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Captions! Captions! Get your FCPX Captions Here!

By: Richard Mitchell

As a self-proclaimed accessibility nut, offering subtitles/closed captions isn’t simply a nicety in 2018… it’s a necessity. This is particularly true now that my ears have passed their prime, perhaps due to one too many Guided by Voices concerts in my youth. Now, before we get a flood of “Adobe Premiere did it first!” I acknowledge that a similar feature has been available on that platform for some time, but whenever I dip my toe in Premiere on a quasi-annual basis… I quickly retreat to the warm embrace of Final Cut Pro.


To put this in context, I don’t shoot or edit many videos these days. But, when I do, my process for captioning is to edit the video in Final Cut Pro, export the video, upload the video to YouTube (unlisted), and let YouTube work its machine language captioning magic. Usually, within a few minutes or so, YouTube has a subtitle that’s about 80%+ accurate. From within YouTube, I then go in and manually edit the captions to achieve a near 100% accurate caption for the video. Finally, I make the video publicly viewable.

The above method is great… unless you need to re-upload the video to YouTube (or a different service) with a number of edits. Also, the longer and more complex the video becomes, the more complex managing the subtitles can become.

In a perfect world, you’d caption your footage as it is imported, either manually or sending it out to a service. This has a number of advantages, especially for larger projects. First, metadata! Searching through hours of footage for a key phrase YOU KNOW your subject said is absolutely frustrating. Wouldn’t it be better if you could search your media library for that phrase? When you caption first, this becomes possible. Second, when you make edits, the captions follow the footage. So, when you make dozens of edits… you don’t need to touch the subtitles. Very cool…

Final Cut Pro 10.4.1 is only a few days old, but it seems to be well designed and feels very Apple. Also, it wouldn’t be an Apple feature if it didn’t use a unique format called Apple iTunes Timed Text (iTT or .itt). Don’t worry, this is actually an upgrade from traditional .str caption files. With .str, you basically have the time and the world to be displayed on the screen. But, with Apple’s .itt format, you can also embed color information and location of the text on the screen. Also, .itt files import into YouTube with little trouble. If .itt just isn’t going to work, you can also select CEA-608 which is ideal for DVD or Blu-ray mastering, but .itt is the more capable format.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this feature to see if Apple eventually adds their own Siri voice to text within Final Cut Pro (perhaps FCPX 10.5?), but for now, this is a great feature for those of us that love captioning.



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