Closed Caption Tools

Like many of us in L&D, I spend a fair amount of time adding closed captions to elearning and videos. I’m looking for ways to make that process more efficient, so I posted a question on LinkedIn. I got a ton of responses with suggestions for different closed caption tools. Some of the tools I had heard of and used before, but there were several new tools mentioned. I’m sharing all of the closed caption tools mentioned in the discussion here because I know other people are also interested.

Overall, the consensus is that all automatic transcript and closed caption tools require manual review and cleanup. Some tools generate more accurate transcripts, break in natural places, and are easier to edit than others.

Closed Caption Tools

The image above was created in Recraft.ai and edited in Affinity Designer.

My question on closed caption tools and process

Here’s my original question explaining my current processes and problems:

What is your workflow for generating closed captions for elearning and videos? What tools do you use to make that task easier?

Do you use a tool that creates captions with breaks at sentences, commas, and natural pauses? I’ve used several tools that can get the job done, but most of them break captions in awkward ways that require additional cleanup.

I’ve used Riverside.fm‘s transcription tool when I don’t have a script to start with. It’s fairly accurate at transcribing (especially for a free tool), but I don’t like how it breaks the captions in the middle of sentences.

When I work in Storyline, I often use the TTS voices for the alpha version. That automatically generates captions that can be retained when replacing the audio with real voices, but again, the captions break awkwardly.

I’ve tried giving ChatGPT a script and asking it to generate an SRT file. I can get ChatGPT to break only at punctuation, so that’s an improvement. The timing isn’t even close to correct, but I can adjust timing faster than I can adjust the breaks.

Do you have a better solution? Tell me what you’re using and how it works for you. Mention if you’re starting with a script or not. I do both depending on the project.

Descript

Descript was mentioned by several people, especially for starting without a script. It’s more than just transcriptions and captions; Descript also has features like overdub, which allows you to create synthetic voices, and filler word removal.

Sarah Mercier shared a helpful article explaining how to generate captions in Descript and then add them to your video using Handbrake.

Rev.com

Rev.com was another popular option. Rev has both AI and human transcription services. I’ve used them before on a project. They did a great job transcribing hours of focus group conversations with multiple speakers.

Premiere Pro

For anyone doing video editing in Premiere Pro, it seems like a no-brainer to create the captions there as well. Several people mentioned that Premiere Pro is good both for transcription and for ease of editing captions.

Camtasia

Several people use Camtasia for captions, likely because it’s a tool many of us already own. I use Camtasia myself for screencasting and video editing/creation. I have used the method described here to automatically add subtitles in Camtasia based on an existing transcript. If you have a transcript, you can paste it in and then manually add breaks where you want them. If you also have Audiate, that can speed up the process.

Otter.ai

Otter.ai is getting to be more common as a meeting transcription tool nowadays, but you can upload pre-recorded audio and video files as well.

Judy Katz shared her workflow for using Otter.ai for generating closed caption files for videos.

YouTube

Several people mentioned YouTube. You can upload a video privately and use YouTube’s automatic caption generator. However, even though I have used this method in the past, I don’t plan to do so again unless it’s a video I’m planning to upload to YouTube anyway. I think Riverside’s transcription process is easier than doing it on YouTube.

As a side note, I used Copilot (Microsoft’s AI LLM in Bing) to summarize the LinkedIn discussion and generate the list below. Copilot actually missed a bunch of these tools in its original draft, which is a good reminder of the need to review an AI output. My blog posts are written manually by me unless I post something like this; everything above is my own writing. I’m using the Copilot descriptions below, although I have edited them and added some extra content.

Additional closed caption tools

Several other tools were mentioned by one or two people in the comments. These might not be as popular, but still worth checking out if you’re looking for alternatives.

  • Subly is a platform that helps you create accessible and inclusive media content with subtitles, captions, audio descriptions, transcription and translation. In the comments, Erika Moore explained, “It auto-generates the captions, and adds punctuation and has an AI checker. You can automatically set the guidelines to align with what Youtube, TED talk or Netflix does, or you can set your own. It allows you to create a new line after punctuation through these settings too. I also like it for custom learning because you can pay by the minute you need.” Subly is on my personal list of tools to try out, since that sounds like a good fit for my somewhat irregular needs.
  • Microsoft Stream is a video hosting and sharing platform that also has a captioning feature. You can upload your videos, or record them from the web or the mobile app. Microsoft Stream then generates captions automatically, or you can upload them from a file. Microsoft Stream also has features like speech-to-text search, face detection, and comments.
  • Amara is a web-based tool that allows you to create and edit captions for your videos. You can upload your videos, or paste a URL from YouTube, Vimeo, or other platforms. Amara then lets you type or edit the captions, or import them from a file. They have a paid subtitle service.
  • Trint is an online transcription service that uses artificial intelligence and human transcribers to deliver captions and transcripts. While several people mentioned liking this tool, it’s also one of the more expensive options.
  • Castmagic is a web-based tool for automatically turning audio into other content. Josh Cavalier says, “you upload a video or audio file. Castmagic will generate a transcript, closed captions, aaaaaand… uses AI to transform your transcript into other forms of content (Blog post, YouTube description, MC questions, etc.) Oh, and you can use your own prompts.”
  • Verbit is a professional transcription and captioning service using a combination of artificial intelligence and humans. This might be an option for high-volume users, but it’s not cheap (their pricing isn’t publicly available, but what I have found out privately means it’s out of my price range for my sporadic work).
  • SubtitleBee is a service that uses AI to generate subtitles and captions in different languages for your videos, and allows you to customize the style, color, and font of the subtitles.
  • Subtitle Edit is a free and open source software that lets you create, edit, sync, and translate subtitles for your videos, and supports various formats and features.
  • Whisper is an AI subtitle generator that advertises a high degree of accuracy, plus the ability to generate automatic translations. There’s a free plan, but you can only download the subtitles on a paid plan.
  • Veed is a professional video editor that lets you make videos with AI subtitles. I tested this tool out a while back using the free plan, but you can only download SRT files with a Pro or higher plan. If you just want subtitles and don’t need a video editor, there are cheaper options available.
  • DaVinci Resolve Studio is the paid version of the free video editor tool. Ted Curran mentioned in the comments that he uses DaVinci because it both transcribes video well and it’s easy to edit the video by just editing the text. Check out Ted Curran’s workflow for transcribing and editing videos for more info.

Check the privacy and terms

While AI tools can be huge time savers, it’s also important to check the terms and privacy policies. Are they using your content to train their AI? Captioning tools need some rights to your content in order to provide the service, but they shouldn’t claim more than that. Check your organization’s policies for AI, and don’t upload highly confidential or personal information without careful vetting first.

Thanks to everyone who responded

As of today, I have gotten 82 comments on this post–an enormous response to my question! I am so appreciative of everyone who shared their experiences and suggestions.

If you have other suggestions for tools or tips for making the closed caption process easier, share them in the comments. Now it’s time to try out some tools!


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4 thoughts on “Closed Caption Tools”

  1. I am surprised Audiate by Techsmith was not mentioned. It’s great for scripted or unscripted audio. It generates very accurate transcription and SRT files.

    1. I was a little surprised too; it was mentioned only in passing with Camtasia. I did include it in the section on Camtasia above, but it wasn’t something people talked about much.

      When you work with Audiate, do you find that the captions break at punctuation and natural pauses? I find that too many of these tools break at random places in the middle of sentences. I think I’m hitting a point now where I would pay for a tool that breaks that captions in better places and doesn’t leave orphaned words.

  2. Hi Christy,
    Another great option for AI transcription is in DaVinci Resolve Studio, the paid version of the free video editing suite. It does a nice job of transcribing the audio into text, and it also lets you edit your video timeline by editing that text transcript. This capability has revolutionized my workflows, enabling me to involve stakeholders more deeply in the editing process. Write-up here: https://tedcurran.net/2023/09/edit-video-with-smes-text-transcription-davinci-resolve/

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