Tutorial – Creating Subtitles and Closed Captions for Video SEO

An external subtitle or caption file can help greatly when it comes to video search engine optimization as well as make your video content accessible to a far wider audience.

In this tutorial we will go over making a set of captions or subtitles for a video using URUSoft's freely available Subtitle Workshop. If you use a mac, you can download NCAM\'s magPIE.

The program is simple to understand and to use. After installation, which was automatic and quick, I was able to begin using the product without even looking at the help file. There are more advanced features in the program that will not be covered in this tutorial but they are covered sufficiently in the help files for the program itself and we recommend you read them.

What you Need:

  • A finished video.
  • About 30 minutes of your time – per 2 minutes of video (varies based on how much speech and sound is in the video in question).
  • A Windows computer, XP or Vista for the program.

When you start Subtitle Workshop you are presented with a clean interface containing two empty panes (upper and lower) and several options (left) that can be set including Input FPS (frames per second) and Mode (frames or time). If you do not know the FPS of your video then don't worry about any of that. This is for advanced use. Mode simply lets you create your subtitles based on time marks or specific frames. If you are creating titles in a language other than English you may want to take a look at the alphabet option which includes most of the world's alphabets and change it accordingly.

The first thing you want to do is, from the top menu, select File – New Subtitle. This will inject (into the lower pane) the starting point for the new subtitles. As you can see it auto-fills three fields: Number, Show and Hide. The Text field is left empty for obvious reasons. The Number field is simply the numerical value of the subtitle in question. The Show field is the beginning time (or frame) of the video to show the subtitle and Hide is the mark when the subtitle should disappear. All you need to do is put in the text that you would like to show and edit the times.

The second thing needed is the video file. For this tutorial I borrowed some video from the Mahalo Daily video podcast featuring Veronica Belmont and the Pinball place Ju Ju's in Alameda, California.

In the top menu select Movie – Open and navigate to the file you wish to work with. The program supports a host of formats include .asf, .avi, .ogm, .ogg, .mkv, .mp4, .divx and several others. Check the documentation for the complete list. This will open the video in the upper black pane. Now you have everything ready to go. You can play through the video and skip back and forth as needed to put in your subtitles or captions.

Tutorial   Creating Subtitles and Closed Captions for Video SEO

For this tutorial I decided to do a set of Closed Captions so that means I must include notes about when sounds or music are present as well as a note about who is speaking. As you can see from the example video, it begins with music so from 0:00 to 03:00 (seconds) I have it display [Music Playing] in the text field. The first entry looks like this:

NumShowHideText
100:00:00,00000:00:03,000[Music Playing]

By default the program gives the subtitle a display time of one second, this can be changed at the bottom of the program. If you highlight the first subtitle the Show, Hide and Duration become editable at the bottom left of the subtitle pane. If something is grayed out then take a look at "Work With:" near the middle of the left-hand column, below FPS. This gives you the ability to work solely on time marks or duration of each subtitle as well as both. I preferred to have both active so I could edit either. Next to those fields is the text box where I typed in [Music Playing] for display.

Now we need another line to add the next subtitle. So you can go to the top menu Edit – Insert Subtitle or you can use the hotkey Ins. This will give you a second empty line. Again notice that three fields have already been filled in. The Num field logically increased to 2 and the Show field was incremented one-thousandth of a second more than the previous Hide value, in this case 00:00:03,001 and was automatically given a display time of one second.

Since at the end of the music, when the Pinball screen comes up a pinball bell rings I have made that my second subtitle again editing Show, Hide and Text as needed. Again I edited the empty text to display [Pinball bell ringing].

Veronica and Michael speak quite a bit in this section of the Mahalo Daily and so I thought it would be a good way to show some style ideas as well. For example Michael gave some longer explanations of things that needed to be broken into pieces in order to fit properly. Since when people speak they generally hesitate it gives us a fair amount of time to show each of the subtitles. I tried to maintain a standard of no more than two lines of text and a display length of 2.5 to 3.5 seconds each depending on the text. Some are displayed longer or shorter as needed.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Make sure each line is displayed long enough to be read by most people.
  • Make sure the text does not run off the edges of the video.
  • Try to break the text up into logical pieces, sentences or logical break points.
  • Don't put more than two lines of text up at once if possible.

Tutorial   Creating Subtitles and Closed Captions for Video SEO

When I was finished and satisfied with the captions it was time to save the files. I wanted to save it into several different formats so that they could be displayed by most people. So I chose the three major formats Quicktext for Quicktime, Realtime for Real Player and SAMI for Windows Media Player. Each of the three files was created in the specific format and named the same thing as the video file, i.e. Mahalodaily-MD094-short-final (.avi, .smi, etc). This helps keep track of everything as well as helps many video players automatically recognize the subtitle files.

Quick Summary:

  • Open Subtitle Workshop.
  • Select File – New Subtitle from the top menu.
  • Select Movie – Open and navigate to the video you want to use.
  • Play video to find your 'marks.'
  • Edit Show, Hide and Text as needed.
  • Repeat until all subtitles or captions are complete.
  • Save to desired formats.
  • Name subtitle files the same as the video.

Here is the final video with captions:


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Posted in Video SEO
About the Author -
Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of ReelSEO, an online information resource dedicated to the fusion of video, technology, social media, search, and internet marketing. He is a YouTube Certified, video marketing consultant and video marketing expert, popular speaker, and considered to be a passionate leader within the online video and search marketing industries. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • overdue

    No offense, but where can I find a tutorial that makes sense?
    I'm sure that when you wrote this, it made sense to you, but for a novice like me it gets me nowhere.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/about/mark/ Mark R Robertson

      none taken but sorry, I don't. It may be too advanced?

  • http://www.reelseo.com/about/christophor/ Christophor Rick

    Actually, I had never done it before and followed these steps and was successful. It just looks intimidating. Really there is no easier way to do it unless you pay someone else and most of us can't. Now I do subtitles and captions using this on many videos. I suppose you could pay me to do it if you like :)

  • Rose

    Hello, I'm using subtitle workshop, but many file format are not supported. What kind of file formats do I need to have my original subtitle on? is there a way to import from a spreadsheet or do I have to redo the job? Is there any way I can view your demo video with the subtitle, they don't show up on my (old) computer. Thx.

  • Guest

    There are various ways to caption, some are web-based (i.e. without downloading a software) if that's what some might prefer:

    - http://www.webaim.org/techniques/captions/software.php
    - http://www.dcmp.org/ciy/

  • http://www.visualsinmotion.nl/ Erik

    I read the Tutorial – Creating Subtitles & Captions for Video SEO, and you put the Captions text outside of the video, but I have a player which have invisible CC inside a MP4 file because Google crawls a textfile inside Flash.

    Is this correct?

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Well, I dont understand what this means – "invisible CC inside a MP4 file"

      • Erik

        CC means Close Captions. As you maybe know Google is recognising textfiles inside a flashplayer, so I made a flashplayer with invisible close Captions in it. You can see the player with video Advertising banners onto : http://www.visualsinmotion.nl

        But i read that I don't need Close Captions to let Google index the video and I must use video sitemaps?

        Erik

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          I know what CC are but you cant add them to an MP4 file. Do you mean that
          you are serving them within the player? Correct in that you should have a
          sitemap if you want Google to find the videos. However, have you found that
          the text within the closed captions file are being indexed….

        • Erik

          Do you mean that you are serving them within the player?

          >> yes that is correct because Google indexed CC I heard

          Have you found that the text within the closed captions file are being indexed….

          >> No not yet. I must wait because this week I put the video on the site

          Erik

  • http://twitter.com/ReelSurfer ReelSurfer

    Hey Mark, great article. At ReelSurfer, we have been helping organizations with their video SEO for a while now. Love to get your feedback on what we are doing. Perhaps we can add some insight.

    Neil

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