you can just hit that big PUBLISH button.

how to add youtube captions publish
Ready to push that PUBLISH button, yeah!

It will make your captions available instantly and then you can delete or unpublish the auto-generated captions, since those were just a crutch to help you get proper captions.

To delete or unpublish the auto-captions, just click on the three vertical dots and you’ll get these options.

If you want to do something else with these auto-captions, don’t delete them, just unpublish them, so when someone visits your video, they only get the option to watch the actual captions, not the craptions (yes, I just invented this world, watch me get it patented, except it’s been in use for a while and I’m not the only funny person out there, oh well…).

how to add youtube captions delete auto captions
Once you have proper captions on your video, it’s time to say bye-bye to the automatic ones. You could just unpublish them if you’re afraid something bad is going to happen.

Wrapping up

Now I hope you’ve been able to follow along with this tutorial on how to add closed captions to your YouTube videos because it will give your videos a lot of value and your audience even more!

What’s more important than giving love to your audience?

I know this is a time-consuming process, but so is filming and editing a video for your channel and you set time aside for that because it’s important to your business, right?

So why not set a bit of time and mental energy aside to add this extra layer of awesomeness to your videos that will instantly make them more searchable and essentially more easily reached by your potential audience?

Now if you don’t have time or the mental energy for all of that, there are companies out there that will do the transcribing and correcting for you, you just need to upload the subtitles they give you.

Let’s also explore how you do that.

Bonus – uploading your script to a video

If you already have a written script, or hired a company to do the transcribing/translating for you, or if you have right-handed and left-handed videos of the same content (kudos for you for creating content for the left-handed, who are mostly ignored by the crafting community – why, I wonder), you’ll only need to upload a subtitle to your video, no more auto-captioning shenanigans.

First you should know how to export the subtitles you already have, so you can easily send them on, upload them on another video or on the same video on another platform.

To export, you just go to the subtitles page, click on the three dots next to your good set of captions and click that big Download button to get a file.

You’ll get options for three file formats. Choose whichever one strikes your fancy (or is required by the platform you’ll be using in the future).

how to add youtube captions download
Before uploading these captions to another video or platform, you should download them first from this dialog.

Once you’ve got your file, now you can do whatever you want to it.

If you want to upload it to another video with the same audio (left-handed videos, anyone?), then go to the edit page of that particular video and under Subtitles click on the big ADD LANGUAGE button.

how to add youtube captions upload subtitle 1 1
Then move them to the other video by clicking the big ADD button (no, not the one one the left, the one on the right with the big red rectangle around it!).

Click on the ADD button under Subtitles, not under Title & description. This will open up the pop-up you are already familiar with, but with different options.

Click on the Upload file button, select whether the file comes with timing or without timing (which is only available if you upload subtitles for the original language, not for translations) and navigate to your saved file.

how to add youtube captions upload subtitle 2
Ready to upload some captions! Use the “with timing” option, since you already exported your captions with timing.

Then you can make any changes you need to (if you changed anything in the audio, now is the time to find the changes and add them to the captions).

Then hit PUBLISH and you’re good to go.


I hope all of this information has been useful to you and will help make your videos shine.

Stay tuned, because there are more articles like this coming your way.

They may be long, but they are packed full of information and step by step instructions that you won’t find anywhere else because they take a lot of time and effort to create (but I love it, so I’ll keep doing this).

If you haven’t seen them yet, here are my other articles dedicated to crochet designers, some about making crochet charts for your patterns (the charts series is still under construction).

What’s great about using Adobe Illustrator for crochet charts
Should you learn to use Adobe Illustrator for crochet charts or pick …
Should you use Inkscape to draw crochet charts?
Pros and cons of using Inkscape to draw crochet charts, from a …
Is it worth using Crochet Charts for your patterns?
Crochet Charts is a free software for drawing your own charts. But …

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I hope you found this useful and I’ll see you soon!

Hugs,

Andrea

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