Fixing Automatic Captions in YouTube

by Dr. Luanne Fose - The Tweed Geek on November 30, 2016


We’ve all seen them – those hilarious caption fails generated by YouTube’s automatic captioning. Some people, like Rhett & Link, have become internet celebrities by sharing their caption fails with the world.

If you’re like me, you were thrilled in 2009 when YouTube (Google) started implementing automatic captions for videos posted on their website. However, the “thrill” was soon gone as we realized that the captions were not exactly perfect. In fact, sometimes the automatic captions YouTube produced were quite embarrassing. The reality was not the dream, but still, I was excited that a major company had recognized the need to incorporate video captions. Their efforts helped people become more aware that captioning should be an integral part of video production.

As time went on, YouTube offered a variety of approaches to fixing the automatic captioning, and I’m happy to report that they continue to improve accuracy and invent easier ways to fix captions all the time. Sometimes you may hear me growling about this because it means re-doing the YouTube video tutorials that I’ve already created for faculty, but generally, I find that YouTube’s improvements for fixing automatic captions refine the process.

Most of us will agree that captioning videos to make them ADA compliant is the “right thing to do,” but sometimes our enthusiasm wanes because the process is arduous. I am always looking for new ways to make the captioning process easier. Yes, there are a lot of tools out there for captioning, but unfortunately, all of them are somewhat time-consuming. For matters of speed, I prefer to upload my screencasts to YouTube and then fix the automatic captions. I have found that fixing the captions is much quicker than typing them out (even though I pride myself in being a very fast typist since I am a pianist/organist after all). If you record with an excellent microphone and make sure to check your speed and enunciate when you speak, the necessary fixes will be minimal. If in the end, I don’t want the video to be posted permanently on YouTube, I can download the YouTube subtitles file that includes the proper timings and use Camtasia or some other software to merge the files to post elsewhere.

Recently YouTube changed the process of fixing automatic captions (again). My search for a good tutorial on the process came up empty, so I created one. Watch the video below and learn how quickly you can fix your YouTube captions.

Happy captioning in a fraction of the time!

~ Dr. Luanne Fose (The Tweed Geek)

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