Using Amara to Improve YouTube Captions

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About Amara

Amara is a free tool that allows users to add an overlay of captions (or translations) to a YouTube or Vimeo video. Now you can update your videos with bad captions or no captions into accessible instructional materials that you can use in your course.

One drawback of this system is you are at the mercy of the YouTube author. If you create captions for a video and then the author removes the video, Amara will show a "no video found" error. Of course, this has always been a risk when using YouTube videos.

Create an account. The account is free and allows you to search for videos that may already have Amara captions or you can connect to a video and add captions to it.

Searching for a Video in Amara

Once you’ve logged in, go to the Subtitle a Video Search page. You can find a link to this page by clicking on your name in the upper right corner and selecting “Subtitle Video.”

Paste in the URL to a video from YouTube or Vimeo and click “Begin.”

You can watch this 1.5 minute video on Searching for Captions on Amara. It shows how you can see if somebody has already provided the captions for a video or if you will need to add captions.

If you need to add captions/subtitles, click Add a New Language.

Add a new language link in Amara.

Once you’ve clicked on Add a new language and selected the language of the video and the captions/subtitles, you will be brought to the editor interface. Here you have 3 main tasks: Typing, Syncing and Reviewing. The final task in the process is embedding the video in your eLearn course.


The typing phase is where you ensure that the words you type match the words that are spoken in the video. It is important to use punctuation, correct spelling and the exact words spoken. You also need to add words to describe noises that are significant to the meaning of a video. I recommend using the save button regularly. Take 40 seconds to watch the typing step video from Amara.

Please follow these best practices as you add captions/subtitles:

  • Keep subtitle length to about 42 characters; avoid more than 2 lines per subtitle.
  • Describe meaningful sounds that are relevant to the plot. ex: (water dripping)
  • Describe relevant music which does not have relevant lyrics. ex: ♪ (jazz music) ♪
  • Use parenthesis to indicate when someone is speaking off-screen. ex: (Michael) Wait for me!
  • Add the speaker’s name to the caption when they are introduced in the audio or by an on-screen graphic.
  • Make sure you are using the correct punctuation for the whole unit of text.
  • Translate/caption any on-screen text that is relevant to the plot.
  • Exclude things like “um” “ah” and other disfluencies.
  • If the audio is inaudible, it should be marked as [inaudible].
  • For translations, translate the whole idea. Translations don't need to be word for word. Look at the context.

For a detailed list of captioning best practices look though Captioning Key, a resource put out by the Described and Captioned Media Program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the National Association of the Deaf.


By typing the contents of a video you have created a transcript. Captions need to be synced with the video so that the words appear at the correct place in the video. This step will take a little practice to master. Take 30 seconds to watch the syncing step video from Amara.

Please follow these best practices as you sync the captions/subtitles:

  • Subtitles/captions should not be less than 1 second.
  • Split subtitles/captions lasting more than 7 seconds.
  • A reading speed of 8-25 characters/second is recommended.
  • Subtitles/captions shouldn't start more than 0.5 seconds before or after the audio begins.

As you get familiar with the syncing process you may want to watch Amara’s Advanced Syncing Tips video.


The reviewing step helps you see if you need to adjust your text or your syncing. Take 40 seconds to watch the reviewing step video from Amara.

For more help with Amara see the Amara Support Center documentation and support.


Embedding an Amara video into eLearn is a little more difficult than embedding a YouTube video. Watch this 2 min video on the multi-step process of embedding an Amara video in eLearn.

Have the video homepage open in Amara and have the page in eLearn that you want to embed the video open in another tab.

In Amara:

  1. Click on the “Get Embed Code” link on the video homepage.
  2. Copy the text in the bottom box of the embed code pop-up window.
    HTML body embed code in Amara.

In eLearn:

  1. Go to edit page mode.
  2. Write a short introduction to the video.
  3. Leave your cursor where you want the video to appear.
  4. Click the “Insert Stuff” button in the upper left corner of the HTML editor.
  5. Select “Enter Embed Code.”
  6. Paste the embed code that you copied from Amara into the embed code field.
  7. Click next and Insert
  8. It will look like nothing has happened!

In Amara:

  1. Copy the text in the top box of the embed code pop-up window.
    Close to closing HTML code in Amara.

In eLearn:

  1. Click on the HTML Source Code editor button in the bottom right corner.
    Edit HTML button in eLearn.
  2. Scroll down toward the bottom of HTML editor window.
  3. Paste the HTML tag from Amara, right before the last </html> tag.
    Example of HTML code in eLearn.
  4. Click Save in the Pop-up window and click Update/Publish on the eLearn page.

Now you should see the embedded video. It will have a black frame around it that says “Amara.” In the Amara frame you can click the transcript button to see a transcript or the CC button to activate the captions.

If you need help with Amara or embedding your video in eLearn, contact eLearn support:

  • Phone: 615-230-3665
  • Email:


Article ID: 60499
Wed 8/15/18 4:52 PM
Mon 8/20/18 2:29 PM