Instructions for Free Video Transcriptions

Oct 02, 2017

How to Transcribe for FREE via YouTube

When you have a video but you need the words that go with it, what you want is called the transcription.

There are a ton of reasons why you might want one, here are five from What You Need To Know

These days there is a big market for transcribing audio and video.  Plenty of companies very willing to take your money to provide your transcription. 

We don’t do things that way at Snap Synapse, at least not by default. If the video is full of medical or legal jargon or needs to be translated to a dozen languages simultaneously, then maybe. But for most eLearning Videos, free works just fine.

We just did this today for a client. And we talked about it last week at the Online Learning Conference to a room of surprised attendees. It’s not that big a deal, really.

All you need is a YouTube channel, which you already have if you have a Gmail or Google Docs account, or any other Google login.  

EVERY video you upload to YouTube gets indexed and transcribed, even if it’s only set to “private”. They prioritize the public stuff though, so sometimes you have to wait a day to come back and see the transcription. Here’s what you do:

  1. Upload your video to YouTube (set to “private”)
  2. Wait a little while (up to a day)
  3. Go to
  4. Find your video, then go to “Info & Settings”
  5. Click on the “Subtitles/CC” tab
  6. Click on the published transcription
  7. From the Actions menu, select “Download” and your download type (suggested type .SBV)

You can even make edits in real-time while watching the video here, then download that. What you download will have timecode in it, but it’s fairly easy to find & replace all this in a text editor. Faster still with a Macro in Word.

Like any audio-to-text transcription, this one will not be 100% accurate. Especially with proper names or industry-specific jargon or acronyms, you’ll have to do a bit of proofing. But it’s about 85% accurate and getting better all the time because Google has a lot of incentive to do this and to do it well.

Compare this with humans? You still must always check that the transcriptions are correct. It doesn’t matter who you pay for professional and personalized transcription services, you either need to train them or you need to review their work, or both.

For most (not all) of the content we deal with, a free 85% accurate transcription is favored over a paid 95% accurate transcription. Your mileage may vary. Just know you have options.

Here’s a screenshot of YouTube’s current subtitles interface. And here’s the link to YouTube Help on the topic (one of the few help systems that lives up to the name). Happy transcriptioning!

It all starts with a conversation

a +1-415-508-7627