Closed captions are crucial for the viewing experience of lots of people: anyone who , every person who likes those , people who want to watch videos on the subway but don’t have their headphones, multitaskers, etc. Most importantly, though, they’re a step toward accessibility for the more than 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., and millions more across the globe.
“Videos without captions are completely inaccessible to deaf and hard of hearing people,” Howard A. Rosenblum, the CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, told Mashable over email. “Why would anyone want to exclude that many people from their videos?”
Adding closed captions to videos can also make them accessible to people who don’t speak the language of the original video, because it’s easier to get a video translated if the original transcript is already completed. Plus, adding captions to your videos will make them more searchable.
Beyond helping your content reach a larger audience, a lack of accessibility is something you might get into legal trouble for. Just ask Beyoncé, who was the Americans With Disabilities Act for just that.
These tools make captioning easy — whether you’re inputting them yourself, hiring out, or having an AI tool create them automatically when you’re putting together your own video.
, which is available on iOS and Android, can automatically transcribe videos in 23 languages with captions that appear at the bottom, middle or top of videos. The captions are machine-generated, so they’re less accurate than a human transcription would be, but it’s fairly simple to edit them after the fact. You can also import an .srt file containing the captions, which is important for accessibility.
“The .srt caption files allows users to watch captions following the user’s preferred settings,” like increasing the size of the text or changing the color, Rosenblum says. “Some are not able to read captions with transparent background or need bold text or large size, the .srt format allows captioning to adapt to their preferences when playing the video. When I’m logged into Facebook or YouTube, it will play videos with .srt following my captioning preferences without me having to change the CC settings for every video — this autonomy is important.”
MixCaptions was made to help people with the videos they post to social media, so the free version can only transcribe up to 10 minutes. Business subscribers, though, can transcribe up to half an hour.
, a non-profit created by the Participatory Culture Foundation, has a few web-based options to help users create captions — but you can’t use them on mobile. Amara Public Editor is free, and lets a user upload a video and add on their own captions by hand as they watch the video.
The public editor workspace is just that: public, which means anyone can see what you’re working on. There are a few steps up from the free option, including a $24/month option that gives users more privacy, a $128/month option that offers more privacy and additional workspaces and team management tools, and the Amara Enterprise Platform, which costs “contact us,” a number I can only assume would scare users off if it was published directly on the site. You can also pay for a professional to translate or caption your video directly from the site.
You can try , a web-based tool, for free on one video, but if you want to use it for any more, it’ll cost you anywhere from $19 to $49 per month, depending on the additional tools you’re looking for. You upload your video onto the platform, and its AI will automatically transcribe the audio from your video into text with time stamps, and add captions to your video. Then you pick the style and design, edit the caption text if necessary, preview the video, save and share it. You can also download .txt and .srt files of the transcription.
is a web-based program with two tiers. The free option is pretty limited, with a 250MB file upload limit — not much longer than a four-minute video. It can export videos up to seven minutes long, will only publish three hours of video every month and can edit and store content for just two days.
The $17 per month pro version of Kapwing increases that file upload limit to 2GB — over 30 minutes of video time, typically — can export videos up to one hour long, lets users download .srt files and their own fonts, makes some content private, and lets users edit and store all of their content.
The free version of won’t help you caption your video — instead, it’s more of an all-around video editor that combines an online editing toolkit with cloud-based video hosting, and the ability to buy millions of stock video clips and images. The business plan, which is $40 a month, does have automatic captioning, gives the user more privacy, the ability to download the audio portions of their videos only, hundreds of clips and embeds, help with search engine optimization, multiple user logins, collaborative editing, and more. The platform is web-based.
The free version of — another web-based platform — allows you just to try the platform out with a five-minute video. But, the $149 per month pro version includes 11 different languages for transcriptions, makes your entire video library searchable, and allows users to upload up to 100 hours of video every month. Every video is automatically transcribed, burn-in captions are included, and you can upload videos up to four hours long. The Enterprise version (the price of which is not listed) also includes invoicing options and priority video indexing.