Captioning Tools

Before looking at tools, please look at the DMCP Captioning Key to get familiar with captioning standards. Note that I just discovered this in 2009, so many of my captioned videos do not yet conform to the captioning standards.
Also see: A gentle introduction to video encoding, part 4: captioning by Mark Pilgrim.

online editor: DotSUB
software editors:  Aegisub and Gnome Subtitles
Captioning With Video Editors:

Online Captions:

Offline Captions

Other Tools

48 thoughts on “Captioning Tools

  1. Can you actually separate this somewhat into subtitling and captioning tools, since they have different functions? I know the terms are used interchangeably at times, but at least ‘traditionally’ in the U.S. TV industry, subtitling is embedded, and captioning usually refers to ‘closed’ captions or captions that work only on activation.


    • Hi Brein,

      Subtitling and captioning (aka subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing) use the same tools.

      Open/Closed is a description of the display options, and depends on the player that is used to display them.

      Some of the options, like TubeCaption and Bubbleply, do not allow the export of the caption files, but they are still a separate entity.

      Subtitles that are “burned in”, like the type of titles you might see if you used Windows MovieMaker, and JumpCut to add titles and comments, are usually created at the time of the editing of a movie.

      Does that make sense? Let me know if I am wrong, or need to further clarify something.


  2. I disagree that they use the same tools, but there are so many variables and options that the line is very blurred.

    I’m looking for a tool that provides a reasonable Closed Caption display option in the finished product. It seems like you clarified at least some of the variables here. The video editors usually do ‘burn-in’ as you said. And at least some of the post-production tools do not by default provide options to turn off the display. Overstream is a good example.. you can export the caption files, but their own display does not let you turn it off.

    Is the link to supposed to refer to ? That seems like a nice resource since you can embed it in a CMS.


  3. Yep, that’s the one, I’ll make corrections.

    I feel the best for that use is to caption in Overstream, and import into Google or YouTube player (the export works as-is for import into those)

    I use these definitions of captioning vs subtitling:

    Captions, as opposed to “subtitles,” reflect all of a program’s audio for deaf or hard of hearing people, converting not only dialog into text, but also sound effects, music, speaker identifications and the like, which are needed for a more complete understanding and enjoyment of the content. Subtitles convert the spoken dialog from one language to another for hearing viewers, and do not include non-speech information.

    On the other hand, sometimes the difference refers to the font format – this sounds like maybe where you’re coming from?:

    The only significant difference for the user between “SDH” subtitles and “closed captions” is their appearance: SDH subtitles usually are displayed with the same proportional font used for the translation subtitles on the DVD; however, closed captions are displayed as white text on a black band, which blocks a large portion of the view.

    If you have a good basis for your definitions, I would be interested in knowing it. I have only been doing captioning since 2007.


  4. I posted & replied to you on twitter, but posting here so as to maintain the conversation on site.
    @grwebguy deaf people inaccurately say ‘captioning’ for Closed Captioning. subtitles = open captioned. method vs content definition issue.
    @grwebguy see (formats) vs (content). Both right in context. is for tools = formats.

    Deaf people use CC on TV heavily, so our definitions and ideals are shaped by that. Both the content of the text and the format are often (inaccurately — I do this too! ) defined interchangeably. But with web tools for creating captioning we do have to consider what formats and method they use. The creation of the content of ‘subtitles’ for foreign languages versus ‘captioning’ for the deaf could be any tool, but the format they put them in does make a difference!

    In a reversal of fortune, I wish to do captioning for Sign Language videos for hearing people to have access to the dialogue. But since ‘open captioned’ subtitles can’t be turned off, they can be visually distracting to those who understand signing. Closed captioning (on/off) seems to be more ideal.

    Also would love love love to have more spoken videos captioned, so the more deaf people are involved in understanding how to make it easier to have captioning, the more we can encourage it to be done for our benefit. Any “K.I.S.S” tools like that now?


  5. Hi Bill and Brein.

    I’m enjoying the discussion here very much. But given that we are no longer limited to a simple choice between burned-in subtitles or Line 21 closed captions, I’d like to see a broadening of the definitions.

    The Joe Clarke site that Bill quotes is spot on in defining subtitles versus captions. The Wikipedia entry, on the other hand, is hopelessly out of date. To my mind it’s perfectly possible to have open or closed captions, and (independently) to have open or closed subtitles. You can have closed captions and closed subtitles living happily side by side on a DVD or YouTube video, for example, with the ability to switch between the two during playback.

    In the 21st century I’d submit that open/closed refers purely to the delivery format, and captions/subtitles purely to the content. Let’s not muddy the waters by talking about “open-captioned subtitles”… 🙂

    Kudos for your respective sites, by the way. Bill, yours has long been a fixture on my bookmarks list, and Brein, I’ve just discovered you, but I like Signcasts very much.


  6. MovCaptioner for Mac has quite a few output formats including SCC (line 21), embedded QT Text, embedded QT XML, SMIL, Flash, JW Player, YouTube (SUB an SRT), Adobe Encore, STL (for importing into DVDs), SAMI (for Windows Media), and will also output transcripts in both plain text and HTML. Requires QT Pro for embedded formats. Cost is $39.95 and they have free lifetime upgrades to purchasers. Very easy to use and there is a 14 day free trial that is not cripple-ware.


  7. Just wanted to add that I’ve recently discovered that MacSpeech Dictate works great with MovCaptioner. Now I just speak what i hear in the headphones into the microphone and it types what i say into the MovCaptioner interface. This combination of MovCaptioner and MacSpeech really makes captioning videos a piece of cake!!!


  8. Hello,

    I was wondering, is it possible to use a streaming URL from youtube for example, with a subtitle that i have on my server?

    For example, i want to use a youtube URL and put a CC from a file on my site, in this way visitors can play the movie with CC on it, and not use any of my bandwidth.

    Is this possible?


  9. Bill, I wanted to make you aware of Transendia. It’s an online player built for accessibility and searchability. I am the technology director and President of Realtime Transcription, Inc., and we designed Transendia to be very user friendly. It’s an online Flash player, with a big CC on/off button that makes it one of the easiest ways to see captions. The search features are very robust.

    Please check it out and consider listing Transendia as one of your captioning options. We allow anyone to submit an accurate transcript with their video, or we can provide the transcription. We also allow branding of the Transendia player and make it available to CART and captioning companies, so they can process videos for their clients.

    Here is a link to our examples page.

    I’m happy to answer any questions. Thank you, and keep up the great work!

    Tanya Ward English, Certified CART Provider & Certified Broadcast Captioner


  10. Another tool you might add to your list is SCC Caption Reader. It will take an SCC caption file and make a readable text transcript from it. This is helpful for troubleshooting and also for being able to provide text transcripts of movies.
    It’s Mac-only right now, but there will be a Windows version out very soon.


      • SCC caption files are unreadable, as the text for the captions is in binary code. This tool interprets the code into readable text. So you can create a text transcript from the file for your web site, for instance.

        It can also aid in troubleshooting these files. A lot of times with SCC captions you get something called timecode overruns where the buffer time needed to display a caption overlaps the timecode of the previous caption, resulting in a non-working SCC file. If you can narrow down the line that’s causing the problem you can fix it, but since the timecode is often different in the SCC file (due to the buffer time added) than in your captioning s/w, you can read which caption is giving your the problem and jump right to it. The tool itself won’t identify the problem, but it will help you identify the caption that has the problem so you can possibly add a bit more time to it and fix the issue.


  11. Has anyone else figured out a replacement for bubbleply? I have been searching all over the internet for a way to add clickable links with no success at all


  12. Transendia ( is a searchable captioning player, created by Realtime Transcription. The current version is build on Flash. Although it is not a self-service tool, Transendia does have the capability to place links within the captions and within the searchable transcript. If you’d like to discuss this and see what’s possible, feel free to contact us at

    Tanya Ward English, Pres.
    Realtime Transcription, Inc.


  13. Hi Bill,

    This is a great list and thanks for putting it up.

    Just thought we’d add our tool to the consideration list –

    We use a hybrid Do-It-Yourself approach where you can ‘post-edit’ an automated transcript. It works with YouTube videos as well as videos that you upload.

    Thanks again!

    Jon –


    • Thanks, Jon!

      At first glance, this looks really awesome! I signed up and giving it a shot.

      For what it’s worth, the upload didn’t seem to work for me in Chrome. FF worked fine.


  14. Hi, can ya into a new section or two section. Two sections that is under ‘Other Tools’ A section that audio to convert into closed caption. I want to download you-tube media and watch but no closed caption. So, want to extract audio and convert into closed caption and put back or just convert audio into closed caption. Not personal video, only download video. It will be advance for deaf and make deaf independent, not depend on other person that manually put closed caption and upload for people to download and put in video. And also I can download show onto dvd from tv and extract closed caption from tv and make it go together into smooth closed caption. When closed caption mess up in tv, but closed caption is person in tv? Because I compare with hd tv and sd tv, the closed caption is better. So, I guess it is the feedback that cause problem. Is I am right or wrong??


      • No, I am talking about extract audio, then convert into captions. Not extract closed, as that is already there. But convert from audio to closed caption myself with various of software or one software that is one time payment or free. As what I say at first post. So, can ya answer rest of quetions from first post and currently post. As for deaf people can see sign language and convert into closed caption; same as hearing people can hear words and convert into closed caption. But for deaf person with hearing video or hearing person with deaf video. Well, I am focus on deaf person with hearing video by myself to convert into closed caption alone, without depending hearing people. If I download subtitle or ask hearing to put subtitle, that means I am depending them. It would be better to depend myself as more easier and more likely to have closed caption faster for deaf peole on internet. Well, to download video from website.


      • I’m still not certain I understand. Are you looking for software to do auto-captioning? Dragon Naturally speaking will do speech to text on mp3 files.


  15. K, what you don’t understand?? K, so Dragon Naturally Speaking cost money. I can use on any video, if that video don’t work, then I use video convertor to mp3, as you say. Yea, I want auto-captioning by video that I download. Any free program or one time payment? Can ya put two section for Depend-closed caption and Auto-closed caption. As depend, means you must have closed caption words yourself from download or create as for under ‘Offline’ and ‘Online’ and ‘Other Tools’ those under ‘-‘ depends on ‘non-auto closed caption’, not auto closed caption?? Do you have resources above for convert hearing video to deaf video?


  16. The problem with speech-to-text software is that you must train it to your voice. Dragon does a great job, but it has to learn how you say words and you cannot just play anyone’s voice and get good results. So you can’t just feed it a video or audio file and expect it to do a very good job. YouTube tries to do this and the results are very poor at best. A lot depends on how well the voice is recorded, if there is ambient sound, more than one person talking, etc., so there are a few variables to deal with to get good speech to text.


    • So, that means if I download video, and I use software to listen the vido what it says and understand more, and it will get better to understand the words, then convert into words. That match the time and spoken and convert into words within 3/4 or less of second. So, the best alternaive is to have deaf with hearing aids and can hear well what the voice say and understand the voice and type it up. A person is better hearing the words than software?? So, there are no resources (one software or few software) that is better than you-tube auto closed caption as ‘Closed caption fail’ video show. But software can be better as more sentensive to hear sound and convert into words. Prefer free or one time payment for convert hearing video to deaf video or auto caption is new, which it should not be new since technology ability is good enough at early or little later than 2000 to convert into closed caption. I saw in tv that if there is sound in it, but alot of sound, can use tech. to understand better because of more sentensive to hear the background. There is one in real life?


  17. The way speech-to-text works is that you have a series of training paragraphs that you have to read. The software already knows what these paragraphs say and it compares your voice to each word, so it learns how you say things. Everyone talks a little differently and it must learn the nuances of each person’s speech and even takes into account the microphone they are using as part of that person’s voice profile. So just playing videos into the software will not help it learn a person’s voice profile. It must be matched with words that it is already expecting to receive. Hope this helps you understand the difficulties in accurate speech to text conversion.


  18. In TV, there is more sensitive equipment so they can understand sound if it is not clear, so make it more sensitive to understand and the person will understand the words. So, to use software, in replacement of hearing person, it will not understand well. A person can understand faster and well. So, that is the latest software that is free or one payment and need to understand paragraphs say as in video what the person says and learns how to say things. What does it means?? If use a video, it will learns the sound and the words and pick the right sound base of location in that video and the timing also. Let compare with latest software that is free or one payment to hearing human to understand English language, which will do better?? I am sure hearing human will do better faster. But software that can learn words, sound and other stuff, will take time, but not too much for 30 mins video, and then convert into closed caption. It is because software can track the sound well, but can’t convert well? Let say a video that is 30 X 30 X 30, the sound is only at 20 X 20 X 20 at front, so it will filter 10 X 10 X 10 at back. But can hear the sound well. Well, that is 20 X 20 X 20, but there is alot of sound there, but can filter more to 5 X 5 X 5 at front only to grab that sound only from that 5 X 5 X 5, and convert well into closed caption. There is software for that like you say ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’ that can do it or need another software combine with it.


    • There is nothing special for WordPress – anything that creates captions for YouTube is good.

      The best depends on you’re workflow. If you have a transcript, Try YouTube itself, or Amara.

      I use DotSUB, mostly, worth subtitleedit gnome subtitles for local subtitling


  19. There is a free ebook called “Get Started with Video Captioning” at that you can get in either PDF or iBooks format. Contains some very helpful info on different caption formats, a style guide, and helpful software used in captioning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s