In this video, our friend Dave Dugdale compares the time it took him to transcribe a typical three minute video by hand verses using an automatic transcription service. As you likely know, automated transcription services use speech-to-text recognition technologies that at this point, are no where near 100% accurate. But does using an automated transcription service save you time, even when you may need to make corrections?

For those of you who may be unaware, there are a few tools available to provide transcriptions and closed captions for your video files.  As we've written about in the past, providing closed captions and transcripts are a great way to add rich on-page text for your video landing pages which is a good practice for video SEO.  Additionally and arguably more important, using transcriptions and closed captions help with accessibility.

Also, you can take these transcripts and upload them to your YouTube account as YouTube will then use Google's speech-to-text recognition technologies to transform your plain text transcript into closed captions for your YouTube video.  There are some indications (which I will cover in a post to come) that YouTube is using these closed captions to help better understand video content - which makes perfect sense.

SubPly, is a service that provides free automatic transcription and closed captioning for videos.  Despite Dave's experience that only files were accepted, I believe that the issue is more so related to the fact that SubPly only accepts FLV files at this time.  Unfortunately, they can not do mp4s.  Additionally, the free service is only available for videos that are less than 5 minutes in duration.  That being said, they do have professional products and services as well as an API for those who need transcription, closed captioning and/or translation for their online videos.  They have also partnered with several online video platforms like Brightcove to provide these services.

About our Guest:
Transcribing Videos By Hand Vs. Automated Transcription Tools dave dugdale square 146 This guest post was produced by Dave Dugdale the owner of and He has produced over 200 videos for his solar and rental sites after he got his first HD camera 3 years ago. Dave has also been leading the way in better detection of rental scams by sharing his database of blacklist email addresses with his competitors.

View The Full Video Transcript
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I hate to transcribe my own videos and I am too cheap to hire it out.

Mark Robertson at ReelSEO told me about an free automatic transcription service called SubPly, so I thought I would share my experiences with it and compare SubPly to transcribing by hand.

Let's get started.

Assuming you already have your video uploaded to a host like or you have the flv file on your server. Place the path of your flv file on SubPly and then wait. With this video it took 46 minutes before I got the email that it was done, sometimes I seen it work as fast as 5 minutes.

Once you get the email from SubPly that its done, head on back to your account and save a local copy of the transcript.

Then make the corrections you need to the text file by listening to your video.

For this 3 minute video it took 10 minutes to do around 80 corrections to the text file, sometimes SubPly got entire sentences totally right and sometimes I had to rewrite entire sentence from scratch. Mostly the corrections consisted of replacing words that it got wrong.

OK, there are two things I do with the finished transcription. The obvious one is place the transcript on my site next to the video and the other is to upload it to YouTube's caption feature which may or may not help my video rank better on YouTube.

I also add the text file to the video's description which in my experience helps get more YouTube traffic because of the longtail of all the words that now become searchable.

So, is it faster to do it by hand or use Subply? Well if you don't count the 46 minutes I had to wait for SubPly to do it's thing, then it is faster because it only took me 10 minutes of corrections with SubPly and 23 minutes to do it all by hand.

Couple of quick things to know. is the only service I can get to work with SubPly with the flv extensions and SubPly only take videos shorter than 5 minutes.

That's it - happy transcribing!

  • Brian Kurtz

    I don't think this works anymore. I can only find paid services at Subply.

  • halfacat

    too bad they dont do youtube videos at subply, i would be a user of theirs...
    this does seem to be a pretty critical service to get up and offering. the google speech to captioning system is horrendus.

  • Michael Smolens

    You did not mention dotSUB, which has a browser based time coding, captioning functionality to create captions without any downloaded software. It is being used by numerous large companies - the most visible are TED Talks - who use dotSUB for their Open Translation Program. We create captions as the first step in the multi-language subtitling process, and all our professionally done captions are 508 compliant to meet US standards for the hearing impaired - which is impossible to do with machine conversion. We are considering launching an automatic voice to text conversion, which can then be human edited, but our professional captionists find it takes longer to correct the numerous mistakes than to do it from scratch.Be glad to speak to anyone Michael L. SmolensFounder & CEOdotSUB LLC - Any Video Any Language[email protected]T: (917) 742-0158 / F: (646) 403-9944Skype: MLSmolens/ Twitter: @MLSmolens

    • Mark Robertson

      Michael, you are right that in this article, we did not. However, we have mentioned DotSub other times (we love the site/service) and we would love it if you became a regular reader on our site. Thanks for your comment.

  • Mark Robertson

    I just tried Subply again the other day and it has now been 24 hours - with no processing yet... annoying as I could have done it by hand HOURS ago...

    • Mark Robertson

      Update - 2 weeks already... I would never recommend that again to someone. Glad it worked for a while.

  • Grant Crowell

    Here's a good solution: Take a typing class, and get a good software transcription tool. I use Transcriva for the Mac , which has great keyboard combinations so I don't even have to use a USB foot pedal. Its the best way of having accuracy when you know the technical and industry lingo yourself, and you can do quickkeys for common words to save you time. That's what I use for many of the interviews that you see here, which I transcribe the audio and video from. To me, its still the best SEO solution over any speech-to-text computer. (Until they can give one of those my brain, I'll stick with my brain and my agile fingers.)

    • Dugdale


      I should have mentioned in my video that I am really bad at typing. Yes, I need a typing class! I bet those results might be different for someone that is really fast at it.

  • Klessblog

    Loved this post, I have so many interviews that need transcription, but not enough time to do it myself. Plus I don't have the $1.50-2.00/min per transcription to pay for all the interviews I need transcribed. I've tried Adobe Premiere's speech-to-text plug-in. It was so so... marginal at best. I'll try Subply.

    • Dugdale

      I have always wanted to try the Adobe Premiere's speech-to-text plug-in, sorry to hear it did not work that well. If you have time come back and let us know the comparison between SubPly and Adobe.

  • Dugdale

    Sorry everybody, since I didn't know which format Mark was going to put this in I couldn't CC it.

    So, if you want to see it will CC, go to this YouTube video:

    Make sure your CC button is on to see the text.


    • Mark Robertson

      Ahh Dave - it was really my fault. Ive replaced the video in the post with
      the youtube one... Thanks for doing that.

  • Louis Schwarz

    Why isn't your video clip captioned also?

  • @thefarmerjoe

    No closed captions on this video? Oh the Irony; it burns!

    • Mark Robertson

      So funny - I was just thinking that. My bad....

      • Mark Robertson

        We have them up now ;-)

  • Josh

    This is a great example of how speech recognition can get you part of the way there, but a human will always be needed. There's a lot that can be done with an edited transcript that has all the time-codes in it as well.