How to Add Closed Captions to Video

Closed captions add greater accessibility to videos and are a best practice for all creators. I'll show you how to add captions to any video.

How to Add Closed Captions to Video

Since up to 85% of social media viewers watch videos with the sound off, videos that rely on audio or dialogue will be lost without captions.

An infographic showing the benefits of adding subtitles to video content.

YouTube, Facebook, and other video platforms have subtitles, but they only appear when the viewer clicks to add them on top of the screen. These are called closed captions, and the appearance of your captions looks different depending on the platform. For closed captions, the positioning of the subtitles is unpredictable and might cover an important part of your video.

Instead, you can embed the text directly into the video and time it out to appear in step with the video. This is useful for translating your video to a foreign language, transcribing the text directly, or adding labels/commentary that change with the video subject. Some platforms, like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram Video, don’t have closed caption support, so open captions are necessary for making your videos accessible. In this article, I’ll explain how you can add open captions to your video directly so that they show up any time someone watches it.

How to add captions to your video in four steps:

  1. Upload your video
  2. Type out captions
  3. Time captions on video
  4. Choose style options
  5. Create and download

Step 1: Upload your video

The Kapwing Subtitle Maker is a free website for adding subtitles permanently and directly to a video. This caption generator – called “open captions” – embeds the text directly into the MP4 so that it looks the same any time someone watches the video.

Go to Kapwing’s Subtitle Maker and upload the video you want to add captions to. You can upload a video directly from your phone or computer or paste a link to the video, if it’s already on YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, or another website.

For free users, Kapwing only supports video uploads up to 250 MB or 7 minutes in length. Pro users can published captioned videos up to 40 minutes and 1GB long. If you have a feature film you want to add subtitles to, you’ll need to download desktop captioning software.

Step 2: Type out your captions

With Kapwing, you can manually transcribe your captions or you can use the “Auto-generate” button, powered by ASR, to get machine-generated captions. Although the automatic subtitles are not perfect, they can save you a lot of time. Notice that creators can also automatically translate their videos to create captions in a different language.

Listen to the video and, word by word, type out the captions you want to appear. By default, every caption lasts three seconds. You can change the duration of each caption as you go or wait until the end by sliding the start and end times of each title.

If your video plays too quickly for you to type, use the -5 second button to catch up. Use the slider to navigate through the video’s timeline and the spacebar to pause and start the video.

If you have an SRT file, you can import those subtitles into the Kapwing editor using the "Upload SRT" button.

Step 3: Time the captions on the video

After you’ve transcribed your video, watch the preview in the left hand panel to make sure the words match the right visuals. You can change the duration of a single caption by dragging it’s start and end sliders or clicking the “Set to current time” button that appears beneath the box. You’re also able to drag the whole caption to change when it will appear without changing the duration.

Click the “Set to current time” option to move the start or end time to the current cursor.  We recently launched the “Set to current time” and it makes subtitling videos much faster because you don’t need to stop and start the video to set the new start and end time.

Step 4: Choose style options

In the left panel, Kapwing has styling options for your captions. You can add a background and change the font, size, and color of the text.

After you're finished with subtitling, you can close the subtitle view to return to the main video editor. Here, you'll see the subtitles you've added in the first track of the timeline. You can also use the timeline tools to edit the timing of these layers and snap other layers to the same time stamps.

Step 5: Export and Download

Once your video captions look right, click the Export Video button to process your video. Wait while the Kapwing Kittens process your video, which shouldn’t take longer than five minutes depending on the length of the video.

When your video is done, you can copy the URL to share with your friends so that they can see the subtitled video or download the MP4 directly to publish on social media. Because Kapwing is based in the cloud, you can also edit the subtitles if you notice a typo or want to adjust the styling.

Kapwing Pro users can also choose to download the SRT file of their captions.


Kapwing’s Subtitle Maker is the easiest way to add captions on shorter social media videos. You don’t have to worry about complex file formats or technical encoding. Instead, Kapwing’s intuitive tools make it simple to type and time out the captions directly and immediately see the impact on your video’s engagement.

It’s free to use, although there is a small watermark in the corner of the video that you can pay to remove. Several bloggers have reviewed Kapwing’s Subtitle Maker and shown how it works on YouTube.

If you have just a few captions, you can use Kapwing’s Creator instead to have more control over the text. For more content creation tips, subscribe to the Kapwing YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter @KapwingApp.