Captioning Your Pre-Recorded Video

Speaker with captions on screen

Captioning Your Pre-Recorded Video

Nearly one in five viewers rely on closed captioning for full communication access to media technology. People who are deaf or elderly, have hearing impairments, or who speak English as a second language make up the bulk of this audience.

Restaurants, gyms, airports, and other public facilities are already catching on to the value of captioning and are muting their public televisions while leaving live captions turned on. For many media producers, captioning is more than a good idea. It’s quickly becoming the law.

What are churches doing to include the people who rely on captioning, especially those coming from socially marginalized populations?

“Families of people with disabilities are among the most excluded from the church,” says Robert Powell, Executive Director of David’s Table, a disability ministry. “Many avoid church because it’s not accessible. Some are asked to leave because they make the congregation uncomfortable. For these folks, a live stream service may be their only connection to a church’s worship experience.”

Closed captioning is an important part of opening up your church to all potential viewers.

A growing number of churches are taking up the captioning challenge. The Rock Church in San Diego, for instance, live captions its service with help from an outsourced firm. Newspring in Wichita, KS foots the bill for all its own in-house captioning work. And New Life Church in Ontario, Canada relies on an entire team of volunteer court reporters.

For churches without extensive budgets or those new to live streaming, however, it may be best to caption the service after it is recorded. For helpful tips on how to caption a pre-recorded service, we talked to scholars and captioners at Western Oregon University (WOU), home to the annual Caption Studies Conference.

Louann Casares, WOU’s Notetaking/Captioning Accommodation Coordinator, assures us, “Live captioning is tricky. Captioning a pre-recorded video is much easier and does not require any professional training.”

Casares recommends the following software packages:


Amara is an open source, non-profit, internet-based platform that allows volunteers to caption certain video types using the URL of an Ogg, WebM, flv, mp4, YouTube, Vimeo, or DailyMotion video. Amara is limited to the captioning of particular web-based files and does not support the captioning of DVDs, video lectures or podcasts unless such material can be found on the internet using a supported URL. The website can be found at and is available to anyone on any computer.

“Amara is my favorite,” Casaras says. “You would just upload your church service to YouTube then caption the YouTube video in Amara.”


Camtasia is a software program that enables the user to create video tutorials and presentations and to add open captions to DVDs and video files. Once a transcript is created, Camtasia provides the platform for syncing the transcribed text to the audio file and producing a final copy of the captioned video.

“At Western Oregon University’s Office of Disability Services,” Casares tells us, “Camtasia is loaded on both of our student worker computers.”

Once you have the right software, you only need a trained volunteer to caption a pre-recorded service.

If you have an active transcriber, such as a court reporter in your church, you are many steps ahead. You can also invite court reporters from other churches to volunteer. That’s the strategy employed by New Life Church in Milton, Ontario, Canada to caption their church’s live stream. New Life’s captioning team is composed of reporters from a variety of Christian traditions, who are not members of New Life, and who work on a rotating calendar.[1] It’s a good strategy for captioning pre-recorded video, too.

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to build a skilled team if you are only captioning a pre-recorded service. You can rely on a single trained volunteer.

Dr. Gregory Zobel, Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at WOU, recommends a simple and free training solution. “Invite willing volunteers to apply to Rev. It’s a freelance service, and there’s good training involved. Working for Rev could be a great way to build a volunteer’s skills as well as provide them with a chance to get paid experience.”

Another great volunteer resource for quality control and frequently asked questions 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.