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5 video captioning tips

September 2017
News Item
Mike Laskey
7th September 2017

When it comes to videos, subtitles can be crucial.

Multi-language documentary… 10-second animation… whatever you’re uploading, you’ll want to help your audience understand what’s going on.

There are other benefits, too. Subtitles give search engines more content to index, meaning better SEO and the chance of drawing extra eyeballs to your film.

They’re also crucial for accessibility, helping viewers know which character is speaking the lines in a voiceover.

And with videos on social media muted by default, gone are the days of relying on audio online to tell your story.

But how can make sure your captions are perfect?

Here are our five tips.

1. Start with the script

If your video’s based on a nailed-down script, setting up subtitles for it should be a doddle.

Don’t relax too much, though.

One classic mistake is to ignore last-minute amends or on-shoot ad libs and end up with text that doesn’t quite match up with the finished product.

Always listen to your video in full and check it word for word with what your actor or voiceover is really saying.

An episode intro from the TV series 'Police Squad'

It may take a few minutes, but it’s definitely worth it.

2. Don’t rely on droids 

Upload a video to YouTube and you’ll be able to let it do the work for you with its auto-caption tool.

Sounds great, right? Not quite.

Unfortunately, YouTube’s ears aren’t quite as perceptive as ours just yet. Words are often mistaken for each another, blended into one or missed entirely – frankly, it’s a bit of a mess.

Factor in a strong accent or some overlapping voices and there’s an even bigger chance of undue embarrassment.

The fact there’s an entire blog dedicated to poorly subtitled Star Wars dialogue should be proof enough that the force isn’t so strong with auto-captioning.

Vader

3. Transcribe it offline first

While YouTube and other platforms typically allow you to upload already-created subtitle files, it can be easier to type captions in online through their video management systems – especially if you’re not used to formatting SRT files.

This gives you the ability to see what will appear on screen and when, allowing you to make changes on the fly as you enter text.

But before you do so, it’s always a good idea to write down the content offline first.

That way, you have something to refer back to – a master version, if you will – and can concentrate on using the online editor to just get the timings right.

4. Include the transcript in your description

Google’s algorithms may be mysterious, but they’re said to factor in an ‘honesty score’ when it comes to SEO rankings.

By entering the exact same text in your video description as is in your captions, you can improve that score through added consistency (especially if your video is on YouTube, which Google’s parent company now owns).

Just don’t be tempted to undo that good work with an irrelevant clickbait headline…

Videos with clickbait

5. Get someone to watch before you publish

For whatever reason, some people mishear things more than others – often with hilarious consequences.

The human ear isn’t perfect, and we all make mistakes from time to time.

So even if you’ve checked, checked and checked your captions again, getting someone else to do the same can stop you from ending up red-faced.

Bear these five simple tips in mind and your captions should be spot on when it comes to upload time.

By Mike Laskey

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