YouTube Studio Captioning

This guide provides instructions for adding and managing captions for YouTube videos using YouTube Studio. To add or edit a caption file, you must be the owner of the video and have the video uploaded to YouTube.

Using YouTube Studio

  1. Go to YouTube Studio in your YouTube account by selecting your account icon in the top right corner, then selecting YouTube Studio from the dropdown menu.
  2. Using the scroll-down navigation menu, scroll down and select the Subtitles option.
  3. Select the video you want to caption by clicking on the thumbnail or title of the video.
  4. Next, click the ADD button. 
    1. Note: If an automatic caption file has already generated, click on the ADD LANGUAGE button and select a source language.
    2. Then click the ADD button.
  5. This action will open the “Manage subtitles and closed captions” window to select a method for adding captions to your video.

Uploading Caption or Transcript Files

If a transcript or caption file already exists for a video, simply upload the file to YouTube. This method is recommended.

Caption Files vs. Transcript Files

  • Caption files contain both text and time codes.
  • Transcript files only contain text and are saved as a plain text file (.txt). However, if the video is in English, YouTube can synchronize your transcript with the video to create a caption file.

For Caption Files

  1. If you have a caption file, choose Upload a file
  2. Select the Subtitles file file type option and click Browse to choose a caption file. Then select the Upload button. 
  3. Preview the captions in the editor and make any necessary edits, then, near the upper right corner of the screen, select Save Changes to publish the captions, and the Return to YouTube Studio to return to the channel dashboard.

For Transcript Files

  1. If you have a transcript file, select Transcribe and auto-sync
  2. Select the Actions dropdown menu and choose Upload a File
  3. Select the Transcript file type option and click Browse to choose a transcript file. Then select the Upload button. 
  4. Click Set timings to automatically sync your transcript with the video and create a caption file. This will take a few minutes.
  5. Once the captions are available, review the timing to ensure accuracy, then, near the upper right corner of the screen, select Save Changes to publish the captions. Select Return to YouTube Studio to return to the channel dashboard.

YouTube’s Automatic Captions

YouTube can be set to generate captions using automatic speech recognition technology.

Please note that the quality of automatic captions varies and will not meet the 99%+ accuracy threshold to be considered accessible. Automatic captions often misrepresent the spoken content within the presence of accents, dialects, background noise, or poor sound quality, or with use of proper nouns, abbreviations, or acronyms. Miscomprehension may occur because of the absence of grammar and punctuation, and lack of a complete textual representation of the audio that includes speaker identification and non-speech information. You should always review automatic captions and edit any parts that have not been properly transcribed.

If English is selected for the Video language, then automatic captions should generate within a day of uploading the video.

To check this:

  1. In YouTube Studio, select Videos from the scroll-down navigation menu.
  2. Click on the title or thumbnail of your video.
  3. Click on the More options tab.
  4. Check that the Video language is set to English.

Removing Automatic Captions

Removing automatic caption files ensures viewers will not see the inaccurate version on YouTube.

  1. To remove an automatic caption file, go to YouTube Studio.
  2. Select Subtitles from the scroll-down navigation menu.
  3. Select the thumbnail or the title of the video with unwanted automatic captions.
  4. Click on the vertical ellipsis Options menu of the caption file you want to remove. 
  5. Choose Delete and then Delete Captions to remove the file.

Finding Captioned Videos on YouTube

  1. To search for captioned videos, type a search term into the YouTube search bar and hit Enter.
  2. Select the Filter tab and under Features, choose Subtitles/CC. This will filter out results that have only an automatic caption file and so will certainly not be accessible. 
  3. Another option is to type your search terms into the YouTube search bar followed by a comma and then CC (e.g. “web accessibility, CC”).
  4. What remains in the results list will have caption files other than, or in addition to, the auto-generated file. This does not, however, ensure good captions and they will still need to be checked for quality assurance.