How To Create Free Closed Captions For Videos

It seems the glory days of old-fashioned words on the screen are taking a back seat to video, so for the last 4 years or so I have been devoting more time to creating Youtube content (ie; videos) than I have been on websites.  

 I have 3 Youtube channels with a combined total of about 14k subscribers.  Two of the channels I don’t really do anything with anymore and I spend most time on the third, which is coming up on 3 years old, and has just over 8k subscribers.  I’ve actually gotten so good at creating and editing videos for this channel that I now make some decent side money making or editing videos for other people.

After using Youtube for a few years I was looking for another way to monetize some of my better videos, so I took a look at Amazon Video Direct, aka Amazon Prime Video.  On Amazon you can sell or rent your videos, or offer them for free to Amazon Prime members.  For sales or rentals, Amazon takes a percentage of the fee and you get paid the rest. If you offer your video for free to Prime members you get paid a few cents for every hour your videos are streamed. Even though the pay isnt a lot for the free streaming, because there is an entire audience of Amazon Prime members (over 17 million) looking for stuff to watch, I thought I would give Amazon Prime Video a try.   But to get your videos on Amazon, in addition to a few other requirements, you have to add closed-captions to your video – This is probably what keeps a lot of the riff-raff out of Amazon, and stops a lot of Youtube creators from trying Amazon Video Direct.

How To Get Free Closed Captioning For Your Video

I first looked into paying a captioning service to create the closed captions for me, but that was more than I was willing to pay.  There are also some Pc/Mac programs you can use to generate closed captions, but they can be expensive to purchase – and the free ones I looked at didn’t have great reviews so I was considering just transcribing the closed captioning myself, but that is tedious and time consuming.

While searching for other alternatives I learned that Youtube automatically adds closed captions to all their videos – and not only does Youtube add closed captions, they allow you to download the Closed Captioning files in either .SCC or .SRT format – both of which are I can easily import into Final Cut Pro!

So far I’ve uploaded 5 videos to Amazon Prime, 4 of which were already on Youtube, so for those 4 videos all I had to do was download the closed captioning file from Youtube and import the file into Final Cut Pro.  

Do NOT try to directly upload the automatically created Youtube Closed Captions file without checking it in your video editor first!  I found out the hard way that Youtube’s automatic closed captioning system is partially deaf and retarded!  So, unless your audio is perfect, the closed captions from Youtube will be far from perfect, and Amazon does check all closed captions with human beings, to ensure that your closed captioning is perfect. If your closed captioning is not perfect Amazon will reject the video and you’ll have to start over.

Fixing Your Closed Captions

So far automatically generated Youtube closed captioning files I have all downloaded from Youtube have needed a lot of cleanup.  Mostly correcting words and fixing the timing.  When using Final Cut Pro this is all as easy as adding text-titles but it takes a bit of time – but it’s fairly quick since Youtube has already done the majority of work.  Once your closed captions look good, just re-export the video file and separate closed captions in either .SCC or .SRT format, and upload to Amazon. Easy peasy!

But I still had one video that was not on Youtube, and was going to be exclusive to Amazon Video Direct so I could charge a rental fee for it. But, it was still simple to ‘let’ Youtube generate the closed captions for me.  All I did was upload the video to Youtube as an unlisted video before going to bed. When I woke up the next morning my closed caption file, generated by Youtube, was ready for me to download.  I downloaded the closed captioning file, deleted the file from Youtube and went to work with it in Final Cut Pro.

There ya go, easy, free way to create closed captions for your video!

TLDR; upload your videos to Youtube and let Youtube create your closed caption files. Import the CC files into your video editor, cleanup/correct the captions, then upload to Amazon Video Direct.