6 Tips to Create Free Closed Captioning for Your Church’s Media

Orange Closed Caption Sign

6 Tips to Create Free Closed Captioning for Your Church’s Media

Closed captioning can open your church’s media ministry products to nearly 20% more users. People who are deaf, elderly, or hard of hearing as well as those who speak English as a second language can more easily engage with video when it’s captioned.

In a previous blog post, we shared tips for training volunteers and selecting software to caption your church’s pre-recorded videos. Today, we’re digging into the gritty details of creating simple, high-quality captions for your church’s media productions.

YouTube’s automated caption tool isn’t the answer you’ve been seeking.

Upload a video to YouTube, and you’ll notice a closed caption icon. When clicked, it automatically generates transcriptions for what the machine thinks it hears. YouTube’s device has produced so many fiascoes the comic duo Rhett & Link devoted an entire playlist to hilarious caption-fail videos.

Automatic captioning has improved, but a human touch is still required to achieve clear captioned content.

What does a volunteer captioner need to know to create free, high-quality closed captioning for your church’s media?

  • Break caption groups at logical places. This can be at the end of a sentence, at a comma, when the speaker pauses, or at a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or). Listen for the speaker’s rhythm and match your captions to it. A good rule of thumb: A single caption group should be no longer than 60 characters.
  • Indicate a speaker change. Speaker labeling is important for the viewer to understand the logical flow of what’s happening on the screen. Designate on-screen speaker changes by a dash and a space. If a speaker is off-screen, name him or her in brackets when possible.
  • Atmospherics are vital for the viewer’s engagement. Show music and other sound effects in lower case, place them in parenthesis, and describe them using an action verb. Never use the phrase “sound of,” and do not indicate a speaker’s inflections, such as (whispering) or (shouting). For music, don’t forget to include the music note symbol ♫.
  • Watch caption placement carefully. If there is pre-existing text on the screen, such as a phone number or a Bible reference, do not let the captions cover it. Also, make sure captions contrast against the background color. White will fade into white, for instance, becoming unreadable. Since background colors change throughout an event, you’ll want to keep an eye on them, moving your captions when appropriate.
  • Be accurate. Double check that you have captioned exactly what the speaker said. Resist the temptation to correct a speaker’s grammar or syntax. Don’t paraphrase, don’t use synonyms, and don’t remove speaker disfluencies.
  • Keep your captions in sync with the speaker. If you remember the old reel-to-reel movies, you know how annoying it can be when the video and audio tracks get out of sync. The same is true for captions and audio. Both Camtasia and Amara offer quick and simple training to sync captions using their software packages.

A great volunteer resource is the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) Guidelines.

To learn more about captioning your live stream or pre-recorded service, download our MediaFusion ebook Open Your Church with a Closed Caption.