For YouTube videos, communication is essential. We’ll walk you through the ways you can get the best subtitles for your next project.
Having accurate subtitles within your YouTube videos is important. Videos with inaccurate subtitles can send the wrong message to your viewers, destroy the meaning of a phrase, or just outright confuse those watching. Here’s our guide for getting the best subtitles for your next YouTube project.
Importance of Subtitles
Subtitles are important for the simple reason that it makes content available to anyone and everyone who wants to watch it. Without subtitles, a video isn’t widely available to everyone and could be segmenting your audience, rather than garnering as many eyes as possible. Subtitles offer a way for many people to consume your media that would have trouble otherwise, whether they are hard-of-hearing, language learners, or just want to watch without audio. Viewers may be from another country that speak the same language, but may have a hard time deciphering a foreign accent. Even as a native English speaker, there have been a few shows from the BBC that I need a little help understanding.
Subtitles offer access to a wider range of viewers. Image via SergioVas.
You may not know that subtitles are often paired with videos as a separate file that dictates where the words will go within the video. These separate files are often just text files with the .SRT extension. The file contains basic text instructions that the video player will interpret to know what to display and where each line will go in the video.
These can be written in your basic text editors, like Notepad or TextEdit. Below is an example of what these basic files look like. Once completed, manually upload the .SRT file to YouTube and it will convert your file to subtitles in your video.
This is the simplest way to write up your own subtitles. However, it can be tedious. You’ll need to manually write the time frame for the subtitles to show up and what the titles will say. This will require you to have your video playing in a separate window while you keep track of the timing and the dialogue to write down. To edit the subtitles, you’ll need to change the text within the .SRT file and reupload the change. Unless you really enjoy writing in a text editor and doing things the hard way, I’d avoid writing your own .SRT files. Luckily, we have some better options for you.
YouTube offers auto-generated subtitles for most of the videos uploaded to their website. The auto-generated subtitles can be great in a pinch, but have a tendency to miss words, incorrectly display slang, not pick up on proper nouns, and miss the cadence of the speaker. Additionally, if you have speakers with accents or the dialogue isn’t completely clear, YouTube may not provide auto-generated subtitles at all. For this reason, we suggest not relying solely on YouTube for your subtitle needs.
These auto-generated subs are close, but do have a few errors, even with a native, clearly recorded speaker. Should say “transparent” instead of transparently and “blessings” instead of lessons.
Using Auto-Generated Subtitles as a Starting Point
While there are possible problems to arise from YouTube’s auto-generated subtitles, it does a pretty good job for the most part. Luckily, we’ve got a little tip that can make getting accurate subtitles easier than ever. YouTube allows its users to download their auto-generated subtitles as an .SRT file that you can then edit to be more accurate. Granted, this option will only work if YouTube has made auto-generated subtitles in the first place.
If you’d like to stay in YouTube’s settings, they also have a built-in subtitle editor where you can edit the timing, text, and pacing for the subs to match up specifically with your video.
To access your video’s subtitle options, you’ll first need to access the video’s Edit Details page located within your channel’s content.
On the left-hand column, you’ll see the subtitle menu specific to that video. Here’s where everything related to that video’s subtitles can be found, edited, or deleted.
Once in the subtitle menu, you’ll be able to either download the .SRT file from YouTube directly or edit YouTube’s auto-generated subtitles using their built-in interface.
If YouTube has made a good first pass with its auto-generated subs, go through the video and make corrections to words or phrases YouTube may have incorrectly translated.
Using Script to Help Auto-Generate
Another amazing feature of YouTube is their ability to sync text from a .TXT file to the words in the video. This is a useful feature if you have a video with a script that you’ve worked from. YouTube will do its best to auto align the text from the script to the places within the video that the dialogue takes place. In my experience, this is far more accurate than solely relying on YouTube’s auto-generated subtitles and gets the automated system 90% of the way there, without much additional work from the user’s side.
Location of button to add your own text file or subtitles.
We highly recommend removing any non-dialogue text from your .TXT file prior to uploading it, like scene notes, direction, or actions. Otherwise, YouTube will struggle to find a place for this additional text, may create odd super-long subtitles containing the text, or simply place all the unused text at the end of the video. As always, be sure to check the accuracy of YouTube’s work—give your video a good watch and comb through the subtitles for any errors.
Location to add your own .TXT file with the script dialogue.
Using a Paid Service
If you think the above options are a bit too much work or you don’t have the time to go through an extra-long project’s subtitles, there are options available through third-parties that will take care of the subtitles for you . . . for a price, of course.
Using a paid service can save you the time and frustration that comes with creating your own subtitles, especially if you have a long-form or dialogue-heavy video. You’ll simply upload your video to the service’s website and typically within a couple of days, you’ll receive a file that you can edit or upload to YouTube for accurate subtitles.
These services are typically charged per minute of video and can range from about $1 to $5 per minute of video. Some services do offer a distinction of whether the subtitles will be created using their automated software or a real person will handle the work. Though, you should expect a premium when selecting the real person option. Additionally, if you’re needing non-English languages to be transcribed, there may be a premium fee for that as well.
Services to Checkout
Rev.com offers high-quality subtitling and transcribing services starting at $1.25/minute of video. Rev guarantees 99% accuracy and a twenty-four hour turnaround on videos up to sixty minutes in length.
Scribie.com offers services starting at $.10/minute using their automated program and $.80 for manual transcription, with additional features being premium. Be sure to check out their pricing options to ensure you understand the difference between each option and the fees associated.
Fiverr.com isn’t strictly a transcription/subtitling service, but rather a freelance market where you can hire individuals to handle small tasks such as subtitling. Currently, there are hundreds of people offering their subtitling services. Always be sure to check user reviews and background prior to hiring anyone.
We hope this guide to adding subtitles to your YouTube videos makes the process of subtitling easier and gives you a few options to look into. Having accurate subtitles is an important part of having high-quality YouTube content and keeping all of your viewers engaged.
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Cover image via Nadia Snopek.
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