General Captioning Information

What is Captioning?

Captioning provides a synchronized text transcript of the audio for any type of multimedia so that the information can be read as well as heard. This alternate method of delivery is vital for including those with hearing impairments, but it is also beneficial for other users, such as those learning the language used in the video.

Captions can be combined into a video transcript. Because the transcript is searchable, users can locate a specific points in the video, and search engines will bring more traffic to your site.

  • A transcript file is generated from the video and uploaded separately into the video platform as a subtitle.
  • Having captions “burned in” can be more expensive, but is an option for video platforms that do not allow captions.
  • If adding video to a Canvas course, upload it to another streaming service (such as Echo360, Kaltura or Microsoft Stream), and then link to it from your course.
  • Consider adding black to the bottom of your video once you’re done editing to allow room for captions to display without covering any of the footage. Captions usually display on the bottom 1/3 of the screen.
  • Provide a downloadable file of the transcript alongside audio files (accessible Word or PDF).

Auto-captioning is available in many video platforms, and although accuracy is not 100%, it is improving. Enabling auto-captions when posting videos provides a base level of accessibility without much additional effort. Real-time auto-captions can also be enabled in live meetings such as those held via Microsoft Teams.

*Note that auto-captions are not 100% accurate and need to be edited when used for accommodation purposes. 

Captioning Options in Video Platforms
Video PlatformAuto-Caption Recorded VideoAuto-Caption Uploaded mp4Live Stream Auto-Captions3rd Party CaptionsManual Editing Captions
MS StreamYesYes N/ANo (auto-captions disable this)Yes
MS TeamsYesN/AYesNoYes
Poor qualityNoPoor qualityNoNoExternal file
ZoomNoN/ANoWith paid licenseNo
Captioning: a Legal Mandate or Prohibition?

Federal laws, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, require that instructional materials be accessible to learners with hearing impairments or other disabilities. But making multimedia accessible—by adding captions or subtitles, or by ensuring that media player software can be controlled from the keyboard—can be a daunting task. For one thing, multimedia exists in a wide variety of formats, each with its own methods for adding accessibility features. Another challenge is copyright law, which, strictly interpreted, prohibits any conversion, copying, editing (including adding captions), or archiving of digital media by anyone other than the copyright owner. Many educators, as they navigate between these opposing sets of laws, feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

Determining Copyright Ownership

Video captioning begins with the determination of copyright ownership. If you are not the copyright owner, you should contact the owner or publisher to request a captioned version of the material. With any luck, you may not have to caption at all! If you are the copyright owner or have permission to reproduce the video, or if your use of the video would be considered “fair use” (see Note below), you will want to either caption the material yourself or hire a company to do the work for you. (The “fair use” exemption of the copyright law allows educators and artists to use portions of copyrighted works in the course of their professional duties.)

Free Captioning Tools

Enabling auto-captioning in Microsoft Teams meetings also allows you to search the meeting transcript to find specific areas of the meeting. It can also be used in a non-recorded meeting for live captioning.

Live captioning is currently available in English (US) in the Microsoft Teams desktop app as a preview feature. It is not available in the web app. The desktop app is free and available for download on the Microsoft Office website.

Important: Auto-captions still need to be checked for accuracy, especially when being used for accommodations.

Recording with Captions in Teams

After joining a Teams meeting, click on the “...” menu for More actions and select Turn on live captions (preview). After turning on live captions, click Start recording in the same More actions menu.

Note: Live captions will only be displayed to meeting members who have turned on the live captioning feature for the meeting.

Accessing the Recorded Video

The live captions will be associated with the recorded meeting once it is finished rendering and are automatically uploaded to Microsoft Stream. The closed captions and transcript that are created will be available to everyone who has access to the recording.

After you end your meeting recording, the video will take some time to process before it is available on Microsoft Stream. Once it is available, you will receive a notification by email which includes the link to the video on Microsoft Stream. The video will also be automatically posted in the meeting chat for meeting invitees to view.

Captions and Transcript in Microsoft Stream

In Microsoft Stream, you can view and edit the captions and transcript associated with the meeting. To view the closed captions, click the CC in the toolbar on the video. The transcript will be automatically displayed to the right of the video.

In the transcript panel, you can view, search, and edit the transcript and closed captions. You can also enable or disable transcript auto-scroll.

To use the transcription and captioning tools in YouTube, you must have rights to the video in question. You can either create your own YouTube account, or you can login to an existing account and create transcripts and captions for video content in that account.

Edit Auto-Captions for Accuracy

Once a video is uploaded, YouTube will automatically caption the video using voice recognition software. Auto-captions must be edited for accuracy, but they are a good place to start. You can also upload a completed transcript if you already have one. These instructions are for editing existing captions.

  • Go to the Video Manager
  • Next to the video you want to edit, select Edit > Subtitles and CC
  • Click on the track you want to edit. For automatic captions, this will be English (Automatic).
  • Click inside any line in the caption track panel and edit the text.
  • Click Save changes.
  • This will create another track that includes your revisions.

YouTube subtitle editing screen

YouTube Captioning Resources

Amara is a free DIY service for creating video captions (subtitles). One benefit of Amara is its integration with Canvas, but it can also be used independently of Canvas.

  1. Create an Amara account
  2. Copy the url of your hosted video into Amara
  3. Add new language (Select the same language for both primary language and subtitle language)
  4. Type the captions as you listen to the video
  5. Save and export the subtitle file
  6. Upload the subtitle file to your video host

Amara adding subtitle screen

Amara Captioning Resources

Outsourcing Captions - 3Play Media

Outsourcing video captioning is in many ways the best choice if your department has the budget for it. A professional company produces high quality captions with excellent accuracy rates. This saves everyone time, and ultimately money, when compared to the cost of paying an inexperienced employee to produce captions of much lesser quality.

CSU has a contract with 3Play Media. Prices include both captions and transcripts, unlike some other vendors who charge separately for each. Both are needed for accessibility.

Caption and Transcription Pricing

  • Extended (10 Days): $1.80/min
  • *Standard (4 Days): $1.95/min  *This is the default rate when uploading files.
  • Expedited (2 Days): $2.45/min
  • Rush (1 Day): $2.95/min
  • Same Day (8 Hours): $4.30/min
  • Same Day (2 Hours): $6.95/min
  • Difficult Audio (In addition to turnaround time): +$1.00/min

Audio Description Pricing

  • Audio Description (In addition to turnaround time): +$9.00/min

Please contact us to get an account setup or to gain access to your department's account.

Once you have signed into your account, set your transcript settings. This determines which file types links will appear in the list for quick download. These settings apply to all videos within this account.

  • Click on Settings in the top right corner to go to the Favorite Formats preferences.

Settings link in main menu bar

Under Favorite Formats, we recommend:

  • SRT – Caption Formats (uncheck all others)
    • SRT includes time-stamps and is standard for many video players, including YouTube

SRT checked under Favorite Formats

  • Word Doc –Transcript Formats (uncheck all others)
    • The transcript may need to be edited and have headings added for accessibility. You can always convert to PDF later if you prefer to post a PDF alongside your video.

Word Doc checked under Favorite Formats - Transcripts

Select Your Project

If you are managing more than one project for budgeting purposes, click the drop-down arrow in the top left corner to select the correct project.

List of projects in drop-down menu

Upload a File for Transcription

Note: If using a streaming service such as YouTube, upload the video there first and copy the direct link to the video.

  • Click on "Upload Media" in the main navigation menu bar
  • Use the “From Links” tab if streaming
  • Paste the direct link to the video and click "Add"
  • Otherwise choose “From Computer” and browse to the file

Upload media from links

Upload Screen 1: Select Service Type
  • Most commonly, you will keep the default option, English Transcription & Captioning
  • Add audio description if the video has a lot of visuals without spoken explanation (at extra cost). This is for those with visual impairments who may miss important content if only conveyed visually.

Upload screen tab 1, service selection

Upload Screen 2: Price Options
  • The “Additional Cost per Min” listed is relative to the standard price.
  • The Standard price is selected by default. This is not the best rate. Make sure to choose Extended at the bottom to receive the best rate.

Upload screen 2, rate selection. Extended is the cheapest and last option

Upload Screen 3 (Option 1): Create a New Folder (Default)
  • 3Play Media organizes videos by folder, which is helpful especially if you plan to do videos for different websites or courses
  • If you don’t have a folder yet, create one here, giving it a descriptive name in the text box

Upload screen 3, create a new folder (default)

Upload Screen 3 (Option 2): Save to Existing Folder
  • If you already have folders, you can upload directly to the relevant one

Upload screen 3, choose an existing folder

Upload Screen 4: Summary & Confirmation
  • Check the summary to make sure everything is correct.
  • Double-check the turnaround time for the rate you will be charged. The cheapest rate is Extended, not Standard.
  • Check the box to accept the cancellation policy. The time available to cancel a file varies depending on when 3Play staff start working on the file. It may be as short as 2 minutes. Make sure all editing of your video is truly complete before uploading.

Upload screen 4, confirm settings and cancellation policy

Rename the File

After the file submitting the file, change the name to something descriptive on the file summary screen. The automatic name is based on the video url, and as you can see from the screenshot below, it quickly becomes difficult to know which video is which.

List of video files on home screen

Check for Flags

Before you download a transcript, you should check for flags indicating that some of the audio was inaudible. You may be able to correct these since you know your own content.

  • Click on the video name to view the transcript.
  • Click on the flag icon if it has a number by it. This will highlight any text that was marked as inaudible in the transcript. You may need to scroll down to find it.
Click on flag icon to highlight inaudible text
  • Click on the pencil icon to edit the transcript

Edit icon in transcript view

  • The transcript is interactive, so if you click on a word, the video jumps to that point. Listen to the video so you can correct the inaudible text.
  • Click on the word you need to change, and then select "Edit Word." This opens a text box where you can type your corrections.
  • Once done typing, click away from the text box to close it.
Edit Word in transcript editing view
  • Save changes. Note that this does not automatically update the downloadable transcript file. It saves changes as you go so that you don’t lose your work.

Save changes button

  • Finalize file. This commits changes so they will show up in the downloadable file. This can take a few minutes, and clears any flags that you fixed.
    • You can still edit the transcript again after finalizing if needed

Finalize file button

  • Once the file has finalized, click on the Quick Download icon and download both the SRT and the Word files.
  • You are now ready to publish the SRT caption file with your video.
  • Make sure the Word file is accessible before you post it along with your captioned video (see the Word tutorial).
    • You can convert to accessible PDF if you prefer (see the PDF tutorial).
Quick download dropdown menu showing SRT and Word Doc as options

Note: The menus for YouTube may change often. The most up-to-date instructions for uploading a caption file to YouTube can be found in Google's help articles: Add your own subtitles & closed captions.

When uploading or editing a YouTube video, select More Options to add subtitles (captions).

During upload:

YouTube More Options in video upload

Editing an existing video:

 YouTube more options when editing

Select the video language under "Language, subtitles, and closed captions (CC)."

Drop-down menus for video language and caption certification

Select Upload Subtitles/CC, and navigate to the .srt file.

YouTube Upload subtitles option

Using Third-Party Tools to Provide Videos

Although you can always upload your own caption file to a video hosted within Canvas, we recommend using a third-party tool such as Echo360 or Kaltura to display videos in Canvas. The video players provided by both of these platforms have many more inclusive features than the built-in Canvas video player. These include:

  • Auto-captions
  • Interactive transcript displayed alongside the video
  • Transcript download

Manually Adding Captions to Canvas Videos

If you do use the built-in Canvas video player, you can manually upload a caption file for videos. The caption file must be in SRT or VTT format. These instructions assume that you already have the file ready to go. If you don't have a caption file, see Captioning Videos for options.

  • Click on the video in the Rich Content Editor to enlarge the video window. Hover over the CC icon to open the closed-caption options, then click on Upload subtitles.

Canvas video upload subtitles menu

  • Go to step 3, and click the drop-down menu to Choose a Language.
  • Click on Choose File to select the caption file, then click Open.
  • Once the file name shows up, you can click the Upload button.

Canvas Create/add subtitles menu, Step 3: choose a language and file to upload