Much Ado About Captioning Videos for WordPress and Beyond

Talk by Meryl K. Evans

It is very easy to add a YouTube or Vimeo-hosted video to your WordPress site, but omitting the captions excludes many more people than you think. Not just the 6% of the world that is deaf or hard of hearing.

Get your captioning questions answered by the person who depends on them.

You’ll learn:

  • Why do I want to caption my videos? (Besides accessibility, of course!)
  • How do captions work?
  • Adding captioned videos to WordPress
  • What are my options for captioning my videos?
  • How do I create awesome captions?

Watch Meryl’s Presentation


David: Hello everyone. Welcome back to WordPress Accessibility Day. My name is David Vogelpohl at WP
Engine and I’m proud to be your host for the session: Much Ado About Captioning Videos for WordPress and Beyond with Meryl K. Evans. Please feel free to add your questions to the YouTube chat feed and we’ll answer those at the end of the presentation.

I’m honored to introduce Meryl and her talk, Much Ado About Captioning Videos.

Born hearing free, Meryl’s first encounter with captions came in 1983 when she received a closed caption decoder. Because she depends on captions to follow the video, she has seen the best and worst of captions. Fast forward decades later, Meryl’s digital marketing career has come in handy in educating people about the benefits of captioning videos and captioning them well.

When she started making videos she wanted to caption them. As a self-employed professional she worried about the investment to make that happen. Through trial and error she figured out an effective process for creating awesome captions that led her to create the 10 Rules of Great Captions. And here to share that with you today, I’d like to introduce Meryl K Evans.

Meryl: Thank you, David.

Howdy, y’all. Before we start here are a [unintelligible]. First, there are a lot of visuals. If this is an accessibility issue with anyone needing information or clarification, please contact me. Second, I want to quickly mention audio description also referred to as video description in AD. A narrator provides a description of key digital element in the video.

While I won’t cover it, it is important to mention, because it’s an accessibility requirement. Thank you David for bringing that to my attention. Third, thank you captioners and sponsors. Captioners, may the force be
with you in captioning this accent.

I’m Meryl, with two syllables, and rhyme with pill not pull.

I am a native Texan who lives in Plano, right next to Dallas. So I was born hearing free, aka profoundly deaf. I am not capital D deaf, because I am not part of the deaf community and I don’t know sign language. To listen, I rely on the hearing in my bionic ear, which is a lot cooler than saying Cochlear Implant, aside from being a caption pusher, I am a Digital Marketing Freelancer.

This is what my first caption decoder looked like. It was like clunky thing that sat on top, on top of the TV. Little did I know, it was going to change my life.

We’ll cover the other reasons to caption besides accessibility, because some don’t think it’s a good enough reason. Crazy, right? But that’s reality. I see a lot of posts where people ask if they should caption their video.

Unfortunately, captions don’t just magically appear. If only. Automatic craptions, don’t count y’all.

Look at this auto, auto craption, I definitely did not say that. So we’ll dig into how captions work.

You have many options for captioning your videos. We’ll cover those. And finally, great captions are more than just capturing the audio. Why should you caption your video? The number one answer is accessibility, of course.
That should be enough, right? Alas, it’s not and the second most popular reason is to help second language learner. Many focused on these two reasons and for some creators it’s not enough to justify their time and resources for captioning.

David: All right, we’re just trying to get the screen sharing going. Okay, there we go. awesome. Yeah.

Meryl: All right.Yeah. Sorry about that everybody. Technology right.

When you share the other reasons, it makes creators rethink captioning. Only 6% of the world’s population is deaf or hard of hearing. Naturally, creators may think their audience doesn’t include them, or was too smart to bother.

But they’ll change their mind when you share that people who are deaf and hard of hearing are not the primary users of captions. A survey has found 80% of those using captions are not deaf or hard of hearing.

That you reach more people with captions.

You want the caption, because it greatly increases the chances of people watching more of your video. Lately a lot of data has popped up that shows more people turning off the sound especially watching videos in public. But what about if they’re watching in private? A good number of them still keep the sound off. My youngest is a member of Gen Z, and he has ADHD. He does well with multitasking. He’ll be on his phone, with Nintendo while watching a captioned video.

Many of his friends do the same thing regardless if they have ADHD. It also helps those with language processing disorders and other differences.

Some people, none of these differences say they need captions because it helps them focus. Besides, even hearing can be affected on a temporary or situational basis. A cold and ear infection can change a person’s hearing. Think you go to a noisy restaurant, bar and gym. Masks are everywhere nowadays. A lot of people who can hear that they have a hard time understanding people talking with a mask on. What do Hulu, Netflix, Hover, MIT and Pornhub have in common? They have all been sued over the lack of captions.

Yes, you heard right. I said Pornhub. A man sued Pornhub, because videos were not captioned. He’s probably one of those who reads Playboy for the articles, right? Whatever floats your boat.

Contrary to what these companies may think, it’s not cheaper to deal with law suits over fitting accessibility into the organization. Caption users are passionate. They will speak loudly and fully comprehend it can hurt the company’s reputation. That the lack of captioning costs more than the law suit.

Captions also increase brand awareness. Any opportunity to help people remember your brand is a must do in those noisy rooms. And last, but not least, when you close captions, as opposed to open captions, caption can boost SEO. Captions don’t magically show up. They require two things: the video, the text files, the caption. Even if you use YouTube’s automatic captions, YouTube usually create a caption text file.

You can download it and use it elsewhere. The way to add caption to a video is to create a text file that goes with the video. The formats that you and I will use most likely are SRT and WebVTT. There are tons of formats. The captions are in a text file that you can open in a text editor.

The magic happens in the time column that tells the caption when to appear and disappear. When you play the videos that uses the caption file is called closed caption. Since this is a text file search engine can read it. That’s how you get the benefit of SEO with closed captions. You have many options for adding caption to a video. I am sharing one example, so you can see the process. This video shows you how to do it on YouTube, since it’s free and most everyone has an account.

[Video plays with captions]

[Clip within Video] Hey y’all. Meryl Evans here creating a short clip to show you how to caption a video.
You can copy and paste this script. Boom and then automatic captions do the work and then edit it.

[Video continues with captions]

[Clip within Video] Hey Y’all, Meryl Evans.

And copy and paste the script.

Boom let automatic captions do the work and then

[Video continues with captions]

Meryl: Two points. First, did you notice the line that the captions got shorter on the left and then that the caption lines matter. More on that shortly.

The point is, don’t rely on YouTube to set the length.

The second point, at the end when I selected to download the video I could download the SRT, CTP or SBV.

SBV is YouTube caption format. To add a video from YouTube or Vimeo to WordPress, you copy the videos URL and paste it into WordPress. No need for caption file.

However, you might need the caption file for other things such as posting videos on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Now this is what the SRT file I downloaded from YouTube at the end of the video looks like.

SRT is short for Subrip Subtitles File. Linkedin, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and many of the platforms accept this. You’ll see it has sequence number one, two, three, four, five followed by a time column.

This video will show you how to. It’s the first caption. It shows up when the video hits the first time code and it goes away when the video reaches the second time code. Let’s check out another format.

This is an example of WebVTT file. It’s modeled after SRT, but it takes captions a step further by allowing you to format the text to choose the positioning and other things. This is the same text in the previous example except it follows VTT formatting. No sequence numbers like the SRT file, just the time code showing the start and end time for each caption.

Who wants to type all that out? So what other ways can we create a text file to add caption to a video? You have three options for captioning will create the text file. You can Do-it-Yourself with tools like I just did, use the company that offer captioning services, or find a tool that automatically captions the video and edit those captions. A lot of people ask how long it takes to capture the video?

You’ll hate my answer. It depends.

The biggest factor is the length of the video and how much audio it has. Simply put, the longer the video and the more audio it has, the longer it will take to caption it. Let’s quickly take a look at each one. The list of captioning tools is long and these are just a few examples um. The best captioning tool, it depends on your processes and preferences.

Personally I use YouTube, because it has the easiest user interface. Youtube also has automatic captions, but I never ever rely on auto craptions, as I call them. They don’t like my accent very much. You know who creates the best caption? Humans do. So thank you to the person captioning this right now.

Some of these captioning and transcription services are 100% human. Some use automated tools called ESR, automatic pre-automated speech recognition. And others may use the mix of artificial and human intelligence. You submit your video to the service and they’ll send you the caption file. The output and the turnaround time depends on the service.

I’m sorry for the curse word in the photo. I did not say that word. It is auto craption’s fault.
Of course the photo on the right has the correct caption. The accuracy in automatic captioning is not good enough. Oftentimes it has no penetration and looks like one big blob of text with incorrect words.

The good news they are more apt to help you add captioning. The bad news, is they have caption formatting options that you can’t read or distract you from the video. Captioning audio is only part of the formula. For awesome captions, quality is the other half. The reason why great captions are boring is because they let the video be the star. They don’t fight for the spotlight.

When it comes to posting videos on WordPress, two things to keep in mind. One is to have player control with the start and stop button. No auto play please. Even I don’t like it. It creates a better user experience when the user can play and stop the video.

The second part, is of course caption your video. You can upload a video and caption file to WordPress, but the markup is more involved than simply paste in the URL of a video into WordPress. Besides, your website service may have a file upload limit and it may not be optimized for serving videos.

While it means, I have to depend on Youtube not going down, it takes some stress off my website. Most of you probably already know this process. This will be quick. These steps work with Vimeo and VideoPress.
Here’s what it looks like in WordPress.

First, select YouTube for the block. Second, copy and paste the YouTube URL into the WordPress editor and ta dah. Vimeo works the same way. If you enter the caption on YouTube or Vimeo they’ll show up on your WordPress website.

If you want to upload the video to the WordPress website typically requires using either HTML or adding open captions. Here is an example of HTML5 for adding a captioned video, kind which is highlighted in gray. The first highlight can be subtitles or captions. I use subtitles here, so you can see it needs to have an SRC or AMG for each language.

I use ES which is Spanish. You can also customize captions with CSS. There is no one standard for great captions. You’ll find guidelines for caption quality from the [unitelligible] and caption media program FCC, WCAG POUR which stands for: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust.

I created the Caption 10 best practices before I found these guidelines. The Caption10 includes many of the list of these guidelines and enhances them based on my experience. If you’re like me you learn from example, so here’s the number one rule of awesome captions and this shows you why. One side contains great captions, the other painful captions I have seen in video.

One thing to know, the right side that have many different captions since the [unitelligible] is important, but I wanted to show you actual examples of what creators have used in their captions. 

[Video plays with captions]

Meryl: Readability has four components: size, colour, background, which is the colour behind the text.

In fact, captions without a background are hard to read. When I was looking for exercise videos, I found captioned video from two companies. Peloton won me over, because they were more readable. The other one did not have a background. The next will explains why I say autocraption.

[Video plays with captions]

Meryl: Auto craptions are good for a few laughs, but they’re not so funny when you’re trying to watch a video.

I often quit watching videos when the captions aren’t good. It turned down many other viewers too. They just write, any kind of craptions are not better than no captions. When you watch this next video cover up the left side and see what happens.

[Video with captions]

Meryl: How was that experience? As I said, I can tell when the captions are out of sync, even when I’m not wearing my bionic ear.

Yes size matters.

Here’s why. Cover up the left side if you dare.

[Video with captions]

Meryl: Remember the YouTube video where I was showing the line length and breaking points are two areas I failed at in my early days to start self-captioning, because I let YouTube do it.

Bad idea, humans know best.

This has many factors and videos often break this rule for any of these reasons. More than one or two lines makes it hard not to lose your place while reading, and from one or two lines up to 32 characters per line. As for alignment, the important thing is to keep it consistent for the entire video.

Which position do you prefer, top or bottom? In this one, you might want to hide one side for about eight seconds and then look the other side for the remainder.

[Video with captions]

Meryl: Don’t worry your volume won’t suddenly stops working. This video has no sound to show you the importance of sound.

The left side shows the correct way to do it.

The right side shows what happens when you don’t caption the sound.

[Video plays with captions with no sound]

[Video] This was a simple video to show the importance of sound.

Meryl: Noting that static or background music is so important. One episode of a TV show went on and on without captions. I didn’t have my bionic ear on, so I was wondering if I was missing a voiceover or a song. Don’t leave humans wondering if the captions are messed up.

At the start of a TV show when introducing the stars, the caption and the chryon really overlap. In fact, many shows move the caption up temporarily and then bring them back down or they move the chryon above the caption.

[Video with captions]

Meryl: Now, let’s take a look at what voice means and why it matters.

I’m, going to turn off your sound for this one. The caption will tell the story.

[Silent video with captions]

Meryl: The next time that singer showed up on America’s Got Talent it was terrible. This time they didn’t even caption in the voice changes. You never want to confuse your viewers and have them wondering who said that. The quality of video clips is in the back.

The irony is I was trying to replace it with the better quality video, but the captions were terrible. Take a look.

[Video with captions]

Meryl: The video showed off three examples for identifying the speakers.

You can put captions under speakers when you use open caption or VTT which allows you to control positioning. Here’s the last one of the caption 10.

First session is the live event like all live events it uses just scrolling captions. That can’t be avoided, however, I think scrolling captions in recorded videos that were not Pop-in, is easier on the eyes, less detracting and most importantly that people read at their own pace. These videos are not in sync.

It was a challenge to make this. So the left is the Pop-in and the right is the Scrolling. I’m turning the sound off for this one.

[Silent video plays with captions]

Meryl: Accessibility should be reason enough to caption videos. It’s the right thing to do. Of course, that’s not enough for everyone and they’re not all required to comply with the law. Captioning is cheap, definitely cheaper than a lawsuit.

With other tools available, it’s easier and more affordable. Captions expand your reach, boosted your brand and company reputation and prevent lawsuits.

It’s possible to profit off captions as Peloton did when I became a member. Because it not only had captions, but high quality captions. Looking here, I’m talking about them spreading their name and brand.

What can we do to get captions to spread faster than Covid19? If you see a captioned video leave a comment thanking the creator for captions and encourage them to use #Captioned to help expand the videos reach or thank them if they use the hashtag. Next time you post your video online use #Captioned. It’s a unique hashtag, because it doesn’t tell you the topic of the video, but rather the video has captions. One of the biggest values to captioning is not knowing what to do.

Share captioning how-to and resources and guidance. Captions have changed my life. Captions let me know what happened when I saw breaking news.

They let learn something new, they let me catch more stories, whether it’s on video or a video call.

It’s only recently that I’ve ventured into the world of video calls, thanks to captions. You can learn more about that at Feel free to connect with me and send me your questions. You can find everything and more at

And I welcome any feedback on what could be added removed or changed in this presentation.

Thank you for your time. I want to send a Texas style thank you and yee haw to the WordPress Accessibility Day team for having me, to the sponsors you for making the event and human captions possible and to the amazing captioner who captioned this accent. Now let’s hear from y’all.

David: That was awesome. Meryl Evans did an amazing job. It’s super incredible. We’re gonna go to the questions so I’ll get the questions ready here for Meryl, and I’ll read it out loud here: So I’ve heard you present and mention Disney’s Hamilton being so impactful with their users or with their use of captions, because traditional musicals may not be as accessible as needed.

Can you share another development in captioning or technology i.e voice to text on mobile phones, that has been impactful for you?

Meryl: Well the Hamilton’s a big deal for me, because I love that show and I love Broadway.

Believe it or not, even though I’m deaf, I love musicals and I, I knew I would never be able to see Hamilton on stage, because it is so fast.

So I was so grateful when Disney decided to bring it sooner. As for another development in captioning with technology I have to say the video calls that I mentioned, because before the pandemic I never did video call, because the couple times I did it was a bad experience.

Now I call my mom every week. I call a friend every week and I just run Ping meetings a couple times a month. Actually, I have one every week that I know. Next question.

David: Yes great uh. All right, so the next question is how do you uh, what I’m sorry:

What do you use when you have a lengthier dialogue for longer videos. This can be costly.

Meryl: Well my videos are never that long, because I, I know people have too much on their plate.

There’s so many great videos out there. So I try to keep them short, but it just depends on the resources and what what you have.

I, I mean captioning those are just all getting cheaper, one of them does a dollar a minute. And I know that for a one person business, a video just 50 minutes long is gonna cost $50 and that might be a bit much. So one way to do it, is to try to do script and then you can copy and paste the script.

Oh, here’s what you can do.

If you use transcription technology, use it to caption your video. So let’s say I have an app, I record my video, I let the app listen to the video and and get the transcript. Copy and paste that transcript into YouTube and see how that works out.

David: Awesome, next question: Can you recommend uh learning resources for creating effective captions for a beginner uh? I want to make sure I can learn properly.

Meryl: That’s a great question. I just recommend unfortunately, I recommend you go to my, because I have a whole table of contents at the beginning and it covers the 10 things we just talked about. So you can go to where you need to begin. I haven’t seen any that stood out to me in terms of teaching how, other than the resources I’ve provided and links to other resources.

David: All right, awesome. Next question: Is it better to use closed captions or open caption? Is there any reason to have both?

[Meryl} Excellent, excellent question.

I always recommend closed captions, because it puts the viewer in control. For example, if I don’t like the font that they’re showing I can change it with closed captions. With open captions you can’t turn them off and on. You can’t, if if they’re terrible, you can’t fix it.

It affects the readability, but if you see some of my videos on LinkedIn some of them have open captions only, because LinkedIn has lost the caption file on some of my videos. And for me that’s worse than viewer control, because I cannot have any of my videos not have captions because I want to walk your talk. So closed captioning is my first recommendation, because it lets the viewer control the caption.

David: Awesome answer. Next question: Who, what company makes great caption videos that you really like or they do really well?

Meryl: Well that, I’m not not, no one sticks out, you know. I mean, those captions you see on TV shows are really well done, but that’s how it’s been done since 1983. There’s a reason why captions haven’t changed much, because it works. You don’t want them to distract them from the video. And as I mentioned earlier, Peloton, see I’m mentioning them again, their name’s getting out there and I chose them over the other brand, because I could not read the other brand’s captions.

David: All right, awesome. Next question: What is the most impactful place to start if you’re just at starting adding captions?

Meryl: Guess my website, again. I’m sorry, but um so I’ll capture, um companies that do the captioning they have resources, but I try not to be biased. I don’t like to mention one over the other, because I don’t want to have that connection, you know. I try to be objective, but if you go to the captions of the caption company, they have some good resources and and a couple of them are on my guide.

David: Awesome. Next question: Any advice for captioning translated content?

Meryl: Oooh that’s a tough one. That’s why closed captions, that’s another advantage of closed captions, because it’s very easy for somebody to change the language on there. So uh I think they start with, start with a closed captions with the English file and then you can translate it to Spanish. And I showed that HTML example, so that’s how you can offer examples, uh languages. And also YouTube can handle multiple languages as well.

David: Awesome. Next question, this is one of my own, I have so many notes, but: If people only remember one thing, what you, from what you presented today, what should that be?

Meryl: Caption everything, but seriously the second thing I would say is make sure your captions are readable.

If they’re not readable, all that hard work you put into captioning your videos, goes to waste.

David: Thank you, Meryl.

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Questions on “Much Ado About Captioning Videos for WordPress and Beyond

  1. Q: I’ve heard you present and mention Disney’s Hamilton being so impactful with their use of captions, because traditional musicals may not be as accessible as needed. Can you share another development in captioning or technology (i.e. voice to text on mobile phones) that has been impactful on you?

    1. The biggest one has to be video conferencing. I gave up on video calls a couple of years ago after a couple of bad experiences. The pandemic forced me to try video calls again. And it’s been a much better experience thanks to technology. Not all of it is perfect. I had a chat with a prospect who had an accent. The captions decided to flake and they weren’t doing a good job.

      The best one is Google Meet because it has captions built-in and identifies the speaker. HUGE! With Zoom and other apps, I have to open a second app to do the automatic captions. If I want to share my screen or look at something on my computer, I have to re-arrange everything again to get back into the conversation. I go in detail here:

      And THANK YOU again to Disney for bringing Hamilton to the screen as I thought I’d have to wait years to see it in captions. That show is the calculus of musicals — the hardest to learn. I read up and study lyrics … but my goodness!

    1. For those who are price-conscious, I recommend finding an automatic transcription app that works. Some work better than others depending on the speaker. You can either run the transcription while creating the video or after. Pick one that creates a text file with the transcript.

      Copy and paste the transcript into YouTube and use the “Transcribe and auto-sync” feature. Video here:

    1. Considering there are so many apps and tools to caption your video, the best resource is usually the website that makes the app you want to use. I use YouTube as the example because almost everyone has an account and it’s free. This post shows you multiple ways to add captions using YouTube.

      You might also try the FAQ here as it covers the basics:

    1. You don’t want to have both because open captions always show up. You can’t turn them off and on. So, if closed-captions are running — they’re going to overlap the open captions.

      Closed-captions have one huge advantage: they give the view control over the captions. They can turn it off and on. They can change the font, colors, etc. It depends on the service they’re using to view the video. Some offer more options than others.

      As an FYI, you’ll see some of my videos have open captions. That’s because my caption file worked and then disappeared on LinkedIn. For me, it’s more important to set an example.

      Detailed discussion on closed vs. open captions aka the Cola Wars of captions!

      While on this topic, it’s also important to understand subtitles and captions. The names aren’t as important because some countries use “subtitles” when they’re talking about captions not translations.

  2. 1) How would you prioritize going through a large backlist of videos to get them captioned?
    2) How important is to have captions in multiple languages?

    1. 1. Using a captioning service would probably be the best option as some give you a price break for providing more videos.

      2. Depends on your audience. You can take a transcript and run it through a translator. But we all know automation is far from accurate. For every language you add, you’ll have a separate caption file. But not all services even allow you to upload a caption file. For example, I don’t have access to Twitter Media, which is where you upload caption files. So, either I feed it to Twitter by linking to a captioned video on YouTube or Vimeo … or I upload open captions into Twitter.

    1. Network TV, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Peloton, and TedX do captions well. TedX not only provides high quality captions, but also in multiple languages. Except for network TV, the others allow you to change your captioning preferences: color, font, size, etc.

      Disney+ wins bonus points for pulling off the super-fast singing on Hamilton ?

      Live captioning still needs work because of delays, missed lines, and incorrect words.