Does YouTube Automatically Caption Videos?

Video content has taken the world to new heights by drastically changing how information is consumed by audiences everywhere. Although not quite obvious, YouTube transcription can make these videos even more awesome as it lets everyone get the message loud and clear, no matter who they are or how they prefer to comprehend content. However, let’s be real: the whole captioning process can be a head-scratcher for creators trying to figure out the best way to do it.

YouTube, the king of video-sharing platforms, seemingly has a solution: the automated captioning feature. Although it may be tempting to let the machines do the heavy lifting, pause a bit. Being aware of the consequences of relying solely on robot-generated captions is crucial. So, before you make the call, look at the ins and outs of manual and automated captioning methods to ensure you make a smart choice that jives with your content goals.

In this article, you’ll learn how:

  • Video captions make videos accessible to a wider audience, including those with hearing impairments or watching without sound.
  • YouTube doesn’t automatically caption every video, though it uses automated speech recognition, which can be unreliable.
  • YouTubers can manually add captions by uploading a transcript file or typing them in; however, typing is time-consuming and inefficient.

What are Video Captions?

You know those words or sentences appearing on the screen while a video is playing? They’re called video or closed captions. Captions ensure everyone can understand what’s being said, even if they can’t hear the sound. It’s a bit different from when we add subtitles, as they’re primarily used for those who can hear but can’t understand the language in the video.

Adding captions to their videos is essential for YouTube creators as it helps people with hearing problems enjoy the content just like everyone else. Captions also come in handy when folks can’t or don’t want to play the audio out loud. A survey of U.S. consumers found that 92% view videos with the sound off on mobile. 

Therefore, when creators have the correct captions at the right time, they make their videos accessible to a much larger audience. More viewerships can lead to more earnings for content creators.

Types of Videos Where Highly Accurate Captions Are Essential

Having discussed video captions, below are some videos you can search for—whether on YouTube or other platforms—where correct video captions are needed.

Educational or InstructionalClear captioning to grasp all key points and avoid missing crucial info.
LegalPrecise transcription of complex terminology and details to avoid misinterpretation.
MedicalAccurate captions for medical jargon and procedures—consequences if misunderstood.
InterviewsCapture nuanced language, proper nouns, and context of the subject matter.
DocumentariesProperly transcribe complicated topics or terminology to convey the intended message.
Film ProductionsWord-for-word dialogue text allows viewers with hearing issues to experience the storytelling.

Does YouTube Automatically Caption Videos?

The short answer is that YouTube doesn’t automatically add captions to every video uploaded. However, the creator can enable captions in supported languages.

YouTube utilizes automated speech recognition that tries to generate captions using machine-learning tricks. I want to get real on this one—automatic captions aren’t the most accurate way to go. The accuracy of YouTube’s captions can be unreliable depending on a few factors. If the audio quality is poor, with lots of distortion or background noise, some words might get lost in translation.

AI will struggle to pick it up properly if the volume is too low. Accents can also ruin the works, as YouTube’s automatic captioning feature might not be the best at understanding them all. And don’t even get me started on random sounds. Automatic transcription technology might mistake them for words, leading to head-scratching captions.

How Do You Manually Put Captions For Your Youtube Videos?

There are a few ways to put captions on your YouTube videos, including auto-generated ones. However, if you’re a YouTuber that prioritizes the accuracy of your video captions in their channel by adding them in manually, here’s the way to do it: 

Step 1: Find the “Subtitles” option”

Log in to YouTube, go to YouTube Studio, and select Subtitles on the left menu—that’s three steps at once.

image depicting the youtube dashboard

Step 2: Choose A Video 

This is where you’ll choose the video to which you want to add subtitles. I uploaded three short videos as samples. 

image depicting a short videos

‍ Step 3: Click on Add Language.

After choosing a video, you’ll see an option to choose the subtitle language. In my case, I’ve chosen English. 

an image depicting enabling automatic youtube captions and subtitles

Step 4: Click Add.

Right after choosing a language, click the option for ADD LANGUAGE.

an image depicting the language section of captions for a youtube video

Step 5: Pick one of the two methods of manually adding captions.

For this step, you can choose which method of adding captions you prefer. The options are: 

  1. Upload File: If you have your transcripts—perhaps you created them yourself or produced by professionals, like Ditto Transcripts—you can upload them here.
  2. Type Manually: Although YouTube provides shortcuts to expedite the process, manually typing captions requires substantial time and effort—we don’t recommend this option as it can be laborious yet inefficient.

On the other hand, there are also two automated features that you can use.

  1. Auto Translate:  YouTube can automatically generate caption translations into other languages you select.
  2. Auto Sync: YouTube automatically syncs the captions to match your video timing, so you don’t have to do it manually.

However, these options are powered by machine learning algorithms, which means they can’t be as accurate as the ones provided by professional services. So, they’re not the best option for YouTube videos where accurate captions are crucial for your audience. 

an image depicting uploading youtube captions, or using the automated feature.

Step 6: Once done, click Publish

After choosing a method or adding the caption, you can finish the job by clicking “Publish” in the upper-right corner. If you want to edit your captions, return to this page. 

an image depicting the publish button on youtube.

Should You Settle For Automated YouTube Video Captions?

No, it’s best not to settle for automated YouTube video captions in most cases. While YouTube’s automation feature can provide a general idea of the content, it has many limitations that may compromise the usability of the transcripts.

According to research, automated transcripts—including YouTube’s—are only about 86% accurate under the best circumstances. This means that they are bound to contain errors, misinterpretations, or inconsistencies that could be problematic for certain types of content. 

For example, accuracy is the most important factor in educational videos, tutorials, interviews, or legal proceedings, ensuring the information is correctly conveyed.  

In those cases, it is highly recommended that you opt for professional human transcription services. These services can convert and provide a more reliable transcript that captures nuances, technical terms, and complicated discussions with better precision.

Let Ditto Transcribe Your Crucial YouTube Videos

With a strong presence in the industry since 2010, Ditto offers world-class transcription services that no other provider can match. Our services include: 

  • More than 99% accuracy on all types of content transcription
  • 100% US-based, human transcription
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  • Different and affordable rates to fit different budgets
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  • No long-term commitments or contracts (pay as you go)
  • Industry-leading customer service
  • Flexible features for varying requirements
  • Professional translation services for Arabic, French, Spanish, German, and more

Don’t Settle for Automatic Captioning When You Have Ditto

So what are you waiting for? Maximize your reach and retention with Ditto’s professional transcription services and see the difference. 

Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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