How to Add Closed Captions to Your Videos

Goal: Add closed captions (CC) to a video without burning them in. This gives the user the ability to toggle CC on and off.

What you’ll need: Descript, Handbrake, and your video in an .mp4 format.

If you already have a caption file in an .srt format, skip down to the Embed captions in video section. If you don’t have a transcript or .srt caption file, continue to the next section.

Create a caption file

Create a new project in Descript and upload your full video (with audio).

The Drive View landing page in Descript with the +New button drop-down and Project highlighted.
New Project dialogue box in Descript.
Project properties page in Descript with the Choose a file... section highlighted.

Set the transcription language, if needed (mine defaults to English), and Transcribe. Edit the transcribed text in Descript to resolve any transcription errors.

When your transcript is ready, select the “File” drop-down menu, “Export” option, then “Subtitles” from the File export section.

Export dialogue box in Descript with Subtitles button highlighted.

Choose SubRip Titles (.srt) or Video text titles (.vtt) from the “Format” drop-down menu and select the “Export” button.

Important: If you are uploading your video directly into an elearning development tool, verify the required caption file type. Tools such as Articulate Rise require you to load a .vtt caption file with your video, as their video player does not recognize embedded captions and you can stop at this step. If you want to embed captions in your video, select the .srt option and continue to the next section.

Export > Subtitles dialogue box in Descript with the Format drop-down options .srt and .vtt highlighted.

Embed captions in video

Open Handbrake and select your .mp4 video from the file browser.

HandBrake new browser menu box with .mp4 file selected.

Select the “Subtitles” tab.

HandBrake project page with Subtitles tab highlighted.

In the “Tracks” drop-down, select the “Add external subtitles track..” option. Navigate to your .srt caption file and select the “Open” button.

HandBrake Subtitles page with Tracks drop-down menu expanded and Add External Subtitles Track... selected.
.srt caption file selected in the file browser.
  1. Verify that your .srt track appears in the dialogue box.
  2. Verify that you are saving the file to the desired location on your computer.
  3. Select the “Start” button at the top of the screen.
The selected .srt file is highlighted first. Then, the Save As: area with the designated file path is highlighted second. The Start button is higlighted third.

Once the video is updated with subtitles, it will download to the selected location. Test your newly subtitled video by opening it in a video player and toggling closed captions on and off. I use QuickTime Player to play the video and ensure the closed caption option is available and functional.

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