Adding Captions to YouTube Videos


There are three ways to add captions to YouTube videos. For all three, you must be the owner of the video.

  1. Use the YouTube Caption Editor.  YouTube automatically generates captions for most videos when they’re uploaded using speech recognition technology. These machine-generated captions are rarely if ever fully accurate. However, if their accuracy is decent and captions can be perfected with only a few minor corrections, the easiest way to correct them is to do so directly in YouTube.  For instructions see the  Edit Captions help page on YouTube.
  2. Outsource. Companies such as Automatic Sync Technologies3PlayMediacielo24, and many other captioning service providers will caption videos for a fee.  Contact these companies directly for additional information.
  3. Do it yourself.  There are free tools available online that make it possible and easy to caption your own video. See Captioning your own video for free for additional information.

The end product generated by the second and third options is a caption file. Most caption files are plain text files with time codes indicating the start and stop times. Popular caption file formats include SRT, WebVTT, and TTML, all of which are supported by YouTube.

To add captions to videos on YouTube, you must be the owner of the YouTube account where the video is hosted. The specific steps for uploading your caption file change frequently as the YouTube interface is upgraded. However, the general sequence is fairly consistent.

Step 1. Login to YouTube, then go to Video Manager.

Currently Video Manager is located within the Upload menu, accessed by clicking Upload.

Note: Depending on your YouTube configuration your videos might not be displayed under Video Manager and instead listed under Creator Studio. 

Screen shot from YouTube: Click on Upload, select Video Manager from the menu

Step 2. Find the video you want to add captions to, select Captions.

Video Manager features a list of all your current videos. Currently each video includes an Editbutton. Click on the Edit button to reveal the Captions option.

Screen shot from YouTube, showing the Edit menu for a video. The Subtitles and CC option is highlighted within the menu.

Step 3. Upload your caption file.

The Captions area within Video Manager includes a variety of features for managing your video’s captions and subtitles. One of the options is Upload a File. Select that option, then follow the prompts to upload your caption or subtitle file and identify the language. After you upload your file the new captions or subtitles will be live on YouTube within seconds.

Screen shot from YouTube showing the Add a New Track dialog

YouTube also includes its own caption editor as well as a variety of other features related to captions and subtitles. For additional information see YouTube’s Help page on Captions.

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