Originally published March 9, 2015
When my friend David Brooks announced the launch of the Mr. Meaner app, I was excited to try it out.
Mr. Meaner allowed you to find out what laws apply in the state you’re traveling in.
Use the mobile app to find out if you can use your smartphone while driving in Illinois (no) or whether U-turns are legal in Michigan (yes, with exceptions).
David posted a short, less than one-minute video about Mr. Meaner.
I noticed something right away.
I sent him a quick message. Hey, David. This looks good. Will captions be added to the video?
David replied, “I definitely need to add captions.”
Adding Transcripts to Videos
It’s straightforward to upload the transcript for a video, I explained.
If you’ve already created a script for the video, which many people do for short videos, upload the transcript file to YouTube.
Within minutes of uploading the transcript, YouTube automatically:
- Adds captions
- Synchronizes the timing of the captions
- Updates the video
As we continued to chat, I asked David if he knew YouTube adds automatic captions when you upload a video.
For people (and professional actors) who speak clearly in YouTube videos, automatic captions can come very close to the actual spoken word.
Except they’re often one long run-on sentence for the entire video.
David reviewed the automatic captions on his video.
Not the results he expected.
Wow. I had to check and it’s hilariously bad on the details. Most of it is there, but it’s as if I ran it through Google Translate three or four times.
I wasn’t surprised.
With all the video captioning I’ve done over the years, I’m familiar with how bad YouTube automatic captions can be.
A couple minutes later, David replied he uploaded the transcript and the captions were applied to the video.
That was really painless. Why on Earth do people not caption things?
That’s what I keep asking.
Why You Want to Add Your Own Captions
Whenever I meet people who talk about the video on their website, YouTube, or other social media, I ask if they’ve added captions.
Nine times out of 10 the answer is no.
Some people, like David, thank me for the reminder and quickly add captions.
For others, I explain the benefits of captioning, providing accessible and searchable content.
Adding captions means the video or podcast content is available to everyone, including people:
- Who are deaf or heard of hearing
- Whose first language is different than the language spoken in the video
- Who are in a noisy environment where they can’t hear (loud space, crowded train, broken earbuds)
- Who are in a quiet environment where they can’t play audio
Once captions are added to a video, your content can be found by search engines and by people using those search engines.
While people are aware of YouTube’s automatic captions, what they don’t know is that Google only indexes caption files you upload.
Automatic YouTube caption files aren’t indexed because they’re often full of errors.
Unpublish YouTube’s Automatic Captions
One more thing I recommended David do: remove the automatic captions YouTube created.
Even if you’ve uploaded your own caption file, YouTube will display the automatic captions option.
You don’t want people to use the automatic captions.
Here’s how to unpublish automatic captions:
- Sign into YouTube Studio
- Select Subtitles
- Select the video you want to remove captions from
- From the Language dropdown menu in the video, select Published by English (Automatic). Note: the language may be different.
- Select Unpublish
I asked David if I could share our story about captioning videos. Sure, he replied.
I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is.
Sadly, the Mr. Meaner app is no more. It’s been removed from the app stores.