Since you’re reading this you likely know the power and importance of subtitles for your training videos. If not, check out our last post about how subtitles benefit everyone. As I was writing it, I also had in the outline information about how to create subtitles for training videos. That was a bit too in-depth for one article, though. That’s why a specific post about creating subtitles for training videos was a better idea.
So, here I am with another post with specific ways you can create subtitles for your training videos. There are as many ways to do it as there are applications to create videos. That’s why this article sticks to a few common methods in common apps used for developing training videos.
Here you’ll find specific information about creating subtitles in Camtasia as well as how you can take a current video developed in any application and easily turn them into subtitles to load them into any video hosting platform.
I’ve read some pretty creative ways to transcribe audio from a video. One of my favorites was using the Google voice typing features and then playing the video for it to transcribe.
The big problem is that subtitle files for video hosting have a lot more info than just a transcription. They have start/end timestamps, caption number, and they’re specifically formatted.
They’re pretty complex really and they can be huge and unwieldy files. So, I’ll give you some suggestions for tools you can use to make it easier if the video editing tool you’re using doesn’t let you create subtitles natively.
How To Subtitle Videos
The most convenient way to create a subtitle file is to create them natively in the application you’re using to edit your video. One of the most common applications we use to develop training videos is Camtasia. It has amazing tools built in that you can create subtitles and export a subtitle file that most (if not all) video hosting platforms will accept.
There are also dozens of transcription tools that will take a video or audio file, automatically transcribe it, let you review and edit the transcription manually, then export the file in various formats.
Then there’s YouTube which autogenerates captions for videos. That is never something you should rely on as your only method of captions, but it’s a decent start. You’ll want to go into the YouTube settings, copy the autogenerated captions and go through the entire thing and modify them. They’re pretty shotty if you’ve ever used them, especially if you recorded your video off the cuff.
Let’s get started with creating a transcription file right in Camtasia.
In A Video Editing Program
Every video editing program is different for creating subtitles but they all generally work in the same way. For this example, I’m using Camtasia 2022 for Mac. Keep in mind that even the Windows and Mac versions of Camtasia are slightly different in how you create the subtitles. Exporting should be close to the same, though.
Once you have your Camtasia file open with an audio track then you can follow these instructions for putting the subtitles in Camtasia. All the timing and different subtitle boxes are contained and managed in Camtasia. Then you can export in your chosen format and import it into any video hosting platform. Once uploaded your video will have subtitles that viewers can control natively in the video platform.
Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Click the Audio Effects tab.
Step 2: Drag the Captions block onto your audio track. Keep in mind that Camtasia calls it captions but it’s also applicable to subtitles too which are just more basic captions.
A new track will be added to your Camtasia tracks just for subtitles. You can always enable the captions track by going to View > Show Caption Track (maybe different on Windows).
Once you drag Captions on the audio track you’ll get a special waveform in the captions track and Camtasia will guess how long to create each caption. That’s very handy because it makes relatively short sections because each subtitle should be small or else it’s difficult to read. It’s also nice because you can adjust the timing of each one.
Step 3: Click on any of the pre-created subtitles.
Step 4: Adjust the size of the caption/subtitle by clicking on either the left or right side and dragging left or right so you get all the audio for that subtitle. This is what creates the right timing that will be in the timestamps of the caption file.
Step 5: Type in or paste the text for that section of the audio. Since most of our content is scripted, we just copy/paste from our script. You can even use the play icon on the subtitle box to repeat that subtitle audio over and over if you’re typing it in as you’re listening. The right and left buttons let you skip to the next or previous caption box.
Option a: Use these tools to split the current caption, merge it with the next, and other options to adjust it.
Option b: These are the lines that show you where each subtitle is. Camtasia will put a whole bunch in for you based on the audio so start with those and adjust as needed.
Keep working through each subtitle and use the arrows to quickly jump from one to another until you finish. Camtasia allows you to publish a file with the video and subtitle in the player but that’s not a good way to do videos. It’s always best to host them on a dedicated video hosting platform like Vimeo or YouTube.
That means you should export a standalone video file (mp4) and then export the subtitle/caption file separately. That’s what’s up next!
Once you’ve finished all your caption text in Camtasia, it’s time to export it to a file format that your chosen video hosting platform will accept.
Step 6: Click File.
Step 7: Hover the cursor over Export.
Step 8: Click Export Captions…
Step 9: Name the caption file something you’ll remember and be sure to put it somewhere you can find it.
Step 10: Choose the caption format.
With Camtasia, you only have the option of SRT or SAMI for caption export. Luckily YouTube supports both of these and at least SRT is very common. You can find a list of all the caption files YouTube supports here and if you’re using Vimeo, those are here (just use SRT). If you search for supported caption files for any video hosting platform you’ll find out what file type you should use for export.
Here’s what an SRT file looks like:
It’s a pretty simple format. Unless you have something extremely complex in your caption file (doubtful) then SRT will suffice.
Creating the caption file in Camtasia is a pretty manual process. Even using a script it’s a lot of work copying and pasting. There are faster ways to speed up the transcription process especially if the video wasn’t done in a tool that gives you control of captions.
Perhaps you did a quick screen recording and didn’t have a script. This is how we deal with times like that though our preference is always full control in a native application, that will be more accurate and of higher quality.
Online Transcription Tool
Sometimes you either don’t have the video in an editing program like Camtasia or you don’t want to do it manually. It can take a long time and is kind of a pain if that’s the case. There are plenty of tools that can automate the process for you. That’s how we speed up the transcription process to get a nice subtitle file to upload into your video hosting platform.
We use a tool called Happy Scribe to do automated transcriptions. There are lots of tools out there so feel free to use the one that you find the most useful. Some services will transcribe audio for you which Happy Scribe can also do for a fee.
Here’s how the tool we use works. You just drop in your audio or video file (step 1). We try to upload just the audio file because the file is smaller and quicker to upload. It also accepts the video file, though, and you can then see the video as you go through the transcription.
Next, you choose your language and set up your own vocabulary for special pronunciations (think company name) in step 2.
We always use the machine-generated subtitles in step 3 because most of our stuff is scripted which means it’s pretty accurate. If you recorded off the cuff then you may have a lot of ums which will create a lot more work for you in this process.
We also like to auto-submit the file once it’s loaded and then submit it for transcription!
After it runs through the process you get a screen that looks something like this.
In step 1 you can click right in those boxes and edit the text as it begins playing automatically. The step 2 callout shows where you can click on any of the text boxes and drag them either left or right to adjust where they start and end.
If one subtitle box has too much text in it, the tool shows you by highlighting either the CPS or CPL boxes in red. That means you need to shorten it up because people can’t read that fast.
Once you’re done you get to click the download button and choose the subtitle format you’d like to export. There are tons of different file formats supported by Happy Scribe which is handy.
Once you have your subtitle file it’s time to upload it into your favorite video hosting platform.
Import Subtitles Into Video Hosting Platform
Any good video hosting platform supports a myriad of caption/subtitle file formats. YouTube supports a ton of different formats and so does Vimeo. The most common format that you’ll use is the SRT format. It’s sufficient for most uses and there likely won’t be much need to use anything else.
Let’s get those caption files onto your favorite platform!
Whether you’re uploading a new video or your video is already on YouTube, it doesn’t matter. You can always add captions/subtitles later to a video that’s been up for decades.
Go into the edit screen of your video and then follow these steps to add the caption file you created.
Step 1: Click Subtitles.
Step 2: Click the ADD link next to the language your video is in. This is likely the default language of your YouTube channel. If you haven’t selected a default then you’ll have to do that first.
Step 3: Choose the Upload file option because you have a caption file all ready to go.
Step 4: Leave it on With timing because your subtitle file already has all the timings of each caption box.
Step 5: Click Continue.
This is where you’ll get a dialogue to choose your caption/subtitle file type. If you chose SRT, grab that file and upload it. Once uploaded you’ll see the below screen but with a huge list of all your subtitles and the start/end time of each one.
It’s as easy as that once you’ve done the hard work. Everything’s done for you on YouTube or any other video hosting platform you want to use the video file on.
Step 6: Click the Publish button.
That’s it! You can now see your subtitles for the English language (or your default language) in your video. You can also add other languages if you translated your video. Those will all be available in the cc button on YouTube.
YouTube also creates automatically transcribed subtitles but they aren’t that great and their tool is a little funky to work with. Providing your own file means you can upload your video and subtitles anywhere you’d like conveniently.
Uploading your SRT file to Vimeo can be shown in one screenshot. You just need to edit your video and then follow these steps.
Step 1: Click the CC button on the editor sidebar.
Step 2: Click the Settings tab.
Step 3: Click the + icon.
Step 4: Select your caption file to upload it.
Step 5: Choose your subtitle file language.
Step 6: Choose an option for Type (not sure it matters which one you choose).
Step 7: Click Upload.
Step 8: Toggle your subtitle file on next to the file you just uploaded.
That’s all you have to do with Vimeo and your video will now have a cc icon when played to allow viewers to use closed captions.
Good job making your video more accessible to everyone!
Every tool where you can create a video is unique. This only covers Camtasia but each application will have its own way of doing it. The most tool-agnostic method is to use a transcription tool that will create a subtitle file for you.
If you’re looking to do it on the cheap, YouTube has the tools you need to do it all manually or even work off their autogenerated subtitles. So, you get free video hosting and free transcription services. It just requires a bit more work on your part.
Whatever way you choose, you’re doing the world a good service by providing subtitles for your training videos. Our specialty is developing training for technical projects but this process can work for any presentation with spoken audio.
If you do need better training for a technical project, we’re here to help you develop world-class technical training.