Best Software to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video in 2021

Edited by Nataly Bogorad

April 22, 2021

Want to add subtitles to a video? There are several ways and a few different software solutions available, but which one is the best way to add those captions, and how can you learn how to add subtitles to a video? For this review, we tested and compared five apps to try to find the best software to get professional-looking, readable captions, and subtitles for your videos.

Whether you’re a veteran editor and you have experience with apps and programs like iMovie and Premiere Pro, or you’re brand new to video editing, you want the best app to add captions to the video. Read on for pros and cons, step-by-step instructions, how to add subtitles to a video without a watermark, and suggestions on which free and paid software will do the job you need – on your computer or online using a browser like Chrome or Firefox.

Captions vs. Subtitles: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably heard people refer to captions and subtitles interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things. So, if you want to add captions to a video or you want to learn how to add subtitles, you’ll first want to know what sets the two apart – and which one you actually want to add to your video.

Captions have been around since the 1970s when they were first added to some television programs to help deaf people enjoy the same shows that hearing people watch with no problem. Captions went over so well with people who are deaf and hard of hearing that, by the 1980s, they were actually mandated for all U.S. broadcast TV. The captions you saw in the 1970s, and most of the ‘80s were permanently part of the video and couldn’t be turned off. Thus, they were called “open captions.” Captions that could be turned off were soon introduced, which is where we get the term “closed captioning.”

Subtitles, on the other hand, have been around since the 1930s. They were first created in the transition from silent to audio films. Basically, in silent film days, there was no language barrier in most films because there was no audio dialog. When “speakies” started becoming popular, people who didn’t speak the language of the film were left scratching their heads – until someone figured out adding subtitles to the video.

So, when we look at subtitles versus captions, what’s the main difference? Captions are created for the hearing impaired, and they include descriptions of non-spoken sound effects as well as spoken language. Subtitles are created to help people who don’t speak the language of the video understand it better. Subtitles include dialog, and they may even include the translation of lyrics to a song playing in the movie or video, but they won’t include other sound effects.

Why Should You Add Captions to Videos?

Now, before we get into the details of how to add captions to videos, let’s talk about why you should go to the trouble to add captions and/or subtitles to your videos. We’ll explore a few scenarios in which you might want to add captions or add subtitles to a video online.

Create More Engaging Videos with Captions and Subtitles

Captions and subtitles attract attention and increase inclusion. They make it easier for your audience to engage with your videos, and they increase view times. With the right captions, video makers and content creators can easily practice inclusivity and bump up views and subscriptions. How do subtitles and captions do all that for your videos? Consider your audience’s experience, who they are, and where they might be when watching your videos.

Your Audience Won’t Always Have Sound Turned On

How often do you find yourself scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok with no sound? All the time, right? Whether you’re at work, taking public transit, or it would otherwise be impolite or inappropriate to play sound loudly from your phone or another device, you can’t always watch videos with the sound on. Knowing that this is true not just for you but for your audience as well, why not make life easier and help them engage with your video content without turning up the volume?

Improve Accessibility for People with Hearing Impairments

As we mentioned above, captions were first introduced to television shows to help people with hearing impairments. People with limited or no hearing ability want to engage with your content, but they miss out on a lot if they don’t have any way to understand the sounds and language in your videos. Make it easier for them by adding closed captioning to your videos. Including captions is a great way to increase your audience by practicing inclusion.

Watch Times Increase with Captions

Captions grab people’s attention. Even hearing audiences who could turn the volume up (and may be watching your video with volume on) tend to get more engrossed with captioned videos. There’s something about seeing the words on the screen that draws viewers in, and they can’t stop reading (and watching).

So, now that you have a few reasons to add captions to your videos, let’s talk about how you can do it quickly, easily, and without spending a ton of money. Not all of the options we tried are free. Still, most of them offer a low-cost or free way to add inclusive captioning that will help you create cool, professional-level videos so you can increase engagement and really make the most of your video creations.

How to Add Captions to Videos with Different Software

Software

Main Features

Pros

Cons

Movavi Video Editor PlusCustomi­zable subtitles, captions, and titlesEasy editing and pro­fessional video enhance­mentLimited color tuning capa­bilities
YouTubeCaptions and subtitlesFast, basic editsNo control over subtitle text
Adobe SparkAudio match­ing for subtitlesSimple user interfaceLimited video-editing options
VideoStudioAnimation capabilitiesEasy subtitle generationLimited choices for tran­sitions and other editing features
RevConvert audio and video to text99% accuracyMust use separate video-editing soft­ware to add captions

Main Features: Subtitles, captions, titles, stylization, filters and transitions, picture-in-picture, stabilization, chroma-key, multiple video formats

Movavi lets you easily add subtitles to your videos, and it offers multiple editing features that can help make videos look and sound more professional. This desktop video app gives you the power to create engaging, polished videos that are inclusive and cool. Along with subtitles and captions, you can also include titles, transitions, filters, stabilization, and other features to take your video to the next level. You can download Movavi Video Editor Plus for Mac or Windows.

Instructions:

  1. Download and install Movavi Video Editor Plus.
  2. Open the subtitle embedder and click Add Files.
  3. Drag your videos onto the Timeline.
  4. Click the Titles tab on the left and select the basic or animated caption style you prefer.
  5. Drag your chosen title style over to your Timeline.
  6. Double-click the title and add the text you want to include.
  7. Click Clip Properties to adjust the duration and speed of your subtitles or captions.
  8. Adjust the font to a style you like by clicking Font Properties and changing the font settings to fit your needs.
  9. If you want to change the color of your captions or subtitles, click Color Properties.
  10. Click Export, then Start.

Pros:

  • Easy editing and video enhancement
  • Add professional-looking titles, transitions, and filters
  • Intuitive caption and subtitle creation and syncing
  • Lots of features, like stabilization and sound equalization

Cons:

  • Minor limitations on color tuning capabilities

Main Features: Trim, cards, end screens, captions, subtitles

YouTube Studio, YouTube’s suite of built-in video editing tools, gives users some limited options to trim videos, add cards and end screens, including video thumbnails, and insert closed captions. The editing capabilities here aren’t highly sophisticated. Editing a video in YouTube Studio can feel a lot like editing on your iPhone or Android.

Instructions:

  1. Go to YouTube Studio.

    Open YouTube Studio

  2. Choose Subtitles from the left menu.
  3. Click the video that you want to caption.
  4. Click ADD LANGUAGE and choose the language you want.
  5. Click ADD under subtitles.

Pros:

  • Automatic closed-caption capabilities
  • Fast, basic edits

Cons:

  • No control over subtitle text
  • Limited editing features
  • Must be online to add captions

Main Features: Subtitles, captions, formatting for social channels, audio matching for subtitles

Adobe® Spark® is an online tool that allows users to edit videos and add subtitles to videos for free. While Adobe® Spark® does allow you to add subtitles and/or captions to videos for free, not all features are available without paying for an Adobe subscription. You’ll need to be online to do your video editing and add captions with Adobe® Spark®.

Instructions:

  1. Upload the video you want to caption to Adobe® Spark®.
  2. Select the + button on the first frame to add your video to the editing timeline.
  3. Use the + button to add text to the slide.
  4. Drag text to place it where you want, or use the Layout tab.
  5. Download your video with captions.

Pros:

  • Simple user interface
  • Good for social videos

Cons:

  • Limited video editing options
  • No way to make multiple social posts with one file
  • Manipulating graphics can be difficult

Main Features: Captions, subtitles, filters, animation capabilities

Corel’s VideoStudio is a paid program, so it’s not the best choice for a free way to add captions to videos. However, users looking for an alternative to Premiere Pro and other paid programs may find it comparable to these robust tools.

Instructions:

  1. Install VideoStudio and import your video to your timeline.
  2. Right-click on the clip in your timeline and choose Subtitle Editor.
  3. Review the automatically-generated subtitle text and make any necessary changes.
  4. Save your video.

Pros:

  • Easy subtitle generation
  • Subtitle editing capabilities

Cons:

  • Limited choices for transitions and other editing features
  • Infrequent and inconsistent software updates
  • High price

Main Features: Convert audio and video to text

Rev is not a video editing app. Instead, it provides translation services for audio and video files into captions and subtitles. For $1.25 per minute, you can get transcriptions or captions created from your existing video. For $3-7 per minute, you can get foreign subtitle translations. Unlike the other options, this is also not an instant solution for your captions. But, if you need captions generated for your videos, you can get them in 24 hours or less.

Instructions:

With Rev, all you need to do is send them the file you want to transcribe. Then, you’ll receive an invoice. After the invoice is paid, the transcribing will start. You’ll receive the transcript in around 24 hours.

Pros:

  • 24-hour turnaround
  • 99% accuracy

Cons:

  • Paid service
  • Must use separate video editing software to add captions

Conclusion: The Best Way to Add Captions and Subtitles to Videos

Now you have a better view of five of the best ways to add captions to your videos. There are lots of free and low-cost options for online services and software that you can download for Mac or Windows, and you can even add captions on your phone if you need to.

But what’s the best way to add captions to your videos? Each of these programs gives you the capability to either add captions or subtitles for people with hearing impairment or people who don’t speak the language in your video. If you don’t have a transcript written, you can either write it out yourself, try an option to auto-generate captions or use a service like Rev to convert audio to captions or subtitles for you. The best way to ensure that your captions are accurate to your video, though, is to write them first and add them to your video when editing.

If you’re looking for an easy way to add captions or subtitles to your videos, we recommend downloading Movavi Video Editor Plus. It’s a robust video editor, and it gives you the power to enter captions or subtitles anywhere in your video. Plus, Movavi Video Editor Plus offers a lot of other features – like titles and transitions, chroma key, and lots of filters – to edit your videos and make them really stand out. With Movavi’s user-friendly interface and a wide variety of editing features, it’s a great solution to all of your captioning and editing needs. Try downloading it today and see if Movavi Video Editor Plus is the best way to add captions and subtitles to your videos.

* The free version of Movavi Video Editor Plus has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output videos, and, if you’re saving a project as an audio file, an ability to save only half the audio length. Learn more

Nataly Bogorad

Nataly Bogorad is a seasoned content creator and web text editor with 7 years of experience in commercial writing and website UX. In 2012, she graduated from Universität Kassel with a bachelor of arts degree in English and American studies and art criticism. At the same time, Nataly had worked as a project assistant for Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH where she wrote and managed the content of the company website. An advanced speaker of English and German, she specializes in writing SEO-optimized and user-friendly content.