Video Content: Captions and Transcripts

At The College of Saint Rose, the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities coordinates academic support services for students with disabilities, such as extended time on tests, note taker support, and computer technology. Please seek their guidance and support in choosing texts for your course.

The following is informational only, and is intended to help faculty create more universally accessible content using the tools and technologies already provided by Information Technology Services. It is the responsibility of the course instructor to deliver course content in a way that is accessible by students using assistive technology.

Have you ever watched a foreign language film or TV show and the captions stopped working for a moment or two? It’s a very frustrating experience, especially if you were riveted to the show and you’re missing pertinent information. It’s important to create captions for all video content you create, and to make sure that the captions are accurate.

You may be confused by the different types of captions possible – subtitles, open captions, and closed captions. Open captions are captions that are always on-screen, and closed captions are captions that the user must turn on. Subtitles only display what someone is saying (usually intended for users for whom English is a second language, or someone following along), whereas captions will display text for sounds and music as well (usually intended for D/deaf or hard of hearing users).

Best Practices

There are no set-in-stone regulations for online content, especially user-generated content. There are, however, best practices:

  • Make sure spelling is accurate, use proper capitalization, and proper punctuation.
  • If multiple people are speaking, or if the speaker is off-screen, make sure to identify the current speaker.
  • Non-speech sounds should be written in brackets, and only pertinent sound effects should be captioned.
    An image of a sound effect in brackets.
  • Be as close to verbatim as possible without sacrificing ease of reading (reduce “ums” and redundancies if necessary)
  • Each caption frame should have 1-3 lines of text, and each line should not be longer than 32 characters.
  • Each frame should be on screen for at least one second, and extended sound effects should drop off-screen after 4 or 5 seconds.
  • Each caption frame should be replaced immediately by the next caption, unless there is a long period of silence.
  • All caption frames should be precisely time-synched to the audio.
  • A caption frame should be repositioned if it obscures on-screen text or other essential visual elements.

Some students may prefer a written transcription if the video is long and there is not much visual stimulation, but captions are standard operating procedure and also provide opportunity for context. You could provide captions and write a transcript, but you cannot use a transcript in place of captions.

Relay and Camtasia

You can edit captions in Relay via the Relay website.

TechSmith has several helpful tutorials for captioning Relay. The Relay caption editor even features a character counter, so you will not need to worry about your captions being too long.

TechSmith Relay also allows users to create audio descriptions, which are spoken descriptions of the visual content in videos designed for blind viewers.


Zoom allows users to set up closed captions, either by writing them yourself or by assigning a participant to write them.


When using VoiceThread, only two people have the ability to create captions: the user who created the VoiceThread, or a user who has editing rights for that VoiceThread.


YouTube makes it very easy to create captions for videos you have uploaded. You can watch an instructional video on the process, if needed. It is also possible to create captions for videos you did not create, which is less ideal, but creating captions for a YouTube video you did not create is protected under Fair Use.

YouTube’s auto-generated captions vary in accuracy. If the speaker has an accent, or uses colloquialisms or specific jargon (sometimes including their username) the captions can become more difficult to understand. If you want to use a video you did not create in class, and you don’t want to caption it yourself, consider watching it with captions on to make sure it is understandable, or providing a transcript.

An example of YouTube's auto-captions

In-Class DVDs or Films

If you show a DVD or other type of film in-class, you can reach out to Technology Support Services to make sure the projector or player in your classroom will display captions automatically. It is possible TSS may need to help you.

The other option is to turn on the captions yourself, usually accessed via the Settings menu on the main menu.

Off-Campus Screenings (Theaters)

If you choose to take your students off-campus for a film screening, be aware of the amenities that local theaters have. Regal Cinema at Crossgates Mall features caption glasses, and the Spectrum Theatre on Delaware Avenue allows users to filter its films by amenities.


Kim, Dae, Sean Bersell, Josh Miller, Claudia Rocha, and Tole Khesin. “Closed Captioning Best Practices and Legal Requirements for Digital Delivery of TV & Film.” 3Play Media. April 17, 2014.